Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Coming of Conan Re-Read: “The Hyborian Age”

comingofconanBill Ward and I are starting our read of the first of three Del Rey collections of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, The Coming of Conan. There have been many other collections containing the stories within, so even if you don’t have this particular volume we hope that you’ll join us. This week we’re looking at an essay Robert E. Howard wrote about the world Conan adventured in titled “The Hyborian Age.”

The Perfect Writing Notebook: Review 7

FrontThis is probably my last writing notebook review, mostly because I’ve found my favorite. If you see me at GenCon this week I’m liable to be carting it around, and I think I’ll be carrying one by the same manufacturer for the next little while.

This week I’m taking a look at Sigel’s Conceptium. If you’re interested in seeing other reviews, or finding out what my judging criteria are (including what standard features I prefer) click here.

Pricing: $12.00 and up

Swords in the Mist and The Coming of Conan

Swords_in_the_MistWith our completion of  Swords in the Mist last week, Bill Ward and I started exchanging final thoughts and ended up mostly just looking ahead for next week’s read from The Coming of Conan.

When we finished Swords Against Death if felt like we had a lot more to talk about, perhaps because there were so many more stories, or perhaps because there was a whole scale of good to great (or occasional average). In Swords In the Mist we had three levels of quality. There were the three excellent short stories (“The Cloud of Hate,” “Lean Times in Lankhmar,” “When The Sea Kings Away,”) and some entertaining linking bits that weren’t quite stories and weren’t entirely satisfying but still had some nice moments. And then there was the unlamented and never-to-be-read by Bill and Howard again “Adept’s Gambit.”

Howard’s GenCon Schedule

gencon writerI can’t believe GenCon is right around the corner. It seems like it was only six months, at most, since I was last at Indy for the largest gaming event in the world, but, no, it’s been almost a year. I hope I’ll see some of you there.

I’ll be at the Paizo booth in the Great Hall every day, and I’ll be participating in the Writer’s Symposium on a number of panels. If you’re a writer, or curious about the industry, or a reader wanting to get the chance to ask questions of favorite authors, it’s a wonderful corner of the convention to attend. Marc Tassin, the Exalted Leader of the Symposium, organizes a good show. Under his command the Symposium has continued to expand and draw interesting authors yet continue to maintain a pleasant atmosphere.

This year, for the first time, I’ll be offering critiques Sunday morning. You’ll have to join the Writer’s Symposium to learn what kind of story length the critique groups take.

Here’s my schedule. I’ll be available for chatting just about any time in between, although if you catch me Saturday, I’ll probably be running from one place to another. It’s a busy day.

The High House

high houseFile under “almost forgotten but excellent” fantasy novels. The High House, by James Stoddard, is a grand adventure story about a fantastic mansion that may contain the Cosmos itself. One of my favorites, and despite being award winning, I don’t hear it discussed very often. I often describe it as being what I thought the Gormenghast books might be like, but weren’t.

It also pays homage to the wonderful old Ballantine fantasy series. If you’re familiar with those, I think you’ll enjoy The High House even more.


Swords in the Mist Re-Read: “Adept’s Gambit”

swords mist lastToday Bill Ward and I finish our read through of Fritz Leiber’s collection of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, Swords in the Mist. This week we’re looking at the sixth tale in the collection, “Adept’s Gambit.”

I don’t usually write reviews of products or stories I don’t like — I prefer to tell people about the works I think they’d enjoy and honestly, I still subscribe to what I learned from Cowboy Bob, a TV Host, when I was 4: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

So my harsh words for this particular story are a bit of a departure for me. Still, Bill and I set out to re-read all the tales of this book and share our honest opinions, so… here you go.

Dialogue Cheats

Howard ZebrasI was sending some advice along to a young writer friend last night, and I thought (I hope) that it might be of use to other writers, so I’m pasting it below.

I suppose I should make clear that I’m not one of those writers who feels you can only use “said” to indicate when someone is speaking, or that you have to avoid using adjectives with “said.” Sometimes I run across reviews that criticize an author for employing descriptive modifiers to “said.” I find that kind of criticism misguided.

I understand that almost any writing technique used to excess can be ridiculous, and this avoidance of using anything apart from said probably stems from having read fiction that’s tortuously laden with adjectives. (Have you ever read those books where the writer goes so far out of the way to NOT use said that it’s cringe inducing?). Using ONLY said isn’t the fix, though. It’s like killing the patient to stop the disease. Said isn’t completely invisible, and leaning only upon it is likewise overuse. A writer should use every trick he or she has to convey their story.

With that preamble out of the way, here are some dialogue cheats.

Love Your Character

hulk computerI guess it should probably go without saying that if you want to write fiction well you have to be in love with your characters. I don’t mean the creepy, smoochy Pygmalion kind of love. I’m talking about finding them fascinating, interesting, compelling and simply fun to work with.

If you’re familiar with my writing mistakes list then you know my caveat that if you have to invent scenes to give a character something to do that character may not belong in the narrative anymore. All fiction writing is inventing scenes for characters to act in, of course, so what I mean by that is that if the character doesn’t fit into the narrative well, or you’re repeatedly stumped finding things for that character to do in the story, maybe the character doesn’t belong.

The Power of Tregillis

mist2Bill Ward and I have been dependably bringing you re-reads on Friday now for over a year, with very few delays. I’m sorry to say that this week we’ve another. Bill was having some computer issues, and I was having some “this story’s too long for me to finish quickly” issues, so we’re delaying our final re-read for this book until next Friday. After that, we’ll be reading the Del Rey volume The Coming of Conan, which, as you probably know, is a collection of witty and mannered short stories set during the British Regency. We hope that you’ll join us for that one, which is surely among Jane Austen’s very best.

Normally I’d have squeezed time in to read “Adept’s Gambit” over the course of a week. It’s not THAT long. I blame Ian Tregillis. You see, when I wasn’t hunched over a final re-read of Beyond the Pool of Stars or re-writing my new draft of For the Killing of Kings (a title that will probably have to change, alas), I was reading two books by Ian. I’d fully meant to pace myself, thinking that I could read a few chapters of one Ian Tregillis book every night, the way I’d been doing with recent historicals. Turns out that no.

Review Copies

pool of stars coverI have a limited number of review copies of my next novel, Beyond the Pool of Stars, available. If you’re a book reviewer and are interested in obtaining a copy, let me know!

Here’s the cover blurb:

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, Mirian has to take over his last job: a dangerous expedition into deep jungle pools, helping a tribe of lizardfolk reclaim the lost treasures of their people. Yet this isn’t any ordinary job, as the same colonial government that looks down on Mirian for her half-native heritage has an interest in the treasure, and the survival of the entire nation may depend on the outcome…

Keep in mind that these are uncorrected proofs, so there may be some material in them that won’t appear in the final draft (these aren’t likely to be bonus scenes, but creative spelling, typos, and the like).

Drop me a line at jones howard at twc dot com (with no spaces) if you want to get your hands on one!