Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Azaran Rising

So, the name of the next book is called THE TALE OF AZARAN. I'm about one-third of the way through. More on this to follow...

Monday, November 26, 2012

The history of mankind explained

This poem by Kipling, more than anything else, explains the entirely of human history in all its folly...

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Terry Pratchett at New York Comic Con

For me the highlight of New York Comic Con was seeing Terry Pratchett in person. Of course they put him on the wrong stage and no one could hear a word he was saying, even when a very nice lady all but shoved the mircophone in his mouth. But seeing the man, with the iconic beard and hat was a real treat, and reminder what the world will lose whne he finally departs this plane of existence.

On a side note, something more lighthearted...

Not thats something I could get behind!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Truth in Despair...

This described the creative mind more succintly than any ten thousand word essay...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Return of the Penny Dreadful

Way back in the 19th Century, even before the rise of the pulps, another form of cheap amusement haunted the eyes of the reading. Short, lurid, quickly written and dismissed as so much trash, it nonetheless was the most popular form of written entertainment of its time, cranked out by the thousands and sold on the street like so many apples and oranges. In America there was the Dime, virtually mass produced stories that focused on the sensational and lurid. Cowboys and Indians, urban crime stories and so on, spread out across multiple volumes and editions, with series running on for years on end. In England they had the Penny Dreadful, serial short stories of lurid (there's that word again) nature in appearing in magazines and booklets. Both were targeted at audiences of young boys and men, part of the growing numbers of the literate public spawned by the Industrial Revolution. The rise of the pulps would eventually kill them off (as they in turn were killed off by the Second World War and the rise of the paperback.) But today, with the rise of the ebook, we may see a return of this old format, at least in part.

One of the big advantages of digital publishing is the low cost of production. No paper, to printer, in the end it's all nothing more than electrons, 1's and 0's and what time you choose to put in in terms of arranging them. Publication in instantaneous, as is purchase. Which, if one thinks about it, is perfect for a model similar to that of the old dimes and dreadful's. Quickly written, short, sensational in content and lurid in presentation...and serialized. Instead of laboring for years on end, writing, editing and re-writing thousand word doorstoppers, a writer (or team of writers - see Fantomas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre...) with a knack for publicity and a talent for compelling plots could do well for himself (or themselves) cranking out serialized stories released weekly. People often complain about the 99 cent price point as being economical. Maybe it is...for full length novels. But an old-fashioned (so old it's new) serialized story, released electronically over dozens of installments.

Now that could be something....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fall is here...

Fall is here. I know this because like clockwork I;ve caught by annual changing of the seasons cold. Oh joy...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Return of Beauty and the Beast

Interesting side note...GRRM was a producer and writer for this show way back in the Eighties, before he went onto bigger and better things. Which begs the question: is he getting a piece of this action as well?

Also..seem's interesting, and of course Kristin Kreuk would improve a reading of the phone book by her mere presense. But the original series had three things going for it: Ron Perlman in lion make-up, Linda Hamilton in big shoulder pads. And an Eighties sound track, with accompanying hair. Lots and lots of hair...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Almost done!

Book Two of the NINE SUNS is one chaopter away from completion! Now I just have to figure out a title...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Heavy Metal Fantasy covers

From an article by the now-defunct Cimmerian:

Like a wizard and his staff, or a dragon and its gleaming horde, heavy metal/hard rock music and fantasy literature are an inseparable pair. I haven’t seen any statistics published on the subject, but fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard just seem more inclined to listen to heavy metal than any other genre of music.

Man-o-war knew this from the beginning...maybe a little to well:
On the other hand, DIO always gets a pass (may he rest in peace...)

Then some bands just get the right level of awesomeness:

This is all just my opnion, BTW. and no licard people were harmed writing this post...anyway, here's a list that runs the gamut from cool to riduculous to why-the-hell-didn't-I-think-of-that?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Blood Rights (House of Comarré, #1)Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

These days books, digital and otherwise, and bowing under the weight from all the vampire books out there. Given this sheer preponderance, finding a new approach to a well-worn formula can be daunting. To her credit, Kristen Painter focuses instead on well-written characters and a compelling plot.

The time is about fifty years in the future, in a world that is distinctly more Bladerunner-ish than today. Chrysabelle (wince-worthy name in truth...) is a Comarre, a unique subspoeci3s of human whose blood is more delicious than the usual pint of B Pos. For various expected reasons she flees too Florida, where she crosses path with a cursed vampire outcast named Malkom (the usual fanged beefcake number...)

So far, as expected. The world building is not too detailed, but at this point it;s hardly necessary, people know what to expect. The real strength of the story are the characters - Chrysabelle is a surprisingly appealing heroine. Malkom's sense of doomed fate self-loathing can be grating after a while, but fits fully within the expectations of a romantic hero. The supporting characters (shapeshifters, ghosts, etc...) really give the story an extra zing, being well shaped and distinctive in their own right.

All in all, a nice breezy potboiler, perfect for a beach read or a long ride on a train. I winced at some of the more cliched parts, but went through a hundred pages before coming up for air. Not bad indeed.

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Cool cover...

Cool cover...hope the band matches it...

The lady stands alone

The lady stands alone in the wind

Once a goddess supreme overall.

Now lost in the shadow of her sons.

Her small lamp dwindling in the mist.

The fullness of their arrogance!

Her call to the lost children,

lost in their self-regard.

Honor your mother, that is the way.

God's commandment to warring sons.

But who hears the old words,

buried in empty caskets!

The cries of fools!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Indie writers on the rise....

"Publishing Is Broken, We're Drowning In Indie Books - And That's A Good Thing"

Or so claims Forbes magazine...


Read the article here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The Misplaced Legion (The Videssos Cycle, #1)The Misplaced Legion by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before Harry Turtledove became obsessed with writing - and rewriting- alternative versions of the Second World War, he was a notable scholar of Byzantine history, which led him to write the Videssos series, and entertaining saga that turns away from the usual Northern Europeans-folklore influences of Tolkien and company towards a world based very closely on the Byzantine Empire. In fact, aside from the presence of magic and a few cosmetic changes, it could very much stand in for a straight-forward alternative history in which Constantinople never feel to the Turks. Which is in fact the subject of another book he wrote...but one thing at a time.

The premise behind the series goes like this: a Roman legion led by the tribune Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, fighting during Caesar's conquest of Gaul, gets transported to an alternative world due to a mishap with a pair of swords enchanted by a powerful druid (coming along for the ride is a Gallic chieftain who was fighting on the other side...) Unable to return home, they hire on as mercenaries to the Byzantium-like Empire of Videssos. The idea of a Roman legion hiring on to serve a fantasy version of the Empire that would ultimately succeed their Empire might seem a bit ludicrous, but Turtledove makes it work with strong characters and a detailed and highly realistic setting.

Religion plays a strong role here, and in this Turtledove;s historical background shows itself strongly. The primary religion is a thinly disguised version of medieval Orthodox Christianity, which like the real-world version is beset by various heresies and schisms. The primary villain is Avshar, a former Videssian priest who switches to the worship of Skotos, the Videssian version of the Devil. A generation before the Roman legions arrival, he facilitated the conquest of a neighboring Empire, leading a nomadic horde from the steppe to overthrow the previous rulers, mirroring in many respects the Mongol conquest of Persia. The series slowly builds up over the course of several books, depicting both the external battles and internal intrigues that best the real-world Byzantine Empire, leading to the expected confrontation between light and dark.

The premise is somewhat outlandish, but the series is solid, a real and pleasant alternative to the the usual elf-and-orc style of fantasy. A good read all around.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012


The War God's MenThe War God's Men by David Ross Erickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though I'm into fantasy, historical fiction has always been a huge influence, in part because there is quite an overlap in many of the ways that matter. Both tell stories that take place in worlds which do not exist, the main difference being that with historical fiction it's a world that was was in the past, while fantasy is set in a world that never was and never could be.

With that in mind, THE WAR GODS MEN is a solid entry that should appeal to readers looking for a fast paced tale of war, betrayal and bloodshed that will satisfy fans of both Robert E. Howard and Bernard Cornwell, and should prove especially appealing to those with an interest in stories set in the glory that was Ancient Rome. Most Roman historical tales focus either on the era of Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Republic, or on the final Collapse of the Empire four centuries afterward. David Ross Erickson's story instead places it;s focus on an era usually ignored by readers and writers – the First Punic War.

When most people think of Rome's struggle with Carthage, they think of Hannibal and his elephants crossing the alps and the titanic Roman defeat at Cannae. THE WAR GODS MEN is set a generation earlier, when Carthage was the dominant power in the Mediterranean and Rome merely an Italian upstart with no navy to speak it. Several narrative threads are woven together, the main one being that of Juba, a Numidian cavalryman in service to the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal Gisgo (a different man with the same name.) The action begins at the city of Acragas in Sicily, where a Roman army is besieging the Carthaginian garrison. After seeing one of his men crucified at the city gate by Hannibal Gisgo, Juba swears vengeance, embarking on a long strange journey that see's him fighting on no less than three separate sides. Meanwhile, the Roman Consul Scipio has recovered an abandoned Carthaginian warship, which the Romans use as a template to construct their own war fleet. Having little experience with fighting at sea, they enlist the help of the ancient genius Archimedes to design a new weapon that will even the odds with their enemies in naval battle.

Erickson is a talented writer, and the story flows well. The level of historical detail is quite high and the characters well rounded, giving the impression that they were actually living in their period. That said, I do wish the author had explained more – the reader is dropped right into the story, and immediately surrounded by numerous characters and historical facts without much in the way of context. More than once I found myself asking “who are these people?” and logging onto Wikipedia to find out. Also, the narrative is a bit off-putting. The plot basically follows the fortunes of Juba, Hannibal Gisgo and Scipio over the course of several years without weaving them into some sort of larger plot, more like a documentary about ancient warriors than a traditional story. The book ends every abruptly with a “the battle shall continue” set-up and no sense of resolution for two of the main characters, suggesting this is merely the first part of a larger series.

Still, the good parts of the story balance out the bad. The characters were compelling, and Erickson's level of historical knowledge, and the sheer joy he takes in exploring this ancient conflict, comes through with every word. A good read, all things considered.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jerusalem Delivered and Epic Roots

Jerusalem Delivered Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over the last decade or so, fantasy fiction has emerged from a geeky underground genre to become a real cultural force in it;s own right. Go into any bookstore (or just check the Amazon sales rankings...) and you'll see and endless line of titles featuring wizards, warlocks, damsels in distress (or causing distress) and the whole sword swinging, shining knight and evil wizard deal providing fuel to the imagination. Any day of the week you can turn on a tv or head into a movie theatee and see CGI orcs, trolls and dragons battling it out across a wide variety of imaginary landscapes.

Yet the roots of fantasy go back far and deep into the bones of our culture. Tolkien is often called the father of fantasy (or one of the fathers at least) but even he had his influences, as did all the others who preceded him. To my mind, the chivalric romances are the original seed of what today we could tall fantastickal fiction. IN the courts of medieval and Renaissance Europe, poets and troubadours spun stories of brave knights and powerful wizards, princesses locked in towers and perilous quests, creating many of the tropes that we still use to this day.

To my mind, Torquato Tasso's epic poem JERUSALEM DELIVERED can be considered one of the first true epic fantasies. Ostensibly a retelling of the First Crusade, it mingles the bloody history of holy war with sorceresses, demons and magical happenings drawn from a wide variety of sources. Under the leadership of the noble lord Godfredo (the historical Godfrey of Boullion) and the mystic Peter the Hermit, a Crusader army drawn from all the Kingdoms of Christendom, and featuring many heroes familiar from numerous other medieval epics, gathers to capture Jerusalem from the armies of the Pagans (as he calls the Muslims) led by the Soldan of the Turks. Among the champions in the Christian army is the warrior Tancredi (the historical Tancred, Prince of Galillee), who faces off against the warrior-maiden Clorinda. Though fighting on the opposite side, they fall in love, which ends in tragedy when she mistakenly dies at the hands of her beloved. And there is the knight Rinaldo, who in the story is made out to be descended from one of Charlemagne's paladins (as well as being the ancestor of the House of Este, the poet's real-life patrons.) The greatest of all the Crusader knights, he falls under the spell of the sorceress Armida in a manner similar to Odysseus and Circe, before being rescued by his comrades and returned to fight in the final victory.

By today's standards this story would be reckoned grossly un-PC, the culture nowadays viewing the Crusades in a very different light then 16th Century Italian poets. And those who grew up reading modern prose might find the old-fashioned style (particularly the allusions to classical mythology mingled with Christian piety) frustrating. But there is a sense of wonder in this story, of unashamed glory, that still resonates even four centuries later. If you enjoyed reading the Lord of the Rings, this will give an idea of where Tolkien got his ideas.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The way it was...and never will be again....

I miss that old style sword and sorcery.

I grew up in the Nineties, right on the cusp of fantasy's initial breakthrough into the mainstream. I remember when it was still very much and underground things, when there was still hysteria about Dunegon's & Dragons being a gateway drug into Satanism and suicide (though given some of the DM's I've known over the years, one or the other seemed quite attractive at various points during badly run campaigns...) Fantasy was for losers back then, geeks, dorks, dweebs, and that was just in high school. Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons made flesh.

The thing about being beneath the cultural radar though is that no one cares what you do. Which means you can do what you want. You can say what you want, write what you want, lose yourself in a world that doesn't exist except on paper, and no one cares. There is an entire universe inside your head and by God and all His Saints it's ten thousand times better than the dead end existence that constitutes The Real World.

For me the drug of choice was sword and sorcery. Conan, Elric, Dragonlance Chronicles...ordinary men swinging swords against the orcish hordes, wizards standing on mountaintops calling down the fire on the world. Witch Queens wearing jewels and not much else, dwarves with beards that dragged on the ground, elves and barbarians facing off against the dark denizens of the Seventeenth Abyss. I'd read them in Robert E. Howard, imagine myself as John Carter striding across the wastelands of Barsoom, try and recreate it around the gaming table to the rattle of d20's and accompanied by the smell of cold pizza, truly the food of the gods to the hungry gamer. There was no ambiguity, no second guessing, none of that bloody angst and irony which permeated the 90's like cheap cologne, for which my fellow Gen X'ers will have to spend the rest of their lives atoning for. The heroes were heroes, the villains were villains. The damsels were in distress, the fiends of the Pit were there to be cut down, and if your heroes had a Dark Side driving them onward, it only them made all the more bad ass. It was simple, straightforward. High octane fuel for the imagination.

I miss it.

Now it's different (though isn't it always?) Fantasy has entered the mainstream. And given that we live in a repressed post-modernist post-feminist post-whathaveyou age where Certain Things Are Not To Be Said, so too is the genre hobbled. Every story must have a point, every plot line an allegory for something related t owhat's happening in the world, and if the old tropes are dusted off and brought in, it's only so they can be deconstructed for the greater purpose of showing how everything is Inherently Oppressive. There are no more heroes and the villains are merely misunderstood. Evil is just another version of Good, and Good doesn't really exist as such, since it's all subjective and nothing is absolute. Everything is a metaphor - the barbarian invasion from the North is meant to be an allegory for the War on Terror, the Dark Plague sweeping the land a stand-in for Obamacare. No more simply telling a story, no more Art for Art's sake. Art is political and the political is personal...even if the personal is pure crap.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing to indulge, and I know there's plenty of stuff coming out today that exceeds by a length too great to measure the works of the past remembered in such a golden haze (and let's be honest, a lot of that stuff was second-rate hackwork, only highly prized because there was nothing else available.) But am I the only one who feels that something unique has been lost? That the genre gained the world and lost its soul, or at least its sense of humor?

Thus endeth the rant.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fantasy Art Inspiration

Just as clothes make the man, so does art make the story. There is a long and happy history of collaboration between the visual arts and fantasy fiction, all the way back to the beginning. I know that when the well of inspiration starts to run dry, perusing some of the more fantastickal creations of the Western artistic heritage is a good way to get the juices flowing. 

The Pre-Raphaelites are a good place to start - part of the Romantic reaction against the industrialization of society, they looked to myth and the mediival past for their inspiration. 

Edward Burne-Jones, who began as a Pre-Raphaalite, then went on to become a leading light the Aesthetic movement. Look on the following works from the latter period and tell me they don't have some kind of effect.

Of course, nowadays we can skip right past the art museum and consider fantasy art as its own genre. Often derided as little more than kitschy covert art (a charge that is all to often true in many cases) nonetheless there are many fine artists working in this field whose works can act as dynamite against an attack of writers block.

Frank Frazetta (may he rest in peace) who virtually defined the modern image of Conan.

Michael Whelan (one of the true greats.) Everyone has at least ONE book featuring a cover of his, even if they don't know it.

Boris Vallejo, for that old-timey lost-in-the-70' pulp feel (try getting away with this nowadays...)

And one of my personal favorites, Ruth Thompson. I met her at the New York Renaissance Faire, and been following her every since. Most excellent talent.

Of course, this just my humble opinion, and I make no claims as to actual good taste....

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thirty Thousand Words

Just topped thirty thousand words for the second book of the Nine Suns. Don't have a title yet, but so far things seem to be going swimmingly...

Druss the Legend

Legend (Drenai Saga, #1)Legend by David Gemmell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Way back in the that mythical age known as the 90's, I was wandering around a Barnes and Noble in New Hampshire, where I found a paperback copy of this novel. Upon opening it, I discovered a different approach to fantasy, an older way that was increasingly rare in those days, and seems to be almost non-existent today. And the genre is much poorer for it.

David Gemmell is by my lights the only truly worthy heir of Robert E. Howard to come up in the last thirty years, as a writer of a brute-force, unashamedly masculine style of heroic fantasy that embraces its pulp origins and takes them to a whole new level. Indeed, the story of Gemmell's life is almost as fantastickal as any tale he penned of Druss or Waylander. Growing up poor in a rough urban neighborhood, he learned through boxing how to stand up for himself. Expelled from school at sixteen for running a gambling syndicate (compare that to the kid at my school who thought he was a bad ass for smoking tea leaves in a corncob pipe...) he worked as a laborer and a bouncer before becoming a journalist, ultimately a writer. This philosophy, of always standing ones ground and never backing down in the face of overwhelming odds, is one of the overarching themes of his work. When he died in 2006, the fantasy genre lost a true giant.

The story is a fairly simple one. Druss is a legendary warrior, now in his twilight years yet still as dangerous as he was in his prime. Word comes to him of a barbarian horde attacking the fortress of Dros Drelnoch and Druss is called to fight He picked up his ax, knowing this is a battle he will not survive, that he and the fort's defenders face overwhelming odds. Yet this, to him, is all the more reason to go, to stand ones ground, spitting in Death's eye and daring him to do his worst. Along with his fellow defenders – common soldiers ordered to hold the ground at all costs, as well as an order of monks sworn to die in righteous combat – they will face their fears and hold their ground, and show that a good death can be the capstone of a life well-lived. Or at least that was my take on it at the time, when I read the book in the space of a single night.

Legend, like all of Gemmell's work, is suffused with a grim stand-your-ground power, filled with the conviction that the more overwhelming odds, the more necessary it is for the hero to stand against them and die fighting. There's no irony here, none of that post-modernist we're-not-really-serious-about-this nonsense winking. The story wears its cliches honestly and without apology. Rated M for Manly, it may very well put hair on your chest...or at least inspire you to pick up the metaphorical battle ax and start swinging.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Sacrifice (The Fey #1)

The Sacrifice (The Fey #1)The Sacrifice by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good read...hidden classic from the 90's.

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Review: Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was
Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Barry Hughart is one of the great hidden treasures of the fantasy genre. Many authors have been called ahead of their time, but in this case it;s an appellation that actually sticks, which explains why his Master Li stories were criminally under-appreciated when they first came out. Bridge of Birds is the first of three highly entertaining books.

The setting is China at the start of the T'ang dynasty, though the story plays fast and loos with historical details and is better described as a “China that never was.” Number Ten Ox is is a peasant whose village is suddenly afflicted by a curse that renders the children comatose. Seeking help, he travels to Peking, where he meets with Li Kao, an octogenarian criminal mastermind turned Imperial mandarin turned private detective and unrepentant alcoholic. Together they embark on a madcap adventure that takes them across this fantastical version of the Middle Kingdom, facing a pungent mix of ancient villages and memorable lowlifes.

The draws deeply upon Chinese folklore, mingled with a healthy dose of hard boiled detective fiction and generous helpings of broad comedy. At the time it was published, back in the dark ages of the 1980's, fantasy was still very much in its Dungeons and Dragons phase and no knew what to make of it, or the subsequent two novels that followed (The Story of the Stone, Eight Skilled Gentlemen.) There was nothing like it at the time and indeed there still isn't to this day – Asian-themed fantasy/detective novels are distinctly rare on the ground. The authors frustration with the publishing industry meant an to the series after the third book, which is a crying shame by any measure. If you looking for a rollicking fantasy read that is different from anything else out there, this is a good place to start.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Fashion Police

From the New Criterion...

Saw last night and didn’t much enjoy The Hunger Games, but the worst thing about it was the thought of how many little girls ten years from now — and how many grown women twenty years from now — we are going to have to address as "Katniss," the made-up name of the heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence. It reminds me of that episode of "The Simpsons" in which Lisa’s teacher calls out the roll and every other girl’s name is "Ashley" or "Dakota." And then there are the 26 children of Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel, and his charming wife Brandeen — one for each letter of the alphabet. They are Tiffany, Heather, Cody, Dylan, Dermott, Jordan, Taylor, Brittany, Wesley, Rumer, Scout, Cassidy, Zoe [pronounced Zoh], Chloe [pronounced Kloh], Max, Hunter, Kendall, Caitlin, Noah, Sasha, Morgan, Kyra [pronounced Keerah], Ian, Lauren, Hubert, and Phil. . .
Read the rest here

this is a test

yet another test post

The Sword and the Sorcerer...memories....

Here's a blast from the past...

Ahh...the '80's. When men were men, women had big hair, and the cheesiness was unapologetic...


Ah caffeine...the sleepless mans best friend...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Game of Thrones!

If the first episode of Season 2 is any indication, fantasy TV just got kicked up to a whole new level. Should wsh away the taste of Legend of the Seeker....

Review: Dragon Prince

Dragon Prince
Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gather round children, and cast your minds back to the ye old days of the late 80's/early 90's, when fantasy was still very much an underground thing, most stories were tedious Tolkien retreads or Dungeons and Dragons sessions put down on paper, and writers of the feminine persuasion were notably light on the ground. Which makes this book and the various series it spawn so interesting....

Nowadays, female fantasy authors are a pretty common sight, so it's a bit shocking to consider just how ahead of its time Dragon Prince was in terms of what could be done in a traditional fantasy novel. When I first picked it up, it was amazed just how different this was from the other fare to be found in bookstores (yes, books were sold in actual stores. Ask your Dad....)What Melanie Rawn did with this story was take all the elements of an awesome epic fantasy and mix it with the conventions of a romance novel, seasoned with some of the most detailed and compelling examples of world building to be found anywhere. The result was something groundbreaking. While there are battles galore and fantastical deed by the score, the core of this tale is the relationship between Rohan and Sioned, the passion that draws them together, the dangers and obstacles that block them. No final voyages to Valhalla here...more along the lines of a traditional romance, Lancelot and Guinevere, Romeo and Juliet, or any number of bodice rippers sold by the dozen made magnificent by the inclusion of dragons.

Today it's a common enough formula, which makes this book something of a groundbreaker. It showed (to angsty Gen-X teenagers at least) that fantasy could be more than just the slay the dragon while standing on a mountain of skulls. That there was room for real emotion and passion.

In short, a good read. Not to mention the cover art by Michael Whelan, reason enough to buy the printed version.
Posted by Zackery Arbela

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why so many died / just to see him fly

This song should be played at the start of EVERY Dungeons & Dragons sessions. RJD...RIP....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Formulaic...but in a good way (review of Hard Day's Knight)

Urban fantasy is the hottest subgenre in fantasy nowadays - the shelves at the local bookstore (where those still actually exist....) are groaning with new paperbacks coming out by the month, and half the ebooks out out by indie writers fall within it's boundaries. Son it's not surprising that a genre as popular as this has it's own conventions and cliches and well worn ruts, its plots ever recycled, its archtypical characters trotted out time and again in new clothes. Now this isn't a bad thing by any means - every genre out there has it;s conventions, which exist large part because the readers want them. The trick is to find a new way to bring those old tropes to life.

I came across Hard Days Knight while looking for a new urban fantasy story that stood out in some way from all the rest. Bonus points if it came from an indie writer. This book fit the bill quite well. There is a sardonic tone to it that goes down very nicely, much like a bottle of vino verde on a warm summer night. The characters are not the typical vampire one comes across in this sort of story, being less iron bodied languid princes of the night and more like the kids from the Dungeons & Dragons group you hung with while in college. Everymen, basically, stuck with immortality and a real allergy to sunlight. There is a surprising depth of character her despite the short length (only a couple of hundred pages) They very much come across as a pair of ordinary fellas making the best of an unusual situation, and keeping their sense of humor in the process, a welcome change from the usual doom-and-gloom vampire protagonists.

Also, it's set in Charlotte, NC. Nice to read a story that doesn't take place in New York, Chicago or LA.

The only real beef I have against this tale is the somewhat rushed feeling behind it. Granted, that may have something to do with the length but it did feel a bit off. Also, there isn't much in the way of world building, though that's more a fault of the genre than of the author - given its conventions, most urban fantasy worlds tend to have a similar feel.

All in all, a worthwhile read.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Limited time offer...

For one week only, Gaebrel's Gamble is now on sale for just .99 cents. Click on the link to the right and order your copy now!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another attempt at digital art...

I try, I really do try...didn't come out quite the way I hopes. learn from your failures....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A rant for a new Romanticism....

We live in a rational age, a new Enlightenment (for a given value of enlightened....) Science pushed ever further towards revealing what few mysteries are left. The mind, far from a fog of the unknown, if declared a machine like any other, bound by rules that can learned and understood, and manipulated by those who possess the knowledge. Love...chemical reactions in the brain, to delivered in pill form courtesy of Big Pharma! Hate...a sickness to be cut out of your gray matter, really its for your own good in the end. What need for silly things like faith, hope, charity, imagination and wonder, they're all nothing more than electrical impulses firing in the great central switch box that is the brain? God is dead, Science has replaced him. Instead of priests we have physicists, biologists and various other -ist's, telling what what we need to know, what we're supposed to think and why we should think it. And lest anyone think to object, there's a whole intelligentsia following up behind them, writers, reporters, professors, commentators of every stripe and color, all eagerly proclaiming that we are nothing more than lumps of self-mobile meat destines to end up rotting and to think otherwise is to prove yourself a silly relic, a throwback to the ancient darkness in dire need of re-education....

We've been here before, of course, there's a reason why I refer to the Enlightenment. The Golden Age of reason, where outmoded superstition in all it's dark splendor was hurled aside in favor of a bloodless clockwork rationality. The world would be rebuilt, it would be sane, orderly, every though would finally be made the way it was supposed to be....uncountable deaths later, from all those wars fought in the name of Reason, and they still couldn't admit they might have been wrong.

Against this tyranny of the boring and the unimaginative rose a new move. Romanticism, a lovely rebellion against this mindset. Love, feel is to be alive, the understanding that there is more to life than dull rationality. “Only religion and art can educate a nation—what use is science, which analyzes everything and explains nothing?” So spoke Richard Wagner, and whatever his other faults, I think he had a point.

Nowadays were live a world that is more technocratic than ever, presided over by a new priestly caste who wave their credentials as a bishop would his crozier. Worthless in the end, man is more than the sum of his flesh and organs! We need a new Romantic movement, something once again affirms the centrality of wonder, of emotion, of desire and bliss! Love, not mere sexual attraction. Glory, not simply prosperity. Something that once again lets us know You are a human being. You are more than mere flesh and bone. Even in death you are alive.

Here endeth the rant.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dragon prince...Ahead of its time

Gather round children, and cast your minds back to the ye old days of the late 80's/early 90's, when fantasy was still very much an underground thing, most stories were tedious Tolkien retreads or Dungeons and Dragons sessions put down on paper, and writers of the feminine persuasion were notably light on the ground. Which makes this book and the various series it spawn so interesting....

Nowadays, female fantasy authors are a pretty common sight, so it's a bit shocking to consider just how ahead of its time Dragon Prince was in terms of what could be done in a traditional fantasy novel. When I first picked it up, it was amazed just how different this was from the other fare to be found in bookstores (yes, books were sold in actual stores. Ask your Dad....)What Melanie Rawn did with this story was take all the elements of an awesome epic fantasy and mix it with the conventions of a romance novel, seasoned with some of the most detailed and compelling examples of world building to be found anywhere. The result was something groundbreaking. While there are battles galore and fantastical deed by the score, the core of this tale is the relationship between Rohan and Sioned, the passion that draws them together, the dangers and obstacles that block them. No final voyages to Valhalla here...more along the lines of a traditional romance, Lancelot and Guinevere, Romeo and Juliet, or any number of bodice rippers sold by the dozen made magnificent by the inclusion of dragons.

Today it's a common enough formula, which makes this book something of a groundbreaker. It showed (to angsty Gen-X teenagers at least) that fantasy could be more than just the slay the dragon while standing on a mountain of skulls. That there was room for real emotion and passion.

In short, a good read. Not to mention the cover art by Michael Whelan, reason enough to buy the printed version.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Michael Scott Rohan's ANVIL OF ICE

I first came across Michael Scott Rohan's WINTER OF THE WORLD series as a boy, and it was one of the books that turned me onto the fantasy genre as a whole. What set's him apart from the rest of the generic Tolkien-clones are the vivid characters he creates (the relationship between Elof and his true love will set even the the crustiest heart aflutter....) and the truly vivid world building. The author draws upon and ice age setting and mixes it with Finnish folklore and the still-vivid trope of a Lost Civilization, creating something unique.

There are tons of novels out there that draw upon North European folklore. Most of them don't get beyond the stereotypes and are forgotten as quickly as they are read. This book sticks in your mind.

---Reposted from Amazon

Most Underrated Fantasy series

Fantasy is on something of a hot streak theses days, what with the success of GAME OF THRONES and the dominance of urban fantasy/paranormal romance. A Song Of Ice And Fire has been called Lord of the Rings for our generation, and while I don't think ANYTHING can topple the mighty JRR from his mithril throne, GRRM does give the Old Master a good run for his money.

But what about the other series and sagas, the ones that set the blood racing and imagination aflame...yet for one reason or another never really caght up with the genre fanbase, let alone the reading public at large. What are your candidates for the most underrated fantasy series?

I would start with three forgotten serial masterpieces: Barry Hugharts MASTER LI series (featuring a drunken sage-detective in a China That Never Was) Michael Scott Rohan's THE WINTER OF THE WORLD (Finnish Mythology Meets Prehistoric Ice Age) and just for the heck of it John Norman's GOR series (purely to stir the pot... Grin)

Course that's my list..any one else care to venture an opinion?

Friday, February 3, 2012

GAEBREL'S GAMBLE Print Version Available

Purchase your copy now via the CreateSpace the first to give me money!

Repost from Kindleboard

Something to consider...there are very few people who know how to write sex scenes that are any good. Or at least not the sort that won't be favored with a (dis)honorable mention at the Bad Sex Awards....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gaebrel's Gamble now available for the Kindle!

My first novel is now available for the Kindle! GAEBREL'S GAMBLE, the first book of the Nine Suns!

"Nine Suns there are, nine watchers, nine masters. The worlds their children. The races their seed, the soul the shards of their intellect, the Empyrean the workshop of their divine labors. Who among us has the wisdom to hear their voices, to know their words written?"

Gaebrel Harrn is a thief. A smuggler. A wanderer. Abandoned by his father, he survives by his wits. Always a step ahead of his enemies, winning the day with his charm, his words...and when all else fails the sharp edge of his blade. Knocked down by fate, he rises again, swifter and stronger.

Together with his companions he will face off against a bloodthirsty pirate queen and her marauding fleet, steal a mighty treasure from under the noses of its magic-wielding owners, face death and betrayal as they sail into battle against Ulzarad the Neverborn, a soul-devouring monster in search of the perfect prey.

Fleets gather in the Empyrean, carried between worlds by the Celestial Winds, shaping the fate of nations with blood and cannon fire. Arcanist's call upon the ineffable mysteries of the Aethyr in their search for power while spies plot in the shadows. Join Gaebrel and his companions as they embark on the greatest adventure the Nine Sun's have ever known!

Click HERE to purchase from Amazon. Download, enjoy...and please, feel free to post a review!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Behold, the cover art for my first novel, Gaebrel's Gamble! Not to shabby, if I do say so myself....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is Pop Culture in Paralysis?

Is Pop Culture in Paralysis?

something to think about....

Polone: Why There Are No Sure-Thing Movie Stars Anymore, But Hollywood Pretends There Are

Explains a lot about cinematic crap....
Polone: Why There Are No Sure-Thing Movie Stars Anymore, But Hollywood Pretends There Are

The God of Cursed Poets

Interesting article on the website for FIRST THINGS magazine about the tormented inner lives of Verlaine, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, the three paragons of the Decadents. Just goes to show that beauty and misery are often two sides of the same coin...

The term poète maudit, or “cursed poet,” was coined by Paul Verlaine. His little book Les poètes maudits (1884) interleaved his own honorific prose with poems by some of the poets he most esteemed but whose very greatness assured that they were known only to the cognoscenti. It was their obscurity—society was indifferent to them because they were hard to understand—that prompted Verlaine to speak of them as cursed. This cultivated sense of neglect, even oppression, at the hands of the bourgeois philistines became the classic pose of the avant-garde.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dungeons and Dundacity

...there might yet be hope for Dungeons & Dragons, known as D&D. On Monday, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary that owns the game, announced that a new edition is under development, the first overhaul of the rules since the contentious fourth edition was released in 2008. And Dungeons & Dragons’ designers are also planning to undertake an exceedingly rare effort for the gaming industry over the next few months: asking hundreds of thousands of fans to tell them how exactly they should reboot the franchise.
 Here's a thought...go back to 3.5 edition, in my opinion the most perfect form of the game yet produced...OGL, how you are missed!

Read the article from the NY Times here.