Monthly Archives: March 2015

Sword & Sorcery Musings

cryptsIt seems that all I do with my writing anymore these days is revise. Back when I was writing in my teens and twenties I used to just keep picking away at the first three or four chapters of a work and never advance. Recently it seems like I get the first three or four chapters working pretty well but then take too long getting to the good stuff. No more. Just as I prefer streamlined role-playing game systems I’ve decided to strip away any sense of the padding I hate and get to the good bits right up front.

Swords Against Death Re-Read: “The Jewels in the Forest”

lankhmar 5Bill Ward and I  are re-reading a book from Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar series, Swords Against Death. We hope you’ll pick up a copy and join us. This week we tackled the second tale in the volume, “The Jewels in the Forest.”

Howard: Coming upon “The Jewels in the Forest” for the first time in a quarter century was like sitting down at a warm campfire to hear a favorite tale. I recalled the gist of the events, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the story all the way through. I was soon swept up into the adventure. It didn’t matter that I recalled the bones of the plot; the mystery beguiled me. 

Swords Against Death Re-Read: “The Circle Curse”

lankhmar 3In the coming weeks Bill Ward and I  are re-reading a book from Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar series, Swords Against Death. We hope you’ll pick up a copy and join us. This week we tackled the first tale in the volume. “The Circle Curse” is really more of a prologue than a proper story.

Howard: When I first read “The Circle Curse” I was 14 or 15 years old and it left me wanting. So wanting that I probably would have stopped reading the book if the story hadn’t been so short. I had opened Swords Against Death expecting to be transported into adventure, and what I got in “The Circle Curse” was more the summary of several adventures, a whole lot of wandering, and a little moping. I loved the rest of the book and re-read it multiple times, but I have never, ever revisited this first story until now.

If you’re not already familiar with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser this is a cold start. It doesn’t really tell a proper story, it just fills in the gaps between what happened between “Ill Met in Lankhmar” and the collection of tales here. And that’s perfectly fine, I suppose, if you’re reading them in sequence. Maybe readers need something to tell them what happened between adventures. I would have preferred a few more tales to tell me rather than this summary, but even creative geniuses don’t always give you what you want.

On Conan and Writing

Conan_and_the_Emerald_LotusFollowing on a great post by Fletcher Vredenburgh about Karl Edward Wagner’s Bran Mak Morn novel (over at Black Gate), I decided to update my own post on Conan pastiche. I’ve read, or tried to read, a lot more imitation Conan since I wrote the document and thought it high time to update the thing.

My own writing proceeds apace. Onward and upward. It looks like final changes are finished on my next Pathfinder novel, coming this fall (through Tor!).

I’m not sure when For the Killing of Kings will be released through Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s, but it’s looking more and more like it will be this coming winter. First, though, I have to finish this revision. I’m shooting to have that draft complete by the end of April. On a long trip recently I started reworking the outline for the second book and am so excited with it I’m having to restrain myself from jumping into work on it right now.

Swords Against Death Re-Read: Introduction

lankhmar 3In the coming weeks Bill Ward and I  are going to re-read a book from Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar series, Swords Against Death. We hope you’ll pick up a copy and join us. This week, so that you’ll have a little time to get on board, we’re just providing an overview.

Howard: Mid-way through junior high I’d read a whole lot of science fiction but very few fantasy books and no sword-and-sorcery. I’d been playing a whole lot of Dungeons & Dragons, though, and one day I read the famed Appendix N and decided to explore its recommended fantasy reading.

Unfortunately, when I went to the library it proved woefully empty of nearly everything on the list. The used bookstore ended up being my salvation, although, owing to chance, all they had that first day was one Fritz Leiber book, which meant I didn’t actually read Robert E. Howard — sword-and-sorcery’s originator — until I was well into my twenties.

Bill: This closely parallels my own experience, and it was D&D that introduced me to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser long before I ever read any of their stories. Books were just hard to find, even if you knew what you were looking for. I didn’t get to Conan until I was thirty, and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sometime after that! My luck was to find Elric in my late teens and early twenties, probably because they were all being reprinted and the old Daws also seemed easy to find at the only used bookstore I knew about at the time.

Link Man!

Why it's Link Man, defender of safe, interesting, and quick loading internet content! And he's here to stop the menace of The Spinner!

It’s Link Man!

What with tax time approaching and me being super busy with writing, this Monday I’m just going to share some interesting links I’ve accumulated.

First up is a rather harrowing look at the terrible destruction waged by those fools from ISIS. It’s not enough that they’re killing anyone who doesn’t practice religion exactly like them. No, these tools are obliterating history because it portrays gods that haven’t been worshipped in thousands of years.

I’ve never visited Mosul in person, but in preparation for my Dabir and Asim stories and novels I’ve researched it in depth, and I feel strangely close to it as a result. I’ve been horrified to hear about the carnage carried out as ISIS has destroyed “idolatrous” statues in the Mosul museum. Now they’ve moved against the ruins of another ancient city. Because nothing’s more dangerous to your religious opinion than a bunch of old stone statues sitting in a desert. I hope some fall on them. Anyway, here’s the link.

Lord Dunsany’s Time and the Gods: Conclusion

time and the godsBill Ward and I finished the last four stories in Lord Dunsany’s Time and the Gods last week, and we’re taking a final look at the collection today.

Howard: Looking through our reviews I find that our opinions were almost always in accord about the stories, although there were a few differences earlier on. I wonder if that’s because the stories in the second half tended to be either exceptional or simply sort of “meh.” Likely, one of the reasons we’re friends is that we have similar tastes.

Bill: I think that’s exactly it, the stories in the second half contained the weaker pieces, although looking back at some of my notes a few of the stories may have grown on me a bit. The Dunsany fatigue was setting in for both of us — we’ve being reading and writing about him for months now — just as we started the weaker second half of a tightly themed anthology.


spock 1I’ve debated even tackling this subject. There have been numerous moving tributes to Leonard Nimoy already, including an excellent one penned by Thomas Parker over at Black Gate. Then there’s the fact I never knew Leonard Nimoy and I feel a little silly commenting upon the death of a celebrity.

But when I take into account how much the original Star Trek meant to me when I was a boy and a young man and how fond of it I remain, and when I consider how much impact Star Trek had upon my moral development, I think pausing for a moment with bowed head is more than justified.