Monthly Archives: January 2018

Trek Record

Here’s a weird little blast from the past. When I was a kid, I ended up with a Star Trek record produced by the Peter Pan company that contained four stories, and I recall listening to them multiple times, especially my favorite, which I’ve linked to here.

Apparently comic books were sometimes included with these old Peter Pan records, and even though these were created in the ’70s, the artists and the company that hired them didn’t have enough provided information to know that Uhura wasn’t a blonde white woman and Sulu wasn’t a black man. Yet they must have had stills of the bridge and Kirk and Spock and McCoy, because the artist does a fair job with them.

The Peter Pan record company didn’t hire the original actors to play any of the parts in these recordings, although I think the gentlemen playing the parts of Spock and McCoy did a fair job and sound as though they at least were familiar with the parts they were playing.

Basement Duty

As my wife makes a final editorial pass of all my recent changes, I’m sort of on hold, story wise, so I’m working on house stuff. The long-planned for basement renovation is slotted for this year, so I’m doing my best to organize it.

Writing wise I’m going to revise that new Dabir and Asim story I wrote in December here pretty soon, and maybe take a crack at writing another one, and then it ought to be time to review any editorial suggestions and turn book 1 back over to agent and editor and get to revising book 2.

At the end of last week I finished another Marvin Albert book. I’ve read his series westerns, I’ve read three of his hardboiled detective novels, two of his four mercenary adventure novels, and one standalone western and I have YET to read one that wasn’t good. Maybe none are outright masterpieces, but he is so dependably good I have developed a profound respect for the man. I have one of his later novels, one of a series about a detective in France, and I’ll get to it soon. And I bet it’s good, too, because it has a reputation for excellence.

Lock ‘n Load Tactical

Sunday I spent an hour and a half with Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy. When I’m away from the game I worry that the play might grow stale, but all my fears are allayed the moment I start on a scenario. Now that I know the rules it plays so very fast, and I have a blast every single time. I’ve been saying it’s ONE of my favorite wargames, but I may just have to break down and declare the Lock ‘n Load Tactical system my absolute favorite.

Every scenario can be played multiple times, because every scenario is a little different, and multiple decisions and die rolls vary the outcome. Keep in mind that every game box comes with a ton of scenarios (I think that there are more than 30 in Heroes of Normandy) and then there are additional scenarios in the Compendiums, so you’re really getting your money’s worth when you buy into the system. Add in the solitaire cards and the results are even more surprising, and re-playable. Each box is a game full of multiple games.


Robert E. Howard

I’ve written of the power of Robert E. Howard’s prose any number of times, and I’m sure that there’s more that could be said, and that will be said. Today on his birthday, though, I’ll merely reflect again on what I’ve written in the past, and this evening hoist a drink to one of my favorite writers while reading one of my favorite stories by him.

Over the weekend I finished the last of the Marvel collections that assembled all of the Roy Thomas Conan run. I’m not sure I’d recommend running out and buying that particular collection, unless you’re a completist. On the whole, the earlier phase of Thomas on Conan was better. Let me provide another shout out for the Thomas 12 issue arc for Dark Horse, collected in two graphic novels. (Those are volumes 11 and 12, The Road of Kings and Throne of Aquilonia, and they are two of only three volumes from the Dark Horse run that I’ve bothered to keep hold of.)

I’ve been told that story arc really isn’t very popular and I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is. The storytelling was top notch and Conan sounded and behaved like Conan… and the world felt right, too, which is something that doesn’t seem to be appreciated enough by some readers, who only care about whether or not Conan’s muscles are the size they think appropriate. In issues written by other hands there’s too much of the supernatural, so that it almost feels common place, or the plotting is off, or, worst of all, Conan isn’t right.

Roy Thomas gets Conan and what his world is like more than nearly any other pastiche writer, and consistently got him better than any other comic pastiche writer, period. That’s not to say that there weren’t some great issues and arcs written by others, but Thomas usually got it right. Even in a lesser story, Conan still acted like himself. And that’s a lot more complicated that it seems, or there’d be a lot more good pastiche out there.


I exchanged gifts with my old friends Brad and Bruce this weekend, and one of the goodies I came home with was Hammerhead, a James Bond graphic novel from Dynamite.

I’d never heard of the publisher Dynamite before the two James Bond collections I’ve read, but I’m really impressed. The issues of the comic collected in this book were written by Andrew Diggle and illustrated by Luca Casalanguida, and they sure delivered the goods. Casalanguida has a striking, cinematic style that really helps evoke the sense you’re watching a film. And Diggle’s script was aces: Bond was clever, ruthless, and observant. Much like the first James Bond graphic novel I read last year, Vargr, I actually enjoyed the comic better than I have any number of Bond movies. So far the scripts are simply smarter.

Highly recommended. I look forward to reading more. As an added bonus, unlike a lot of the stuff I write about, this one’s in print!

Agent Aid

Sometimes writing can be a real slog. You know what needs to be done because you have the outline, but you’re feeling your way along or think there’s something missing, or what have you. Sometimes you’re wrong and your test readers tell you you’ve just revised it too many times and lost touch with it.

But sometimes you learn that maybe that one astute beta reader was right about something not quite working in a scene or chapter. Recently my editor was looking over book 1 and discovered some issues in the third act that left me scratching my head. I got to thinking he was right and wondering why didn’t I pay attention to the observations of that clever lady I live with.

There were two or three problems that really left me feeling stuck in a box. And then I spoke to my agent, Bob Mecoy, and he improvised the way out of every single one of them. Brilliantly.

I read people giving advice about agents. Some write that they don’t need them, saying that they can negotiate their own contracts and handle their own business. Maybe they’re skilled enough, or have taught themselves enough, that they’re right. I don’t want to learn the business side anymore than necessary to understand my contracts, though, and I’m lucky enough to have someone who’s had years of experience not with that aspect of it, but other business matters as well.

Corsair Leader

I’m back in editing mode for the next little bit, so I’m running silent and deep for a while. But I wanted to point you towards a cool Kickstarter, Corsair Leader, where you’re flying Marine and Navy squadrons in WWII in the Pacific. The game looks like it’s going to be a blast, and is based off of the Air Leader engine I already know and love, so I was an instant pledge. I knew it was coming, so traded away some other games to build up the funds.

The link is here. I’ll have more writerly stuff to talk about in a little bit, specifically on how my agent, Bob Mecoy, is awesome. But the day’s already had a delayed start after a sink clog, so I need to sign off and get to work.

Reading Aloud

The oldest drove back to college yesterday afternoon and the house is already much emptier. It’s strange how quickly that happens. It’s not just his physical presence, absent, it’s his energy. I’m very fortunate to have a good relationship with both of our children.

He sure gave us a wonderful gift this year, a mini-roleplaying campaign of about seven episodes that I’m most likely to turn into a Dabir and Asim novella.

When not gaming or writing I’ve been reading my way through The Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. I may have to pick it up and permanently add it to my collection. Not just because it’s really too big to read when borrowed from the library, but because there’s some masterful stuff in here that I might want to read again. The most interesting, so far, are a Sherlock Holmes pastiche by none other than Stephen King which is one of the finest pastiches I’ve ever read (“The Doctor’s Case) and the best Manly Wade Wellman story I’ve ever read, a mystery set on an Indian reservation, “A Knife Between Brothers.” I’ve yet to read a real dud, and even the minor ones still have me nodding my head in approval.

Clean Slate?

Ready or not, 2018 is upon us. It’s not so much a clean slate as a continuation of what’s come before, but the end of the year is a good time for reflection.

After that long gauntlet of deadlines I took a lot of time over the last four weeks and did house work, spent time with family, readied for the holidays, read for fun, and wrote some short stories. This morning I stepped back to the long suffering novel and think I’ve finally tweaked an argument at a turning point in the book so it works. It was the last sticking place, I think. I hope to know my editor’s take in just a couple of days.

2017 was a strange beast. There was a lot of personal stress that I won’t go into, but there were a lot of achievements as well, the first being the successful launch of Tales From the Magician’s Skull. I’m delighted to be the magazine’s editor. I spent the majority of the year thoroughly revising one novel — and that entailed rewriting vast portions of it — and then finished writing a second one. I was invited to write for and assemble a collection of World War II stories for a secret project that will shortly be announced, and I did that, and it was a blast. I’d never have thought I could pull that off, much less that I’d have an opportunity to try, but I’m pretty pleased with the result.