skunkI grew up a city boy. Now, as a city boy in a small mid-western city I was probably a lot more familiar with wildlife than someone born in a vast urban center, but I’m still not fully acquainted with some of the life skills you need to get by in the country, even though I’ve been living here for about twelve years.

Take for instance a burn pile. I’ve never maintained one properly. Despite the wife’s encouragement to burn ours sooner, it’s probably been eight years since I did anything with it. As a result, the burn pile had become a towering mass of sticks and tree limbs. Worse, the manure pile was too close. Manure, you see, is inflammable. (We have so many sticks and tree limbs because we have so many trees. In any big storm we lose a lot of branches.)

Anyway, Sunday I finally went out and started organizing the burn pile so it was safer to burn, and then I had to dig out a safety zone away from the manure. I was out there for most of the day, fairly tired and sore, and right in the final section I found a skunk! Turns out there was a little burrow hidden on the edge of the burn pile. Read More




House Rules

P handbookIf you’re not a tabletop gamer or have no interest in tabletop gaming you should read no further unless you want to be bored or roll your eyes.

Long-time visitors are probably aware that I’ve been gaming off and on since junior high in the ’70s, when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by my old friend Sean Connelly. Sometimes a couple of years will pass, but I always seem to come back to gaming, attracted by the allure of group storytelling and the camaraderie of sitting around with friends and family.

While I’ve been curious about the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons and even read through the new system books, I already had Castles & Crusades, and I remain attached to it, possibly because I’m sort of tired of learning new systems but also because it works quite well. Here’s an articulate essay on just what C&C is and how it works, if you’re curious. (I also like that you really don’t need anything more to run C&C than the Player’s Handbook and the Monsters & Treasure book. The C&C version of the DM’s guide, the Castlekeeper’s Guide, has alternate rules and add-ons, but isn’t at all necessary for running the game.)

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Hard Writing Lessons 6 – Head Games

hulk thinkI’ve been writing fiction since I was in grade school, and I noticed the other day that my first published novel hit the bookstores in 2009, which is a lot further back than I realized. Yet I don’t remotely feel like I’ve “figured it all out.” I’m still re-learning a lot of lessons even as I learn new ones. To be a good writer, I think you have to constantly pay attention to story structure and characters not only in chosen genres but in others as well, not to mention other media… and then there’s studying human nature and history and… well, I could digress, but let me get this back on point.

Yesterday I was revising a scene about 30 thousand words into the next book right after I’ve switched to a new point of view character. He’s not new to the readers, but we’ve never had his PoV and we haven’t seen him yet in THIS particular book. So naturally I started with him alone and in the middle of a sort of self-assessment to get readers up to speed about what he’s doing now and what he’s thinking about. Read More




Hard Writing Lessons 4 — Word Count

howard in chairI’ve been busy drafting the new novel but not very busy blogging. When things are going smoothly it’s easy to whip up a quick blog post and still get an 2000 words, but when things are a little more challenging — or when there are a bunch of errands to take care of over the course of the day — getting that 2000 words in AND a blog post becomes an either/or, in which case the blog post always comes in last. You understand. The blog is for fun. The writing is supposed to be fun too, but it’s also the job.

I’m often asked how many words I try to get in a day, or how many pages. 5000 words is about 20 typewritten double-spaced pages, and 2k is approximately 8. If I’m really on a roll and know exactly what my characters are doing (and I have NO interruptions) I can get 5k. I have trained myself to be okay with 2k, and even the occasional 1k if it’s a tough day or one with interruptions. Read More



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Link Day

link hogthrob 2I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with pacing and plotting in the new season of Daredevil, and I’ll probably put my thoughts into print for Friday after I finish watching the final two episodes. The amount of stupid that was suddenly injected into the plot can’t be overcome by the deft acting, and my suspension of disbelief has been completely destroyed. Sure, it’s a superhero show, but it goes out of its way to make things gritty and “real” so some of the things it’s asking viewers to believe defy logic.

For now, though, I’m behind schedule today and need to get to work, so here are some interesting links. Read More


Full Tilt Wednesday

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Drafting this new, eh, draft, is going so well I didn’t want to take too much time out to create a post for the day, but I did…

The New Year Begins

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bill Ward and I will return next Friday with a look at one of the most famous Conan stories of all, “Beyond the Black River.” For now, here’s…

Link Day & Hard Writing Lessons

Monday, November 16, 2015

I’ve gotten a late start today so I’m going to have to keep things short. That doesn’t mean I’ll waste your time, though. I have a couple of…

Hard Writing Lessons 3

Monday, November 9, 2015

I’m moving some older posts over from my original LiveJournal blog to this one, and ran across a long list of Hard Writing Lessons from 2007! Apparently I’d…

Hard Writing Lessons 2

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

If it bores you, it’s probably going to bore your readers. While this is absolutely true in my experience, I’ve only recently developed a good strategy to fight…