Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Gypsy Morph


Terry Brooks' The Gypsy Morph did not disappoint. It was just as good a read as the two previous volumes in the genesis of Shanarra trilogy. Again I found myself surprised at how much I liked these three books compared to Brooks' other Shanarra novels, which I'd usually found entertaining but nothing special.
It's the mix of post apocalyptic SF tropes with more traditional Tolkienesque fantasy elements I think. I've always liked post apocalypse books. Not sure why. Gypsy Morph has all the stuff you'd expect from that genre. Mutants, monsters, and militias. A world made into a wasteland by plague, famine, and nuclear fall out. Plus it has Logan Tom and Angel Perez, the last two remaining Knights of the Word, and the Elves of the Cintra who finally get to do all the things you expect elves to do. Shooting bows and fighting with swords and knives,and appearing from nowhere out of the trees. It doesn't seem like these two seemingly disparate elements would work but somehow Brooks pulls it all together.
There were a couple of things I didn't like, mostly related to overly cute animal sidekicks, but hey, Brooks knows his major audience and he knows they like stuff like that. That's a minor quibble though. The book has action, adventure, romance, friendship, loss, sacrifice, and all kinds of other good things that make for entertaining fiction. I enjoyed it a lot. Fortunately for me the next two books in the Shanarra series are follow-ups to this trilogy, so he;s not quite done showing how our modern world became the world of the Sword of Shanarra. I'll be waiting to find out.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Editor in the Tower

After waiting two weeks I sat down today to re-read and edit my sword & sorcery short story, The Dweller in the Tower. I was rather pleasantly surprised to find that it didn't require as much editing as I'd anticipated. I changed a few words, corrected some punctuation, and added some horse lore supplied to me by Laura, who knows all about horses. But for the most part the story stands as it was written, and I'm reasonably pleased with it. It has a beginning, middle, and end and an interesting monster, unlike any I've read about before in a fantasy tale. The only complaint I have with the story is that aside from the monster, the rest of the tale isn't all that original, but then I was trying to write a traditional sword & sorcery story so I guess I should have expected some genre tropes to creep in.
As I mentioned in an earlier post I think dweller owes more to Michael Moorcock than to Robert E. Howard. The plot reminds me more of an Elric yarn that a Conan tale, though I wasn't thinking of either man's work when I was plotting the synopsis. And I followed that synopsis very closely, allowing me to concentrate on the writing and not the plotting. Definitely an experiment worth repeating.
Anyway, I'm glad to have finished a bit of fiction here in the the last quarter of the year. Funny thing about writing stories. When you don't do it for a while, you always wonder if you can come back and do it again. Or at least, I do.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weekend

Well, another four day weekend looms. I get Monday off for Labor Day and I'm taking Friday off as a vacation day so it's a long weekend for me. I plan to do a lot of reading and there's a good chance I'll edit The Dweller in the Tower, which has been sitting for a couple of weeks now. Figure I've got enough distance from it to do a proper bit of editing. Haven't even glanced at it since I typed The End.
Beyond that I haven't made any major plans. Might have lunch with some friends one day. My parents want to go out for breakfast one morning. Could be a cook out Monday, but nothing definite yet. We'll see how the weekend shapes up. But first I have to get through work today...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gypsies, Elves, and Things

Swung by Barnes & Noble yesterday and picked up The Gypsy Morph, the third volume in Terry Brooks's Genesis of Shannara series which I've been looking forward to for about a year. Believe it or not I didn't sit down and start reading it the second I got home. Part of that was that I was still not quite done with F. Paul Wilson's All the Rage. That one turned out to be a great book and the last quarter or so was full tilt suspense with an unexpected twist. Great stuff.
The other part of my not beginning Gypsy Morph was that I wanted to do a little catching up on the previous two books in the series. See, through and odd coincidence last year when I picked up the first book, Armageddon's Children used, it was the week before the second volume, The Elves of Cintra, was released. Just a fluke, but it allowed me to read two parts of a three part series back to back. And what I remembered from reading those two books was that there was an enormous cast of characters and a whole bunch of sub plots so I decided a little refresher was called for.
After I finished All the Rage I took a couple of hours to play Lord of the Rings online. I had finally reached level 50, the top level in the game, right before logging off the previous evening and I just wanted to wander around Middle Earth for a while simply enjoying being a level 50.
Then I pulled Children and Cintra off the shelf and plopped down with them. I re-read the first three chapters of Armageddon's Children, then scanned a bunch of middle chapters, then read the last three chapters. Did the same with Elves of Cintra. That had the desired effect of refreshing my memory of all the plots, characters, etc. I'll probably start Gypsy Morph on Thursday night. Hope it lives up to my expectations.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading Report

Pretty good reading weekend. I ended up skipping the Robert E. Howard chapter of E. Hoffman Price's The Book of the Dead to read the chapter about Clark Ashton Smith. Figured I'd save the Howard chapter for a rainy day, and besides, having only recently become enamored of Smith's work, I was curious about his life. The Smith chapter is a treasure trove of information because Smith and Price became good friends and Price visited Smith several times over the years.
Price paints a portrait of a man who lived in the here and now as much as in the strange realms of weird fiction. Unlike his fellow writers H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard who were very much dreamers, Smith wrote because he enjoyed it, but he also worked regular jobs to support himself and his aging parents. And when I say regular, I mean regular. He dug wells, He picked fruit in the southern California area where he lived. He and in his parents lived in a rough wood frame house in the middle of 40 acres of property in the California hills. They used a deep well as a refrigerator and cooked on a wood burning stove. Smith seemed fine with his rustic surroundings and spent what time he wasn't doing backbreaking labor turning out poetry, water color paintings, sculptures, and of course, some of the most Byzantine and literary prose to ever grace the pages of the pulp magazine Weird Tales.
I decided it was time to break into my rainy day stash of books, so I read Robert B. Parker's Resolution. This is a western, a sequel to his novel Appaloosa. I loved Appaloosa, considering it one of Parker's best, so I was a little concerned that Resolution wouldn't measure up. It does and it doesn't. The first half of the book is very good, but then it hits a midpoint slump and never really recovers. The ending is rushed and anticlimactic, almost as if Parker had hit chapter 30 of a 35 chapter book and though, "Jeez, I better pull this together and finish it." This is often a problem with Parker, so I suspect he does just that. However the dialogue, as always, sparkles, and the action is first rate. If Parker's cowboys get a bit existential at times, he makes up for it with their willingness to kill. For the most part, these are not nice guys.
In fact this may be the first western I've come across to make me really stop and think of what life would have been like when most people went around armed and you often could kill without being arrested because there was no law in many western towns.
Then I switched to F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack novel, All the Rage. It seems there's a new drug on the street, known as Berzerk. Berzerk heightens aggression, giving athletes and other competitive types an edge in their endeavors. Problem is, if you take too much it turns you into a violent psycho with absolutely no self control. All around the city, people are going into fits of uncontrollable rage and committing shocking acts of violence. None of this would be Jack's problem except that he's been hired to look into a seemingly reputable business man's connection with a Serbian drug lord who is the main distributor of, you guessed it, Berzerk.
Of course being a Repairman Jack novel there turns out to be some supernatural element, several in fact, and Jack is soon in over his head with gunmen, monsters, and a weird traveling carnival that would give Ray Bradbury nightmares. And if I'm not mistaken, there appears to be a connection to Wilson's Adversary books too. I'm about halfway through All the Rage and enjoying it immensely. I'm fortunate in that I discovered Jack after Wilson had already written more than a dozen books about him, but I still have to space them out. Otherwise I'd just burn through them all as I've done with so many authors in the past.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Ugly Truth

I think I mentioned last summer that one of the few problems I'd had with my apartment complex was that people were disregarding the pool hours and were often out in the pool at 2:00 am or so despite the fact that the pool closes at 11:00 pm. Kind of annoying on week nights since my apt is very close to the pool.
So this summer things have been much quieter and I figured I just had a much nicer group of neighbors this year.
Today I cut across the pool area on my way to the leasing office instead of going around the outside of the building like I usually do and there was one of the maintenance guys taking a PADLOCK off the gate of the 7ft iron fence that surrounds the pool. Turns out they've been padlocking the gate every night at 11:00 all summer. And all this time I've been giving the benefit to the benevolence of my fellow man...
Just a hint of fall in the early morning air today. Like I need something to make me more restless than I already am.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Waiting...

Seems like I'm once again waiting on all the new books I want to read. There's supposed to be a new Clark Ashton Smith volume out from Nightshade books in September. New Robert B. Parker Spenser in October. The final Andrew Vachss Burke in December. Somewhere out there is the third volume of the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. Closest is the third volume in Terry Brooks's Genesis of Shannara trilogy, due out next Monday. Not the best day it could come out since I tend to do my heavy duty reading on the weekends. Still, if you were reading this blog last year when I read the first two volumes in the series you might recall how surprised I was by how much I enjoyed them. So I'm really looking forward to volume three. Probably tear right through it once I get it. But at the moment I am without new novels I want to read so I'm doing some rereads and falling back on short stories. I need to check my shelves. I've probably forgotten something I bought and set aside. Seems like it's feast or famine lately, book-wise.

PROTECT

Any of you who know me well know that the only charities and organizations that I regularly donate time and money to are those concerned with the protection of children. Somebody else will have to save the whales or the redwoods. My pal Andrew Vachss has recently pointed me toward Protect: The National Association to Protect Children. It's sort of like the NRA except the folks are lobbying to prevent the abuse and neglect of kids. They've already helped to push some worthwhile child protective legislation through. They're a nonpartisan group, so whatever your politics, you can still get behind the effort to protect children. If you get the chance, check Protect out at http://www.protect.org/
I've already joined up. Kids can't vote so politicians tend to ignore issues related to them. But they can't ignore the folks at Protect. I'll get off my soap box now.

Game Report


I reached level 49 out of 50 in Lord of the Rings Online on Monday. Didn't have time to play much yesterday so I'm still holding there. In some ways the pressure to level up is off because I can't go any higher than 50. At least not today. Rumor has it that the game developers are considering bumping the class levels up to 60. They're also supposed to be adding a couple of new classes. That's Kharrn's new armor in the pic below by the way. One of my fellow Windriders of Rohan made that for him. I like the chest plate. Has a real samurai kind of look to it with the overlapping plates. So anyway, now I'm coasting to level 50. Don't worry, there's still plenty of game content for a level 50 Champion (barbarian.) I've also started a new character, this one a Guardian (barbarian) class. I named him Kellax after the hero of my recent short story. Guardians can't do quite as much damage as Champions but they can take a lot more punishment so it's a trade off. You can't kill enemies quite as quickly but you become much harder to kill. Kellax is barely out of the gate at level 4. Funny to have a character that low level again after spending the last couple of months in the high levels.

And More Reading


Finished up The Whiskers of Hercules and the villains had indeed come up with a potion that would give someone superhuman speed and strength, but at the cost of aging them very rapidly. I've seen that plot many times but in 1944 it was doubtless still pretty fresh. As I noted below it's just fun to hang out with Doc Savage and his gang. I discovered Doc about 1975, way back before I had any clue what a pulp magazine was. Ended up reading about 70 of the bantam paperbacks almost back to back. These days I have to be in the proper mood to read a Doc Savage novel, but I still enjoy them. The recent reprints from Anthony Tollin have wonderful covers reprinted from the original pulps and they usually have a wealth of information, articles, and pictures in between the stories. A lot of bookstores are carrying the new Docs as well as Tollin's Shadow reprints. Worth tracking down.
Next I switched to a re-read of Michael Moorcock's The Silver Warriors. This is one of my top five Moorcock books. (I need to make a list of those for Julie come to think of it.) It's actually in the top two, the other being The Warhound and the World's Pain which is just an amazing book. Sword & Sorcery maven that I am, I guess it's surprising that neither of my favorite two books by Mike are Elric books, but there ya go. A couple of Elrics would definitely make it into the top five.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Reading Report

Didn't get a lot of reading done over the weekend, since for most of Sunday even the reflected light off the page made my headache worse. Still I got in one more of Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer stories. Having read a ton of Wellman's stories in the last couple of months, I believe now that the John tales represent his best work. Every one is a little gem of plot, characterization, and storytelling. Just amazing. I'm about two thirds of the way through the collection, and though I'm drawing the stories out as long as I can, I don't have that many left.
I read another chapter of E. Hoffman Price's Book of the Dead, this one detailing his visits and correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft. The thing that stood out for me, especially after reading Lovecraft at Last a few weeks ago, was just how nice a guy Lovecraft was. Price goes on at length at just how much fun Lovecraft was and how many people who never met him don't really get the humor and sense of play in his letters. Wish I could have met him. Next chapter is about Price's visit to Robert E. Howard. I've read a shorter version elsewhere, but this one was expanded especially for this volume, adding back stuff Price had cut for the previously published version. Looking forward to that.
Then I switched to the Doc Savage novel The Whiskers of Hercules. Got about halfway through that and will finish it up tonight or tomorrow. In this one the Man of Bronze and his assistants are up against a criminal group who have found a way to briefly give a person superhuman speed an strength, but the process apparently ages that person rapidly. Since I'm not to the end I don't know how the process works. This is a fun story though and it has all five of Doc's aides in action, Renny, Johnny, Long Tom, Monk and Ham. As the Doc Savage stories were reduced in length in the later years, most stories only featured two or three of the fabulous five, and many only Ham and Monk. Nice to have all the gang together.

Rough Weekend

I seem to have a sinus infection or some such thing. Could be a late summer cold. Started with a scratchy throat Friday night and had turned into a full fledged sore throat by Saturday morning. Sunday was the worst, though since I woke with possibly the worst sinus headache I've ever had. Felt almost migraine like in that I couldn't look at any light source for too long without a lot of pain. Sinus medication and Tylenol didn't make a dent in it. Finally I tried standing in the shower for a long time and letting the hot water hit me directly in the face. That eased it up some. This morning I can still feel a twinge but it's much better. I didn't get much sleep the last two days and would have taken the day off from work, but I promised to handle some computer related stuff for the IT guy who is out of town, so I'm going in at least for the first part of the day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tarzan Bootleg Bonanza


Found a guy on Ebay offering bootleg DVDs of the entires series of the Tarzan television show from 1966-68. I had vague memories of the show but considering that I was four years old when it came out and that the last time it was syndicated in my area was the 1970s, it's been a while since I'd seen an episode. DVDs cane Friday and since then I've watched four episodes.
The show is kind of interesting in that it's a mishmash of various versions of Tarzan. It was originally to have starred the then most recent movie Tarzan Mike Henry, but Henry bowed out due to various health problems incurred while shooting his three Tarzan films. Anyway, the Tarzan character was much like Henry's version. He spoke perfect English and was as comfortable in civilization as in the jungle. But like earlier film Tarzans he lived in a tree house and had a chimp named Cheeta. He also has an adopted son named Jai, who always annoyed the heck out of me. I know TV producers think that kids need a kid to identify with in a series but I never identified with Jai. Too whiny.
Mike Henry's last movie, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, was shot in Brazil and the producers of the show planned to film the TV series there but after two hurricane seasons and various other problems they moved production to Mexico after five episodes. Mexico is a pretty good stand in for Africa since the real Africa has more plains and grasslands than jungle.
Ely himself looks good in the role, though he has sort of a beach boy look to him that's not quite my idea of Tarzan. Still he had the physique and I understand female viewers were very enthusiastic about the show at the time. Ely did almost all his own stunts, including wrestling various animals. Over the course of the series he picked up an impressive list of injuries too.
Anyway, I've enjoyed the episodes I've watched so far. I know that as the series progressed they had a lot of big name guests stars. James Whitmore, Helen Hayes, Julie Harris, Woody Strode, and believe it or not, Diana Ross and the Supremes playing a trio of Nuns. Former Tarzan Jock Mahoney shows up too as a villain. (Ely would mirror this years later, playing a bad guy in an episode of short lived Wolf Larson Tarzan series.) So I have all that to look forward to.
Speaking of Mahoney, along with the fifty something episodes of the TV series, the seller also included DVDs of both Mahoney's Tarzan films, all three of Mike Henry's, five with Lex Barker and five with Gordon Scott. So far only the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films have been made available commercially so I'm glad to get copies of the others. I already owned The Mahoney and Henry movies, but none of the rest.

Friday, August 15, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different.

While I seem to be on a writing roll I'm moving on to another story. Since I finally wrote a traditional sword & sorcery story I think I'm going with the next genre piece I've been meaning to get around to. Namely a jungle lord story. Way back in one of my first posts here I mentioned that I've always wanted to write a Tarzan story, but since the character is trademarked and I don't really want to do any more fan fiction, I've decided to go the way of Ki-Gor, Kazar, Kioga, Jan, Jann, Sheena, Lord Grandrith, Jongor, and Kaanga, and just make up my own jungle lord.
Thus I am now working on a tale featuring Rakar the Jungle Lord. Rakar's got a nice little gimmick that helps to separate him from the herd of Tarzan wannabes, but I won't mention what that is here. I'm also planning to cross genres since I had an idea several years back called Tarzan and the Elf Lords. Now it's Rakar and the Elf Lords. Should be interesting...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finished

And the first draft of The Dweller in the Tower is done, finishing up at 6259 words. I'm just going to let it sit for a while before coming back to edit. Nice to have finished a piece of fiction again. Been a while.

Writing Report Redux

Make that 5618 words with one scene to go. I might actually pull this off.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Writing Report

I think I'm at the halfway point of Dweller in the Tower. I'd estimated it would be about a 6000 word story, the average length of an old pulp yarn, and I'm just over the 3000 word mark. I still don't like some of it but I'm determined not to edit until I have a completed first draft. Still following the synopsis pretty closely, though I can see the end changing a bit. I'm just up to the big action scene of the story so of course I'm looking forward to that. I always enjoy writing a fight scene. If possible I like to do those scenes from start to finish with no interruption so I can get the immediacy of the thing down.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reading Report

Was a big weekend for reading. I finally got around to reading "Terminal," Andrew Vachss' penultimate novel about his character Burke. According to his web page the next Burke book will be the last. I haven't been as taken with the last few books in the series, but I suspect that has more to do with me than with Vachss. Still, I will always buy any book the man writes because I know where the money goes. Vachss is a lawyer who specializes in the protection of abused children and supporting his work is supporting his cause. I've a long history with Vachss, which I'll get around to in a longer post. The man changed my world view and my life and the lessons I learned from him continue to effect the way I see the world.
After a trip down the mean streets with Vachss I needed some lighter reading fare so I switched to a re-read of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan the Terrible. This is one of my favorites of the Tarzan books as it contains the lost land of Pal-u-don, where dwell a race of men with prehensile tales, saber tooth tigers, and dinosaurs. Plus Tarzan finally finds Jane who has been missing for the last few books.
Cliff had loaned me two more of his Carcosa press volumes, collections of short stories by E. Hoffman Price and Hugh B. Cave. Read several stories out of each. Price wrote mostly action-adventure yarns for the pulps and Cave mostly horror. Some good stuff.
I also re-read H.P. Lovecraft's novella The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, Robert E. Howard's The Valley of the Worm, and then read the first two chapters of E. Hoffman Price's memoir Book of the dead, describing his friendships with Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright and author Otis Adelbert Kline. Each chapter of Book of the Dead features Prices memories of a different figure from the pulps of the 1930s-40s. Price traveled a lot and met many of the great pulp wordsmiths including Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Fascinating.
Somewhere in there I also played Lord of the Rings Online, did some drawing, and watched some Doctor Who Episodes. Looking back I'm not sure how I got all that into two days...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

School Daze

Well my AutoCad class has not gone smoothly. Monday was good and I learned some cool stuff, but for reasons too complicated to explain easily, the class was canceled on Tuesday. I didn't get the message though and ended up driving down only to learn there would be no class.
But wait, it gets better. They had to reschedule for Friday. Yes, Friday when I normally would leave work at 10:00 am and have the rest of the weekend free. Instead, tomorrow I will be in class from 8:00 until 5:00, getting out just in time for the Friday rush hour traffic. Oh well. At least I'm learning stuff.

Writing Report

Well I estimate I'm about a quarter of the way through my short story. The working title is now The Dweller in the Tower, an obvious homage to both Lovecraft and REH. That could change. I hit one bad spot where I had the usual doubts. Plot didn't seem to be moving fast enough. Dialog sounded clunky. I put the story aside for a couple of days, then came back and read the manuscript and the solution to those problems just jumped out at me. I deleted a couple of paragraphs, added a couple, and moved one and all of that put me back on track. Still following my synopsis, though I've strayed a little, which is fine. I'm seeing a more Moorcockian influence on the basic structure of this one as it goes. I'll explain that later.
As usual, I'm struggling with the third person POV a bit, but this story needs to be told that way so I'm soldiering on.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Roof Rider


I am a roof runner. One of those people who like to mess with the virtual background and find ways to climb to places that the game developers didn't necessarily mean for players to get to. Tops of buildings, tents, houses, etc. And now I have brought along my faithful horse Argo...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Back to School

Another of those strange mornings when I'm not exactly off but I'm not going to work. My job is paying for me to take an AutoCad class. Sort of a refresher. I've been drafting with the program since 1994 but AutoDesk, the company that makes it, keeps updating and changing it and it doesn't really work the same as it did back in the day. Been about three years since I took a Cad class so I'm sure I'll learn a few new things. On the other hand I'll probably have to go through a bunch of stuff I already know.
The main thing is, this class is the first step toward AutoDesk certification, which is sort of the Holy Grail of AutoCad users. You need it if you ever want to teach AutoCad which is something I've been thinking about more and more the last few years.
The only downside to the class, which is today and tomorrow, is that it's at Southern Polytechnic School down in Marietta and it begins at 9:00 and ends at 5:00 which will put me into rush hour traffic both ways. Joy. I can probably use back roads most of the way, but I'll still end up sitting in traffic for a while, which I hate. I'll probably leave fairly early this morning and just find a restaurant or something close to the school where I can have breakfast and sit and read. And come to think of it, I should take an audio book for the drive. Everything's better with with books.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"It's always been good."

Today is my parents 50th wedding anniversary. They didn't want a party. Tonight dad is taking mom out for a nice dinner and next weekend they're driving down to Savannah for a few days. After all these years they'd still rather hang out with each other than with anyone else. They are still each other's best friend.
I had lunch with my dad yesterday and we were discussing his 50 years of marriage and he said, "It hasn't always been easy, but it's always been good."
So Happy Anniversary mom and dad. Of the countless important things you've taught me, one is that love can last and that sometimes people really do live happily ever after.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Writing Experiment

I haven't been writing much fiction lately. I'm not blocked. Blocked is when you get panic attacks approaching the keyboard. I've been there. Lately I just seem disinterested. I've had my usual lot of false starts and fragments but eventually some of the fragments usually turn into stories and that hasn't been happening lately, so I am trying an experiment.
I have always been leery of outlines or synopses, preferring to just get a general idea and start writing. That hasn't been working lately so a few weeks back I wrote down synopses for half a dozen short stories. All particulars were there. Beginning, middle, and end plus characters, ideas for motivations and some possible story incidents. Then I put the synopses aside for a while, my plan being to come back and pick one and then write the story.
I have picked one and written the first couple of thousand words. Seems to be working at the moment. I'm not finding myself constrained by the synopsis as has been the case in the past and it is kind of nice to know where I'm going. I plan to finish this one, regardless of quality. I'd just like to have a finished story behind me again. So I'm ignoring the internal editor as he tells me the first bit could be better. When I'm done, I'll edit. Or not.
It's sword and sorcery and it has a tower in it. It features my fallen aristocrat turned sword for hire Kellax Ara Kaeth because Laura mentioned she'd like to see an actual completed adventure featuring Kellax since she's seen so many fragments. His barbarian pal Targo isn't in this one though. Decided to try a little S&S without a Conan stand in.
So anyway, I'm once again wrestling with fiction. Wish me luck.