Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Guest Post: Born in the Shadow of Howard by Scott Oden

  I happened across Scott Oden's debut novel MEN OF BRONZE in Barnes & Noble in 2005 and bought it on the spot. I've bought every book he's published since. I've always thought that Scott captures the feel of the work of Robert E. Howard, and as it turns out REH is one of his biggest influences. I invited Scott to make a guest post here at Singular Points, and I'm pleased and honored to have him here.

Born in the Shadow of Howard

By Scott Oden

With the advent of the Assassin’s Creed movie in theaters, this week, I’ve been roaming around the Internet hawking my 2010 novel The Lion of Cairo – oft-described as very much Assassin’s Creed-like. In it, a prince of Alamut called the Emir of the Knife is dispatched to aid the young Fatimid Caliph of Cairo against a host of enemies, both inside his palace walls and beyond. One reviewer said that it was “filled to the brim with assassins and concubines, caliphs and street thugs, the devout and the heretical. It’s partly a swashbuckling historical, partly a tale of palace intrigue, partly a fast and furious espionage yarn.” I would agree, but with this qualification: it is a tale of fantasy. The history is stretched thin over a skeleton built with bones scavenged from Robert E. Howard’s Crusader tales (especially “Gates of Empire”), Burton’s The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, the work of scholars like Dr. Helen Nicholson and Dr. David Nicolle, and Orientalist artwork of the last century. More than that, it is an active homage to the aforementioned Robert E. Howard – a writer I’ve often looked to for guidance, inspiration, and sheer enjoyment.

The Lion of Cairo was born in early 2007. In late 2006, I had submitted a synopsis for a secondary-world fantasy featuring an Orcish protagonist to a friend who was also an editor at St. Martin’s Press. He called me to reject it, and to put a bug in my ear: “Why not a novel like those old pulps? Something medieval, like the Assassins as imagined by REH?” The bug bit; over the Holidays I hammered out a nine page synopsis. This, in due course, was also rejected. “More!” my editor exhorted. “Dig deeper! Make it memorable, and give me more detail!”

So I did. The next iteration of the synopsis came to a whopping nineteen thousand words – thirty-eight pages detailing the travails of the Caliph, the grim work of the Emir of the Knife, the evils of Ibn Sharr, the heroism of Parysatis and the tragedy of the Gazelle. The ending was left open, as this was meant to be the first book of a trilogy. My editor loved it, resulting in a four-book contract (book four was my Orc fantasy – which, by the by, will hit shelves on 20 June 2017 as A Gathering of Ravens).

The skeleton decided upon, what came after is best described as a paean to the memory of REH. The Emir of the Knife became a killer without remorse, his morals dictated by necessity; the tool of his trade, a yard-long salawar (also known as a Khyber knife), became a relic of an earlier age, imbued with sentient hate against all things living and requiring an iron will to keep its wielder from degenerating into madness. The head of a rival order of Assassins, the enigmatic Ibn Sharr, became a necromancer searching for the sorcery of Elder Egypt; his right hand, an apostate Christian called the Heretic, turned into the Emir’s equal. And sprinkled throughout were references to Howard’s Oriental tales.

Though the book never found a wide audience, it nevertheless taught me much about the art of long-form fiction. Prior to The Lion of Cairo I wrote by the seat of my pants; planning, if I planned at all, was only a chapter at a time. Lion taught me that I could write about a novel (in synopsis form) and then actually go forth and write it. Carving the bones beforehand helped me focus on the words, themselves. On the prose. With the pressure of plotting removed, I discovered something of a poet buried in my soul. Everything came together like literary alchemy, and the result was, in my opinion, the strongest book I’d written to date (an opinion which has since been amended after writing A Gathering of Ravens).

So, if you enjoy Assassin’s Creed, game or movie, or the work of Robert E. Howard, or swashbuckling historical sword-and-sorcery, then perhaps you will find The Lion of Cairo also to your liking. Thanks to my excellent host, and thank you for reading!

Charles says: Thank you, Scott! For more info on Lion of Cairo and Scott's other works, check out these links.

The Eye of Oden website: https://scottoden.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Man Called Kharrn

The new anthology SNAFU: Black Ops dropped in Ebook form this Wednesday. It contains 'Black Tide', a story by James A. Moore and me, which features Jim's demon hunter/occult detective Jonathan Crowley teamed up with my character Kharrn. Kharrn is basically a 'Clonan' like Lin Carter's Thongor or Gardner Fox's Kothar. He's just still around.

I get a lot of questions about Kharrn. Mostly people want to know just how old he is. He and Crowley teamed up before in the WHITE NOISE PRESS Chapbook, 'What Rough Beast', which takes place in the Old West, and there were hints in the story that the two men had met before even earlier in the past. The answer to his age is really really old.

In his original conception, Kharrn was a time traveler. I wrote one short story 'The Silent History' which is unpublished, and now no longer canon, in which Kharrn was sent forth in time to the Victorian Age seeking vengeance. Later I wrote a second story, “Sailing to Darkness” which appeared at the late lamented MOORCOCK'S MISCELLANEY in which Kharrn took a trip on Moorcock's 'Ship that sails between worlds' (With Mike's kind permission). That one showed that Kharrn occasionally traveled in other dimensions.

When it came time to use the big warrior in another story, I decided that the time travel element was too hard to keep up with, so I changed Kharrn's origin to make him an immortal. His first published appearance was in Pete Kahle's anthology WIDOWMAKERS where Kharrn teamed up with Carnacki the Ghostfinder in a story called 'The Beautiful Lady Without Pity', a Christmas Country House Ghost Story with a Barbarian. Hey, I write what I like. (It also got me a mention in that year's Year's Best Horror collection.)

Later that year, Kharrn and Crowley ran into some werewolves in 'What Rough Beast'. Jim Moore and I have another crossover in the works called 'The Doll Maker' which sees the boys facing an Eldritch menace in Victorian London.

Oh, the reason Kharrn is spelled with two 'r's is that when I wanted to use the name Kharn for my Lord of the Rings Online avatar, the name was already taken. So I added a second 'r'. I got used to typing it that way and it stuck.

Anyway, 'Black Tide' reveals the most about Kharrn's past of any story so far, so if you're curious about the immortal Barbarian, give it a read.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


One of the questions I get asked the most when people find out I'm a writer is, "What genre do you write in." I always have a little trouble with that because A.I don't like labels. B. Most of what I write doesn't fit a particular genre. People usually lump me into Urban Fantasy, which my market savvy friends tell me is now known as 'Supernatural Suspense', which works better, but the three Griffin & Price novels I've written with James A. Moore are rural, not urban, and I don't have most of the trappings of UF. I've been calling it Crime-Horror, though not all of the stuff I've done has both those elements. I think editor Geoff Brown has nailed it in his recent announcement about Griffin and Price books at Cohesion Press. 'Action Horror' was Geoff's phrase. I'm going with that because pretty much all my stuff has horror and action. Thanks, Geoff. Now I know what to say.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

We Have a Contender

You say Brian Wood's emo-Conan sent you packing? That manga-style Conan art gave you hives? Is that what's bothering you bunky? Well come on back to Darkhorse Comics because CONAN THE SLAYER is good for what ails you.
Seriously, Cullen Bunn gets the character as few writers have. Perhaps because Cullen writes horror (Harrow County. Also from Darkhorse) and sword & sorcery is always always always best when it has horror at its core. SLAYER has monsters, demons, and dark sorcery.
Plus, as I said, Bunn gets Conan. There's a scene in the newest issue, number 4, where Conan walks right into the middle of a camp full of armed foes and shows them how the world works. This is how I want to see Conan. Confidant. Reckless. Maybe a little crazy. Because, hello? Barbarian.
For me the people who have done well writing Conan comics is a pretty short list. Roy Thomas. Chuck Dixon. Kurt Busiek. Timothy Truman. Well ladies and gentlemen, we have a contender.
The artwork is great too. Sergio Davila would have been right at home in the pages of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. His Cimmerian has the right frame without being body-builder ridiculous. His Conan stalks red-handed through the pages, doling out the harshness.
You guys know I don't recommend Conan lightly. Give CONAN THE SLAYER a shot. And Crom count the dead.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Henry Who?

Just watched the first episode of Supergirl guest starring Superman. Loved it. That's Superman, kids. Just as much heart as his cousin. Wisely the writers didn't allow him to overshadow Supergirl. It's still clearly her show, but he's an excellent visitor. And strange. And from another plant.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Charles Rutledge’s Book of Horror VIII: Vampire Edition

1. Chastel- Manly Wade Wellman
From The Valley So Low
2. The Night Flyer- Stephen King
From Nightmares and Dreamscapes
3. Murgunstrumm- Hugh B. Cave
From Murgunstrumm and Others
4. Mirage- Karl Edward Wagner
From Death Angel's Shadow
5. Hills of the Dead- Robert E. Howard
From Solomon Kane
6. The Mysterious Stranger-Annon
From In the Shadow of Dracula
7. The Room in the Tower-E.F. Benson
From The Room in the Tower and Other Stories
8. Count Magnus-M.R.James
From Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
9. Popsy-Stephen King
From Nightmares and Dreamscapes
10. When it was Moonlight-Manly Wade Wellman
From Worse Things Waiting
11. The Family of the Vourdalak-Aleksei Tolstoy
From Dracula's Guest
12. The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
From The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
13. Strangella-Hugh B. Cave
From Murgunstrumm and Others

Amazingly, it’s September. Where does the time go? It’s still warm here in Northern Georgia, but there’s a hint of autumn on the wind, and my mind is, of course, turning to Halloween and all things dark and dangerous. So it’s time for the table of contents of the eighth edition of my imaginary horror anthology, Charles Rutledge’s Book of Horror, inspired by the book H.P. LOVECRAFT’S BOOK OF HORROR. I always try and have this list out in September, so that interested parties have a chance to track down any of the stories before Halloween.
There’s a new wrinkle this year though, as this is actually a themed anthology, where I list my favorite thirteen horror stories about vampires. Also I’ll be cross-posting with another blog, that of Amanda DeWees, author of Gothic Romantic Suspense novels and quite the vampire maven. Amanda will be putting up her own list of favorite Vampire tales at her blog, which I will link to at the bottom of this post.
So let’s get started. First up on my list is Manly Wade Wellman’s ‘Chastel’ the last story to feature occult detective Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant. The judge was far less well known than Wellman’s other two occult specialists, John Thunstone and John the Balladeer, but actually preceded both of those characters. This story was a big influence on me while writing my own vampire novel, ‘Congregations of the Dead’ with James A. Moore. The short story is very creepy and evocative and is a fine send off for the judge.
Next up is what I consider to be one of the scariest vampire yarns ever, Stephen King’s ‘The Night Flyer’. The vampire in this one is totally inhuman, smelling of corruption and the grave. Another big influence on the way I write about vampires.
‘Murgunstrumm’ is probably Hugh B. Cave’s best known story, and though it was written for the pulps more than seventy years ago, it still backs considerable punch.
Karl Edward Wager’s ‘Mirage’ is a story of his immortal warrior and hero-villain, Kane. A wounded and delirious Kane stumbles into an old ruin and almost stays there forever. The story has a weird, dream-like quality and is one of my favorites of the Kane series.
Another Kane is Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane, the Puritan adventurer and fighter against evil. Many of Solomon’s adventures were set in Africa, and in ‘The Hills of the Dead” Kane runs into a whole tribe of vampires. The Solomon Kane tales are some of my favorites, very much horror stories with some action thrown in.
No one knows who wrote ‘The Mysterious Stranger’ but it was one of the tales that came before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, and to my mine was a major influence on Stoker’s novel. The story of a group of travelers who find an old man in a castle and make the mistake of extending him and invitation. He begins to feed on one of the women in the story and as she grows weaker, he grows younger and stronger. There are many other parallels. Give it a read if you’ve never tried it. I’ve often thought of swiping the basic plot and turning it into a sword & sorcery story.
Which brings us to, ‘The Room in the Tower.’ E.F. Benson is one of my absolute favorite horror writers and this may be my favorite story of his. For years a man dreams of a room in the tower of a house that he thinks only exists in his imagination. But one weekend he is invited to a country house party and finds that the house is a real place, with a real tower room where something horrible is waiting on him. It reminds me a little of Perceval Landon’s ‘Thurnley Abbey’ which is one of my top ten horror yarns ever.
Count Magnus is one of M.R. James’ most famous stories. Here, the master of the Ghost Story turns his macabre imagination to a tale of a man who should really have been careful what he wished for.
Stephen King mentioned at one point that he wondered if the creature for ‘The Night Flyer” was the same creature who shows up in ‘Popsy’. He rather thought it was. Not quite as scary as ‘The Night Flyer’ but still a pretty nasty little tale of comeuppance.
Our second story by Manly Wade Wellman, ‘When It Was Moonlight’, is one of Wellman’s historical horror tales, where Edgar Alan Poe, no stranger to things that go bump in the night, runs into a moonlit horror.
Aleksei Tolstoy’s (Cousin to the more famous Tolstoy) The Family of the Vourdalak, is a tale of a family beset by a former relative who has returned as a vampire, and is in some ways closer to folklore than contemporary fiction. It has a very ‘real’ feel to it and is all the scarier for it.
I wrestled for a bit about including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’ because it doesn’t have a real vampire in it. But in the end I decided that it’s still an excellent creepy story, almost Doyle’s response to ‘Dracula.’
The final entry is another from pulpster Hugh. B. Cave, 'Strangella' a tale of a wrecked ship that houses a sinister secret. This one, like much of Cave's work, is strong stuff.
And there you have it. My thirteen favorite vampire short stories. Still plenty of time to track them down before Halloween. And when you're done looking at my list, go over to Amanda DeWees' blog and see what she has for you. Amanda is an expert on Vampire fiction and she knows her stuff. In the meantime, keep plenty of Garlic and Holy Water handy. You never know who might drop by.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Writing Whiskey River

   MAMA TRIED, The new anthology from DOWN AND OUT BOOKS came out this week. The book contains a slew of stories from a bunch of authors, all inspired by Outlaw Country Music. The brief was simple. Take the title of an outlaw country song and turn it into a crime story. We couldn’t just write the song as a story for obvious reasons. The titles were for inspiration only.
   I was raised in rural Georgia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I grew up with Country Music. Our local station WCHK, was my mom’s favorite spot to leave the radio dial and the background soundtrack of my early life is pure country. Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Elvis, Dolly Parton, and all the rest.
   About the time I was entering my teenage years, the Outlaw Country movement was getting up and running. Merle Haggard. Kris Kristofferson. Waylon Jennings. Willie Nelson. Hank Williams Jr. Guys like Johnny Cash, who had always been outlaws, were grandfathered in. Spurred by the restlessness of the 1960s, and 1970s, the movement began as a reaction to the over-produced, slick sound that had begun to flow out of Nashville. As country turned pop and easy listening, the outlaws went rogue. The sound was a blend of old school country, Honkytonk, and Rockabilly, with some blues and early rock & roll in the mix.
   When MAMA TRIED editor James R. Tuck suggested the idea of the anthology on Facebook, I volunteered immediately. I’d been writing a mix of crime fiction and horror in the GRIFFIN AND PRICE series with James A. Moore, and I liked the idea of using my protagonist, Wade Griffin, in a down and dirty crime story with no supernatural elements. I chose the title of the Willie Nelson hit WHISKEY RIVER as my jumping off point.
   I knew I wanted Griffin to be a ‘man alone’ in this story, cut off from his usual support system of Sheriff Carl Price, advisor Carter Decamp, and significant other, Charon. I had a vague idea about hijackers, so I started Googling ‘stolen whiskey, and turned up a wealth of information about the startlingly high prices paid on the black market for twenty year old designer whiskey and even found stories about a couple of high dollar whiskey hijackings.
   Armed with verisimilitude and coffee, I sat down and banged out a first draft of Whiskey River. It went darker places than I’d intended as I wrote, but that fits the theme. Outlaw Country music was often introspective and dark. Wade Griffin, former mercenary now turned private detective, has to call upon the skills he learned in life or death situations in third world countries to survive a bad night with some bad people. In the end, I was very proud of the story. I think it one of the better short tales I’ve written.
   Anyway, I’m thrilled to be in an anthology with so many terrific writers. I’ve read a bunch of the other stories and there’s some great, dark crime fiction in there. The Outlaw tradition lives on.
More about MAMA TRIED here:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Leave Her Wild

   Back in 2014 I reviewed Kasey Lansdale's LP RESTLESS. The CD is still on my desk and a week seldom passes without my listening to the whole album. Now Kasey is back with a new EP called LEAVE HER WILD and I've been listening to it for the last few days. Kasey's roots are still in classic country music, but overlaid here with a bluesy pop sound. As always, Kasey's voice is powerful and self assured.
   If EPs have a message then this one's is hope. From the opening song LIVING IN THE MOMENT to the final cut, OKAY, Kasey sings about rising above life's problems and getting on with your life. As RISE OF THE PHOENIX says, "It's time to rise up from the ashes, take action, I don't fear darkness anymore."
   Not there isn't a detour into regret. Wouldn't be a country album without it. The heroine of the song GHOST laments "And I'm still sleeping with your ghost." This is probably my favorite song on the EP, but, hey, I like sad songs.

   Anyway, I'm constantly amazed at the work of Kasey Lansdale, both in her talent and in her commitment to music. She's one of the hardest working people I know of and she gives her all to every endeavor. You can get LEAVE HER WILD here:


   And if you want to hear just how amazing Kasey's voice is, check out her cover of Patsy Cline's I FALL TO PIECES here:


Sunday, August 07, 2016

The End of the Trail

Sold most of my remaining copies of the White Noise Press chapbook WHAT ROUGH BEAST at NECON 36. Publisher Keith Minnion and coauthor James A. Moore tell me that they're out of copies, so this is the last of the print run. (Though some stores or online sellers may still have some.) Think I'll squirrel these last two away.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Looking Back at Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979)

For years I and my friends have referred to the first Star Trek film as Star Trek:The Motionless Picture, because the movie has long stretches where nothing seems to happen. I saw this film at Akers Mill in Smyrna Georgia when it first premiered. I was a junior in high school and had been a rabid Star Trek fan for most of my life. My best friend Barry Wofford and I ate dinner at a place called Round the Corner, where you ordered your food using phones mounted on the tables, and then we stood in line for an evening showing.
I recall having mixed feelings at the time. I was so happy to see my heroes on the big screen. To see a NEW adventure of James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the others. But the movie was just so...ponderous. Or so it seemed to me at the time.
I've more or less avoided the film for the last several decades. I think it's been more than twenty years since I sat and watched it all the way through. Amazon Prime has added all the Star Trek movies to the rotation of films so I decided that the time had come to watch the movie again. And this time, I got it. I got what director Robert Wise was going for.
The plot of STTMP concerns an almost unimaginably huge alien spacecraft that is on a collision course with Earth. The ship is surrounded by an energy cloud and as the film begins, the cloud destroys three Klingon ships that attack it, and then a United Federation of Planets space station which merely hails and scans the ship. Any interaction is met by incredible destructive force.
The only Federation starship close enough to intercept that alien ship is the newly refitted USS Enterprise. Admiral James T. Kirk, straining at his administrative duties, uses the crisis to regain the Captain's chair on the Enterprise and leads a crew of familiar faces and new characters to confront the danger to Earth.
I remember that there were two scenes that I found mind-numbingly boring when I saw the film in the theater. The first was when Kirk first sees the new Enterprise, and Scotty takes what seemed like half an hour to fly Kirk around the exterior. This scene seemed interminably long to me at the time. But this time I wasn't watching the Enterprise. I was watching William Shatner's face. Say what you want about the man's delivery of lines, but I still think he's a very good and expressive actor, and in this scene you realize how badly he has missed the Enterprise. The ship is the love of his life. A range of emotions play across Kirk's face as he looks at the ship. He has come home.
The second problem scene for me was similar. The Enterprise has penetrated the energy cloud to find the alien craft V'Ger and there is yet another long flyby scene where the Enterprise circles the giant craft, and here, as I alluded to before, is where Wise wanted to show us AWE. It gives the main characters a chance to emote. For Kirk, this is why he's a Starship Captain. To see new things. To marvel at wonders beyond his experience. Spock, seeking to finally rid himself of the human emotions he thinks have held him back, is hopeful, seeing V'Ger as the ultimate logical reasoner. (He has been sensing the craft's thoughts since before it appeared.) The other members of the bridge crew are stunned at the spectacle of V'Ger.
And the shots of the Enterprise against the massive form of V'Ger show the audience just how gigantic the alien craft is. We know how big the Enterprise is, and it's a tiny, tiny, spec shown against V'Ger. So yeah, I got it.
Now, here's the thing. I'm still not sure STTMP is a good Star Trek movie. It lacks the heart of the TV show, which was recaptured in Wrath of Khan a couple of years later. But, I do think it's a good science fiction film. It explores many themes of what it means to be human, and it shows us amazing sights and new concepts. The movie is slow, yes. But it's not totally motionless.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Mama Tried Coming in August

Synopsis: Outlaws … 

It's what makes the best of country music and crime fiction. Sometimes it's hardened criminals: murders, thieves, and convicts, sometimes it's just a poor fool driven to the edge by hard times, hard drinking, or a hard lover.

In this collection you will find stories from the best voices in crime fiction inspired by the best voices in outlaw country music. Stories with:

• An off-books mercenary trying to save a trucker's delivery from a beautiful thief.
• An ex-con dealing with small town prejudice...and armed robbery.
• Outlaw newlyweds running from a tri-county drug lord.
• A young girl seeking solace in the company of dogs bred to fight that she never found in family.
• A wife discovering the other woman is not what she thought.
• A writer finding out what prison is really like.

Stories by J.L. Abramo, Trey R. Barker, Eric Beetner, Levi Black, Michael Bunker, Delilah Dawson, Les Edgerton, Christa Faust, Tommy Hancock, Grant Jerkins, Ken Lizzi, Riley Miller, James A. Moore, Bobby Nash, Mel Odom, Eryk Pruitt, Jay Requard, Charles R. Rutledge and Ryan Sayles.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Carnacki: The Lost Cases ToC

Next month, Ulthar Press will be releasing a new collection of Carnacki the Ghost Finder stories. These 'lost' cases' are based on adventures that Carnacki mentioned but never got around to telling. Some of the top occult detective writers (and me) in this one. I'll put up a link when the book becomes available.

CARNACKI: THE LOST CASES is on schedule to be released next month! Here's the table of contents:

Saturday, June 04, 2016

A Little Ochre Book of Occult Stories

Karl Edward Wagner once said that his stories about his hero-villain Kane were really horror stories with just enough action to make them qualify as heroic fantasy. For the new KEW collection 'A Little Ochre Book of Occult Stories', editor Stephen Jones has chosen two of Wagner's most chilling Kane tales. In fact, for my money, UNDERTOW is the most flat out horrific Kane story of all. The last page stays with you long after you've finished the story. The other Kane yarn, REFLECTIONS FOR THE WINTER OF MY SOUL is definitely in my top five stories about Kane.
In addition to these stories, you also get Wagner's most famous and most reprinted story, STICKS, plus a few other short tales, some verse, and a never before published essay. All of this in a beautiful and well made little book. My pal Cliff Biggers and I were lamenting the days of the small press when publishers like Arkham House, Mirage, and Donald M. Grant turned out hardbacks of all sizes and shapes. You don't see nearly as much of that these days, but this small book from Borderlands is definitely the same sort of thing you'd have gotten from August Derleth back in the day. For fans of Karl Edward Wagner and for lovers of books, this collection gets my highest recommendation for style and content. Limited to 500 copies and available now.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Know Your Supermen

You say that DC REBIRTH has you dazed and confused? That you can't keep up with the different versions of Superman without a score card? Well here's a handy chart. Believe it or not, this is as simple as I could make it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Available for Pre-order for the Kindle

Look what's available for pre-order for Kindle. A big anthology with stories by Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, Richard Lee Byers, James A. Moore, some guy named Rutledge, and a whole lot more.  The trade paperback will follow the ebook. Mutant animals go berserk! The story by Jim Moore and me features a crossover between Jonathan Crowley and Carter Decamp.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Happy Birthday Christopher Lee!

Happy Birthday to Christopher Lee, shown here as The Duke De Richleau in my favorite of Lee's films, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

DC REBIRTH: First Thoughts


A few months back, when I was lamenting the whole Grim & Gritty tone of the current DC Comics universe, someone asked me what I would do to fix the problem. Since I felt that DC had lost its way five years ago with the reboot of their universe known as the NEW 52, and since that continuity was set in motion by a mini-series called FLASHPOINT, I said that I would write a mini series called FLASHBACK which would undo what the NEW 52 had done.
This week, DC Comics is pretty much doing what I suggested. The continuity altering mini-series is called REBIRTH, but it seems to be treading just the path I outlined, and in a weird metafictional twist, they’re actually acknowledging that their comics have become too grim and that there’s an internal reason for that. Someone with an incredible amount of power was actually influencing, corrupting, and changing the DCU. And that someone appears to be Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN.
Those of us who have been reading comics for the last five decades can remember the seismic shift in comic books that occurred in 1985 because of two comic mini-series, Moore’s WATCHMEN and Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT. Both painted grim, street level views of the super hero world. They were amazing and ground breaking series. Problem was, other creators, with far less talent than Moore and Miller latched on to the basic concept of a more ‘realistic’ take on super types, which ushered in the grim & gritty age.
So for DC to take WATCHMEN and integrate it into their current continuity as the villain of the piece, almost seems like a slap in the face to Moore. On the other hand, it’s a very clever and knowing thing to do.
The 80 page REBIRTH special, which kicks off the reboot, is written by Geoff Johns, and so of course it begins with The Flash. Johns is well known for writing some of the most popular adventures of the Scarlet Speedster, and Flash is a particular favorite of the writer. It’s tradition too, as some version of the Flash always seems to serve as a catalyst for change in the DCU. The Barry Allen version of The Flash was the first of DC’s ‘new’ heroes who ushered in the Silver Age of comics in 1956. He discovered the heroes of EARTH 2, introducing the concept of the DC Multiverse. He gave his life to save what was left of that Multiverse in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. He set the events of FLASHPOINT in motion.
This time, The Flash is Wally West, who began his career as Kid Flash, but took over as The Flash after the death of Barry Allen in the Crisis. Wally’s continuity was more or less wiped out after FLASHPOINT, and he shows up in REBIRTH as a sort of phantom from another reality, trying to break through and show the DC heroes that their world was fundamentally and INTENTIONALLY changed without their knowing it.
As Wally shifts in and out, trying to contact old friends and comrades, only to find that none of them remember him, we get to see the various DC heroes, many of who sense that on some level, they have lost something. In many cases what they have lost is love or friendship. Green Arrow and Black Canary miss one another without knowing that they were once a couple in another reality. Aquaman and Mera manage to reconnect. In the end it is friendship that brings Wally West back into the here and now.
What Johns seems to be saying is, “We know you missed these characters and these relationships. We screwed up. Let’s see if we can fix it.”
I also liked Johns’ take on Batman, reminding us that far from being a psychotic vigilante, Batman is still ‘the world’s greatest detective’ and if anyone can figure out what’s going on in a shifting reality, it’s the Dark Knight.
And Superman? My favorite DC hero? See my next post for Superman news.
Anyway, some of my more cynical friends don’t want to cut DC any slack or let them mend any bridges. They say that REBIRTH is just another reboot and they don’t think the company can change. Me, I’ve loved DC Comics since I was ten years old. If they want to try to get back the magic, then I’m sure as heck going to give them a chance. I’ll be blogging more about REBIRTH over the next few weeks. Let’s see where it goes.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Case of the Missing Blogger

Yikes, I've gone almost a month without posting. Things have been busy here, what can I say? I do have some interesting stuff going on and I'll try to get over here and blog about it soon.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

SNAFU: Unnatural Selection

Hot on the heels of the announcement about SNAFU: Black Ops, comes the table of contents of an anthology that will be out even sooner. This one contains a team-up between Jonathan Crowley and Carter Decamp.

Here's the toc for SNAFU: Unnatural Selection (in no particular order). Due for release August 2016.
James A Moore & Charles R. Rutledge
Richard Lee Byers
Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden
Michael McBride
Lee Murray
Justin A Coates
David W Amendola
David Beynon
B Michael Radburn
Justin Bell

Friday, April 22, 2016


The perfect MMO Trio. Tank Tryll, Healer Brielen, and DPS (Damage per Second) Kharrn. The Windriders of Rohan still doing what they do best and taking names too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

SNAFU: Black Ops Cover Reveal!

As promised, the SNAFU:BLACK OPS cover reveal, with updated contents list, revealing that my story with James A. Moore will feature Jim's signature character Jonathan Crowley teamed with my 12,000 year old Barbarian Kharrn.

And here's the cover art for SNAFU: Black Ops.
Again, the list of contributors for this one:
-- Jonathan Maberry with a Tom Imura/Joe Ledger crossover
-- Nicholas Sansbury Smith with an Extinction Cycle story
-- John O'Brien with a New World tale
-- Hank Schwaeble with a Jake Hatcher thrill-ride
-- James Lovegrove and N.X. Sharps with a Pantheon series narrative
-- Alan Baxter with an adventure set in the Alex Caine universe
-- Kirsten Cross
-- Richard Lee Byers
-- James A Moore & Charles R Rutledge with a Jonathan Crowley and Kharrn crossover
-- Tim Marquitz
-- Seth Skorkowsky
-- Christine Morgan
-- R.P.L Johnson

Sunday, April 17, 2016

SNAFU: Black Ops

Cohesion Press released this info today, so now I can too. A new anthology with a new story by me and my frequent collaborator James A. Moore.

SNAFU: Black Ops is coming toward the end of this year.
It's an invite-only SNAFU, with 13 ALL-ORIGINAL stories by some of the best writers around.
-- Jonathan Maberry with a Tom Imura/Joe Ledger crossover
-- Nicholas Sansbury Smith with an Extinction Cycle story
-- John O'Brien with a New World tale
-- Hank Schwaeble with a Jake Hatcher account
-- James Lovegrove and N.X. Sharps with a Pantheon series narrative
-- Kirsten Cross
-- Alan Baxter
-- Richard Lee Byers
-- James A Moore & Charles Rutledge
-- Tim Marquitz
-- Seth Skorkowsky
-- Christine Morgan
-- R.P.L Johnson

More info and hopefully a cover preview in the not too distant future.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Barbarian and the Palantir

Been a while since I posted a game pic. Weird bit of Lord of the Rings lore this morning in LotR Online. Denethor, the steward of Gondor shows Kharrn his Palantir or seeing stone, and Kharrn,as a phantom, sees Frodo, captive in Cirith Ungol. These are the things that make the grind of the MMO worth it. This was pretty creepy. I'm down to just barely playing the game these days, but I would like to see the One Ring get to Mount Doom.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I Told You So

   Back in May of last year, when I mentioned how glad I was to see 'MY' Superman in DC's Convergence, and how I hoped to see him in his own series again, I was told by a comic book insider, who assured me that he knew far more about the industry than me, that 'No one cares about that character, and that would never happen.'
   But it's happening. This June, the pre-Flashpoint Superman will be the lead in the reborn Action Comics, which will return the venerable comic book to it's original numbering.
    I rarely say 'I told you so.' But I'm saying it now.

 I told you so.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The King and His Queen

   Over on social media, I had referred to “That time that Batman ‘creator’ Bob Kane had been rude to Cliff Biggers and me, and Jack Kirby had set him straight.”
   Several folks had wanted to hear the story and my buddy Cliff wrote an excellent account of the incident, showing the vast difference in attitude and behavior between Kirby and Kane. I will refer you to that post at the end of this one. One thing that Cliff left out, probably because it makes me look like the fanboy goofball that I am, was that Jack’s amazing wife, Roz Kirby saved the day for me.
   See, back in 1989 I was attending my very first San Diego Comic Con, and I was there specifically to meet Jack Kirby, my all-time idol, as Ben Grimm would say, and probably the single most important creator in the history of comic books. During my first day at the con, I had seen Kirby walking around but I’d never worked up the nerve to approach him.
On Saturday night the convention held a dance in the main ballroom and Cliff and I had wandered in to see what was happening. The place was full of comics professionals and fans and it was really really loud. After we’d been there for a bit and talked to some folks we knew, Cliff nudged me and said, “Hey, there’s Jack Kirby. Come on and I’ll introduce you.”
   Cliff led me over to where Jack and Roz were standing and introduced himself (Cliff had recently interviewed Jack for Comic Shop News) and then me. Kirby shook my hand and told me he was glad to meet me, and I…
   For one of the few times in my life I was struck silent. This was Jack Kirby, the man who had created or co-created Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, The X-Men, the Silver Surfer, The New Gods, Mr. Miracle, and so many others. He was also my primary influence in those days when I wanted to be a comic book artist. He was, as I said, my hero.
   I’d like to think I mumbled that I was glad to meet him too, but I don’t actually remember it. After a couple of minutes, Roz mentioned that she wanted to get out of the noise, and she and Jack took their leave.
   Cliff and I left the ballroom soon after. I was feeling pretty dejected because I had my chance to meet JACK KIRBY and I blew it. We walked downstairs to the lobby, and Jack and Roz were sitting on a sofa in a corner near the stairs. I made eye contact with Roz and she waved us over. To this day, I will swear that Roz Kirby had seen how much I wanted to talk to Jack and how nervous I was, so she invited me and Cliff over.
   There weren’t any other chairs available, so Cliff and I sat cross-legged on the floor, literally at the feet of the master, and for the better part of an hour we talked with Jack and Roz. Much of it was about comics, of course, but Jack also told us some of his favorite World War Two stories. Years later, I would see some of those stories had made it in to Jack’s short run on DC’s The Losers.
   A funny bit was that I had recently written a short story about a guy traveling back in time to New York in the 1930s, where he had met Kirby, Eisner, and other Golden Age comic creators and with the research still fresh in my head, I asked several questions about when Jack and Roz were dating, and Roz was delighted to tell us all about those days.
Finally, Roz said they needed to head up to their room and rest for a bit. Cliff and I got up and as we were finishing our talk with the Kirbys, Bob Kane barged in.
But I’ll let Cliff tell you the rest.
I will always remember that talk with Jack Kirby, my hero, and the King of Comics. And I will never forget the kindness of his Queen, Roz Kirby.
Now go see what Cliff has to say.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This Just in: New Sexton Blake From Michael Moorcock

Sexton Blake Library 6.2

We're delighted to announce that the second title in the relaunched Sexton Blake Library will come from the incredibly talented pen of Michael Moorcock.
Mike will be completely re-writing his Blake novel CARIBBEAN CRISIS, restoring the novel to the something closer to his original intention, before editorial interference changed it!
(that's the original cover by the way - there'll be a new one for this entirely updated version!)

Further details - including how to pre-order - to follow as soon as we have them...

Respectfully Submitted For Your Approval...

   I was talking to a co-worker today who's planning on vacationing in Apalachicola Florida, on the Gulf Coast, next week. I mentioned that I had an aunt who used to live down there when I was a kid. A great aunt, really. Anyway, she moved away over twenty years ago and she passed away probably a decade back, but after talking about Apalach, as the natives called it, I wondered if I could use Google Earth to see her old house. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember her street address. When I got home from work, I called my mom and she found her old address book, and found the address. I looked it up and used Google Street View to drop down in front of my aunt's house.

   It looked EXACTLY THE SAME. It's been over thirty years since I was there, but I hadn't forgotten the odd burnt umber color of the exterior of the place. Whoever owns the house now has kept that weird color. It looks nice enough that it had to have been painted since my aunt owned it, but it looks EXACTLY THE SAME. The carport was empty, as if my aunt had just gone to the grocery store or something.

   Who knows? Maybe in the sun-blighted streets of an old coastal town, time has lost its meaning. A place where it's still the 1970s and my aunt still drives around like the former New Yorker she was, blaring her horn at anyone who gets too close. A small corner of eternity that can only be found in...The Twilight Zone.