Jan
27

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Tregillis Triumphs Again

mechanicalRemember how I said I’d held off reading the new IanTregillis books until I could have the second in my hand? He’s one of the few modern writers I find un-putdownable. And he did it to me again over the New Year holiday. I finished one and then reached for the other in short order. You like alternate history, intrigue, action, seasoned with a little of the fantastic? (In this case it’s mechanical men powered by alchemy).

Then Tregillis will please you. Mightily. Get thee forth and read them.

RisingHere’s the cool thing, at least for me. Because I’m friends with Ian, I get to read the third book before it goes to press. As a matter of fact, I’m reading it THIS WEEK! Ha ha! Ah, the benefits of being a pro author. That, and all the sport cars and pirate gold. Oh, and the mansion.

Jan
25

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Snow Dogs

KeenaEvery morning I head out to feed the horses. Lately I not only feed the horses in the morning but muck the stalls, because my teenaged daughter is so busy with her school work and various team activities that she doesn’t have time to join me for afternoon mucking.

Anyway, this morning the snow had been on the ground long enough to be wet rather than dry, and the shelter dog we’re pretty sure is a husky/german shepherd mix was eager to play. She loves the snow and cold weather. She’s one of the brightest dogs I’ve ever owned, and understands dozens of human words. Yet she’s never really caught on to fetch. For her, fetch is more like seek and destroy, which makes snowball catch one of her very favorite games. She was actually waiting on the back stoop for me to come out, and then led me off towards the snow, in case I was too stupid to clue in (she does the same thing when she needs food or water). Read More

Jan
22

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Conan Re-Read: “The Man-Eaters of Zamboula”

conquering sword conanToday, on the 110th anniversary of Robert E. Howard’s birth, Bill Ward and I are reading through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Conquering Sword of Conan. This week we’re discussing “The Man-Eaters of Zamboula,” sometimes known as “Shadows in Zamboula.” We hope you’ll join in!

Howard: Last week I suggested that this one was a bit of a dud, and while that might not have been entirely fair, I still don’t think it’s likely to be anyone’s favorite Conan story. Unlike “The Black Stranger,” though, it was published in Robert E. Howard’s lifetime in the pages of Weird Tales, by its editor Farnsworth Wright. And you can surely feel Howard playing to Wright’s favorite themes. Namely the sexy damsel in distress. You’ll note that she begins the story entirely naked and never once dons a stitch of clothing. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so gratuitous. You add that to some rather uncomfortable descriptions of the cannibals, the somewhat stilted opening, and the inn/cannibal trap and the result is less than stellar.  Read More

Jan
20

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Solitaire Gaming

fc napoleonI dabble with solitaire board games from time to time, as I’ve mentioned occasionally here on my own site and at Black Gate. As I’ve said before, I blame the whole thing on John O’Neill, although Eric Knight deserves some blame as well because the two-player The French Foreign Legion was so much fun it converted me into a board game player.

Unfortunately, there’s not much interest in these parts for board games, unless it’s Iron Dragon. I happen to think Iron Dragon is a lot of fun, but I also like tactical and strategic games, which hold no interest for my wife, which is why solitaire games like Empires of America from Victory Point Games or Field Commander: Napoleon from DVG find a way to my table, especially in the winter.

The other day I happened to mention the new Nemo’s War kickstarter to writer friend Ian Tregillis and it launched me on a search for others that I probably shouldn’t buy but want.

Here’s the list. Investigate at your own peril…

Jan
18

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The Fourth Gunman

4th gunmanI never read a western in my life until some time in my mid ’40s when I got pointed to the excellent adventure novels of Ben Haas writing as John Benteen (or, indeed, several other pseudonyms). He proved to be such an excellent author that I sought out nearly everything the man wrote, and I’ve since been on a hunt for other great westerns from others.

The problem is that there are thousands of westerns, and most of them seem to range only from okay to good, with the weight heavy on the okay end.

When you’re looking into fantasy or historical fiction it’s pretty easy to talk to some people in the know and get the lowdown on the recognized masters and the truly excellent. With westerns there’s less consensus. The trail usually ends with Louis L’amour or some other famous names that don’t really seem to be the most exciting. (L’amour is good, but in my experience he’s not great, no matter his popularity.)

So through the fall of 2015 and into the winter I’ve been exploring, based on some recommendations by John C. Hocking and Morgan Holmes, and working my way through some Harry Whittington, Donald Hamilton (better known for his Matt Helm books) and Merle Constiner. Read More

Writing

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This being the first full week of National Novel Writing Month, I thought I’d start posting some of my hard learned writing lessons. One of these years I…

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I 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…

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