Archives: Tales From The Magician’s Skull

The Grand Finale

Usually when my wife heads off to one of her work conferences I get a lot of work done in the hotel room but I also explore a bit. This time, while she was in Washington, I was only a few minutes walk from a Metro line, but I did hardly any exploring at all. Comes of being under deadline. I saw an awful lot of my hotel room walls and occasional glimpses of the lobby.

I did get my first ever in-person look at various Washington D.C. monuments, but only from a distance as we strolled along the capital mall on our last evening before we left, prior to going out to an awesome Peruvian/Chinese fusion restaurant.

We’re nearing the end of the Kickstarter, so if you’re wanting to see some great new sword-and-sorcery stories I hope you’ve already signed on.

You Can’t Live Forever

I’m still on assignment, writing today from a lounge in a fabulous haunted mansion. The Beatles once stayed in this very location, and it’s easy to imagine them striding confidently down the main stairs to my left, wisecracking all the way. If I hadn’t accidentally left my time dilator in Albuquerque I’d jot back and watch their entrance and listen in on the Liverpudlian humor.

In case you missed it, John O’Neill at Black Gate held an interview with me and Joseph Goodman and the Magician’s Skull himself.

You might not have seen this, though. Nerdy Jobs invited me over for a chat about my writing, the new magazine, and gaming. If you want to hear me nattering on about all those things and a few more, now’s your chance. (My wife hears me nattering on about that stuff all the time and probably won’t bother.)

Undisclosed Location

I’m writing from an undisclosed location, in the midst of a secret mission. Most of the assignment involves writing copiously every day, but I must also infiltrate fine dining establishments every evening and order the most excellent of their menu items. I’m occasionally in the company of a beautiful and wicked enchantress, but otherwise I’m ensconced in a haunted mansion, drafting prose.

As I was aware that there would be several transdimensional migrations during my journey here, I packed some old paperbacks to read. I like having short old novels to read during planar shifts. You can pack several little ones into your carry-ons, and if there are interruptions or you’re just plain tired it’s easier to keep track of short and therefore less convoluted plot lines.

First up was the first Brian Garfield western I’ve read, part of an Ace double, and incidentally the first of his six Jeremy Six novels, starring a laconic western marshall. And I have to say, after that first one I’ll be reading the rest. I’d heard he was a good writer and it seems it’s true. This was Mr. Sixgun. As with a lot of these old westerns and mysteries, don’t be deceived by the art or cover advertising. Also, like a lot of writers active in the ’60s and earlier, Garfield wrote under a bunch of pseudonyms, like the one shown here. He’s best known for the Death Wish novel and its sequels that spawned the movies.

The Skull is Pleased

Tales 2Wow, well that’s pretty cool. The magazine Kickstarter made it’s initial funding goal in less than half a day, which is fabulous. Thanks to all who joined in.

Now I hope you’ll help me spread the word. I’m certain that there are more than the 200 something people who’ve currently pledged who like sword-and-sorcery and who would be thrilled to get a magazine like this into their hands. I honestly believe there are thousands of people who would dig what we’re doing here, and I’d like to find them and sign them up so that this magazine will be a viable and ongoing concern.

If you’re aware of message boards where like-minded sword-and-sorcery fans hang out, can you drop them a line and point them towards the Kickstarter? If there’s a Cimmerian mead hall nearby, can you swing in and tell them about our mad dreams?

Monday Heroic Fiction

Tales 1 smallerWork continues behind-the-scenes with Tales From the Magician’s Skull as Joseph finalizes the Kickstarter preparations. I can hardly wait to point the way, but you’ll have to wait just a couple more weeks. There are many things about working with Joseph that I like, and one of them is his careful preparation.

I haven’t been reading nearly as much the last month, as my wife and I discovered Parks & Rec, and have been watching it in the evenings. We don’t usually binge watch television like this, but it’s nice to have a positive show about people you like. It kind of feels like the 2nd-5th seasons were the best, but we’re watching to the end. In the shortened 7th season I’m finding myself laughing out loud several times an episode again, even if some of the main plot lines feel a little forced and sometimes indulgent.

But that’s not heroic fiction. I wanted to share something that was, and that’s the Blades books by Kelly McCullough. I’m most of the way through one of them, Bared Blade, and it reads something like Zelazny and Chandler co-writing a fantasy detective story in ancient China. Except that by “detective” I mean that there’s a problem to be solved and a sort of professional trouble-shooter who’s a former assassin for the goddess of justice. That means that, unlike so many other blokes in cloaks, he was only offing the bad guys. Aral is a force for good, or at least strives to be, the fantasy equivalent of Chandler’s knight in the battered trench coat working his weary way through a corrupt but beautiful city.

Farm Life

Big RedOne evening this spring while I was finishing up some yard work I spotted a fox slinking through our pasture. If you don’t keep chickens you might not know that foxes love chickens. When we first got started raising chickens we lost a number to clever foxes, who are in on the secret that chickens are delicious. Our birds are free range, but we keep a dog in part to protect the chickens, and we keep the birds inside a coop in the barn except when it’s full daylight.

As it happened, though, dusk was on the way and I hadn’t yet done anything with the chickens because I’d been trying to finish some work on the fence. The dog was inside because she hadn’t been keeping far enough away from the mower. My wife ran to get the dog and I sprinted to find the chickens, only to discover that our rooster was already rounding them up and herding them into the barn.

Roosters really only have one job, and that’s to watch over the chickens. Most roosters don’t manage even that. They just stand around crowing, constantly, and just as constantly mating with the hens. Big Red, though, actually took pride in his job. In my experience there’s not a whole lot of personality difference between chickens, and I haven’t really formed many attachments with them. Big Red was far and away my favorite. You can’t help but respect someone who’s good at their job, even if he’s a chicken. I saw him herd the chickens several times when stray dogs wandered onto our property.

Editorial Sneak Peek

Tales 1 smallerToday I thought I’d provide a sneak peek at the editorial I’m drafting for the first issue of Tales From The Magician’s Skull, which is a behind-the-scenes look at how it came together and what it’s all about.

First, though, is a video of all the cool stuff Joseph Goodman had at the Goodman Games GenCon booth. There were treasures galore, and not just for gamers. You should have seen all those old fantasy paperbacks! Joseph’s love for Appendix N fiction was behind Dungeon Crawl Classics from the start, and he’s trying to get that fiction much easier to find for all interested parties… and, as this magazine shows, devoted to trying to get more fiction in print inspired by similar sources.

Now, the editorial.

Appendix N and Fantasy Exploration

DungeonMasterGuide4CoverWhile I’d been introduced to fantasy fiction when my mom read me The Hobbit, it was Dungeons & Dragons that sent me exploring for more of it. Appendix N lay at the very back of The Dungeon Master’s Guide, and there were treasures within. The problem was that the library didn’t HAVE most of those treasures. I’ve sometimes wondered how my writing and reading life would have differed if the library had actually held any Robert E. Howard books, not to mention a whole bunch of other things Appendix N said were must reads. The library DID have the Amber series, but the first few books were checked out for months.

Fortunately there were used bookstores in town. And even more fortunately I found a great copy of Swords Against Death by some guy that Appendix N recommended highly, Fritz Leiber. The first story wasn’t much of a thing, kind of an intro. But from there… wow. I knew I’d found something really good. It remains one of the finest sword-and-sorcery collections I’ve ever read, and my favorite of all the Lankhmar books. Sure, there are other great Lankhmar stories, but I don’t think any other Lankhmar book is as consistently excellent.