December Update

BA2I hope all of you have been having a pleasant December.

As usual, silence here means that I’ve been busier than usual. First it was with writing, or, rather, revision, up until the day before Christmas Eve. Then it’s been with traditional and pleasant holiday things like picking out gifts and wrapping them and meeting old friends and gathering with family.

I’ve taken some time off for reading some different books and to play Battle Academy 2, my chief present this year.

cormac 2The best gifts this year at the Jones household — or at least those that brought the most joy — were probably the mountain bike for my daughter, the wonderful drawing my son made for my wife of the final scene in Watership Down (her favorite book), and the tea cup my daughter picked out for her mother.

The favorite gift I received was Battle Academy 2. I mentioned the first Battle Academy last year. This one is a World War II tactical game set on the Eastern Front. There are no continuing characters or even units carried over from scenario to scenario, so I don’t feel compelled to play and play to see what happens next so that entire days disappear. Each battle stands on its own, like a puzzle.

I can’t precisely say why I enjoy the game as much as I do, because I’ve always been an ancient history buff. But I have fun with it in the evenings, and winter seems a good time for video games. It certainly plays well and has an easy-to-learn interface and I enjoy most of the engagements — although I prefer the shorter and non-urban ones where I get to wield more tanks.

cormac1I was looking at my bookshelf a week ago at some of the books that have been on there for twenty years or more and decided I’d really better get to reading them or getting rid of them. Thus I finally tackled the first two Cormac Mac Art novels, the first by Andrew Offutt and the second by Andrew Offutt and Keith Taylor.

For those of you not in the know, Cormac Mac Art is a minor Robert E. Howard character, an Irish pirate wandering around with a crew of Danish raiders in the 5th century. REH never wrote much about him, but Offutt, sometimes with Taylor, penned six novels. The first two have held up nicely. I can’t say that they were earth shatteringly great in that everyone needs to drop what they’re doing and start reading now, but they were quite good at delivering exactly what they set out to do.

If you’re interested in tales of battle and adventure mixed in with elements of mystery and the fantastic, you should seek them out. The conflicts are vivid, the central characters clever, and the prose is artful. Frequently there are turns of phrase that make me stand up and take notice, particularly little pieces of description about character, scenery, or life during the time period. They are head and shoulders better than the run of “Clonan” barbarians that I think are much more widely read from the same period. You know the ones I mean — Brak, Thongor, Kothar, etc. (although I will defend the Thongor short stories as fun romps).

ba2 coverFor the rest of the week I’ll be working in a little bit of revising and writing, but mostly I’ll be doing family things. We found out my son got into the college of his choice, with a nice scholarship, which was the best Christmas surprise of all, but he still needs to complete his art portfolio and apply for some additional scholarships (so he doesn’t end up with huge student loan debt). And that means I’ll need to be doing some proddding.

My office needs to be tidied up, the basement needs to be organized, a cabinet door needs to be repaired, and I need to haunt Kayak and similar sites to try and get the excellent plane ticket prices my wife spotted on the 23rd that have since gone up 4oo dollars. I really don’t understand the airline industry, but I think I’m likely going to be in the doghouse for not snagging those low prices while I had the chance, unless they lower again soon. Keep fingers crossed for me!

Anyone else out there give or receive some goodies they wanted to share? Anyone else enjoy Battle Academy or these Cormac Mac Art books?

 

4 Comments on “December Update

  1. I’m something of a Howard purist, but I may need to give the Offutt books a try.

    And congratulations on your son’s scholarship. Anything to help defray costs is a good thing.

  2. Thanks, Keith.

    I’m quite enjoying these. Each is more interesting than the last, so far, and they’re inspiring me to think of stories of my own, or at least to refine some I’m planning to write, always a good thing.

  3. That video game sounds a bit like the old Avalon Hill or SPI war games. I still have a small indie game from way back called Stalin’s Tanks.

    I’ve read the first three Cormac Mac Art pastiches, and the ones with Keith Taylor were better written, I think. I enjoyed those two.

    • Hey Paul, it’s a LOT like those old games, except that you don’t have to worry about setup or look up rules, it’s a lot more colorful, and you don’t have to have someone else to play.

      I ended up liking the first three well enough I’m going right into the others. They’re pretty short, especially by modern standards.

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