‘Tis the first day of winter. We should be seeing some icicles any day, if we haven’t already…





Winter Gaming PLUS Brackett

hornet-leaderWith the cold snap in full swing I’ve been looking into my game closet at the increasingly large stack of games-to-be-played. It’s not nearly as high as my books-to-be-read pile, but it’s starting to get embarrassing. Some of these games are pricey and took a lot of effort to track down (they were out of print) or to get trade deals for. And yet many are unplayed or even in shrink wrap, on the off chance I decide I want to trade them away for something else.

I’d been thinking that my collection was starting to get out of hand, but after I poked around a bit I realized that I’ve got nothing on the real game aficionados. I have a few dozen — some friends, acquaintances, and like-minded folks have HUNDREDS. But then maybe they collect those rather than cats or porcelain figurines, and maybe they don’t have other hobbies.

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Flakes with Special Syndrome

hulk thinkPardon me while I slip on my ranting hat. This may start like it’s going to be a post just for gamers, but it really isn’t. Bear with me.

I’m putting finishing touches on a review of a new Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons product titled Volo’s Guide to Monsters. I happen to think it’s pretty swell, but I thought it would be a good idea to see what other reviewers have written about the text, to make sure there’s not some glaring problem I missed.

It turns out that no, there isn’t, unless I’m a special snowflake. Hence the ranting hat. While there were a number of intelligent, rational reviews that seemed to have found what I did, there were also several that called it out for perceived weaknesses — i.e. the book didn’t address their special field of interest. While the monster guide has a big selection of new player classes, someone faulted it because it didn’t have another, different kind.  While it had hundreds of monsters, someone else faulted it because it didn’t have a certain KIND of monster.

I’m reminded of those Conan fans who complained so mightily about the art in the Roy Thomas run on the new Dark Horse comics that they didn’t happen to notice how good the STORY was — how clever Conan was and how much he was acting, you know, like Conan would in a Robert E. Howard story. Read More




Thinking of Pete

ham-1The late, great Pete Ham died in 1975 by his own hand one night after drinking an absurd amount of scotch, crushed by the bankruptcy engendered upon him by a crooked business manager. His best friend, the talented Tom Evans, always thought that Ham must have changed his mind at the last minute owing to the way he found the body, but we’ll never know, and we’ll never know what the two might have gone on to write together if Pete hadn’t killed himself. Their band, Badfinger, had gotten royally screwed by their business manager but it’s possible that they could have recovered had they turned to the right people for help.

Depression in combination with alcohol is a deadly mix, and it unfortunately led to the death of Tom Evans eight years later. Sometimes, in fits of despair, he would tell his wife or his friends that he wanted to be where Pete was. Read More




Joyous Gifts

adventure-legosAs I bring the family gift shopping to a close this season I’m finding presents on my mind. My children are teenagers now and just aren’t as easily excited by gifts as they used to be, and I suppose the same thing is true of me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so thrilled by a gift that I grinned from ear to ear and ran off to enjoy it for hours at a time.

(I mean gifts in the traditional sense, not “oh, the love of my child” or “the gift of life” or some permutation thereof.)

I wonder if that change in joy level is because as we age we’re less surprised even by the things we like. I mean, even when I received a copy of a rare pulp collection it still wasn’t like discovering that toy I was mad for when I was five actually under the Christmas tree. On the other hand, that pulp still brings a smile to me whenever I pick it up, so it’s not as though the joy has gone. It’s just not as intense. Read More


Filling the Notebook

Friday, December 7, 2012

Well, I finally did it. Usually I fill up one of my Paperblanks notebooks in one year, but this time it took a year and a half. The…

The Next Big Thing

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A couple of weeks ago my friend Violette Malan invited me to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Series, which would involve my answering a set of…

Harold Lamb’s Adventure Fiction

Monday, November 5, 2012

In discussion of my influences I always mention the writer Harold Lamb, but it’s a sad truth that he’s still little known today. That wasn’t always true. A…

Counting Down

Monday, October 29, 2012

In the next few weeks I’ll be receiving my copies of The Bones of the Old Ones. It’s one thing to hold the advanced reader’s copy. It’s another…

Music to Write of Arabia

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I’ve held various career plans over the years, beginning with my ambition to be a double-nought spy, a starship captain, or another Beatle. I also wanted to be…