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Calamityware

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, well, fine china is cool, but it needs more sasquatches, giant robots, and sea monsters, have I got a site for you.

Why settle for the ordinary when you’re hosting a fancy dinner party?

Seriously, these things are cool. My friend Nick pointed these out to me a few weeks ago and I thought it high time I share them. Visit the Calamityware site and look around!

I am nose to the grindstone for the next week, so my posts are apt to be a little less frequent. Bear with me — I’m getting important writing work done.

Dreams of My Father

For the first time in ages, I dreamt of my father. I was walking across campus with my backpack over one shoulder, as I would have been lo those long years ago, and I spotted him through a corner window that never existed, standing behind his desk and talking on a phone — in an office that never existed, for Dad was never on the first floor with a huge window. But he was talking to someone about how I was coming to see him prior to Freshman orientation.

At some level I was aware that this was a dream and that he was gone, and I was long past this point in my life, but I raised my hand at him and smiled and he raised his hand up to me and smiled and damn, but that was great, because I could see him. Not just for a frozen moment in a memory, or photograph, or even a rare shot of him on video tape, but I could look at him, living, as long as I wanted, and meet his eyes, and he was looking back at me.

I didn’t realize how powerful it was until a little later this morning when I thought about it and wept. It’s been eighteen years. It’s been long enough now that it’s impossible to imagine me calling him up and catching up on everything that’s happened, like I used to fantasize about. The acute pain of his absence is gone. But I will always miss him. I would so like for him to have known my kids as adults, or even to have met my youngest. What I wouldn’t give to tell that kid with the backpack that you’re not always going to be walking across campus and have the chance of running into your dad.

I can’t do that, but I can try to take time to be present in the lives of my kids, as my father always did. Maybe I can pass that on, and one day they’ll get it too.

Shelf Treasure

If you’re a bibliophile like me you may have similar books. You cart them around as you move and they stay on your shelf, and maybe you plan to read them, but you haven’t yet. Maybe, like me, you’re not even sure where some of them came from.

In the case of Tevye’s Daughters, I THINK it might have joined the bookshelf when my wife’s book collection merged with my own, but she’s never read it, either. We like Fiddler on the Roof quite a lot, and the collection Tevye’s Daughters is the anthology from which the musical was drawn… and it’s also a slim book. And yet I haven’t read it. In part that’s because I’m usually suspicious of books alleged to be funny, because I’ve so often been disappointed. And then I’ve been reading fantasy, or science fiction, or swashbucklers, or private eye books, or westerns, or history books… but not literature, apart from Shakespeare plays, because I usually bounce off of it.

Pictures in the Fire

I just saw that the Robert E. Howard Foundation is about ready to release a new book that collects some uncollected¬† (at least in nice hardback editions) weird fiction and some other goodies by the man himself. It looks as though none of it is juvenalia, which is good, because while I realize stuff written when REH was a kid is great for scholars, I’m not interested in reading it myself.

There are also a substantial number of fragments. When it comes to Robert E. Howard, sometimes these fragments contain nifty little scenes or gem like moments. I recall one historical fragment that had an unbelievably cool fight in a corridor, so I’ll probably end up reading them all, just as I listen to rarity tracks by favorite bands.

I’m putting it on my birthday list. Seeing as how I’m downsizing my consumption of NEW stuff, this book will probably be about the extent of my birthday list this year, although, as I’m going to be hitting the half century mark, maybe I’ll treat myself to another of those wargames I enjoy so much…

Anyway, go to the page and check it out.

Father’s Day

My father never held much stock with Father’s Day, thinking it an artificial construct designed to sell more cards, but I’ve embraced it. And this last Sunday I had one of my nicest Father’s Days ever. Heck, it began the night before, when I took the evening walk with my wife and son and they gave me some fantastic ideas for the villain and a terrible weapon for my third Dabir and Asim novel.

The next day I was treated, if not quite king-like, as someone who didn’t have to do any chores, be they mucking the stalls or doing the dishes. In the morning I got up early, as usual, and worked away on the outline of a new short story. Then I was taken out for lunck, treated to a role-playing game run by my son, and given a new Lock ‘n Load Tactical game. Well, new to me. Between lunch and the start of the game I got in a little Ambush!, another of my favorite war games.

Novel Lessons 2: Plague of Shadows

Maybe I should label this novel as “2.5” because I’d started my second Dabir and Asim novel, The Bones of the Old Ones, before I set to work on Plague of Shadows. But I set Bones aside and gave this one my attention all through the summer.

I didn’t write it as I’d written my first novel, in part because as a work-for-hire, I had to present an extremely detailed outline and get it approved before I started working. That meant I had a pretty solid blueprint, even though that blueprint ended up changing a lot as I went. It was a little harder than my first novel, but not so hard as the next one would be, probably because of that outline, one that a talented editor had provided me with feedback for.

Why was it a little more difficult? Well, the characters and their relationships were all brand new to me, so it took a little writing and rewriting to get used to them and how they’d react, something I hadn’t had to do much with The Desert of Souls.

The most obvious lesson in writing Plague was to be flexible. Somehow I managed to roll with the punches on this one far faster than I’d roll with challenges in later books. I was about a third of the way into the draft, about 30 thousand words, when I heard from James Sutter. James, by the way, is a great editor — and a talented writer as well — and this wasn’t at all his typical way of communicating. But the Paizo Pathfinder novel line was new, and they were still working on marketing. He said that they had realized that novels with dragons on the cover sold better and asked if I could work some dragons into the plot. I said sure, I already had one, but he wondered if I could have a big fight with a dragon. So I said sure, why not? And I found a way, and I think it ended up strengthening the book.

Horse Adventures

I’ve mentioned before that one of my horses likes to lean against the top fence rail to get the grass on the other side. Unfortunately, it’s the largest horse that does this, and his weight frequently breaks the rail, which ends up in a lot of fence repair every spring. It’s among my least favorite things to do. Fixing each rail takes about 45 minutes. So far this year he’d already busted about five of them. But wait…

This Saturday my wife and I were walking around the barn to get to some yardwork only to discover that one of our horses was calmly standing outside the fence, doing what horses are usually doing, eating grass. A little further downslope was the big horse, also munching grass. Nearby we saw how they’d gotten out — Trigger, the large horse, must have leaned against the top rail to get to some juicy grass on the other side, and then leaned against the middle rail, and then stepped over the bottom rail once both were destroyed. The other horse had followed.

Secret Project

Last year I mentioned I was working on two secret projects. One of them turned out to be Tales From the Magician’s Skull, but I haven’t revealed project two… until now.

I was the lead writer on Lock ‘n Load Tactical’s Heroes of Normandy: The Untold Stories, Volume 1. I wrote three of the tales in the collection and edited the others, along with some serious help from technical editor Hans Korting. It’s not QUITE available for release yet, but you can listen to an audio of the first few minutes of the first tale in the collection, “The Stovepipe Bluff,” written by yours truly, by going here.

The stories in the collection are all fiction, though they’re based around actual events in WWII, and they feature characters depicted upon counters in the Lock ‘n Load Tactical game series.

I’ll have further updates as the book gets closer to release. Here’s a link to the future ordering page…

 

Toys and Memory

I spent a large chunk of last week organizing our basement. Currently it’s nothing but cinder blocks, but there’s enough height to the ceiling it could be finished out into a nice rec space, which is something we’ve been planning to do since we first moved in… a decade ago.

Anyway, while sorting through various boxes I ran across this little collection of catalogs. I didn’t have a Mego catalog lying around, so I tossed Kirk into the photo. If I’d been feeling really ambitious I would have dug out some Lego catalogs too.

Add Legos and some Six Million Dollar Man toys into this photo and that’s pretty much my favorite run of toys from my youth. (I’m not counting board games or books or comic books, obviously.)

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.