Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The World of Kindle

I received a very surprise gift at Christmas - a Kindle.

I have downloaded and I am now reading Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company.

I also ordered a cover/case right away. I already dropped it once (luckily with no damage) getting it out of the box (don't want to carry it around in a cardboard box, anyway.)

Nothing replaces the feel of a real book. I'll still get those, too. (just did a post-holiday Amazon order, in fact.) But having access to classics and out-of-print (hoping more and more out-of-print books get into the digital realm) make it appealing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some music for the New Year

Taking a break from our regular broadcast of reading (and occasional writing) commentary to plug some good music I found this year.

First up, from Chicago - The Steepwater Band.

The first thing I’ll say is, if you like the Black Crowes, you need to check out this band. I think they are even more rockin’ than the Crowes. Their latest album was produced by Marc Ford, former Black Crowes guitarist. I think Steepwater play closer to their blues roots, with original material with hints of Faces, Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and all that. Very good slide playing, some good jamming, and catchy songs.

On top of all that, they have a jukebox on their website that lets you hear 21 songs (complete, not 30sec samples), so you should absolutely give them a try before you buy. If you buy albums direct from the band’s website, you’ll save money and they get the best deal. The albums are cheap, $10 (Grace & Melody, their latest , is on sale for only $7 right now.)

I have no personal relation to these guys. I just think they are a good, new rock band who deserve some buzz.

Check ‘em out!

On a related tangent, I really like the music of Alvin Youngblood Hart. He usually performs blues or rock, but he has an upcoming project of roots music called the South Memphis String Band. Also featured in this trio is Luther Dickinson, who is currently in (you guessed it) the Black Crowes! Rounding out the trio is Jimbo Mathus , from Squirrel Nut Zippers.

You can hear two of their songs at their MySpace page (or, Facebook page.)

They have announced that a full album will be out in January.

I really got into rootsy, bluesy, string tunes this year, and I am really glad these guys happen to be launching this project for the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009

more reading

More read reviews. I think these are more for me personally to recall what I read, and what the books were about. But, if you enjoy these quick blurbs, too, that’s fine.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
I listened to the audio-book. This novel came with a lot of hype and lived up to it. The story is a fictional account of the battle of Thermopylae. The plot comes with plenty of backstory, including Spartan military training which probably has more to do with modern USMC training. Still, soldiers have always been soldiers and if Sparta was a militaristic society, surely some things have never changed since armies were conceived in ancient times.
This book is now part of the West Point reading curriculum, and it’s no surprise.
A bloody (literally) good read.

The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield.
Again, I went with the audio-book.
This novel is an unrelenting and unflinching look at combating guerrilla war and insurgency. Set in the time of Alexander's invasion of Afghanistan, clearly it pulls modern examples from Vietnam, the current situation in Afghanistan and (perhaps?) the Soviet occupation, too.
Unlike Gates of Fire, I strongly suspect the military brass aren’t rushing to hand this one out to the impressionable young troops.
Harsh by necessity, this is another good read.
One note; this story is narrated in present tense. Usually I don’t like that, but I was able to ignore it. Maybe the fact that the story was read aloud made that more palatable.

The Last Chancers (Warhammer 40K) by Gav Thorpe
A Warhammer 40K omnibus, featuring a trilogy of novels and two short stories. Ironically, this one is also written in present tense. Not sure why and I was able to ignore it once things got rolling. At its essence, this was a varied, futuristic take on The Dirty Dozen. It’s fun with a lot of action, but sometimes a little too amoral in its killings.
I generally enjoyed it but not sure I liked the final conclusion (nor did other readers, from some short reviews I’ve read.)

The Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook
Despite its title, this novel from Cook is scifi, not fantasy. But, that doesn't stop Cook from setting up a wild story universe and chucking you into the deep end. I think Cook throws off new readers sometimes with that style, but I love it.

The story concerns an attempt by a political house to overthrow the ancient Guardships that patrol and have kept order for millennium. Full of violence, intrigue, sex, aliens, artificial beings, clones, etc. Kez Maefele, an alien Ku - something like a turtle warrior (maybe even a mutant ninja turtle, but delivered with dead seriousness) - is one of those unforgettable Cook characters.
I really enjoyed this one, even if it was sometimes hard to follow.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The "to be read" pile

I've been trading a lot of "to be read" notes with folks lately, and for fun and lack of anything else to post, I thought I'd examine some of those books that I have not read and want to read someday.

For this I think I will only count books that I own, not any book I might eventually acquire or borrow from the library.

While it is great to see new titles and small press getting along, my reading list is growing exponentially, as I am also trying to catch up on many genre readings from the past that I never read before, either.

This is by no means complete, just off the top of my head.


Abercrombie's first novel of the First Law trilogy.

Drizzt series by R. A. Salvatore. OK, I've read half of them so far. I think I had actually read more than half, but Salvatore went and put out two more trilogies. Also from Salvatore, I have the second Demon Wars novel. I did read the first one, and liked Salvatore getting to play and create his own world, but I didn't feel compelled to rush back.

Elric by Michael Moorcock. Okay, I've read the ACE/(DAW) set (except "Elric at the End of Time".) But I have the reissued Del Reys, and the newer 'between the stories' novels, though I've not heard a lot positive past Fortress of the Pearl.

Star Wars Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn. This was one of the first SW tie-ins after the original film trilogy (not counting Alan Dean Foster's out-of-canon title(s)). It was recommended when I asked for suggestions for good space opera to read.

Crapload of Paizo Planet Stories. I've been getting most of these titles, with exceptions of stuff I already have. I could spend a year reading just these alone.

Along with Planet Stories, I want to read more sword-n-planet. I think with John Carter of Mars movie(s) coming, having some sword-n-planet stories in pocket might be a good idea, so I'd like to learn more and write more (without, obviously, unconsciously aping anyone.) I have Charles G's Talera trilogy on my bookshelf now, having read the first one.

Crapload of Black Library, Warhammer and Warhammer 40K. I can't help it, those damn omnibuses are good deals (see my 'Open Letter' blog entry.)

Ian Fleming's original Bond titles. I've read about half of them. (These I like to savor as they are a finite set.)

Some more Stephen King, particularly his newer story and novella collections. (I have Everything's Eventual and Nightmares and Dreamscapes awaiting.)

Tons of 'lesser' genre titles like Lin Carter's Callisto and John Jakes' Brak the Barbarian.

Fred Saberhagen. I want to read more Berserker tales and I have an omnibus of The First Books of Swords.

And as much as I love Glen Cook, The Black Company is the only series I've read completely. I still have Dread Empire and Garrett novels to read.

Hey, you know. Now that I've written out this list, I see that I've 'sampled' at least a title from most of these series, if not read the entire series.

Maybe later I'll post the other titles I want to read, regardless of whether I have it currently in hand or not....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I am very excited!

Dale Rippke's excellent site, Heroes of Dark Fantasy is being resurrected.

By popular demand, the first page back is the page concerning Karl E. Wagner's Kane.

Dale will be putting back the other pages, when he can.

For those who don't know, this site has everything you need to know about classic dark fantasy, s&s heroes with lots of interesting essays, maps, character studies, bibliographies.

Elric, Kane, Conan, Kull, Brak, Imaro - all this and more!

I can't wait until it's all back, but Kane is a great start!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October reads

I managed to get a bit of reading done recently.

Rage of the Behemoth

Heroic fantasy, geared more toward the sub-genre of sword-&-sorcery, with a theme of giant monsters and those who combat them.

Many people have been saying this, and I’ll say it too – this is a great anthology. If you enjoy heroic fantasy and sword-&-sorcery, Jason M. Waltz has pulled together a wonderful collection here. I won’t bother going into standouts, of which there are many, versus lesser tales. The balance on whole is very strong. If you enjoy Andrew Offutt’s Swords Against Darkness series, then Rage of the Behemoth is right up your alley.

Doctor Who: Prisoner of the Daleks

It had been a long time since I’d read a Doctor Who novel, and this was my first read of the new hardcover tie-ins with the new series. This novel features the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant’s character) and, naturally, his old enemies, the Daleks. Yes, the Daleks were all wiped out, but like any good time-traveling aliens, they keep altering histories allowing the Doctor to stumble into their past. Or something – time travel is fuzzy, as even the Doctor would testify.

This was a fun read, and a fast read that moved along at a quick clip, as with the pacing of the updated series. If you like the series and/or Dalek stories, this one should be added to your library. Nice Dalek scheming, gains and counter-gains, and Dalek dialog rendered in its own Dalek font. All good stuff.


The epic doom of Gotrek, berserker ‘Slayer’ dwarf continues with human Felix Jaeger at his side. This time out, the duo faces a deadly dragon along with a host of other dangers, including orcs and bandits.

This was solid entry for both the Gotrek and Felix series and Warhammer. A tight tale in and of itself, it also opens threads into bigger things in future novels (such as an impending invasion of the hordes of Chaos.) I liked the lighter use of goofy humor in this one compared to some of the previous entries, though it feels like Warhammer dwarf tales should be read while consuming ale to truly appreciate the effect.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dear Black Library (open letter)

Dear Black Library,

You can stop now. Really. I just don't have time to follow two universes with multiple self-contained series. I have other books to read. I have too many of your books on my shelf unread, as it is.

Really. Please stop with the interesting cover blurbs and the eye catching art on the new stuff.


Also, please stop dropping all these damn good-looking omnibuses on me. It's bad enough I'm interested in your new titles. Then you turn around and create opportunities for me to 'catch up' with reasonably priced, three-for-one omnibuses of previous titles which triples my to-be-read pile in an instant.


Then to top it all off, you provide incredible cover art that makes me drool. It is very hard not to buy an omnibus like the Witch Hunter series. I already have the novels, but then you add a bonus story! Please stop.

Now you've gone and done this. And even though I have these novels, well, ... that cover. If there's a bonus story in this one, all is lost.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alien planet?

Alien planet?

No, it's Earth. China, to be exact. I got this from TIME.com

Out of This World
This unique geological phenomenon, known as a Danxia landform, can be seen in several places in China. This example is located in Zhangye, Gansu Province. The color is a result of millions of years of accumulated red sandstone and other sediments that have dried and oxidized.

A little sword-&-planet inspiration, though, eh? ;)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A smattering of movies, misc

I've managed to squeeze in a few movies over the past weeks.

The Last Legion - sword-n-sorcery crammed into a "fall of Rome" tale with ties to Arthurian legend. Yeah, it not only sounds like a mess, it plays like one, too. Might have been better without the Arthurian shoehorning. At least Aishwarya Rai was easy on the eyes.

Last of the Mississippi Jukes - Documentary on the Subway, one of the last original juke joints in Jackson, MS. Good take for a blues fan. Enjoyable performances, though personally I preferred Alvin Youngblood Hart and Chris Thomas King over the smoother electric stuff that dominates the movie. But that's really just personal taste.

The dilapidated hotel that housed the Subway was ultimately demolished after the movie was released, though. :(

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - enjoyable sequel to Hellboy. If anything, the character of Prince Nuada might be an early run of what Elric of Melnibone could look like in a live action movie.

Finally, the direct-to-DVD feature from DC,Green Lantern: First Flight. Don't cringe when you read "direct-to-DVD". These DC Universe animated movies have been enjoyable to outstanding, and this was a solid entry in the series, and a good Green Lantern tale.

On the reading front, still working Rage of the Behemoth. Also checking out the latest Ray Gun Revival (incredible cover!)

And reading some old Jonah Hex (collected Volume 1) for some quick-n-dirty Western fixes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September update

Not much to report, but I did finish, rewrote, polished and submitted the sword-n-planet story to the editor. I haven't heard back yet, so I hope he likes it.

On the heels of finishing that, we went into house improvement mode with new carpets (our daughter is crawling and the update was long overdue) and painting to match the new carpets before they arrived, etc. So I haven't done any writing, though I am thinking about my next story (a submission for Rogue Blades Entertainment's Roar of the Crowd anthology, I hope.)

For reading, I'm also behind, working my way through RBE's Rage of the Behemoth. Interesting seeing some of the stories from the slush pile (that I read) making it to the final product.

Weather is cooling off already - we barely had a summer. But that means pumpkin ales can't be far away!


Monday, August 10, 2009

Empire of the East

For my last two readings, I entered Fred Saberhagen’s Empire of the East. I tore through The Black Mountains and continued on with Changeling Earth. (I had read the first novel, The Broken Lands a year or two back.)

I am not entirely clear on the history of this work. Like Moorcock’s Elric stories, Saberhagen had Empire of the East repackaged and edited a few different times (and some of his Berserker stories apparently fall into that camp, as well.)

The third novel, originally entitled Changeling Earth (the DAW edition I read) was re-titled to Ardneh’s World when Baen took it over. I don’t know if there were any changes

After that, Baen yet again repackaged the entire trilogy into an edited omnibus, Empire of the East.

In my web travels, I have seen Ardneh’s Sword which I believe is a later fourth novel, but could be yet another rework, I don’t know.


I enjoyed the books. The trilogy is a bit different to me, as it uses a post-Apocalyptic setting where both magic and science/technology operate. I.e.: unlike most science fantasy pieces where super-science is the equivalent of magic, here they are two separate entities. For the most part Saberhagen makes it work if you just allow yourself to go along for the ride.

I have only recently started reading Saberhagen and I’m really enjoying his work. There are touches of Bradbury without the purple prose. He has a natural storytelling ability that flows through the tales. I miss these types of fantasy where you can visit well-crafted worlds and characters and yet do it without slugging through a thousand page novel.

There are some nice descriptions of demons and conjuring, an interesting reveal in the last book (as to how the magic came to exist with the technology) and just enough lost technology to keep a reader interested.

I recommend them. They are quick reads, but have nice depth. Choose an edition to your liking and budget ;)

On the writing front, things are going well, if not quickly. I am about 1000 words away (a scene or two) from finishing my current short story. It will definitely need a polish draft after this – I’m really shaking the rust off. And now I have the lump of raw clay in hand to sculpt. I don’t know how many details can be revealed this early, but the story is for a specific upcoming anthology in which I was invited to participate. It was just the sort of real (non-self-made) goal I needed for a kick in the pants to get back on the writing wagon.

It feels good! :) (So good, in fact, I want to get this one finished and start on another one for a possible second anthology!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Furlough on Mars

I spent last week on unpaid furlough. I wasn't crazy about lack of pay, but I sure enjoyed the time off with my wife and daughter. We went to a local farm & wildlife sanctuary, had a cookout and other fun things. A few home projects were in the mix, too. (Stained some woodwork in our living room, little bit of garage cleanup, fixed a sprinkler head.) The weather was great for the entire week.

I did not read or write nearly as much as I hoped - but I did read. And yes - I wrote!

I am now 2000 words into a story. I'm back on the wagon and shaking off the rust! I'm sure it will need good editing when the rough draft is done, but at least I am writing and have been getting my a.i.c. time. (ass-in-chair [in front of computer])

For reading, I finished Otis Adelbert Kline's The Swordsman of Mars.

It was good, solid sword-n-planet. It hits all the s-&-p notes; body transference, swordplay, a princess & a savage girl, baridium mines & quirky inventions and scary, large creatures that have dog-like loyalty to their heroic masters. Technically I found it more appealing than E R Burroughs Mars tales. But I'll admit ERB certainly populated his setting with more imaginative creatures.

Definitely worth reading if you like sword-n-planet. Paizo has also published the sequel, The Outlaws of Mars, which I have already purchased and will be reading in future.

That's all for now, (few) loyal readers!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Burn Notice: The Fix

Last week I finished reading, Burn Notice: The Fix by Tod Goldberg. Simply put – it’s the best tie-in I’ve read. Granted, I haven’t read tons of tie-ins, but I’ve read more than a handful of Doctor Who books and a few Star Trek books.

The Fix reads just like an episode of the show. Sometimes tie-ins try to go further or tangential to shows, while some provide a story as close to the t.v. experience. I guess there is room for all kinds, but I liked that this novel felt so much like viewing an episode.

The story takes place after the end of Season 1, and the cover dovetails nicely with the DVD cover for Season 1.

They have done the same with Season 2 and the latest novel, The End Game.

I wish I had held off and saved the book for reading between seasons. Season 3 is airing now. I received The End Game in the mail yesterday via Amazon, and I look forward to reading it between seasons as a nice tie-me-over.

I’m glad also that there are only two novels and no one is trying to churn out a monthly series (yet.) It makes for a nice treat that I can keep up with.

I don’t know if it’s worth reading if you’re unfamiliar with the series, but if you are a fan and not a total t.v. junkie (in other words, you read) then I highly recommend giving The Fix a read.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Northwest of Earth by C. L. Moore

Northwest of Earth
is a collection of the tales concerning the space-ways faring rogue, Northwest Smith. Descriptively, one's first impression is that Smith is the prototype for Han Solo. Ray-gun at the hip, leather outfit and scarred face, Smith is an outlaw of the solar system. These stories, written during the Weird Tales heyday of the 1930s, feature the typical solar system of a dry Mars and jungle Venus, but both quite habitable and populated by various races.

While Smith is pure space opera character, though, these stories are not. These stories read far more like Clark Ashton Smith's weird stories. The planets are full of ancient mysteries, lost races, strange civilizations. Smith constantly encounters cosmic horror style antagonists, not aliens. The only time the ray-guns blaze are when dispatching an ancient monster. No shoot-outs here, nor any spaceship dogfights. The stories have far more atmosphere than action.

So, as a different, scifi take on atmospheric weird tales, the Northwest Smith stories are worth a read.

But, as a pure adventure space opera read, Northwest of Earth are not the stories you are looking for.

On a side note; this collection comes from Paizo's Planet Stories line. They have put many old tales into print with more to come. Check them out if you haven't!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Kobayashi Maru

After viewing the new Star Trek movie, my wife declared "That's not how the Kobayashi Maru test went!"

Of course, it didn't - the altered timeline took care of that.

The KM test was introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It is a test of character for budding Starfleet officers, where defeat and death are the only option. We learn only that Cadet Kirk "reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to win". Those are the only details ever offered.

I do not know if the novels are as canon to the Trek universe as the Star Wars novels are to Lucas' universe. But, some are fun "what-ifs" that fill-in holes. I've read some good Trek novels, and some that weren't much better than low-tier fan fiction.

This novel informs us of what really happened during that test. My wife had the book and I decided to read it.

The premise is simple. Kirk, McCoy, Scott, Sulu and Chekov are stranded in a shuttle accident and pass the time revealing how each, in turn, dealt with the infamous test.

Without giving away spoilers, I will say that this book was good, not great. It had some fun moments and some moments that were too "touchy-feely" for Trek.


Cadet Checkov's solution to the K.M. scenario

Cadet Sulu's introduction to Federation and galactic politics.

Cadet Sulu's solution to the K.M. scenario

Cadet Scott's solution to the K.M. scenario


Cadet Kirk's solution to the K.M. scenario (just didn't believe it)

Kirk being more fatherly than commanding

Cadet Checkov's follow-on "test" (more like an episode of Survivor than an officer training exercise)

Author telegraphic justification. McCoy literally states, "That's so in character!" after Kirk reveals how he beat the K.M. scenario. Sulu states that his solution is neither funny nor clever before he even begins his flashback.

In fact, Sulu's story is poignant as it tangents off the relationship between Sulu & his great-grandfather and his great-grandfather's death. It's not a bad B-line, but it's more of an downer than an upper.

It's a quick read, not a bad way to pass some time for a Trekker if you find it at a used book shop.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Empire Unacquainted With Defeat

Or, perhaps, A Blog Unacquainted With Updates, eh?

Thanks you faithful few who still check back here.

I haven't been writing and because I wanted to keep this blog somewhat focused on writing, I haven't been blathering here. (blathering a bit on Facebook, who knows why)

Reading has been slow, too, but I finally finished Glen Cook's Lord of the Silent Kingdom. I'm not very objective about Cook, I'm a fan boy. I enjoyed this novel but the politics of church(es) and state(s) make this a somewhat complicated world to explore. Cook says it's no different from real world history, and I'd agree. A little streamlining might help, though. The novel just ended, clearly waiting on the next novel for some resolution. But, I mostly enjoyed it, went along for the ride, and there were some surprises along the way. I'll be reading the next novel in the series.

Meantime, I am more excited about a collection of Cook's earlier stories concerning the Dread Empire (a different series, altogether.) The novels were collected in omnibuses by Night Shade Books and now the short stories have been collected and are finally being released. I can't wait to get this book, An Empire Unacquainted With Defeat, on my shelf. I've only ever found one short by Cook, who mostly writes novels.

I have moved onto a Mack Bolan novel, Interception, chock full of violence and intrigue, ghost-written by a friend, Nathan Meyer (his name is buried in the front piece.)

Writing-wise, I am still slowly outlining a couple of things in my head, gathering some research notes, and hope to generate some real, meaty outlines (if nothing else) over the summer.

There, that should be enough links to keep you busy

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reading meme

Got this from Blog of the Beast.

I know I like Robert E. Howard but I'm still surprised how often he comes up in my answers. I do read more than REH, really I do.

1) What author do you own the most books by? Glen Cook. It could be Robert E. Howard if you count various collections but between The Black Company, The Dread Empire and the Garret P.I. series, I have to think I have more Cook. David Drake count is up there, too.

2) What book do you own the most copies of? I don’t really keep multiple copies of anything. Robert E. Howard takes this by default – I have some duplicate collections between the Baen series and the Del Rey series though the contents aren’t an exact match.

3) Did it bother you that both these questions ended with a preposition? No.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? None that I am aware of. A few I might lust for (Red Sonja.)

5) What book have you read the most times in your life? I’ve read quite a few twice but I don’t think I’ve read any book more than that. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, God Knows by Joseph Heller, It by Stephen King - I recall reading twice. Lately, I’ve been answering this question a lot (and “favorites”) and it makes me want to do a bunch of re-reading – but my “to-be-read” pile is already too large.

6) What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old? I don’t recall.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller. Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was a classic. …Strikes Again was utterly nasty, vindictive, unbelievable crap. Just my opinion.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year? Tie. Sharpe’s Fury and Sharpe’s Escape by Bernard Cornwell. I’d never read any Sharpe before. Now I want to read the rest of the series.

9) If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be? The Conquering Sword of Conan by Robert E. Howard. I want people to disassociate “Ahnuld” from the character and see how rich, wonderful and original Howard’s character and writing really are. Personally, of the Conan stories, I like ones found in this collection the most.

10) Who deserves the win for the next Nobel Prize for literature? No idea.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I am always hesitant about such things. On the one hand, there are many stories I’d like to see visually, but I am always afraid Hollywood will miss the interpretation and do it wrong.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? See above.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character. None that I recall.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? I don’t think I have.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read? Not really sure. Difficult because I didn’t like it but made myself finish it or difficult just getting the words into my head and understood? Either way I’m not sure I have an answer.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've ever seen? The only Shakespeare play I’ve seen live was MacBeth when I was in college.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? The French. I respect the Russians but we’ve been allies with France for a very long time.

18) Roth or Updike? N/A. (haven’t read ‘em)

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? N/A. (haven’t read ‘em)

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer? Milton.

21) Austin or Elliot? N/A. (haven’t read ‘em)

22) What is the biggest, most embarrassing gap in your reading? I’ve read a lot of classics, but I’ve missed a lot, too - particularly from the 20th century.

23) What is your favorite novel? At this point, I’d have to say The Black Company by Glen Cook.

24) Favorite play? I don't have one.

25) Favorite poem? “The Return of Sir Richard Grenville” by Robert E. Howard

26) Favorite essay? N/A

27) Favorite short story? “Worms of the Earth” by Robert E. Howard.

28) Favorite work of non-fiction? I haven’t read enough non-fiction. I read history for research but none really jump out at me. I did enjoy Band of Brothers. There are some current titles that intrigue me, but I never seem to read a non-fiction when it’s current.

29) Favorite writers? Glen Cook, Robert E. Howard, Karl E. Wagner, David Drake, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Dan Abnett and plenty of runners up.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? I don’t know.

31) What is your desert island book? If you’ve seen the bookcases in my house then you know this is impossible for me to answer. Maybe, just maybe, Eons of the Night by Robert E. Howard because of the variety, but it lacks any Conan, Kull, Kane, Bran Mak Morn or Cormac Mac Art stories so I don’t know if it would work for me. Maybe one of the Del-Rey "Best of" Howard collections for variety including some of the classic heroes he created.

32) What are you reading now? Lord of the Silent Kingdom by Glen Cook and a Warhammer 40,000 trade paperback comic, Exterminatus.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wow. Sorry for a fallow month.

Lots of things on my mind but nothing worth dumping here.

I suppose I could take time and start posting on various subjects but if I'm going to do any deep writing, it should be on my fiction.

Yes, the gears in my head are churning over some writing possibilities but nothing has been committed to page yet.

I read a good Warhammer trade paperback comic, Condemned by Fire.

(that's right, Heff - pictures!)

It features a Witchhunter, but it is not Mathais Thulmann (see my earlier post.)

These comics, produced by Boom-Studios (as opposed to Black Library, who handle the prose novels) are very nice, though I will be waiting for the tpbs because they are a little thin and pricey as individual issues.

Posting this from a MAC at work, just for fun. (running a job on my pc right now, anyway)

Monday, February 23, 2009

What was I reading, then?

There came across my Web travels a list of "Best Loved Books" as declared by the BBC. The idea of the meme was to note which ones you've read, and - if read - whether you liked or hated them.

Some were popular novels, and some were classics usually read in school.

I have barely read any of them. The odd thing about this is that I have read many things - I have a minor in English and you would think I would have had more hits on such a list, even if most of the books were outside my usual recreational reading genres.

I recall many books in high school that other students were reading that I wasn’t; ‘A Catcher in the Rye’, ‘1984’, ‘Animal Farm’, ‘Lord of the Flies’.

Never read ‘em - still haven’t.

In fact, I’m thinking of listening to the audiobook of ‘Lord of the Flies’ this year.

I read ‘Catch-22’ voluntarily during my senior year, it was a never a requirement for me.

How about you? Any “standard” books that most students read that you never did?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


New year. This is a leftover bit of flash from last year. Enjoy.

"One if by Land" by Paul R. McNamee

Powerful swimming strokes propelled Dusimi across the inlet. Reaching the opposite shore, he scrambled among slimy, slippery rocks, finally finding purchase on dry, rough stones above the waterline.

Beneath the moon, the stone tower loomed over him; a strange structure with archways at its base and not a single opening or arrow slit anywhere along its vertical length. Dusimi wondered how the abandoned structure had been defended in ages past. Entering under an archway, he found no entrance over his head, only stone.

Chilled, he dressed in clothes taken from his oil skin sack. He removed his steel mace from the bag, looped the chord to his belt. The gray spit of land was desolate except for the mysterious tower. The ebony-skinned mercenary felt uneasy.

The rough stones of the tower’s outer wall provided plenty of footholds and handholds. Dusimi, a natural born climber, deftly scaled the structure. He crawled over the crude, jagged crenellations of the peak onto the roof.

Under the moonlight, Dusimi espied the hole in the center of the roof; a hole created by design and ringed by cut stones. He skirted the illogical aperture, which provided the only entrance into the tower. Peering cautiously over the opposite edge of the roof, the moonlight exposed a small armada bobbing on the waves. Dusimi knelt to ready his signal lanterns.

Wood scraped rock and someone muttered a curse far below. Dusimi halted, glanced over the roof’s edge. A large rowboat rubbed against the rocks. One man tied off the boat to a jagged stone outcrop, while seven other sailors clambered from the vessel.

A grappling hook scraped across the roof until it caught the wall and held taut. Apparently, the men were not as adept at climbing as Dusimi. He guessed their purpose was the same as his; to signal their land-bound allies of their arrival.

Dusimi crouched and waited. Using his knife, he impaled the neck of the first man who came over the wall. Silenced, the dying man struggled with his attacker. Dusimi had no time to waste; he pushed the man into the waiting maw at the center of the tower roof.

Too late, the black warrior turned to the grappling hook. The second man was over the wall and charging with drawn sword. The man slashed, Dusimi swerved, pressed forward and caught the man’s ribs with glancing blow of his mace. His opponent staggered but recovered before slipping into the waiting hole.

More grappling hooks clattered against stone. Men yelled from below. Dusimi charged, feinted and spun the man around with a fierce blow to the head, sending the leather-armored sailor to the same fate as his comrade, into the belly of the tower.

The tower trembled, Dusimi lost his footing, clutched the crenellations for support. Looking down he saw two sailors swinging wildly on their ropes, feet dislodged by the tremor. But it was not enough. The other men gained the roof before Dusimi could cut a single line. Grim faces encircled him, weapons gleaming in moonlight.

“Black devil,” one face said.

“Send him to hell what he did to our lads,” someone else suggested, pointing a short sword at the hole.

The tower trembled again, and something disgorged from the stone mouth. Fleshy with suckers along its length, it lashed around one man’s waist and pulled him forward. Other tentacles, each the thickness of a man’s arm, emerged from the hole, seeking prey.

Whatever slumbered in the tower had been aroused by flesh and blood. Dusimi joined the melee, beating at the flailing tentacles with his mace, but the spongy flesh resisted damage from such a blunt instrument. The men with swords fared better, though writhing appendages bodily knocked more than one man over the crenellations to their death on the rocks below.

Dusimi retrieved his oil skin bag. His knife slashed open leather flasks of oil, and he tossed them into the hole. Dodging tentacles, he opened a lantern and lit the wick. Darkness swallowed the flame as it plummeted into the abyss.

Firelight and an inhuman, unearthly shriek burst from the hole. The tower reverberated again and again as the creature, insane with pain, slammed its bodyweight against the sides of its chamber. However small it had been when it found refuge in the tower, it had grown too large to exit the hole.

In the chaos, Dusimi found a secure grappling hook. Wrapping his hands in the oil skin bag, he grabbed the rope and slid down to the ground, never looking up, even as stone cracked and men screamed.

The bottom floor of the tower collapsed. The burning beast fell to the ground like a sickly shooting star. Still shrieking inhumanly, its horrific cries carried across the still night for leagues. The thing slithered over the tumbled, broken rocks and plunged into the ocean, smothering the flames upon its blubbery hide.

As it quickly passed through the moonlit shadows, Dusimi briefly thought of squids or kraken - but how one might survive in a land-locked tower away from the sea for years was a mystery he dared not ponder too deeply for sake of his sanity.

Dusimi fled across the rocks, not chancing that the vile beast might return from the water. Dusimi did not consider the mission a failure. He had not lit the lanterns, but the creature’s shriek of pain had warned everyone that hell was breaking loose.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy 2009!

Yes, I'm still here. Just haven't had a lot of time to write anything. Holidays were great - baby Gwyneth met lots of cousins and other relatives.

I'm still reading blogs even if my replies are few and far between.

And Heff - I will get a beer out to you one of these days - sorry I missed the holiday window, but I'll still get you something regional if not seasonal.