Monday, December 29, 2008

CSFF December Tour

This month, while swerving to fit ourselves in between the High Holy Days, the CSFF is touring The Lost Genre Guild. They delve deeply into the discussions of Christian speculative fiction, whereas here I only skim the wavetops. Great resources and great conversations take place over there. Check them out.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Writing Lessons by Design

Here's something I realized over the weekend. (No, it's not that Rock Band 2 is equally inane and addicting.) Sometimes I'll listen to these interior design radio shows when driving around on a Saturday. I just noticed that the way they typically talk about color and texture and other design elements can be very helpful in our writing. Not just by noting the words they choose to use but by paying attention to how they think about design. It's all part of the creative process and the more interdisciplinary input you can pull in, the better. Listen to a few shows and see if you don't agree.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Inherent Importance of Marriage (Alt Title: Beyoncé Saves America)

Just when you think it's 476 AD, something comes along to prove that the glory of the American Empire has not faded. The new song and video by Beyoncé Knowles restores hope and faith that our country is not listening to the barbarians banging on the gate. (Stick with me on this one.)

According to Yahoo! and Saturday Night Live, "Single Ladies" by Beyoncé is fast becoming a viral craze across this great land. Women are enthralled by it and the song has become an anthem for them to rally around. There are tons of You Tube videos recreating the dance and some cover versions of the song have come out as well. Attached at the end of this post is the best version, by Lelia Broussard. It's also more lyrically understandable than the original. Listen to it, you won't be sorry.

For those who don't like to click on links or You Tube videos, here is a synopsis of the song: A couple has recently broken up and she is now drawing attention from other men. The ex boyfriend is upset. The song is from the woman's point of view and sung to him. The constant refrain throughout it is, "If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it." The message is quite clear: I will not be toyed with. I will not be strung along. I will not be used. Marry me or move along.

This is a message so important it cannot be overstated, and to see people flock to it is the gratifying part of this whole thing. Some of us believe that the foundational building block of society, as ordained by God Almighty, is the family. Without it, you have a society built on nothing but shifting sand. In an age where we constantly hear the vocal minority tell us that the family is antiquated and obsolete and that all it takes is a village, it is comforting to see that Americans instinctively know what is best. We have not yet turned the shining city on a hill into Sodomopolis or Gommorahville. The barbarians will not win the day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Working Here, Working There

For the last week or so we've had a steady stream of snow coming into the Pacific Northwest and the pace of life has crawled to a halt. The phone doesn't ring at work and the family pretty much stays home without any hustle and bustle. That's turned out to be kind of a good thing. We roll around on the floor and laugh a little more than before and I've been plugging away at both "River of Bones" and "Broken Rocks." (Former is over 12K words now and latter is just over 4K.) The two stories are coming together as ideas cross-pollinate between the two and start forming a cohesive whole. I'm thinking in terms of serialized novel now but I'm cautious enough to leave unhatched chickens uncounted. I think soon the two will transform into first drafts. Hopefully by then, the story that started it all will be on publication track and more can be revealed. Anyhow, I pray for you all and hope you have a Merry and Blessed Christmas and enjoy the times you have been given.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wise Men Still Seek Him II

"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." --Matthew 2:2

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Eragon Reviewed

This review pretty much sums up my feelings about the astounding depth of awfulness that is Eragon.

"Any time spent reading Eragon is time better spent doing almost anything else."

Yes. Yes, it is.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Discoveries at Every Turn

The new story, "Broken Rocks" has provided a couple of interesting discoveries. I'm up to 3700 words and the last two scenes are showing me some complications I hadn't considered before. The hero is moving into parts of his world where he cannot simply kill everything and be done with it. The two scenes in question came out about like I intended but as I wrote them I found that they had a lot of work to do. Several concepts and character motivations need to arise from them so the hero can get back on task. As I'm typing away and I get to a place where it feels like the scene should end, I realize that there's more to be done. While I don't mind a rising word count, I want this stuff to be interesting and that means tension and action. I've also got things like a character that I thought I needed just getting in the way so he's probably getting the axe. It's all part of the ongoing creative process that will hopefully pay off somewhere down the line. We have here the constant push and pull of competing ideas that should end up with a controlled output at the end of the day. Either that or a lot of typing exercises.

Friday, December 12, 2008

10 Things That Don't Suck Nearly As Bad As Eragon

1. Complicated dental procedures performed by drunk monkeys who've had their way with an unguarded espresso machine.

2. Chinese water torture.

3. Using a Black & Decker circular saw for a self-lobotomy while waiting for your wife to get out of Grocery Outlet. ("Just three things." Yeah, right.)

4. Spending all afternoon at the DMV.

5. Rachmaninov.

6. Accidentally chugging curdled milk straight from the carton.

7. FOX Reality Channel.

8. Hurrying past the kitchen table in your bare feet on a chilly Saturday morning and kicking your pinkie toe into the table leg at full force.

9. Recording the football game only to have the stupid DVR cut off the last few minutes because the stupid game went past its stupid scheduled time.

10. Windows Vista.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Friends Don't Let Friends Read Eragon

I've been sitting on this post for a while now but I've got to say that Eragon really, really sucked big time. Son Number Two and I have given up on it. He lasted a lot longer than I; by the second chapter I knew this thing was a great big pile of manure. I was reading it to my son for a period of time and I kept finding myself skipping ahead and summarizing things and changing some dialogue so it sounded better but nothing I could do could stop the inevitable. It's just a very poorly written book that meanders around picking up one tired old trope after another. Ach! I can't recommend against it strongly enough. Go get something from Donita K. Paul or Wayne Batson if your twelve year old likes fantasy fiction. If I can stop just one person from reading that dreck then my suffering will all be worth it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And Now, For My Next Trick

"River of Bones" got to 10.5K and stopped. Reading it over showed two things. 1) It's a disjointed mess, but I kinda expected that. 2) It's missing a scene that pays off something I set up earlier. Anyhow, as a rough draft goes it's got the arc I'm looking for as well as a rock 'em, sock 'em fight scene.

Because I got one of the characters to a place that both closed this story and began the next, I began the next. I'm 700 words into "Broken Rocks" which continues the overall story like next week's Terminator. While I'm digging the episodic feel to the story I'm hoping that another idea will stand up and beg for attention because I have several vague notions of what to do after this but no real end in sight. As I've said before, we will see what we will see.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Ten Thousand

No, not Greek mercenaries out to slay as many Persians as they can shake a spear at. I'm talking about 10,000 words for 'River of Bones.' It's been quite a while since I've written anything this long and it's an interesting feeling. I'm really not sure where this is headed; I think I can continue to extend it for a while, essentially writing one connected short story after another. Since I'm still excited by the character and situation and I see a lot more I can do, that's the direction I will continue to follow. Where it stops, nobody knows.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Unstoppable Triond Cash Juggernaut

In a few days my total of payments coming from Triond will top $5.36 USD over the last two years. I was worried that we wouldn't be able to afford any presents for the kids this Christmas but now my troubles are over. I even decided to buy something special for Wife Number One and Only. Without the steady, consistent earnings that my Triond articles bring in, we could very well have been homeless and on the streets today. So if you are in need of extra money, this could be a life saver for you. If not, click on Life Lessons From the Marines and give me a penny.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Applying What You've Learned

'River of Bones' has powered past 9000 words and I've had another chance to apply some of my own writing lessons to it. The story is expanding and evolving and I've added in some scenes with the bad guys. Necessarily then, they've needed to become more than knife sponges for the hero. Instead of making them all sympathetic with back stories of their own and mothers who love them, I decided to add conflict amongst them. I changed them into a band of people who are not really working together but rather are cautiously allied for potential mutual gain. There's a big difference in the motivations now. This all goes back to a lesson about interesting writing coming from adding conflict. Typically, we genre writers think of that as more danger for the hero. I thought it might be interesting to add some danger to the villains that wasn't just coming from the edge of the hero's weapons.

But really, this all stems from the fact that I needed scenes to weave between the hero's journey that is the main story. Non-stop narrative from the hero's point of view gets a little boring. Switching around and following different characters makes for much more engaging reading. Thus the birth of the B-story.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Two Little Known Laws of Thanksgiving

1. The Seattle Seahawks cannot play any better no matter how much national attention is brought upon them.

2. Laying on a couch in a semi-conscious state is open invitation for any child under 13 to leap up and bring down all their weight on your unsuspecting body. Twice.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Angel of War

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." --Judges 6:12

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reasons For Blogging

This discussion comes up among writers every now and again. The two camps usually divide into Waste-Of-Precious-Timers versus So-What-It's-Funners. A recent post over at my new favorite blog of the week, Tales From the Raven, contains one of my comments on the issue as well as some other comments that are much more thoughtful and intelligent. Check out the rest of Suanne's blog as well, it's good. (Although I'm not sure how a blonde got the nickname 'Raven.') You also have to follow the links to her stories, especially "Storm's Rising." It shows why Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego has a ban on all sorcerers. Sort of. (And hey, how cool is it to have a last name Warr?"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Ears Are Still Ringing

Last night I had the duty of taking Sons Number One and Two along with their cousin to see The Classic Crime at the Showbox next to Pike Place Market in Seattle. The concert had a few different bands and I think they were all competing to see how freakin' loud they could get. Even sitting towards the back did not help. It must be encroaching middle age but the last few songs were almost unbearable. Also, watching the spastic frenzy of the energy drink fueled mosh pit hurt me from thirty feet away. Yikes.

At least the young ones thought it was really swell. Me, I think I would have had more fun waiting in the minivan.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fun With Brutality

Now I'm up to 7200 words on 'River of Bones' and the big fight scene is just warming up. It's a bone crunching (literally) smash fest that is long on spine jarring punches and short on connecting with your inner child. You just can't have this kind of fun if you're writing for Cricket Magazine, which is one of the reasons I like the heroic fantasy genre.

Monday, November 17, 2008

CSFF November Tour

This month we have Shade by John Olson. This book is another entry in the spooky thriller category that illustrates the spiritual warfare going on all around us all the time. Unfortunately, most of us are blind to it until it thrusts just a little deeper into the skin of our world.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fighters Fight

'River of Bones' is now up to 6500 words and I've just decided to keep expanding it until it feels like it should stop. I'm not exactly sure where that is but I'm going to trust my instincts and just keep going. Hopefully there will be a publishable story at the end of it all. Part of the inspiration comes from watching 'Rocky Balboa' last night. This is a great movie and it's all about doing what it takes. In one scene Rocky explains to his son that being a man is not about hitting hard, it's about how hard you can get hit and still get back up. A great line comes from one of the supporting characters when she tries to tell Rocky that he should get back in the ring one more time: "Fighters fight."

Seems like a pretty good way to live your life. Writers write. Managers manage. Fathers father. Husbands husband. You can spend a gazillion dollars on therapy and watch Dr. Phil until your brain is scrambled beyond recognition or you can just shut the hell up and do what you're supposed to do.

Great philosophy comes from unexpected places.

Friday, November 14, 2008

River of Bones Update

I've been thinking and writing and backspacing and thinking again on this story. It is the fun and frustrating time of the creative process. While I feel like I've settled into a good line of attack, I'm watching the word count climb and I'm not sure where it's going to end. I'm up to 5700 words now and that's getting to be a bit long for current tastes in short fiction. I'll keep hammering away at it and see what shape it takes; I'll either end up with a work of art or a battered and bruised lump of pig iron. I suppose both have their uses.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Aaron LaMere and The Blackstones

No, not a title to a new dark fantasy story. This is a great indie worship band that I discovered last night at a local concert. Playing under a few names with a few different incarnations, these guys are excellent. LaMere is a solid singer-songwriter and an amazing guitarist. The music has depth and power and evokes all the right emotions at all the right times. It's the kind of music I quickly identify with because it's exactly what I try to achieve with my writing. I want a message to be transferred to the reader, even if it's one they made up themselves. Also, since it is societally unacceptable to stand on a bridge and bash in the brains of a horde of murdering savages I like to let the reader experience that (or something similar to that) through a cleverly told story. Not that The Blackstones give you that same feeling, but it's close. In a Godly, worshipful sort of way.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

I had an interesting idea for a story last Halloween. (By the way, watching Son Number Three as a fierce dragon is a laugh riot.) It's really just an opening line that popped into my head: Paul Maybey dug the grave that his daughter would soon fill. I envisioned a moody piece with dark and shadow with an image of an older man slowly digging a grave. I got about 500 words into it before I had to make a run to the airport and haven't gotten around to returning to it. If inspiration strikes some cold wintry night, I just might see where it leads.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yea Socialism!!!

Comrade!! Good news from the Western Front! The greedy capitalist American pigdogs have elected someone who can spread their wealth around and move them towards a European style collectivism. A healthy majority of them have become so programmed to look to government for the solutions to all their problems they've slowly stopped being able to rely on themselves. With their supremacy waning, with their drive and ingenuity giving way to dependence and submission, with fierce independence turning towards a more worldly and cooperative mediocrity we will soon have achieved everything we have always dreamed. A suicide rate like France! An unemployment rate like Germany! They have sought for change and now they're going to get it! Good News!

[This post brought to you in compliance with a future retroactive Fairness Doctrine]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Here We Go...

Well, it's all been leading up to this. It is Election Day here in America. It's kind of surreal that the day is finally upon us, since we seem to have become accustomed to never ending campaigns. As for tonight, my prediction is: Speculation regarding who the candidates will be for 2012 starts sometime after midnight.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Max Payne Hits the Target

Just saw Max Payne last night and I was very impressed. It hit all the dramatic points that a good story should have. First off, the cinematography was incredible. What they did with light and shadow created a gritty, tense, moody feeling every time it was needed. For the most part the film is devoid of color, there was always rain or slowly swirling snow in the exterior shots. Top it off with some Matrix-esque super slo-mo and 'visions of Hell' special effects and you have a movie that is a thrill to watch. Second, the script moved the character through all the right events. Entering the special world, meeting the mentor, tests and trials, the inmost cave, the supreme ordeal with death and rebirth, and the return with the elixir. Bad guys become good guys and good guys become bad guys. Great gunfights. Mark Wahlberg.

On the negative side, the movie's pace was a little slow and they borrowed heavily from other movies with images that we've seen before but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Thumbs up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cosmopolitan Magazine Sucks Like A Bucket of Ticks

I've never been one to study that particular publication before but last night we were all over at a friend's house and they had a few issues laying on the end table. Just looking at the titles of articles splashed across the cover is enough to tell you how awful that rag is. Flipping through and actually reading some of them confirms it for all time. This thing is nothing but sex in its most casual and crass forms. If I ever see Daughter Number One with that piece of trash she'll be grounded until she's 36. Wife Number One and Only shares my disgust, which is comforting because it's about the only thing we've agreed on lately. (We have both a McCain and Obama bumper sticker on the minivan. Oy.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Center Collapses

OK, forget all that stuff I said about "River of Bones" and the middle I'd discovered. I couldn't get it to come out the way I wanted so I followed some of my old advice and just skipped it. I pretended it all happened the way I kinda thought it should and went straight to my ending. After powering through 1800 words I arrived at the end pretty much exactly the way I envisioned. The good part is that it's finished. The challenge is that now I have to begin the rewrite and see what I can dredge up to link beginning with end. And that's why, my friends, writing is difficult work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CSFF October Tour

This month we have an excellent book in Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis. This book is encouraging for fantasy fiction writers like myself. While not in the sword and sorcery sub-genre it does deal with the gritty side of life and has clear evil displayed as something to be defeated. That's my kind of story. I happen to think that fantasy heroes are made stronger when they have greater evil to fight. It's all about raising the stakes and you need a strong antagonistic force to do that properly. I've done my bit to support Bryan Davis in the past and I hope that he continues to shine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Capturing Dialogue

The previous posts illuminate one of the challenges of capturing dialogue. (They also point out how irritated I am with John McCain because he's not really a conservative, but that's not relevant right now.) Dialogue is ripe with inflection and tone and intensity and emphasis. As you change those details while speaking, you can completely change the meaning of the same group of words. The trick as writers is to figure out how to convey the sound and pace of the spoken word with nothing but the written word to work with. I wanted to go on a conservative rant for a while but realized that the way these things were said was what had the real impact. There's always neat things like italics and exclamation points and they have their place but I would rather describe the way the character is speaking to make the dialogue come alive. But for this exercise, what I decided to do was a faux transcript. I think it effectively portrayed how the words were being spoken and gives us another way to look at dialogue.

And it was also a couple of quick lessons on freedom and market forces, which is never a bad thing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What John McCain Should Have Said III

SCHIEFFER: So what do you make of Senator Obama's tax plan?

MCCAIN: Well, Bob, he's throwing a lot of numbers around and I'm not sure [shrugs] where he gets them. He says 95% of working people would get a tax cut. I'm not sure how you do that when there aren't 95% of the working people in this country that even pay any federal income taxes. Only 60% of workers pay income taxes. He's going to cut taxes that aren't paid? Puzzling. [leans forward with clever grin] I suppose he's talking about this $1000 check that he's going to give away. My friends, if you haven't paid the thousand dollars to begin with then it's not really your money that's coming back to you is it? No, it's someone else's. Senator Obama is trying to redefine welfare as a tax cut. And as for raising taxes on [hold up fingers for quote marks] 'the rich,' why would you want to do that? Why--

OBAMA: Because they can afford it.

MCCAIN: [looks askance across the table] would you... Please, is that the only reason? This is why I say that his plan is just Marxist ideology wrapped up in a pretty speech. If you want more revenue in the Treasury then you cut taxes for all taxpayers. That brings in more revenue. It's happened every time, under Kennedy, under Reagan, and under Bush. If you want more revenue then you cut taxes. [points across table] But what he won't tell you is that it's not about revenue. It's about class warfare and getting votes by telling some people that he's going to stick it to another group of people. And in the final analysis, there was another Democrat presidential candidate who promised a middle class tax cut. Then he got elected and suddenly it was a different story. Not only was there no cut, he raised their taxes. So Senator Obama can say he's going to cut taxes until he's blue in the face but frankly, I don't believe him. But I will gladly yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman so he can explain how he's going to cut the taxes of people who don't pay them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What John McCain Should Have Said II

SCHIEFFER: So what do you make of what Senator Obama said to 'Joe the Plumber' the other day about spreading the wealth.

MCCAIN: Frankly, Bob, I was astounded. I think it displays a fundamental lack of understanding about how our free market system works in America. 'Joe the Plumber' wants to be a small business owner and small business owners already spread the wealth [begin ticking off points on fingertips] by bidding jobs correctly, hiring the right people, getting them to the right place at the right time with the right equipment. That's how a free market works. When you do all those things correctly you are rewarded. If you do them incorrectly you are punished. You see my friends, it is not the job of government to spread the wealth. People like Senator Obama won't phrase it this way but what they're doing is taking money from one set of Americans and giving it to another. This is not a free market, this is Marxist ideology. There is no system of risk and reward and incentive. And I believe that [smiles encouragingly and taps tabletop with pointed finger] is what is vitally necessary to a growing, thriving economy where everyone can benefit. We shouldn't confiscate the results of hard work, of successful work, and redistribute it through the inefficient arms of government. [Looks across table] And I will gladly yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman so he can explain what he hopes to gain by increasing the tax burden on the top producers in this country.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What John McCain Should Have Said

SCHIEFFER: So what do you make of this ACORN situation with investigations of voter fraud?

MCCAIN: Bob, this is extremely troubling. [Looks down at table pensively] And quite frankly it makes me very angry. American freedom is like a tree and its trunk is our sacred right to vote. [Looks at camera with steely eyed determination, taps pointed finger on tabletop to emphasize every syllable of the next four words] I shed my blood. I shed my blood to nourish that tree and to see ACORN take an axe to it is unconscionable. Senator Obama worked with them, he worked for them, he was a lawyer who defended them, he gave over 800,000 dollars to support them, they endorsed him for President, and he recently told them they would have a seat at the table in his administration to help shape policy for America. In a McCain administration they'll have a seat all right, [intensifies voice] right next to a public defender. I'm going to tear into them. And if I find proven voter fraud then people are going to jail. And you know what? I'll gladly walk down there and slam the cell door shut myself. [takes deep breath] Now I will gladly yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman so that he can explain all this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can't Get Enough Chuck Norris

1) If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more money than you.

2) There is no 'Ctrl' button on Chuck Norris's computer. Chuck Norris is always the one in control.

3) Apple pays Chuck Norris 99 cents every time he listens to a song.

4) Chuck Norris is suing Myspace for taking the name of what he calls everything around you.

5) Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Words Live to Die

I wrote another 500 words for 'River of Bones' and I think all of them will not survive. I've got my idea for the middle and how to tie it into the end but getting there is a little tricky. This morning's writing was all about the getting from point A to point B and not much else. It's all transitional and only has a few things that really build the story. Looking back over them, it felt more like a free writing exercise to see if anything useful came out of it. However, with Son Number One in the room flipping through Sunday morning infomercials and finally settling on an I Love Lucy rerun I've had a tough time concentrating. Now two hours have passed and he's started playing some of the quirky indie rock that he spends all his money on. I wish he would have done that earlier when I was not tired of typing. Much more inspirational.

Anyhow, even though this morning's effort will probably not see print it is all part of the process and might trigger something down the road when then words tremble at the might of my delete button. Death doth wonderfully concentrate the mind, said the Bard, and paragraphs facing extinction may scream something worthwhile in those last few seconds before the lethal injection takes hold.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour

I've highlighted some of these authors before and now they are teaming up on a tour promoting Christian fantasy fiction. Visit their blog to be a part of it. I just wish I'd been paying attention earlier. I could have gotten Son Number Two's copy of Isle of Swords signed when they came through Seattle.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ugly Babies

Once, long ago, I watched an instructor at Marine Corps Basic Communication Officer Course look down at our class and tell us that sometimes when we plan things they just don't go right. When that happens we need to be able to call an ugly baby an ugly baby. He then looked right at the student responsible for leading the planning of our latest debacle and said, "And that, Lieutenant, was an ugly baby." What he didn't know was that this lieutenant was passing around pictures of his newborn just a day before. Later, during some break, that lieutenant started complaining about the instructor and disgustedly couldn't believe that he would call his baby 'ugly.' Several of us standing around looked at each other with upturned eyebrows. Apparently our fellow student wasn't bright enough to figure out what the instructor was talking about. Which, come to think of it, was why he'd planned such a botched up comm system. But that's not relevant right now. The point I'm trying to make is about the last few stories I've evaluated for Rage of the Behemoth. There were a few that just weren't very good. (One was absolutely excellent and had that sock-you-in-the-gut 'Wow!' feeling that I'd been looking for.) I'd thought when I started this that there would be some good writing lessons to pull out of it. There have been those but the majority of what is submitted just lacks greatness. I suppose they really aren't ugly babies so you can just forget that clever anecdote I began with, but the point remains that there is just an enormous wave of mediocrity that has to be slogged through in order to find the gems. So the slogging will continue even though we are closing in on the end of days as the available slots are filling up. The best in heart stopping, bone crunching fantasy fiction is coming your way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Center Can and Will Hold

No, I'm not talking about the great center of our country that is being pounded by the current financial crisis and the labyrinthine bailout proposal. I'm talking about the center of 'River of Bones' that I embarked on this morning. I'm up to 2400 words and the hero is about to take a short cut through some mysterious hills in order to gain on the people he's pursuing. Trouble with shortcuts in a fantasy world: they usually lead through a Very Dangerous Place. The particular test and trial that the hero has to go through once he gets there is forming in my mind. My bet is that there will be grumpiness, a variety of weapons of opportunity, a severed limb or two, and hurt feelings. That, my friends, is heroic fantasy gold.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marcher Lord Press

This month's CSFF Tour takes us to where the map ends. An ambitious undertaking by industry veteran Jeff Gerke is launching next month, called Marcher Lord Press. It aims to produce excellent Christian speculative fiction and get it into the hands of as many people as possible. The launch consists of three books that span the broad genre and we wish him the best of luck as more titles come out in the near future.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

River of Bones

The new story I'm writing has a working title of "River of Bones." (Because I wanted to start writing it and needed a title so that was what came to mind when I entered down to the place in the middle of the first page that needs a title.) I'm not sure how I will work that in or whether or not I even want to. That leads me to opine about spur of the moment working titles. Sometimes they're drivel and sometimes they're inspired. You don't really know which one you've got until the story is finished but I find it interesting that my fling with the subconscious has produced a catchy title. I'm sort of wondering what kind of story will come of it because I really don't have a good visual of what it means. Hopefully that will come about as I go. Right now I have a strong opening scene and an emotionally charged final scene but no story in between. (That's never stopped me before.)

Anyhow, I'm up to 2100 words as of this morning. The main character's name is Rath and he is searching for something dear to him. Rath is the protagonist in the last story that I wrote a month ago called "Thunder Canyon." What? You say you've never heard of that story even though you're a devoted reader? There's a reason behind that and I'll reveal it later. Right now all you need to know is that I really love Rath and the dramatic nature of his circumstance.

I still plan on finishing the Third Roman Story and I have an idea for a follow up to "The Battle of Raven Kill" which will explain Oth's origin. But... I know how I write and when something is hot I allow the keyboard to receive the pounding it deserves. Otherwise there would be no progress at all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Details, Details

One of the submissions for Rage of the Behemoth I read lately had an interesting problem with it. As writers, we always strive to provide our readers with enough details to make the story come alive. We want them to see, smell, feel, hear, and taste what the hero is going through. We want them to know what the hero's hopes, motivations, and fears are. We want them to understand enough of the setting so that the action makes sense. We do this by providing details relating to all these things so the reader can build the picture in his or her mind. Sounds simple enough.

The problem becomes picking out what details to put in and what details to leave out. In any scene there are a million things happening and to put them all in would make a story unreadable. We just can't focus on too many things at once. The submission in question struck me as over detailed and with the wrong details. There were too many descriptions of unimportant characters and they came too soon in the tale. I felt like I was listening to the Brady Bunch theme song: "Here's a story, Of a boat of raiders, Twelve in all and looking for a fight..." It was too much to keep straight.

I suppose the only way to guard against this is to have some good beta readers that can point out what the author has lost focus on. While us writers can see all kinds of things in our mind's eye, we need to be able to pick out the relevant things and put them in a context that a reader can follow all while telling a compelling story. This ain't always easy, folks, but it's why we get paid the big bucks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MindFlights Stikes Again

The good people over at MindFlights have uncovered another good story. It is The City on the Rock by Andrew Cooper and it's one that I can readily identify with. You have the Captain of the Guard, family man with responsibilities who's trying to get by in a city on a downward spiral, who uncovers the evil source of his hometown's misfortune. It needs to be fixed and he fixes things his way, with a sword and a strong arm. Throw in a couple grotesque villains and bloody demises and it makes for some excellent reading. This looks like a good start for young Cooper; the MindFlights crew was wise to snap this story up.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Fun With Words

A couple of fun things today. I sold my flash fiction piece called "The Witch of the Westmoors" to Abandoned Towers. It is set just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Raven Kill and features a vaguely recognizable character from before. More on that later.

I also have compiled about 1200 words towards a new story with what is turning out to be my favorite protagonist. More on that later as well.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

That Roman Story Finds a Home

Over the weekend I successfully sold "Sunset at the End of Empire" to a new market called Abandoned Towers. It is scheduled for their second print issue sometime next spring. This is a particularly satisfying sale because I really love These Roman Stories. They are great fun to write and to research. The hero, Apollo Valerius Delphinius, is a man who knows the end is coming and he will do what he must to preserve the good in order to benefit the future. Although the sun is setting on his empire, he knows the night that follows can be shortened.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last Political Post (For A While)

Couldn't resist linking to this post on Sarah Palin. This election's gonna be fun.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain: The American President Americans Have Been Waiting For

I do not normally highlight my political beliefs in this blog for two reasons:

1. It's a writing blog, not a political one.
2. As soon as you take a stance on politics, half of everyone you previously knew hates you.

But what I find amazing (and I don't often amaze myself) is how stirred I am by this current Presidential race. McCain wasn't even my first pick in the primaries. Come to think of it, he wasn't my second, third, or fourth. That's all changed now and I find myself really charged up about the possibility of a McCain victory. It's more than just my natural leaning towards the Republican party as the current vehicle of conservatism in America. It's more than just the scary prospect of an Obama administration and how they will increase taxes and government control. I'm finding there's something about McCain, something about his life story, something about his drive and integrity and plain talk that are causing an emotional connection like I never had with either of the Bushes or even Reagan. (Of course, I was in High School when Reagan was President and while I was conservative, I was, ummm, less refined.)

I think the POW/military angle is primarily responsible for this but there is also the real chance that somebody is finally going to take the reins in this country and actually do something to cut back on the encroachment of government. Palin was an excellent choice for VP. They both have that maverick reputation and I hope they get in office and start reforming things that have long festered.

McCain & Palin: Faith in the hope for change that we can believe in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

CSFF August Tour

I've been neglectful of this month's CSFF tour but the book is Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer. It is the type of Christian fiction that seems to be gaining a foothold in today's market. Long has Christian fiction been synonymous with plains romances but that is changing. Blackstock and Dekker are creating a good catalog of, let's be frank, 'guy fiction.' It's the type of stuff that competes with Clancy and Koontz and gives male readers a way to get more depth from their fiction. I say we need more of it.

Which might lead a casual blog reader to look at my last post about carnage and blood and wonder what the heck I'm doing. You would be right to ponder that; I do myself at times. Sword & Sorcery has plenty of un-Godly stuff in it but that is not much different than the world around us. My contributions to the genre attempt to follow a line that is not contradictory to a Christian world view. To the extent that I can, I try to provide something that a believer can read and not be disgusted at. Hopefully, over time, more pointed appeals to the sufficiency of Christ and His saving grace can be made. It's all part of the ongoing spiritual warfare that we all participate in. But in a cloak and dagger sort of way.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rejection Machine

Like the Doomsday Machine in Star Trek, I am continuing through the submissions to Rage of the Behemoth. This morning's rejection started out with great potential. (Hint for all submitters: Blood in the first line is a winner!) There was death and carnage quickly. There was a sympathetic protagonist with a clear goal of survival ahead of him. But then things veered off track and it became apparent that the author did not have the experience necessary to craft the tale, i.e. the writing felt shallow and undeveloped. Maybe I'm saying this because I turned 40 last month but an author needs to have some worldly experience to be a successful writer. Take this Paolini kid who wrote Eragon. It is clear from the writing that he didn't know much about how real people think and interact with each other. I understand that the other books are better but his debut read exactly like what it was, a big novel written by a fifteen year old. This is why I say that there must be some emotional connection with the protagonist. Unless it's there you have nothing more than a collection of happenings strung together. You might follow all the conventional structures of storytelling but you'd still end up with something unsatisfying. So while this morning's story showed some promise and I'm sure the author will improve over time, it just wasn't there yet.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some Other Things About Freedom Fest

Two other great performances were put on by Sherwood and KJ-52. All bands have a list of things they'd like to have provided to them by the concert promoters and this festival is no different. Most bands ask for things like a case of bottled water, a favorite snack, and various things like that. Sherwood asked for a live goat to be on stage during their introduction. They have a quirky sense of humor and they know that no concert staff is ever going to fulfill that request. Oh, but they've never been to rural Western Washington before. Sure enough, the MC brought a goat up on stage and told the story of how the band didn't think they'd get it. But, 1) the Freedom Fest staff is the best in the world and 2) the festival is held in one of the fields of Stocker Farms in Snohomish. Shoot, there were goats just a couple of pastures over. Now, with a very different kind of music, KJ-52 (Kay Jay Five Two) put on a tremendous show. He is energetic and funny and really gets the crowd involved. He does a trip through the decades starting with the 70's and encourages all parents, usually sitting further back in lawn chairs, to get up and dance to a disco beat in order to embarrass their children. I did not dance. Luckily for me, I was ten when disco was popular and that fad passed right by me. (I did have a Members Only jacket in the 80's but that's not relevant right now.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Freedom Fest

This weekend was a relaxing and satisfying one. The family and I attended Freedom Fest in Snohomish, Washington, and camped there all starting Thursday night. It was a bit too hot in the afternoons (darn global warming) but things evened out and became too cold on Sunday night. The crowd was a bit lighter than in previous years but we had a great time and got to see one of my favorite bands, Esterlyn. These guys continue to impress me and they are producing some incredible music. Luke Caldwell, their founder and front man, is a worship driven man of Christ and is solidly grounded in the Word. Their message is clear and unpretentious; we all exist to glorify the Lord. So do I, so do you. I strongly recommend their latest CD, Lamps, (which they autographed for me) and anyone who is into contemporary Christian music will enjoy it. You can also get their previous CD from when they were a band called Grand Prize for dirt cheap off amazon. You will not be sorry.

Monday, August 11, 2008

High Drama on the World Stage

So I'm watching the Olympics last night, which is something I try to do for a few hours every couple of years or so. (Hey, what's up with the four years between each Olympic Games? If Americans ran the show they would be a weekly series with taunting sessions like WWE Smackdown.) Two things were very impressive. 1) The American men's swimming team coming from behind to win the 400m relay. 2) The Chinese women's synchronized diving team absolutely crushing their opponents (even the announcer said 'all they have to do is hit the water on this last dive to win the gold) and showing their countrymen that individual achievement is a great thing.

But the really interesting thing was that we were watching on a Canadian channel. After a while I noticed that the Canadian angle to the Games was a little different. The daily round-up of events and qualification trials showed every Canadian who didn't qualify, came in 29th in some such event, or otherwise failed to make a good showing. The highlight of the day was the men's swim team coming in 6th in the finals. After noticing this I came up with a new tag line for the Canadian athletes: Canadian Olympics, A Study in Mediocrity.

But anyone who knows Canadians knows that this is not really much of an insult. They tend to like their sedate, non-Superpower status. I think their national motto is something like "Don't bother us and we won't bother you." (I could be misquoting that.) Don't get me wrong, I love Canada. I still remember they rescued some of our hostages from Iran thirty years ago. But it's the kind of love a jockhead big brother feels for his toddler little brother who keeps getting stuck climbing the tree in the backyard. Maybe one day that will be an Olympic sport.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Writing Lessons From the Soulless

This afternoon I read an interesting submission to Rage of the Behemoth. I recommended rejection because, in short, the story lacked soul. This is an odd thing to try and capture but you know it when it's not there. The words were all correct and they formed proper sentences which were strung together in perfectly grammatical paragraphs but the overall effect was... blah. Blah is not what you're shooting for in fiction (unless you're writing chick lit) and it especially has no place in heroic fantasy. I read the whole story and kept wondering when something was going to happen in a way that made me say 'wow.' Wow is what you're shooting for in heroic fantasy. In my comments to the editor I said the story was 'correct, but not good.' It was a strange thing that I don't think I've really seen like this before. Usually if a story lacks excitement and emotional connection with the characters there is almost always several other things wrong with it as well. This story had correct structure and proper pacing with an interesting setting and plot... but no soul.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Unstoppable Triond Cash Generation Machine

My series on Life Lessons From the Marines keeps racking up the earnings. In just thirteen short months I have generated over four dollars in pure profit. Everyone should read and re-read these pearls of wisdom that can be found on the sidebar to the right. Please. My kids need braces and college and such.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Week in Review

Ever have one of those weeks where absolutely nothing of importance happens to you? I just did.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

We Don't Need to Know

This morning's submissions to Rage of the Behemoth all suffered from the same thing. (Although one of them was good enough to pass up the chain of command anyhow.) They all had way too much stuff at the beginning. I learned this lesson a while back and wrote about it concerning "The Battle of Raven Kill." For the most part, we just don't need to know all the fluff that you the writer think we need. The stories I've written lately have all started with scene and action already in play and I think they are stronger for it. Backstory can usually be picked up in context or worked in some other way. This also helps you trim down the verbiage to the barest minimum to tell the tale. Better writing is the result.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Debut of the Rogue Blades

Jason Waltz has transformed Flashing Swords Press into Rogue Blades Entertainment. He will continue to focus on the anthologies and other fiction projects that he's begun but also plans some expansion into other areas. It's entertainment that's the direction now, however we can serve it up. I will continue to read submissions for Rage of the Behemoth and the timeline for that has not changed. There may be a slight alteration and broadening of the stories we're looking for but they don't change the basic necessities of strong characters and big creatures with attitude problems. Keep writing and submitting great stories!

Monday, July 21, 2008

CSFF July Tour

The tour for this month is DragonLight by Donita K. Paul. I've had my eye on this series for a while and it's very good to see it gain the popularity it has. Join the discussion and visit the rest of the tour blogs on the sidebar.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Oh Canada II

Yesterday come lucky soul from Charlottetown became the first person to visit my blog from Prince Edward Island, the last of the Canadian Provinces to grace my pages. Still nothing from the territories but overall I'm well on my way to conquering the English speaking peoples.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The End of the World As We Know It, and I Feel Fine II

My wife bought me a pair of Crocs.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beauty in the Little Things

I have to tell you about Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for two reasons. 1) I'm one of the few from Seattle that can spell it. 2) The way the lake comes right up to downtown is amazing. There's a city park at the end of Northwest Avenue where the downtown core sits. It's got plenty of tall evergreen trees as well as a stage and a huge play area for the kids. The lake stretches out away in one direction and the shops and restaurants and hotels are right across the street behind you. It's the sort of place I'd want to hang out in if I lived here. But today, I had to settle for lunch. Seagulls, boats coming in and out, the lake houses on the other shore... it makes you thank Almighty God for every breath He gives you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Positive Ray of Hope

I've discovered something positive that I tend to like about stories and thought I should share it here. I just read a submission that I unfortunately had to recommend against because the writing just wasn't good enough. That's not the positive part. The positive part is that it contained a mysterious encounter with a creature of the fey. I always get a kick out of reading other people's take on the fey folk. This one was fairly standard, old woman in the forest with a sure strength and enchanting eyes, but it was pretty well done. The fey really make excellent herald/mentor characters due to their otherworldly perceptions. They have that tendency to cut through all the human B.S. and get to the heart of the matter. Of course, any protagonist worthy of writing about will not understand it because he or she will try to frame everything within the confines of aforementioned human B.S.

This is a way to illuminate our connection with God. His ways are strange to us even though they are in our best interest. We have trouble communicating with God and receiving the fullness of His plan because our own frail, sin-based natures have a way of corrupting our understanding and implementation of His intentions.

So for those of you who may stumble across this post while trying to figure out what kind of story is most likely to get past the first screens for Rage of the Behemoth, there's your tip of the day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Less is More

I've now encountered this phenomenon twice in the past week of reading slush: The author puts in a completely unnecessary scene. One instance was a flashback to the two main characters' first meeting and another was an odd encounter that has no impact on the story and is never referred to again in any meaningful way. These examples point to a lesson that is taught frequently in books and seminars; make everything in your story important. Every word should move the story forward and point towards the eventual resolution. The flashback scene should have been in the context of some current situation and could have been much shorter but instead it felt like it was tacked on with no purpose. The random encounter should have had some material effect on the character or the story and should have been tied back into the final scene. Otherwise, in both cases, the reader is left wondering, "What the heck was that all about?" My advice to all writers is to avoid presenting your readers with a scene that evokes that thought.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Walking the Walk

In between reading the submissions for RotB I managed to finish a story I mentioned a while back which is now called "Bleeding Grey, Seeing Red." It's a fun story with some humor, some pathos, and some bodies exploding into red steam. I'm sending it out into other people's slush piles so they can read it and ridicule me behind my back. With three stories out making the rounds I figure one of them has to take hold and fool someone into accepting it sooner or later.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Something Doesn't Belong

Here's something that I've noticed in a few different stories I've read and recommended for rejection. It's the use of modern language and dialogue in sword and sorcery. People, I can't tell you how annoying this is. Whatever voluntary suspension of disbelief has been built up is completely shattered when the characters continue to use modern colloquialisms when talking with each other. If you want your fiction to be believable then you have to watch how your characters speak. (If you really want to score bonus points then you'll also watch how they think but that's for another time.) The only way this can happen in these submissions is that the writer just doesn't know any better. I hope they're not sitting at their computer and thinking about how hip they can make their characters because if they are, they shouldn't be writing S&S. Throwing a bunch of archaic language around is not the solution either. There is a seriousness and formality that is commonly used and that sort of speech has become the convention. If you have to have a character which talks differently than all the rest, which is a good idea, then make up some mild slang or quirky turns of phrase. Work it into the story and let other characters reveal how different it is. Whatever you do, don't make your characters sound like their working at, like, The Gap. Y'know?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Powell's Book Signing

Last night was the author's event/book signing at Powell's in Beaverton, Oregon. It was, as we powerful and influential members of the publishing world like to call it, 'lightly attended.' Apparently the incredibly beautiful weather we're having in the Pacific Northwest drew people out to other activities like picnics in the park, family and church events, and other such nonsense. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other RotS authors Allen Lloyd, Nathan Meyer, and Micheal Ehart. We got a chance to chat about our current projects as well as fiction and sword and sorcery in general.

The bookstore staff had collected up all the copies of Return of the Sword from their locations across town and we all signed them, which was kind of fun in and of itself. As predicted, every one of my autographs looked different. I just cannot seem to make my hand write 'Draper' without looking like a three year old did it.

All in all, it was a fun way to meet some writers who are all better than me and try to gather up some of their thought processes. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rage of the Slush Reader

OK, well I wouldn't quite call it rage but perhaps 'mildly irked.' So far I can only find one story that I can give a recommendation to. It was good enough to pass up the chain but even that one lacked oomph. This anthology is called Rage of the Behemoth. That means there should be some raging behemoths, people! This isn't called Sunny Bunny and the Happy Day. Can someone please write a story where we see some destruction on a city-wide scale?

Anyway, here's a quick writing tip that I pulled from one of the submissions. It falls along the lines of knowing how your story is going to come out and making sure the characters drive it there with no distractions. This story had the main character follow a map to a dungeon complex in order to find a treasure. That's a pretty basic plot that works for a lot of great fiction. The characters then fight their way through traps and demons and such and come to the conclusion of their quest. They find out that they need to give their map to someone in the complex. The author then wastes two or three sentences describing how one of the main characters went back out to the horses to get the map. Here's the tip: You have to be smarter than your story. Sure, it's quite realistic to not have an Important Thing when you come to an Important Point in real life. But as an author, you don't have time to waste with this unless there's something nasty waiting outside with the horse clutched in its blood soaked jaws. It's not difficult, just have the character slip the map into a pocket. Shoot, you can even (shocking gasp) rewrite the scene so the forgetful character remembers to do it.

Just trying to help.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Raspberry Slushies Anyone?

I've been brought on board the editorial team of Flashing Swords Press as a member of the Prose Acquisitions cell. I tried to get the title of Vice President, Fiction Acquisition Directorate but that was a non starter. Basically I read the slush and give recommendations to the editor, Jason Waltz. The stories I'm reading are intended for publication in the new anthology Rage of the Behemoth. There're two things people ought to know about the kinds of stories we're looking for. 1) The behemoth needs to rock the house. Hard. 2) The characters need to have something to emotionally connect with. Aspiring writers need to understand that while we're looking for epic action and mass casualties there's nothing of interest if the reader can't connect with a character and live the tale through them. This is Storytelling 101, folks, and it's necessary to get past me. There are a few other requirements and they can be found here. Follow them and I'm sure you'll knock my socks off.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You Will All Die

I was watching the classic Star Trek episode "The Lights of Zetar" last night. Why I was watching Star Trek when I had other work to do is not really important. Most of the family was in and out of the room and taking every opportunity to comment on the horrible acting. (We decided that the bad actors must have been on purpose. They are the only way to make William Shatner look brilliant.) Anyhow, the guest star of the week was inhabited by a bunch of sparkly lights that were some kind of collection of life forms. Kirk was having a conversation with them through the possessed crew member when she delivered the best line of her performance: "You will all die!" The family got a good laugh out of the melodrama and repeated it a few times. Then, out of the blue, Son Number Three belts out "ALL DIE!" The round of laughter he got cemented that line into his vocabulary and he kept shouting it in his deepest little two year old voice. What made it funnier was the karaoke machine in the corner that he knows how to turn on. Why we have a karaoke machine in the living room is not really important but it was stinkin' hilarious. With the reverb turned way up he kept shouting "ALL DIE!" as loud as he could. Good clean family fun.

Monday, June 23, 2008

CSFF June Tour

This month's tour is for the book Vanished by Kathryn Mackel. She writes novels that have been called Christian Horror and I know that some people probably think that can't possibly be possible. Well, that's because they've been raised on a steady stream of Stephen King and Resident Evil. To me it's not the horror aspect of horror that's anti-Christian, rather it's the anti-Christian aspect of horror that's anti-Christian. (No, that sentence made perfect sense, thank you very much.) When you peel away a few very thin layers you typically find that modern horror writers are a non-religious bunch. They believe more in the occult or the 'power of positive thinking so you can be the best you you can be' or some such drivel. These sorts of things have an anti-Christian bias to them by their very nature. They distract from and obscure the message of the Bible. But there is plenty in the realm of Christianity that can be pretty horrifying if you face it without God so the concept of horror fiction that lines up with a Christian world view is not all that strange.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

A new online magazine of adventure fiction has come and gone. The folks at NorthPoint (better follow that link quickly, the site will be coming down soon) showed real potential but have resulted in only a few stories published over the last couple of months. I'm not sure what the disconnect was but their submission guidelines seemed to suggest one kind of story and they ended up publishing some that were quite different. I sent them The Witch of the Westmoors because the magazine sounded cool and I thought it would be a good fit. Well, that was not to be.

Friday, June 20, 2008

More Fire and Blood

This morning I went swimming and did my twelve laps. That's really not important. But afterwards I had time to kill before going to work so I wrote the next scene in 'Fire and Blood at the End of Empire.' That's only marginally more important but it's what I'm going to talk about so there it is.

This scene was essentially a campfire scene. You know, that part of the movie where they all sit around a campfire and reveal meaningful plot points and character traits. I started the scene (a week or so ago) with two characters sitting down to tea and cakes but quickly realized that situations like that make for boring reading. So I procrastinated a while and thought about what kind of info I wanted to impart and how best to do it. My first inclination was to have some kind of suspenseful running fight scene on the streets of Rome with the discussion happening amidst the action. That was good, you generally want action and suspense on every page, but it didn't quite fit the mood of the story at the time. So I started typing this morning, without really knowing what I was doing, and That Funny Thing About Writing happened. As I wrote I decided to have somebody else do all the fighting and have Apollo and the other character do the talking while the fight happens 'off camera.' What I ended up with was a scene with some mystery and suspense as well as a bit of humor as the bad guys get thrown out windows, tossed down stairs, and generally thrashed to within an inch of their life. The story is up to 3100 words now and the scene was great fun to write. That's how to start your day well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Triond: The Residual Income Machine

I checked my Triond account this morning and was shocked to find that it is still churning out gobs of cash on a regular basis. The Marine Corps derived self-help articles I wrote last year seem to be handing over fistfuls of pennies on a semi-quarterly schedule. I'm now up to a whopping 3.54 US dollars. Retirement is in sight, folks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Knockaround Book

I picked up a copy of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale and for the last couple of months it's been what I refer to as a knockaround book. It ends up being read when I have a couple of minutes here or there. In the old days I always kept one in the car so when Wife Number One and Only went shopping, I could stay in the parking lot. They also come in handy while waiting in lines for the auto ferry across Puget Sound. The best knockaround books are usually old classics that are thin and portable. I don't much care about the story other than that it is a better time waster than staring out the window.

The first Bond book is interesting in that it is clearly not publishable in today's market. I'm a third of the way through and other than one good bomb going off, nothing much has happened. Bond has eaten several fine meals and met with Mathis and Vesper Lynd and there are some nice descriptions of the casino and a three page treatise on the game of baccarat. If a submission started out like this nowadays it would be bounced by the slush reader before page ten.

You can learn a lot from the classics.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Oh Canada

Because this morning Sons Number One, Two, and Three are all awake and watching SpongeBob, I will not be able to write much. But that's OK. 1) I haven't quite figured out how I want this next story to go. 2) Now that Rhode Island is conquered I thought I'd check on Canada. Google Analytics shows Canada but the provinces aren't separated out like the map of the States. However, my powers of MapQuest are strong. I've had hits from all the provinces except Prince Edward Island. Nothing from any of the territories (Yukon, Nunavut, and the inventively named Northwest Territory) but then they're not provinces so I don't know if they count. Since this is a completely arbitrary bout of goofiness, I'll consider them bonus points. If I can figure out how to attract the one computer geek in Yellowknife to visit the site I'll celebrate by, I don't know, frying up some back bacon or something.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rhode Island Finally Gets With the Program

Welcome, welcome to the lucky person from Cranston, Rhode Island. You, whoever you are, were the first person from the last state to visit Scriptorius Rex. (Unfortunately for you, I was kidding about the winning free sex thing.) Now I have a completely full map of the USA on my web traffic analysis page. This is a rite of passage, sort of like jumping from tall platforms with vines hooked through the skin on your back, that I've been anxiously counting down towards. I'm nationwide.

Next stop: THE WORLD!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Writing Milestone

I did a strange thing a few seconds ago. I sent an email to an editor with one of my stories under consideration and withdrew it. As some of you may know, The Roman Stories I've been working on have changed and changed again. The first of them is now stronger for it but is also several iterations away from what I sent out a few months ago. It's an odd thing for a barely published writer to say, but I feel that artistic control of these stories at this point is important. More important than the chance of publishing just because I want something published. So now, "Sunset at the End of Empire" is free to seek acceptance elsewhere. And that's not so strange.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The End of the World as We Know it, and I Feel Fine

Bought a Mac laptop computer today.

Some of you may immediately understand the painful step I have taken. Some may not. It is very hard for dedicated PC users to cross over and get a Mac but I have the perfect excuse: It's my wife's internet surfing computer. So I really don't have much to do with it other than driving across town and handing somebody 180 bucks. My wife found it advertised on craigslist and thought it looked cute so a few hours later there I was, in someone's living room, listening to his son tell me about the Mac's features and how they are better than any PC he's ever used. The funny part came when, after asking a slew of questions about how a Mac operates, I mentioned that I had always had some kind of Windows based PC. I pointed at his son, who had dark, shaggy hair and said, "I mean look at us right here; we're just like the commercials. I'm a PC and he's a Mac."

However, like I said, it's my wife who will be using it. While there a plenty of new things to learn and unlearn I assured her that there's a whole world wide web of support groups that can guide her through the tricky parts, all while discussing socialized medicine and growing hemp. So I don't really feel like I've sullied myself.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Non-Olympic Sport

This evening Sons Numbered One and Two discovered their own version of Wii Fit. It's called Extreme Wii Bowling. The object is not really to knock down as many pins as possible, it's to whirl around like a drunken jedi master and see what you can make the ball do while everyone else in the room laughs. No gold medals awarded but at least it was some good old family fun.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CSFF May Tour

This month's stop on the CSFF tour is MindFlights, an ezine of Christian fantasy and science fiction that I've spoken highly of before. I shall continue to speak highly of them because they still do good work. Recent stories there are top notch, like Red Unicorn and the Knight of Sorrows tales. As a caretaker and herald of contemporary Christian fiction, they take their charge seriously but still manage to have a great deal of fun. And that's what it's all about.

Monday, May 19, 2008

End of Empire Update

'Sunset' got worked over today with some expansion and a few historical refinements. It's now at 4050 words and I think it is very close to what I see as its final final form. The problem is that the more I write of the other stories, the more subtle changes become necessary to keep the entire arc consistent with the same tone and characterization. When any of them get published that will probably set the canonicity of the series but until then I'm free to adjust as necessary.

'Fire and Blood' is now up to about 2000 words and I've barely just started. It's going to be longer than I thought it was going to be and I already thought it was going to be longer than usual. I've got a couple of good characters developing and ideas for a couple more. There might even be room for some Ocean's Eleven type doublecrosses. That and shifting timelines make for interesting plotting.

The fourth story has a few sentences of notes now, most of which center around the time and location: 410 A.D. and the sack of Rome.

Camping Weekend

The family and I went camping this weekend; the first real sunny set of days we've had in Washington. It's interesting how the kids and I judge a successful weekend. They look for as many things to do as possible and I look for as many ways to avoid work as possible. Sometimes they win, sometimes I win. Seldom do we both come out of a weekend satisfied. This time, thanks to the membership campground that we go to with a pool and a game room and a ball field, the kids got their fill of fun. I got to spend some time writing and burning things (not at the same time.)

There's something strangely therapeutic about a campfire. After I burned up all the used paper plates and cups there was no real purpose to the fire but I kept adding things to it. It was just really peaceful with the kids down at the youth center and me sitting by my fire. You all should try it sometime.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Can I Say...

Every now and again I like to go through the keywords that Google Analytics records as leading people to my site. This morning I noticed that way down on the list, one time, long ago, someone decided to click on my site after it came up when they ran a search for "how to get your wife to shut up."

Hopefully that person did not become an adoring fan.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

You know, the more research I do on the last years of the Western Roman Empire the more I want to tweak the Roman stories I'm working on. There's another book that I think I have to get about the Barbarians of the time which posits that they weren't all that barbaric and they didn't really cause Rome to fall more than they just happened to be standing nearby when it dropped dead of a massive coronary infarction brought on by years of eating cheeseburgers and watching American Idol. (Or something like that.)

Semi-luckily for me, the adventures of Apollo Valerius Delphinius don't really depend on marauding Visigoths for their story arcs. I'm taking the position that the Empire fell mostly in part to internal weight that just couldn't keep up with a changing reality around them. Of course, in one story I've got a German with a bad attitude as villain but that is offset by an uber-patriot antagonist in the next. The plot for the third story is still a bit too fluid for me to assign bad guy duties yet. Needs more research, I guess.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Writing Lessons From Making an Ass Out of U and Me

I had an interesting thought/revelation this morning. At least, I thought it was interesting but since I don't pay attention to my own Writing Lessons, I've probably covered it before. I wrote a story where I had a lot of emotional attachment to the characters but very little of that came across on the page. I actually thought I had improved upon the first version but it was still lacking. I realized that I was expecting the reader to fill in a lot of background details out of their own imagination. This is something I do all the time when reading. If I'm proved wrong later on, no problem, I just adjust and carry on. In a sense, I'm re-writing the story as I go. Therefore, in my own writing, I just ASSUME that everyone does that. So why do I need to provide more than the barest details when readers will fill in the rest? Well, because not everyone reads like I do.

[This post took way too long to write primarily because I kept encouraging Son Number Three to set up his Teletubbies and club them with a stuffed animal while I provided the sound track. Again, again!]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Book Signing at Powell's

Myself and three other authors from The Return of the Sword will be at Powell's Books in Beaverton, Oregon, on July 1st at 7pm to sign copies and otherwise take part in an 'author event.' The three co-conspirators are Micheal Ehart, Allen Lloyd, and Nathan Meyer. (Who conveniently have written three of the best stories in the book.) If any of you happen to be in the Portland area on that day I would love to meet you and make you buy the book. I'll even sign it with little hearts and flowers. (Hearts getting stabbed and flowers getting trampled, that is.)

Here's the tricky thing, though, once I get over the geek factor of being at a book signing. My signature sucks. I mean it really sucks. Years and years of signing things in the Marine Corps and for work have turned it into nothing more than a sloppy J followed by a slightly curved line. There's no attempt to even try a last name any more. I've also spent years initialing things and that illiterate mark no longer looks like a J or a D. It's a sad thing... but I've got to practice my own signature.

Monday, May 05, 2008

New Story, New World, New Characters

This weekend I ended up with a lot of spare time on my hands. It was put to good use. Remember a while back I mentioned that I'd quickly written a flash fiction piece? Well, I knew it didn't work as a complete story but the character that emerged from it kept rolling around in my head so I tried to come up with a satisfactory ending. A few typed and deleted and retyped paragraphs later I had the glimmer of something bigger. 2000 words went by and I had a story with some action, some witty dialog, and several bodies bursting into red steam after getting themselves tossed into pits of molten bronze. Good clean family fun.

It was an interesting development because I usually take my time to think through possibilities and evaluate and discard plot lines until something really takes hold. This time I just kind of went with whatever came up next and ended up with something that I think works pretty well. While I suppose over the last month or two I've been subconsciously running through potential story points, nothing was really firm until I started typing yesterday morning.

Now I just have to come up with a title.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Fix on Raven Kill

Here's a nice review from The Fix for all the stories within The Return of the Sword. "The Battle of Raven Kill" gets a good paragraph.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Title Decision

I think I've come up with the final solution for the titles of These Roman Stories. (Thanks need to go out to Keanan Brand, who reminded me of things I already knew.) The three extant stories will be called:

Sunset at the End of Empire
Storm Clouds at the End of Empire
Fire and Blood at the End of Empire

'Fire and Blood' now has a thousand word opening scene that I rolled out this morning. It is set in Rome a few years after the second story and it contains angry mobs, angry priests, and angry Praetorian Guards. That, my friends, is the quickest way I know to get both fire and blood.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Spark for Raven Kill

This is the Skykomish River in Index, WA, from the deck of a cabin that my friends and I go to every now and again. Two years ago it was the inspiration for a cold, lonely river that one man had to guard with his life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Advancement on Every Front Except a Title

That Second Roman Story Set Entirely In Greece has been molded into second draft form and is starting to look like a finished piece; or rather, a finished piece with no title. I've incorporated some most excellent advice and broadened the Meaning of the Story in a way that continues my examination of the end of an Empire. Still haven't heard anything back from Serpentarius about the first Roman story and now something is wrong with their website. I'm hoping everything works out OK, and by that I mean I hope I get an answer soon because if it's a rejection then the reading period for Paradox magazine is opening up in May.

On the third Roman story, I've got the basic scene list done and tonight I struck upon a couple of great ideas regarding plot and secondary characters. If done correctly, it could even lead to a fourth story. It seems that every time I start looking a few years down the line in Late Roman Imperial history I find another juicy fact that can form the basis of a plot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergen

It's time for another CSFF tour. This month we have The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergen. It's a Christian speculative historical fiction piece that pits good versus evil amidst the Spanish Inquisition. Here's a quote from the book's website:

"In his two years as a knight of the Church, they had burned at the stake a score of sinners. As each died, Gianni de Capezzana could not determine whether any were any less saint than he. This one was different."

Great stuff. As a matter of fact, based on the excerpt where Gianni has his first encounter with the Sorcerer, I went to and bought a copy. You should too.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Son Number Two: Budding Website Designer

The internet has a peculiar way of shrinking the distance between thought and action. Hence, Son Number Two's Latest Web Page Based on His Current Interest.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Return of the Sword Promotion Day

There's a lot of buzz over at the BraggingRites Yahoo! Group about Return of the Sword today. A while back there were some Top Ten Lists compiled for a blog tour and I thought I'd throw in my own list just for the heck of it.

The 10 Lists That Didn’t Make It Into the Return of the Sword Promotion ‘Lists of 10 Things’

1. 10 Ways to Know You’re 10 Seconds From Getting Your Head Chopped Off
2. 10 Tender Places That Hurt the Most When Pierced by Daggers
3. Rorshach’s 10 Favorite Blood Spatter Tests
4. The 10 Best One Liners to Say to a Freshly Created Corpse (Wait, I think that one did make it.)
5. 10 Goofy Ways to Arrange Entrails
6. 9 Great Sword and Sorcery Novels
7. 10 Bad Things to Hide in Grok the Barbarian’s Bedroll
8. The 10 Most Influential Ancient Methodologies and Their Impact on Post-Neo-Modern-Classicalism Synergistic Writing Optimization
9. Beer to Blood: 10 Techniques for Instigating Mass Chaos Among Tavern Patrons
10. How to Fillet an Orc in 10 Easy Steps

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rhode Island Residents Can Win Free Sex

No credit card required! Confidential registration guaranteed! The best of Rhode Island can be yours! An easy way to achieve the riches you deserve! Residual income for life, not MLM, not network marketing. Insert several other catchy search engine optimization buzzwords here! If you live in Rhode Island, you have to see this to believe it. Secrets that the Rhode Island state government doesn't want you to know. Bigfoot spotted in Rhode Island wilderness; conclusive proof, conclusive evidence. Rhode Island UFO hands out winning lottery tickets. Governor of Rhode Island admits to sordid affair with Bigfoot prostitute in UFO while network marketing with government conspiracy secrets using guaranteed residual income!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just Doing Their Part

My kids are outside right now contributing to the downfall of American civilization. They have set up a stand in the front yard with a sign advertising 'Suicide Drinks' for 25 cents. They have concocted a horrid brew out of water, slugs, glue, and dirt and have labeled it for its likely result upon quaffing.

There must be a bad influence in their lives somewhere. If only I could find it...

RotS Reviews VII

The classic tale presented at the end of Return of the Sword is "Red Hands" by Harold Lamb. It's a good story but it demonstrates some of the problems of old classics. First, the word choices and phraseology are unfamiliar and I found myself just skimming over some sentences and trying to pick up the meaning in context, which was not always easy to do. Second, old books, stories, movies, etc. tend to meander for a while before starting in on the action. This one is no different. The guts of the story is a battle against river pirates. The two characters who meet for the first time and join the fight go through three or four pages of introduction that were interesting enough to read but in my opinion unnecessary. Third, old stories were usually the first to do such and such, which is why they became classics, but by the time we get around to reading them they may seem old hat. The plot twists have been played out in other stories and the characters have been portrayed several times before. That doesn't make "Red Hands" a bad story, it just means that it's now a classic; it has value as a story that was king of it's day but... a new day has dawned.

Monday, April 07, 2008

RotS Reviews VI

An Uneasy Truce in Ulam-Bator- This is an amazing story because it is plainly evident that the authors had great fun writing it. The introduction explains that Allen B. Llyod and William Clunie began this collaborative writing process over some Chinese food at a favorite restaurant and it shows. It’s a very well written story that contains a series of fortunate and not so fortunate events. I can envision them sitting across the table from each other saying, “Then this happens.” “No, wait, then this happens!” “Yeah, yeah, that’s good.” The result is a couple of characters that make the best out of whatever situation they find themselves in. A clever plot coupled with a wry sense of humor which is believable and not campy. An excellent read.

The Mask Oath- Steve Goble has crafted an impressive story about duty, honor, and the things that really matter. This is a powerful tale about the son of a wizard hunting down the demons that his father released. I’m not talking about metaphorical demons like alcoholism or child abuse, I’m talking about real friggin’ demons. You can’t stick the head of anger management issues on a spike outside the city gates can you? Of course not! God bless sword & sorcery. Flying blood, flying body parts! Terrific story.

Valley of Bones- We end the new stories in this anthology with a military tale from Bruce Durham. As a United States Marine I know what it’s like to stand with your comrades and face an onslaught of undead beasts and pagan magicks. Well, that might be stretching the truth just a bit but I know the mind of a military man. The interactions between the soldiers are spot on. The sergeant character is perfectly done. (Really, so much can be revealed in a man by the way he says, “Steady, boys.”) The hero is a typical soldier, doing his job. As always, that job includes acts of unimaginable heroism when the opportunity presents itself. In the span of a few moments you can go from grumbling about the pay and the food to saving the civilized world. All in a days work.

The last story in the book is a classic by Harold Lamb that has likely been reviewed before. So there you have it. That's the anthology. It's awesome. Go buy it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Battle Reviewed

Holy smokes! This is an excellent review by Richard Marcus of Blogcritics Magazine. I got all giddy inside while reading it. What an amazing few days this has been! I'm great, I suck, I'm great again. Tomorrow I'll likely suck again. Yea!!!

BTW, still nothing from Rhode Island. What do I have to do, fly out there and log in myself?

RotS Reviews V

Claimed by Birthright- A great story, cleverly written. It takes on the age old question of who would win a duel between a sorcerer and a barbarian. What may first strike you as an incredibly contrived scenario of an arena duel featuring Barbarian King Brom versus, in the red corner, Mage Lord Kahzvax instead turns out to be well told tale. The chief string puller in the story has maneuvered his puppets into place and while he is a bit of a cardboard character, the other two are real enough and the fight is believable enough to make the clever ending all the more satisfying. You’ll like this one a lot.

The Hand That Holds the Crown- This one is outstanding. I loved every sentence, every word. It is now on the top of the list as the best of the book. A classic tale of two half brothers dueling for the crown. The fight scene between them is one of the best yet. All the brutality and cunning savagery of desperate single combat is played out by the author, Nathan Meyer. The writing is solid, the settings are vivid, and the characters are clearly drawn. I knew it was good from paragraph one but the last two pages really cinched it up for me. Outstanding in every way.

The Dawn Tree- A well told, powerful story that reads like mythic fable. Perhaps a little out of place in a sword and sorcery anthology but it is good enough to hold its own and the two main characters have some outstanding scenes with each other. Our intrepid hero, Dermanassian the desert elf, takes up the quest of replanting the Dawn Tree by escorting the tree’s guardian to a suitable location. There’s one problem though; the four Elementals have joined forces in order to destroy the Tree before it is planted. This leads to a battle royale at the end but of course everything winds up happy happy. Or does it?

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Dream

Today, for the first time, I read Letter From a Birmingham Jail and the entire text of the I Have a Dream speech. If you can read those, in a quiet moment without distraction, and not get a tear in your eye then hand me your citizenship and start packing because you don't belong here. I'm just sorry it took me so long to figure that out.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Witch Rejection

EDF rejected "The Witch of the Westmoors" just in time to bring me back down to some humble reality. I'm very thankful to Jordan Lapp for his comments and I think I can make the piece better because of them. For some bizarre reason, I was starting to feel like I could do no wrong and that everything I wrote must be in its perfect form. This is a dangerous place for a writer to be. Artistically you become like Terry Goodkind.

So I will revise a few things that I had fallen in love with despite excellent advice that suggested said love was misplaced. Luckily it is flash fiction and the revising will not take long. Then it's back to the submission rounds with a more firmly grounded sense of self.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rough Draft Edges Closer to the Cliff

The rough draft for That Second Roman Story Set Entirely in Greece is dangerously close to committing suicide by throwing itself off the Cliff of First Draft Completion. Tomorrow morning I will have worked out the last scene and all remnants of its rough draftism will be gone. To mix my metaphors, I'm glad this one simmered as long as it did. It's coming together like a nice pot of chili instead of a microwaved Hot Pocket. But of course this means I have to come up with a title for it and that hasn't been easy with these Roman stories. I've also started outlining a Third Roman Story with our protagonist, Apollo Valerius Delphinius, and this one is Set Mostly If Not Entirely In Rome. Details will follow as they always do.

BTW, still nothing from Rhode Island. What's up with those guys?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vermont and Rhode Island Suck

And now for something completely different. Google Analytics has revealed, by way of a curiosity induced search of all traffic to my blog, that no one from Vermont or Rhode Island has ever visited. Now remember, I'm talking about internet traffic patterns. I don't care where you were born, I just care where you were sitting when you clicked. If anyone has friends in either of those two states (or within easy commuting distance) please tell them that I dislike seeing empty spaces on the pretty map that Google shows me and ask them to fix it. Thank you.

RotS Reviews IV

The Red Worm’s Way- This story was impressive for two reasons. It was well written with engaging characters and it was quirky but held my attention all the way through in a way that quirky stories seldom do. Quirky humor is very hard to pull off but this story is laced with it. That is, if you find the eating of dead human flesh funny. What makes the story such a great success is the dry and rather world-weary protagonist, Morlock Ambrosius. “Defend this body against a bunch of ravaging corpse eaters? Sure, why not. Is the pay good?”

To Destroy All Flesh- This is the story I was really looking forward to and it definitely does not disappoint. Michael Ehart does it again with a tale of the Servant of the Manthycore. The Servant is on her way throughout the land in search of a means to free herself and the lover of her youth from bondage to the vile Manthycore. This story will be especially enjoyed by those who have bought and read Michael’s book. They will appreciate the subtlety of the tale as they see another chapter unfold in the life of The Servant and her daughter. Oh, and you’ve just got to love the props in this one. Doesn’t everyone have a huge ancient boat just laying about the place?

Guardian of Rage- A hero on the run through sewers, dragging along a scared little girl, and chased by the dead and a demonic tentacle beast. This has al the makings of a bad day getting worse. Our hero, Jack Spryte, clearly wants to be somewhere else but has to survive long enough to accomplish that. The story moves along at a good clip, the villain is appropriately nasty, and a couple of neat fight scenes make this a good all around tale.

Monday, March 24, 2008

CSFF Tour for March

This month the CSFF blog tour is highlighting On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. Here is a chance for you to read a great tale of invaders, lost treasures, toothy cows, secrets, and ex-pirates. C'mon, the cows alone make it worth the read.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

RotS Reviews III

This Easter morning I have decided to celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, thus defeating Satan's plan for the world and ensuring victory over the power of sin, by reviewing three more stories of blood and mayhem from Return of the Sword.

Mountain Scarab- This is one great story. Sigurd Grimbrow and a band of savage raiders attack a caravan and steal the goods. One of the goods is a feisty young woman who realizes she must stay by Sigurd’s side in order to stay alive. The interaction between the two characters was an absolute joy to read. Sigurd is also one of the best sword and sorcery protagonists I’ve encountered. He doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone he thinks needs some killing but is basically a good guy at heart. The author, Jeff Stewart, got everything right in this one.

Lair of the Cherufe- Here we have a story that is fun to read, with several clever elements and some good hack and slash style fantasy. The virgin princess, stolen from her father’s castle, is to be sacrificed to the great beast and the hero has to save her. I have to admit I started laughing uncontrollably to myself when I realized a major flaw in the plot: The sacrifice has to be a virgin, right? Well, there’s an easy way to fix that… But the hero made a promise to her father and so he goes through all the steps to get her back with virtue intact. This includes searching for objects of power in scary places with mythical guardians, fighting the evil Prince’s henchmen, and facing off against said scary beastie. This story is good solid sword & sorcery, through and through.

To Be A Man- This is a difficult story to review because the subject matter is almost entirely sexually oriented. It is well written but it’s not for children. (Funny that I seem to think violence and bloodshed are OK for kids but that’s a different discussion.) The characters here are amazingly well drawn, the female lead is so over the top it’s a smashing success, and the story moves along and has some truly funny moments.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

RotS Reviews II

What Heroes Leave Behind- A very satisfying story of an old warrior facing yet another challenge that should be left to the young. It is a great read that suffers from a terrible title. Yuck. But other than that I loved it. Hawkins hits all the right marks in telling the tale of a hero near the end of his days. The fear of encroaching death, not by glory but by simple frailty, is a powerful presence and rings true throughout. The action is well told and delivers plenty of punch while you follow the hero all the way to the end.

Fatefist at Torkas Nahl- Grand armies and evil tyrants. This is the stuff of epic sword and sorcery tales. With the backdrop of a huge battle before the gates of a nigh impregnable city comes a story about a warrior monk who is the Fatefist of the Mikari. What makes him a great character is the conflict within him as he is seduced by the power of a demonic sword that wouldn’t mind changing owners. While he duels the tyrant he is lured by the call of glory so there are actually two fight scenes in one. The large battle movements are really only hinted at but that’s fine because it’s the scenes revolving around personal battles that are the best and capture the intensity of the moments very well.

Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow- This is a pretty straightforward story of a young warrior who seeks the counsel of a sage before claiming his kingship. It is well done and has some cool scenes with witches and wolves. The exchanges between the characters are interestingly relayed and the end brings a smile to your face. It’s a simple tale and a pleasure to read.

RotS Reviews I

The first in a series of reviews for Return of the Sword.

Altar of the Moon- A story about the aftereffects of a sword of power and the person forced to wield it in order to save a kingdom. Just one problem, the burden of bearing the sword becomes unbearable and it won’t let itself be cast aside. This is a good emotional story with two characters that struggle with each other but are not technically enemies. Both protagonist and antagonist are sympathetic and the ending is written well. Two swords up.

The Wyrd of War- Bill Ward delivers an outstanding tale of dark magic and violent war. A doomed army defends against the mindless onslaught of an eldritch horde, twisted and corrupted by a mysterious evil. The thing that stands out immediately in this story is the use of language and mood. The hero faces impossible odds and is driven on by precious memories of a past denied him. It’s the kind of thing I was trying to do with Raven Kill and it’s done better. This could be my nomination for best of the book.

The Last Scream of Carnage- This is an interesting and odd story. The protagonist is definitely not heroic in any way. He’s simply arrogant and violent and looking for the next thing to kill. What makes for compelling reading here is the physical arrangement of the prose, often assembled in poetic forms. You get the feeling you’re reading something special and that must be why it is the feature story for the anthology. It is cleverly crafted but doesn’t leave you with a character to care about so the impact it makes is not personal but rather an appreciation of its clever crafting.