Friday, December 31, 2010

Books read in 2010

I had a very slow reading year, this year. Not sure why. Sure, there was the baby, but he didn't show up until October.

Ah well.

As with writing, I hope to accomplish more reading in 2011.

A lot of these I've blogged about over 2010. Some I never got around to commenting on, for whatever reason.

But, here is the list;

+ The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle (ebook)

+ Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King

+ Slaine: The Exile by Steven Savile

+ The Sword of Rhiannon (a.k.a. Sea Kings of Mars) by Leigh Brackett

+ The Space Wolf Omnibus (Space Wolf, Ragnar's Claw, Grey Hunter) by William King (Warhammer 40K)

+ The Berserker Throne by Fred Saberhagen (ebook)

+ Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (audiobook)

+ Of Berserkers, Swords and Vampires by Fred Saberhagen

+ The Sharp End by David Drake (Hammers' Slammers)

+ The Song of Roland (ebook)

+ Barbarians, Marauders & Infidels by Antonio Santosuosso (history) (ebook)

+ The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

+ Dark Worlds #1 (ezine)

+ Casca: The Warrior (#17) by Barry Sadler

+ War of Art by Steven Pressfield (ebook)

+ Killing Trail by Charles Gramlich (ebook)

+ Steppe by Piers Anthony

I've noted the one audiobook and ebooks, for fun. All ebooks were read on the Kindle except War of Art which was epub format, so I read it on my Mac using the Barnes&Noble Nook reader app. (much nicer on Mac than the PC version, btw)

I noted Dark Worlds ezine because it was fairly large, but I think there are some other e-reads I forgot to note during the year. I need to be better about that in future.

I am surprised I didn't squeeze in at least one Warhammer read. (I did read the one Warhammer 40K omnibus)

My favorites were The Broken Sword and Of Berserkers, Swords and Vampires. Sword of Rhiannon rounds out my top three.

Happy New Year, see you in 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Thanks to my few loyal readers.

Nothing to say here, other than "Happy Christmas!" (as the Brits say) and happy New Year (if I don't post again between now and then.)

Hopefully, in the new year, I'll have more posts about my own writing than others' works. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Leftovers and waiting

I have leftovers.

Not food.

Unfinished tales.

I need to get them sorted out and off my back. I suppose I could let them go, but part of me believes if I get these monkeys off my back and in their cages, I'll feel better about diving into something larger and new. Far past time I try my hand at a novel.

So, what do I have? Well, I can't give away much.

I have a weird western, a sword-n-planet and a space-opera idea I've been kicking for awhile that feels more leftover than new. I really need to crank out the rough draft.

It's the weekend. Time for caffeine in evening (though, that darn seasonal eggnog & rum are calling ;) )

I am also in my "don't buy anything for yourself" phase of the year. With my late November birthday and Christmas coming, I lay off the Amazon wishlist purchases.

The good news is that I have a pile of Amazon gift certificates waiting (Amazon Visa is a wonderful thing for a book lover.) I'll be getting any books I really want if I don't receive them as gifts. I just need to hold out until Dec 26th.

Monday, November 22, 2010

October to November and beyond

Despite my ever growing Kindle wishlist, I still thoroughly enjoy the “used book” hunt. During my week off, I managed to shop at a nearby branch of The Book Rack. I could have come out with a lot of books. I kept under control, though, and came out with six. Two Saberhagen Berserker titles, Berserker Fury and Berserker Base. Two Poul Anderson books, The Armies of Elfland and Hrolf Kraki's Saga. Lastly, I completed Andrew Offutt's “War of the Gods on Earth” trilogy by picking up the second and third volumes.

As mentioned in previous posts, I'm enjoying discovering Saberhagen, so grabbing the Berserker titles was a no brainer. There were more Saberhagen titles, but I held off.

As for the Offutt tales, I know he was a mid-mid-list writer of sword-&-sorcery, but I'm still curious about his work, though not expecting much. These knock-off/pastiche/homages like Offutt and John Jakes' Brak the Barbarian would really be the perfect Kindle reads (if they were cheap enough.) I'm curious enough to read them, & grab them when I see them, but I don't go out of my way. If there were e-versions available, I'd let the print editions go to make room for better works on my bookcase.

I'm currently (finally) reading Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword and it is an amazing piece of work. If you don't know its background, here's the long story short. Anderson, like Tolkien, went into the past of the North for ideas and inspiration. Unlike Tolkien, who (from all I've gathered) delved deep into Old English and, by inheritance, used elements from Norse myth, Anderson went straight to the sagas and eddas. (I am no Tolkien expert - if I'm wrong, I'm sure I'll be corrected ;) )

The Broken Sword is a dark, gloomy piece and arrived about the same time as Tolkien. Anderson's work was overshadowed by the first wave of Lord of the Rings hoopla, and that is too bad. The Broken Sword is a very different destination from many of the same influences. For that alone, it's worth reading and comparing to JRR Tolkien's work.

The Broken Sword has been cited by Michael Moorcock as a huge influence on his Elric tales, and its obvious when you read Anderson's work.

(Yeah, don't let the “gay elf” cover fool you. The publisher was attempting to emulate artwork used for Lord of the Rings covers at the time. This other cover is more representative of the content.)

Writing? Nah. For those who don't know, my son was born last month. With a toddler and an infant, I've just about managed to do some reading. I am plugging away at one short tale though. I hope to get the rough draft done this week. If I can, then I just might manage a polish and submission by the end-of-month deadline. If not, I have other ideas to execute once I get back into routine.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Onward with Saberhagen

Finally cracked open Of Berserkers, Swords & Vampires by Fred Saberhagen today. It's a posthumous collection with stories that sample across his different series settings - and some stand-alone tales.

In honor of October/Halloween, I jumped to the vampire (his version of Dracula) tales at the end. Now, aside from the introduction (which I also read) I'm ready to start at the beginning.

I finally finished Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I was not as enraptured by this collection as his earlier collections (Night Shift and Skeleton Crew) but there were some solid tales. King certainly knows how to bring characters to life and pull a reader in - even in stories where things are left unexplained. My favorite tale from this collection isn't even a horror tale. I enjoyed the fantasy tale, "The House on Maple Street" the most, I think.

Currently writing a Lovecraftian historical tale. It's slow going because of real life distraction, but I hope to get enough headway on it. The deadline goes until Dec 1st.

Other writing ideas - big and small - are piling up. I am going to need to add some writing New Year Resolutions to the list for January!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I iMac

Nothing new to report. Too busy with stuff, just about getting in my reading, never mind my writing.

Lost some time to a crashing computer - an old PC - and decided I'd finally had enough of Windows. We bought an iMac for home. I'm not bothering to debate pros and cons. At this point in my computing life, I feel the Mac is the right place for me. I'm not a gamer. If I were, I'd go console, anyway. I like the creative tools for a Mac - GarageBand to start with. Some interesting writing software, too.

So, in addition to "life in general" stuff, I've been spending evenings setting up software, peripherals and transferring files.

My biggest discovery this week was the Cee Lo Green single, "F--- You." (And it sounds like 'Gnarls Barkley' because Cee Lo is one half of that duo.)

Yeah, it might seem a juvenile title, and it is, but the song is an incredibly catchy pop piece with heavy Motown/old-school-R&B overtones. The video is cute and humorous, too.

Cee Lo Green, "F--- You" NSFW language

I know to folks who know my blues/rock side, this might be a surprise. But, sometimes there is a pop tune that gets to me in a good way. It is a rare occurrence. Like, once every five or ten years. This song is one of those. Certainly, your mileage might vary.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tempus Fugit

I finally read a Casca novel, The Warrior (#17). Casca is the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus' side with the spear. As a curse, he is destined to roam the Earth as a soldier until the Second Coming. He can be killed, but never truly dies (he can be resurrected) and his wounds heal quickly. The series features Casca in many historical periods, from ancient times right into Africa and Vietnam. (More data can be found via the link.)

While it probably wasn't the strongest entry in the line, it seemed a good place to start. Seeing as how the tale takes place in the 1860s/70s in the South Pacific, it lacked large, sweeping military action. But it made up for that with bloodthirsty cannibalism and study of culture clash. Good short read for action-adventure, historical fiction.

Don't let the near "romance-novel" cover fool you. It is nothing of the sort.

When I was a kid, I had the Marvel comic adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. Before even The Empire Strikes Back had arrived, the Marvel Star Wars line had taken on a life of its own. I had a few issues past the movie timeline, but always wondered where the storylines went.

I recently learned that some years ago, Dark Horse reprinted the run in graphic novels. Fortunately for me, as I discovered a few months ago, it so happens that Dark Horse has re-(re)-issued the Marvel run in an omnibus. I picked up the omnibus and I'm eager to dig in. It will be interesting to see where the writers went without the (soon to be famous/infamous) heavy hand of George Lucas. (It will also be interesting to see how they eventually did tie-in with an adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back - that omnibus is due later this year.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back from vacation

I'm back. Spent some days at the beach. Having a toddler, I didn't get much reading done, though I did have Kindle in hand. It was great family time though, beach bumming, strolling, walking, eating out. I even squeezed in an acoustic jam with an old friend & others one evening.

Aside from the family and friends fun on the beach, I did a little book hunting. There is a "book warehouse" shop - you know, the ones with the discount books. I wasn't even going to stop in, but I saw The Religion by Tim Willocks displayed near the front of the store. It's a historical fiction novel about the siege of Malta. I've heard good things about this novel, and it was very tempting. In the end, I passed. They had the hardcover, and I am really trying to make space at home. The ebook cost couple of dollars more, but I guess I'm paying for shelf space at this point.

I did, however, find a decent used book store and grabbed three of the eight Lost Swords novels by Fred Saberhagen. They all have spine warping, but for the price, I can deal with it. I know these books aren't currently available in e-format, so I felt justified.

I really need to map out my writing for the next few months. I have about four stories that really need to get written/re-written.

Back to work tomorrow. I would "sigh", but you know - it's what pays for everything, so I won't complain.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ought update once in a while, eh?

Sorry you get about one post per month out of me.

This month has been busy with non-reading and non-writing related stuff. A lot of house rearrangement.

And my workplace company moved. Fortunately for me, it's ridiculously close to home. That was pure luck, I had no say in the choice of the new location.

I also got on a huge music kick and I have been acquiring archives for my vinyl - trying to go digital there and free some home space, too.

I read Planet Stories reissue of Piers Anthony's Steppe. Honestly, I thought it was a drag. I just couldn't suspend disbelief, the language was too informal (perhaps this was a y.a. title before they were classified as such?) and far too much exposition that was not only front-loaded but kept coming back.

I wanted to get behind Paizo for adding some newer titles to their classics, but Steppe just didn't move me. I don't know if it is representative of Anthony's writing or not. I believe it's the only title of his that I have read.

Not sure what I'll read next. I feel like I've neglected the Kindle, might be time for another eBook.

Keep reading, keep writing, and keep jamming!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel

Last month (or so), a little "lost" sword-&-planet tale by Michael Moorcock showed up on

"The Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel" originally appeared in a 1990s anthology.

It's a quick web read, and while nothing amazing, it does what Moorcock does best - a feverish read from what appeared to be a quick writing session. I haven't read too many long novels from Moorcock, and, as James Enge once wrote, to me it feels that Moorcock's best is when the sparks are flying off the typewriter (computer) and the world building is off-the-cuff and only spawning what is needed to support the tale at hand.

Historically, Moorcock has often praised Leigh Brackett's writing, and this story is an homage. Though, I believe it also reads strongly as an homage to C. L. Moore's tales of Northwest Smith. It has more of a 'Weird Tales' strange alien vistas look'n'feel than a planetary swashbuckler.

I did grin, though, when I read "big sleep" and "long goodbye" directly in the prose. Those were two screenplays Leigh Brackett wrote (she did Hollywood screenwriting as well as science-fantasy-fiction.)

It's a good tale for a quick read and it's free.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Welcome to the Stupid!

I grow increasingly frustrated, and appalled, and as a parent, frightened by our country's current obsession with being stupid and willingly embracing ignorance.

Why is it a great, wonderful, height of achievement to be a dumbass?

Is this really what we want? Is this a great goal for a nation like ours?

I really hit the wall today - and it was either shout at the innocent clerk or write a nasty letter (I might still) or rant online.

So, please tell me what you think of this genius of a product, clearly aimed at kids;


Erasers. "Yummy Erasers"! Great, choke-sized pieces of rubber not only designed to look like candy, but even named YUMMY.

No problem there!

I might add, the store where I saw these had them at the checkout counter NEXT TO THE CANDY.

OK - I see things differently as a parent, so maybe I'm off the wrong tangent here. But, what the *&^%?

Does anyone think this is a good idea? Would anyone buy this shit?

Yes, you can tell your child it's NOT candy. But what if you have multiple children? Let's say one is a bit older, understands it is not candy, but leaves the eraser out somewhere where their toddler sibling can grab it?

This isn't just badly manufactured, and/or poorly designed toys or something. It is made to LOOK like CANDY. It is clearly PITCHED to KIDS.

Why is this shit even created, produced, and sold?

I really hope no one buys this crap.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lazy bloggin'

Sorry for lack of activity, here.

Nothing much to post about. I've read a few books - nothing bad but nothing to make me jump up & down. I don't feel like sinking time with reviewing them just now.

Also, trying to get writing done so that puts a crimp on blog post writing and/or reading.

I started watching HBO's The Pacific. I agree with a lot of comments about it not being as strong as Band of Brothers. The story is told from p.o.v. of three (or four) different Marines in different units, so it's hard - initially - to get a handle on them. It's not like BoB where you were with one group every step of the way from basic training through to the end.

Enjoying the new Doctor in Doctor Who, though I was really disappointed with the cartoon-y nature of the Dalek episode, "Victory of the Daleks".

Enjoying home life, too. A trip to the zoo with friends last week was fun.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Forging ahead with reading tech

I wanted to try some small press e-zines/e-books, but they were in PDF format - which meant reading on the computer screen. I read, however, that the Kindle (Kindle 2) has native PDF support.

First, I dragged some test PDFs over, and they didn't show up on my index. OK. I needed to update the software on my Kindle. The update came out just after Xmas, just after I received mine. Updated smoothly, no problem. PDF files showed on the list.

However, as some Google hits told me beforehand, the native support isn't anything to write home about. You can't adjust font size, the document is very static. It was like reading microfiche without the machine. You could change the orientation to landscape, but it didn't help much.

Off to Google again. There are many methods of converting PDF to Kindle readable formats. Or, for a fee, you can email the doc to Amazon, through a converter, and sent back to the Kindle.

I went with the free option of I downloaded and installed the free publisher, imported the PDFs, rebuilt them into .prc files and dragged them to the Kindle directly through USB. It works great, files (with embedded illustrations, even) came through without any noticeable issue.

Article on using conversion tools

After that success, I went to and bought three items - two issues of Dark Worlds magazine and the new anthology, Swords of Fire.

Rage Machine Books

I've converted those, and sometime in future I'll pull them over to the Kindle and start reading! (only, I wish the PDFs included those great covers, they appear not to - but it's the stories that count.)

Honestly, it might have taken a while to type and to read this, but it was simple and quick thing to do once I was setup!

Quick followup note on an earlier reply to David J. West - yes, the iPad already has a comic reader app. Marvel has created one. (also works on iPhone/iTouch, though with devices that small I guess you'd be looking at one panel at a time - if that!)

I don't have an IPad nor a strong interest in one just now. But in future, depending on what apps it has that can be useful or recreational, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Reading my way through a Warhammer 40K omnibus right now, and I'll be dropping my thoughts on that (3 novels) when I've finished 'em all as one big whole.

Meantime, I've managed to catch some movies. (and here are my thoughts, if you are interested.)


Good western. Gunfights are realistic - they happen and end in a flash. (Yes, the real gunfight at O.K. Corral only lasted something like 30~40 seconds, I remember Jack Palance telling me on Ripley's Believe It or Not, if I recall correctly.) I enjoyed the teaming of both the characters and actors (Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen.)

I am interested in reading the original series of novels by Robert B. Parker. The plot is simple enough - two hired lawman try to bring in a crooked rancher, and things get complicated when they both fall for the new widower in town, Allie French (played by Renee Zellweger.) I had a hard time buying that Allie's affections were worth the trouble the characters went through (frankly, she wasn't a likable character to me.)

Planet Hulk

The Hulk is supposed to be marooned on a planet teaming with non-intelligent life. The Avengers have made the decision for the safety of Earth and the Hulk. But the Hulk smashes the spacecraft's controls, and lands on a planet in the finest sword-n-planet tradition - strange alien creatures, gladiatorial combat, and all the trappings.

Good adaptation of the graphic novel but a lot has been jettisoned for streamlining (and happy endings.) This was not unexpected. The "making of" documentary mentioned that they kept much of the story taking place in the arena as the plot's "spine". For me, that was a detriment. I wanted them out of the arena and exploring the planet more.

It Might Get Loud

This documentary is about three rock icons and how the electric guitar and other musical forces shaped their musical development. Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White. Regardless of how you feel about their music, it is a very interesting look at three different guitar players. Being a "white boy bluesman" myself, I found Jack White's story of most interest (also, I already knew plenty about Page and the Edge.) I thought the stylistic choices of the three men was ironic when they all played slide together on "In My Time of Dying". Edge wore his slide on his middle finger, Page on the ring finger and White on the pinky. Perfect serendipitous dovetailing.

Fun and interesting; if you have even a single rock'n'roll bone in your body, check this one out.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Another DC Universe direct-to-DVD feature. I think this is my favorite. Expectations are turned upside down as Lex Luthor, last survivor of his world's Justice League, arrives on Earth to seek assistance from the Justice League. On his world, the evil counterparts to the JL are a crime syndicate who answer to no one and now threaten to take absolute control. Good visuals, good story. So far with these movies, I've been enjoying the rotating voice casts, but I admit I am so used to Clancy Brown voicing Lex Luthor that Chris Noth's turn here left me a little cold. Still - that's more about me than his performance.

All in all, a good batch of movies I'm glad to say.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quick read post

tired and a bit busy lately, but figured it was March so I should put up something...

Slaine: The Exile by Steven Savile

I was unaware of the history of Slaine when I bought this novel. Slaine is a series and character of the 2000AD British comic company.

I was hoping for lots of Celtic bloody head-bashing. What I read was a very disjointed tale with not nearly enough action to make up for the faults. I have gathered from another review that this novel pulls in years worth of Slaine comic tidbits, characters and plots. I believe the aim was an episodic novel, but it just didn't seem to pull together. Subplots and side characters came and went. The entire second act left me scratching my head as Slaine went from bloodthirsty berserker to a rover, including time as a mercenary caravan guard (ok) to a farmer (say what?) completely dropping his desire for vengeance until well into the third act.

The third act perked up a bit, with the arrival of Ukko, the untrustworthy dwarf sidekick. The plot threads started to gel and the story found direction.. and then the novel just ended!

So, I am curious to read the sequel novel, because of the cliffhanger and growing potential, but I won't rush to read it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rambling on eReaders/eBooks

I am currently reading, Slaine: The Exile, which is a novel tie-in with a comic. (The comic comes from Britain’s 2000AD line.) The novel came out in 2006, and a sequel followed in 2007. The novel was published by Black Flame, who were a division of BL Publishing. (Their main arm is Black Library, who publish the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 novels.) Black Flame published media tie-in novels. In addition to 2000AD titles, they also novelized some movies into novel series.

I thought about buying the second Slaine novel, but then decided to wait until I read the first novel. Black Flame folded in 2007. As a result, the second Slaine novel, Slaine: The Defiler, is already rare. Now, the first novel isn’t sending me into the stratosphere (more on that in a review post later,) but I’d be curious to go on to the second novel, but not at the prices out there.

"What do you mean I'm out-of-print?!"

Another title they novelized was Fiends of the Eastern Front, a series about vampyrs in the Russian-German front of World War II. There was a trilogy, which in true BL Publishing fashion, wound up in an omnibus. I never did grab a copy, and those are gone too.

Foiled again by “out-of-print”!

Or am I?

I was poking around Wikipedia yesterday, and learned that BL Publishing sold off the 2000AD novels of Black Flame to another company, Rebellion Developments, in 2009. Rebellion have made the titles available as eBooks.

I hopped over to Amazon, and checked the Kindle Store.

Sure enough, the titles are there. They seem reasonably priced - $5.59 per novel.

This perfectly illustrates one of the aspects of eReaders/eBooks that I am most excited about. They can make out-of-print books available. I love hunting used book stores, and if I really want something, I’ll try eBay or ABE Books. But, what if it’s just something I want to try, I’m not sure of the quality? What if the book is so rare, I just can’t get a hold of it?

Imagine all those yellow spine DAW books, Karl E. Wagner’s Kane stories, Robert Adams Horseclans, Sadler’s Casca or the Falcon series by “Mark Ramsay” (house author started by John Maddox Roberts) being available with a mere download.

I grant that Rebellion had an advantage with Black Flame. The Black Flame books, being so new, probably were already on a computer and just needed a formatting pass to make them eReader ready. Older books will require some upfront time and money to be transcribed to computer. I have no idea what it costs a publisher to bring an older book online, but I would hope it would be recovered with a minor amount of sales. (Need to keep the cost attractive.) But it doesn’t cost them printing or warehouse space, certainly.

Will more out-of-print (but not public domain) titles become more and more available via eReaders?

Time will tell. I, for one, certainly hope so!

Friday, January 22, 2010


Today is the natal anniversary of Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), creator of Conan (the Barbarian), Kull, Solomon Kane, Cormac Mac Art, et al.

A toast to your shade, sir!

I spent last week dealing with a virus on our main home computer. They suck, and the people who create them (whether for 'fun' or 'profit') suck. Pox on them. I finally recovered the machine a few nights ago. I think my next desktop will be an iMac. I've had it with Windows clunkiness. (and if needed, you can run Windows right on the Intel Macs now, with the right software purchases.)

I finished my first Kindle read, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company. The story revolved around a young English man's entry into the Medieval world after being cloistered in a monastery. After various incidents, he ends up with a mercenary archery company fighting in France/Spain. I found the book to be .. well, of its time. Slow to start, lots of talk and people traveling from one place to the next. Frankly, I was bored. I guess it's really more of a Romance (not romance) novel. Some humorous stuff, but very little action on the whole. And when the action comes, it is over very quickly. Also some very poor "telling, not showing" where entire dialog passages describe off-page action, like watching a stage play.

On the plus side, lots of historical detail (maybe too much, like Doyle was showing off all his research.) Good source for Medieval clothing, armor, weaponry (though, most weapons are cited, and not described being used!)

On writing, I signed on for a(nother) slot in an anthology (where I have already contributed one tale.) I started working on that this week. It's sword-n-planet, and I have a rough outline. I will enjoy visiting the exotic vistas and running the characters through their paces.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Last reads of 2009

My last reads of 2009 were...

Brother Berserker by Fred Saberhagen.

Another entry in Saberhagen's long Berserker series. This story featured time travel, as the Berserkers attempt to change the history of a world. Nice touches, interesting time combat, and Saberhagen just has a knack for storytelling that I really enjoy. An enjoyable, if short, entry in the series.

(note: this novel is more commonly known as Brother Assassin - I think I read the British edition/title)

The Sun Over Breda by Arturo Perez-Reverte

The third adventure in the Captain Alatriste series. I liked it but the constant asides and poetry quotations disrupted the narrative. It does have sharp characters that pop off the page and some memorable combats scenes.

I think without the asides, it might have been better served as a novella.