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…




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




Conan Re-Read: “The Black Stranger”

conquering sword conanBill Ward and I are reading through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Conquering Sword of Conan. This week we’re discussing “The Black Stranger.” We hope you’ll join in!

Bill: Like “Beyond the Black River” which precedes it, “The Black Stranger” is a tale set in the Pictish wilderness of Hyboria that sees a vulnerable outpost of civilization overrun by the wild men of the wood. But this time around the threat of the Picts — still an Amerindian analog — serve as more of a backdrop to the infighting and machinations of pirate captains, an exiled nobleman, and a cagey Conan. Again REH draws on the American frontier for inspiration, but it isn’t the dominant theme of the piece, which also manages to end on a far more up tempo note despite the carnage. Wild battles, double-crossing, pirate treasure, and a mysterious demonic stranger are all skillfully woven together into a complex but nonetheless fast-paced adventure that stands solidly alongside the better Conan stories. Read More




Captain Nemo Sails Again

howard in chairWe’ve had a few too many adventures here at Jones central lately. My son had a spin out on the highway on the way back to college. He was alright, thank goodness, but the car was damaged enough that we had to take him up the rest of the way, stay the night in his college town, then stop in the college town where he’d had the wreck and see about getting the car fixed. Fortunately no permanent damage was done, although the price of new tires was nothing to sneeze at, and then we headed home.

Bill Ward and I are getting close to the end of our great Conan re-read and after having to write essays about so many tales we’re going to take a little breather, but we’ll be back to read more great adventure fiction. Read More




Conan Re-Read: “Beyond the Black River”

conquering sword conanBill Ward and I are reading through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Conquering Sword of Conan. This week we’re discussing “Beyond the Black River.” We hope you’ll join in!

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still starring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is the whim of circumstance. And barbarism must ultimately triumph.”

Bill: So concludes “Beyond the Black River,” a story that might almost be REH’s thesis on his philosophy of civilization. It is a story that introduces new elements to Conan’s world, demonstrating again how flexible and expandable REH’s Hyborian blueprint was even after sixteen complete short (and not so short) stories and a novel. But it also maintains a continuity with what has come before, giving us perilous adventure with supernatural antagonists and, of course, Conan being Conan. Read More


Signing the Contract

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last week I wrote about obtaining my first book deal. Over the next few months I thought I’d talk from time to time about what happens next. As…

How to Get a Book Deal

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In late July of 2009 I got an offer for a historical fantasy novel from St. Martin’s imprint Thomas Dunne featuring my series characters, Dabir and Asim. The…