Monday, December 27, 2010

Prequel story to Kobalos trilogy available

Blade and Flame (Prequel to The Kobalos Trilogy)I mentioned recently that I would have a short story for my Kobalos Trilogy available for purchase in e-book format.

That is now the case.

The story is titled Flame and Blade, it's right at 11,000 words in length and costs 99 cents.

If you are interested, it is available in the following formats:

For the Kindle

For the Kindle UK

For the Nook

For all other formats

Also, a word of warning: For anyone who has not read my Kobalos Trilogy, specifically the first novel City of Rogues, there are a few SPOILERS to be found in Flame and Blade. Just wanted to let you know.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday savings special

Okay, everybody is shopping for Christmas and looking to save some dough. So, I thought I'd do my part to help readers and potential readers save a little money.

Through the remainder of the holiday season, which means through January 2, my literary novel More Than Kin will be available in digital format for only 99 cents.

That's right. 99 cents!

For you Kindle readers, check out the image and link at the right.

For you Nook readers, follow this link.

For those with another type of e-reading device or who read on their computer, I suggest you go to Smashwords for the novel.

And here's a brief description of More Than Kin: Walt Johnson has been a rolling stone most of his life, moving from town to town and living on the edges of homelessness. Now he has run out of time as lung cancer has left him only months to live. Walt then begins a quest to find the son with whom he lost contact decades earlier. Out of money, he gets a job at a small-town restaurant in an attempt to save enough to buy a bus ticket to finhis son.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2011: The year of being creative

Digital publishing is obviously bringing major changes to the business end of fiction writing, but one thing I've not seen a lot of yet is experimentation with the structures and formatting of fiction.

What I mean is that, in the future, stories might often be told quite differently than in the traditional prose structure. Some publishers are already looking into and experimenting with e-books that go beyond the norm, that include videos and links and all kinds of stuff. But that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

A screenplay is about the best modern example that comes to my mind, though possibly also scripts for plays or even comic books. Would there be a sales potential in these forms of writing? Probably not much of one right now, but as more and more readers become accustomed to digital reading and more and more writers begin to experiment, I think a lot of things are going to change.

As writers, our dramatic options have been opened up big time. Most of us just haven't realized it yet.

Take for example, video games. If you're an older fan of video games, such as myself, you can remember back in the day when Pong was about the only video game available to play in arcades, other than maybe Sea Wolf. Then along came Space Invaders, and soon after that Pac-Man, and everything changed. For younger gamers, the same sort of thing happened nearly a decade back when Grand Theft Auto 3 became available; the video game world has not been the same since.

I'm predicting something like that will happen with writers and e-books.

Traditional prose novels will always be around, I figure, but I think there'll slowly begin to be more room for more experimental literature and experimental formatting and story structure.

Many writers are already noticing that digital publishing is giving them more freedom when it comes to length. Now, a novel doesn't have to be somewhere between 70,000 and 120,000 words to fit with print technology and readers' expectations. A novel can be broken up into several different novellas, sold separately. A novel can be sold by chapters. Or a novel can be 300,000 words long and sold as one great big package.

That's just the beginning.

More creativity will flow. Writers will begin to figure out other options, new ways to telling stories.

What got me to thinking about this is because I'm already planning on doing something similar for the coming year. I was pondering a blog post about expectations for next year when this hit me. Currently I'm working on a trilogy of novellas, which is in itself somewhat unusual and experimental, but I'm also planning a project that's a bit different.

How different? Probably not massively different, but something that's written for today's audiences, something written for those with shorter attention spans who often read on tiny little screens.

A novel written in a flash format? Not exactly, but maybe something like that. I still don't have all the logistics worked out. But it'll be a fast action story told in short bursts, with short chapters and side chapters and ... whatever comes to mind. It was my thinking about how scripts are written for video games that got me considering the idea, not that I'm going to write and release a game script.

But I've the novella trilogy to finish. And I do have other plans for 2011. We'll see where it leads.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis the season for giving

... and I can think of someone who needs help right now.

April Hamilton, who runs the Publetariat site for and about indie authors, is in dire straits. I won't go into all the details since she does enough of that on her site, but if you can donate even a dollar, it would be of help to this woman who is struggling.

Publetariat has been a huge help to many beginning indie authors, so if you're one of them, please keep April and her family in your thoughts this holiday season.

Donate by going to this link.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I am going to whore myself

Writers are whores. I've heard it said probably a thousand times, usually by writers.

I've decided to join that crowd, sort of.

No, I'm not ghost writing or joining the legions of writers who pen media-tie-in novels. I've not sunk that low yet. Okay, okay, I take that back. Some media-tie-in novels are pretty darn good, and it's a great way for many fiction writers to make a living while also gaining experience.

And now that I've shot my chances of ever selling a Star Wars novel or working for Wizards of the Coast ...

No, I've decided to whore myself in another way. My Kobalos Trilogy is my best-selling e-books of all my e-books. In fact, I'm feeding my family and paying the bills on those three e-books. I think part of what draws fantasy readers to my series is that I only charge 99 cents for the first novel, but then I charge $2.99 for books two and three.

I'd really like to charge more for that first novel because ... well, it's a novel. And I'd kind of like to make more money from it, to be blunt about it. The few times I've temporarily raised the price on that first novel, my sales start to plummet right away.

So, I've got this idea. I wrote an 11,000 word short story a while back that is a prequel to the Kobalos Trilogy. My thinking is that I'll put up the short story for 99 cents, see how well it does, and if it does really well then I can raise the price to the first novel in the series.

If it flops, well, then I've not lost anything.

The cover I'll be using for the short story is up top at the right. I've just a few minutes ago started editing the first draft of the tale, so hopefully I'll be finished with it and ready to upload it within the next day or two.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Buble ... and Sam

I'm not the biggest Michael Buble fan in the world. He's a cool cat and an excellent singer, but I'm more of a rock guy. Still, when the wife showed me this video, I knew I just had to post it. Even if Buble's music isn't your thing, watch this video all the way through. It's quite astonishing, and fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A change is afoot

Okay, I've decided to change the name of my blog to make it a little more friendly to the casual reader.

My old title, "Logical Misanthropy," was just fine 5 years ago when this was pretty much just a personal blog. But that ship has sailed. Readers and writers are starting to come to this blog, and I don't want anyone to be turned away by what they might consider an unfriendly blog title. Also, the search engines keep sending me people looking up the word "misanthropy," and I feel that's a disservice to them as this blog really has nothing to do with hatred of mankind.

Okay, well, not most of the time.

So, I need a new title.

Temporarily, I'm just slapping up some kind of title. Heck, I might even have fun with it and change it from time to time, at least until I settle on something for good.

Where do you come in?

I need suggestions for blog titles. I don't want something completely generic, but at the same time I don't want something so obscure that no one will understand it. I need something that will be a draw to readers and potential readers.

Something catchy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

No. 1 (for 2011), No. 31 (for 2010) - A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens

Started: December 7, 2010
Finished: January 10, 2011

Notes: Yes, I've said before and I'll say again that I hate Charles Dickens. I think his plots are strong and his characters iconic, but I cannot stand his prose. However, my other half wanted us to read this book together and I agreed to do it. Why not? I've not read any Dickens in a long, long while, so I'll give him another chance. And it's an excuse to read another novel on my new Kindle. Maybe I'll actually even enjoy myself. Whipped!

Mini review: For the most part, my opinion of Dickens' writing still remains. He has good characters and strong plots, but I cannot stand his prose. That being said, the ending to this novel was fantastic, truly historic in its own way.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Yes, I'm still writing

My current writing project is titled A Thousand Wounds: Part II of The Sword of Bayne. It's the sequel to my novella Bayne's Climb: Part I of The Sword of Bayne.

A Thousand Wounds is another novella, and it's also somewhat experimental. What I'm attempting to do with this novella is to re-create some of the fantasy from the 1960s that was somewhat unusual, almost with a science fiction touch, that focused upon traditional fantasy characters finding themselves in a "duck out of water" situation or world, strange worlds that offer technology, philosophies and peoples different from the traditional fantasy worlds.

This was almost a sub-genre of fantasy for about a decade, but it seems to have died off by the 1970s and I've seen none of it since, though perhaps I've just not read enough. And genres like cyber punk and science fantasy aren't the same thing.

Authors who worked in this unusual fantasy sort-of-sub-genre were Mervyn Peak, Andre Norton, and Jack Vance. The likes of Michael Moorcock even touched on the edges of this material, though his work tended to be more dark than that which I'm striving for.

Another interesting thing, at least to me, is that this Bayne series does tie in with my Kobalos Trilogy, though not directly. It's the same world, only nearly 2,000 years earlier.

Also, I have big, long-range plans for the characters and world within my Kobalos Trilogy, and the Bayne character's history will eventually play a more important role.

How big are my dreams for my fantasy world? I'm not talking about a series of 12 or 13 fantasy novels, like Robert Jordan or similar authors. No, my goals are nothing so small. I'm talking about a series of 12 to 15 trilogies. Of which I've only completed one, The Kobalos Trilogy, and that trilogy actually takes place in the middle of the overall story.

Of course I'm at work on the Bayne trilogy, which is a trilogy of novellas instead of novels. And I'm almost finished with the first draft of the second novella, A Thousand Wounds. Check out the image at right to see the possible cover for A Thousand Wounds.

By the way, the third novella in the Bayne trilogy is titled Under the Mountain.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

No. 30 - Reaper's Gale

Reaper's Gale: Book Seven of The Malazan Book of the Fallenby Steven Erikson

Started: December 4
Finished: December 27

Notes: I couldn't help myself. I read so much of the Malazan series this past year, I just had to read the next installment. One big reason for this is because I've caught up to everything I head read before, so this book is all new material for me. I'm really looking forward to it. This is definitely my favorite modern epic fantasy series, at least until I find another, which I find doubtful.

Mini review: I honestly didn't expect to finish this one this year, but I managed. Anyway, this series has been accused of having too many characters and too many plots and sub-plots and of the author using deus ex machina too often, and I never really felt that until this book. At more than 1,200 pages, for the first time in this series, I truly felt it could have lost a bunch of pages, at least 300. And I finally got what some complainants meant by the deus ex machina because there were a few situations in the end where the "saving grace" was a little out of the blue, at least for the overall series if not for this one particular novel (ie. characters who had never been around before suddenly showing up in this particular novel to save the day in the end ... then only to disappear in one fashion or another). But, that being said, the payoff in the end makes up for a lot. This is still the best fantasy series I've read in a long time, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No. 29 - The Weight of Blood

The Weight of Blood (The Half-Orcs, Book 1)by David Dalglish

Started: December 1
Finished: December 4

Notes: I've actually had this e-book for some little while now, but I've been holding off reading it because I expected to get a Kindle comes this Christmas. Well, Christmas came a little early this year, so I decided it was time to get reading. So, yeah, this is my first e-book read on my new Kindle. I've heard great things about this author and his Half-Orc series, of which this e-book is the first book, and I even interviewed him a while back. I love trying out new writers, and giving indie authors a shot. Here goes.

Mini review: A nice read. Well written with very, very few copy editing errors, which is uncommon for many indie books. The characters I loved, and found them quite interesting. If I have any complaints about this novel, there are two.

First, this has been called a dark fantasy by various reviewers, even the author. I have to disagree, but that's just my opinion. There are many awful things that happen in this novel, a good number of them committed by the protagonists, but they were not dwelt upon for any length. To me, "dark" literature is fiction that explores the emotional, even possibly spiritual depths, of human depravity, possibly even evil. I didn't feel that here. Others might. Again, just my opinion.

My second possible complaint about this novel would be the characters' motivations; frankly, I didn't feel they were explored nearly enough. As an example, if a character is willing to slaughter innocents, unless that character happens to be a true unfeeling psychopath, there needs to be very strong reasons why such a character would be willing to do such. I didn't think that was here. In other words, I would have liked to have seen much more of the two main characters' past. As is, to me it sort of felt like, "boo hoo, we were picked on as little kids, so now we're going to kill everyone ... but we still love each other." That rang false to me.

All that being said, I definitely enjoyed this fantasy novel and will be reading more from this author. And despite my faults with what I felt was lack of motivation for the characters, I still liked the characters quite a bit and would enjoy reading more about them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Bullets for Amy" is released.

My historical, sort-of hardboiled dark fantasy short story "Bullets for Amy" is now available in issue 8 of Arkham Tales from the fine folks at Leucrota Press.

Here's the spin:

The year is 1960. The place, Las Vegas. What's going down? A stand-up comic finds himself in over his head when his dancing girlfriend lands him in a hot spot with the local mob bosses. Who can save the day? Maybe nobody. Or perhaps a certain stage magician who has more tricks up his sleeves than Satan on a Sunday.

And yes, Jason, it's a Dee tale.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Love Reign O'er Me performed by Bettye LaVette

One of the greatest rock songs ever written, and performed in a fantastic, unique style.

I remember watching this with the wife when it was live on TV in 2008 when Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were honored at the Kennedy Center Honors. My wife is more of a jazz fan, thus loves Bettye, and I'm a rock fun, thus The Who, so this was a perfect mixture for both of us. I think by the time the song was over we were both in tears.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jealous, bitches!

That's right. I got a new Kindle today.

And towers did fall, kings were laid low and angels wept.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No. 28 - Genghis Khan: Emperor of All Men

by Harold Lamb

Started: November 25
Finished: December 1

Notes: Some while back I exchanged books with Jason M. Waltz, editor of Rogue Blades Entertainment, and I ended up with this Harold Lamb novel in the deal. If my memory serves correctly, Waltz also received a Lamb book from me, so it was an even exchange, in my opinion. I've had this older paperback for a while, so it's about time I got around to reading it. I've read some Lamb before, and found it quite interesting. I'm sure this historical novel will be the same.

Mini review: I have to admit to being a little disappointed, but I don't believe it is the author's fault. I believe my expectations were too high. The writing style is fine, so there wasn't a problem there. I'm familiar with some of Lamb's other writings, so it wasn't as it I was going in unprepared, but I felt there was a lot lacking here. The life and times of Genghis Khan felt glossed over to me, but then I might be too much to expect a scholarly treatise from what's basically a short paperback. I wanted more information, much more, but at least this book was a good place to peak my interest. My whining aside, I did learn a fair amount here. For one thing, I'd never realized just how completely brutal the Mongols were, with no respect for human life whatsoever. Also, I had not been aware to the extent the Mongol invasions had had against the incursion of Islam into Europe in the late Middle Ages. So, my eyes were definitely opened to a few things, and at some point I'll likely look more into the history of Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes of the 13th Century.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 100

This concludes my series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

War and PeaceI have only read War and Peace in the last year, but it not only confirmed some of my own personal thoughts on morality, it also has had quite the effect on my writings.

How could this be so from a book I've just read?

War and Peace is a big novel, one of the longest ever written, so it might turn off some readers because of its length. The novel might also turn off some readers because it was written and initially published in the 19th Century, so the writing might not ring well with the modern reader's ear. And if you're an English reader, you're likely going to have to read a translation from the Russian, which throws in potential other problems.

But for all that, I love this book. It was not a fast read for me, only about 10 pages a day, mainly because I was trying to study everything Tolstoy was trying to accomplish with each scene and the events and the characters.

Tolstoy's themes for this novel about the French invasion of Russia during the early 1800s approaches the Christian, if not outright being about some Christian ideas, and at the least is about morality. With the scope of this novel, Tolstoy's focus is upon various ideas, so don't expect preaching or a simplistic plot. I won't go into all the details, not only because I don't want to give anything away, but because I also want readers to think for themselves instead of me (or anyone else, for that matter) telling them what to expect from such a novel.

Writers can learn a lot from this novel, especially historical fiction writers and those who type away at lengthy, epic tales. The characters, the plot, the background, all is worth serious study here.

Also, I want to add, now that I've come to the conclusion of my "100 Days of Fantasy" series, I want to thank the readers for following me along. I'm considering another, related, series next year, but I'm not giving any clues as to what it will be about. At least not yet. I hope you've enjoyed following my list of 100 books that have influenced me as an author. Thank you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 99

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Wizard's First Rule
by Terry Goodkind

Wizard's First Rule (The Sword of Truth)Let me say right up front, Terry Goodkind is not my favorite author. He's not even my favorite fantasy author. He's a decent writer, but his prose doesn't blow my mind or anything. His plotting, as well, doesn't do much that's not already been done, nor are his characters all that unfamiliar.

But, admittedly, I say that having only read this one novel written by the man.

And I did, indeed, like the novel.

So, with all my seemingly less-than-stellar evaluation of the author, why do I like Wizard's First Rule.

One reason. The themes behind the tale.

I don't want to go into a whole philosophical history, and I'm definitely not interested in a debate, but Goodkind's writing is based around objectivism, a philosophy of the individual that's sort of a meant to be an atheistic super capitalism (my apologies for objectivists who find this description lacking ... but I'm not going to go on for thousands of words trying to explain objectivism, especially when the reader can check it out at elsewhere). Objectivism originally became somewhat influential through the writings of author Ayn Rand, a favorite author of mine.

One would think that with all my mushy goodness about objectivism that I would be a fan of the philosophy. I'm not. Or, at least, not in whole. I believe it is quite seriously lacking on a lot of philosophical fronts. But, that being said, I do believe objectivism offers a lot of positive aspects, the main one being a strong belief in the individual.

Ayn Rand, being the originator of the philosophy, is still the best writing on the subject matter. Also, she's about the only fiction author of whom I'm aware who has written objectivist literature.

With the exception of Goodkind.

One of the thing's I liked so well about Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule was that I was nearly three-fourths of the way through the novel before I realized, "Hey, this guy's writing objectivist fiction!" I was quite surprised, pleasantly, actually. Not only had I discovered another objectivist fiction author, but I'd found one who actually writes fantasy, one of my two favorite genres (the other being horror).

Now, allow me to backtrack just a little. I realize what I wrote at the beginning of this short article was less than flattering about Terry Goodkind's writing. I do not mean to imply he is an awful writer. No, not at all. But by comparison, he's no Rand.

Besides, he must know what he's doing. He's a best-selling author, after all.

Up next: War and Peace

Sunday, November 21, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 98

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Without Remorse
by Tom Clancy

WITHOUT REMORSEMost of Tom Clancy's military thriller novels tend to be told on a big scale. There's often some major threat to the United States, a threat which is dealt with a small group of people often lead by Clancy's Jack Ryan character. Not all of Clancy's novels fit this basic mold, but I'd say nine out of 10 of them do.

Not Without Remorse.

This is a personal tale, though it does span across decades and the world.

Enter Navy Seal John Kelly during the time of the Vietnam war. Six months after the death of his pregnant wife in an automobile accident, Kelly saves a prostitute from drug dealers. Only the drug dealers eventually find their vengeance, severely wounding Kelly with shotgun blasts and torturing and murdering the prostitute.

Eventually, Kelly heals, and helps himself to heal further through rigorous physical therapy. Then his own private war begins against the drug dealers.

But in all this mess, Kelly is called upon to return to Vietnam to recover several POWs.

The tale is more complex than that, but you get the gist of it. This is one of the more personal, though not autobiographical, tales from Tom Clancy and my favorite novel from him.

Clancy, who can write an action scene, is in top form in this book. His writing is tight, filled with action, though sometimes a little too righteous (though admittedly, this is a novel of personal vengeance, and you can't get much more righteous than that ... and Clancy's themes tend to be pretty righteous and self-righteous anyway).

Up next: Wizard's First Rule

Saturday, November 20, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 97

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Lord of the Rings, The: The Two TowersHasn't there really been enough talk, criticism and discussion about the Lord of the Rings?

But one thing I rarely see in all that discussion is the various benefits of each individual book in the series.

In my opinion, The Fellowship of the Ring is the best book of the trilogy. It contains great characterization, strong plotting and that strong feel Tolkien brings of doom overhanging a relatively benign world, specifically the artist-agricultural community of the hobbit characters.

The Return of the King also has many fine points. But for me, as a writer, I was always drawn to all that extra information included after the end of the actual story, all the history and linguistic stuff.

Then there's The Two Towers. This, the second novel in the trilogy, often seems to get short-shrifted. But that's kind of difficult to understand. For large sections of this book, not a whole lot seems to happen. SPOILER: Basically, pages upon pages are spent of Frodo and Sam, and later on Gollum, wandering through the woods or a swamp or parts of Mordor. It's just one, big long trek. For many readers, this is just downright boring. But for writers, there is much to be learned here.

Like what?

Much of that walking time in The Two Towers includes the inner thoughts, the inner struggle, with which Frodo is dealing as the carrier of the ring. To some, yes, all of this is boring. But to some readers, this is pertinent information, and it allows for building a bond with Frodo and the other characters.

Writers can learn from this. No, one does not want to be a boring writer, but still, there are lessons here on how and how not to proceed with the inner mental workings of a character or characters. The tension is building in Frodo as he nears Mount Doom with the ring. Will he have the strength to drop the ring to its own doom? Or will the ring consume Frodo, making him an element of evil?

Most readers know the tale and how it ends, as do many movie goers, so I won't give anything away. But I will warn fantasy writers not to dismiss The Two Towers.

Up next: Without Remorse

Friday, November 19, 2010

"More Than Kin" now available

More Than KinMy Appalachian literary novel More Than Kin is now available in e-book format.

But first, what is the novel about?

Here's the description: Walt Johnson has been a rolling stone most of his life, moving from town to town and living on the edges of homelessness. Now he has run out of time as lung cancer has left him only months to live. Walt then begins a quest to find the son with whom he lost contact decades earlier. Out of money, he lands a job at a small-town restaurant in an attempt to save enough to buy a bus ticket to the last known whereabouts of his son. The friends Walt makes at his new job soon become family for him, especially 14-year-old Danny who is emotionally paralyzed at the loss of his own father in Iraq. Faced with Danny’s struggles to grow up and the struggles of his other new friends, Walt comes to realize he is not only on a journey to find his own son, but he is on a journey to find himself worthy of being a father.

If you are interested, More Than Kin is available in multiple formats at the following places.

For Amazon's Kindle

For Amazon's UK Kindle customers

For the Nook from Barnes & Noble

From Smashwords

And don't forget to check out the trailer for More Than Kin:

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 96

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Last Unicorn
by Peter S. Beagle

The Last UnicornSometimes we all feel alone. And that is where the novel The Last Unicorn begins, with the protagonist alone.

The tale is about a unicorn who believes she is the last of her kind in the world. Feeling lonely and wondering what has happened to all her kin, she sets out on a journey to discover what has happened to all the other unicorns. Along the way she has myriad adventurers, makes new friends and a few enemies, and discovers much about her world and herself. Eventually, yes, she finds out what happened to the other unicorns, and it is not something nice.

Is this a tale of woe? No, not really. There definitely are some sad elements to this tale, but there is also some glory to be found in the end. Still, this is a tale of regrets, once it's all said and done.

The writing here is superb, without being overly difficult nor overly literary, though still not quite simple.

The characters are beautifully drawn by the author's words, giving the reader not only excellent visual ideas of these creations, but also an emotional enforcement that settles the characters in one's mind for a long time after reading the story.

I first came to this tale in 1982 when Rankin/Bass released an animated film of The Last Unicorn. I was enthralled by the tale, and being a young fantasy writer wannabe, I set out to find and read the book.

I'm more than glad I did, because it is one of the best single, stand-alone fantasy novels I've ever read. I've picked up a couple of Beagle's other books over the years, and while I found nothing truly wrong with them, I also did not find them extraordinary. Too bad, because I love The Last Unicorn. Maybe I should check out some of the author's other writings.

Up next: The Two Towers

Thursday, November 18, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 95

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome DoveI came relatively late to this 1985 Pulitzer-winning novel. The 1989 television movie came first for me, and I fell in love with the sweeping story and the epic characters.

Then I read the book.

And it put the TV movie to shame, as good as it is.

The plot is basically about some old-timers, former Texas Rangers, who decide to herd cattle from Texas to Montana. But that doesn't cover anything. There are multiple, complex sub-plots going on throughout this tale, and the characters themselves are quite complex and interesting. I won't say much more, because I don't like to give away too many details for readers who have yet to discover a book.

It's funny, in a way. Some of my favorite novels are Westerns, as are quite a few of my favorite movies. But, for the most part, I don't enjoy Western literature all that much. I've tried, but a lot of it comes off as overly simplistic and often unbelievable to me. That's why I usually stick with Western history in my reading instead of Western fiction.

Which is probably one reason I love this book, besides the quality writing. This tale is based upon real characters and real events, though the names have been changed and I'm sure events have been embellished upon for dramatic effect.

Still, if every Western were written like this one, I'm sure I'd be a much bigger fan of the literary genre.

Heck, I might even decide to write a few Westerns.

Up next: The Last Unicorn

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 94

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author

Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters
by Bill O'Neal

Encyclopedia of Western GunfightersThis book is pretty much what the title tells you. It has many, many sections on most every known historical gunfighter and gunfight from the Old West of American history.

In many ways, this is not the most exciting of reading because it breaks events down and reports them pretty directly, almost as would a high school history book. But that's actually one of the things I love about this book. It doesn't romanticize gunfights of the Wild West, but tells them as history has recorded them.

There is some opinionated writing here from time to time, and the author does not get his facts correct every single time (at least in my opinion), but I'm willing to let much of that slide for the reason that much of the history of America's West isn't all that dependable anyway, especially when it comes to gunfights.

Of course you'll find the famous gunslingers and fights here. The O.K. Coral, obviously. Wyatt Earp. John Wesley Hardin. Wild Bill Hickok. Names most armchair historians would recognize. But you'll also find out quite a bit about lesser known gunfighters, and you'll likely even be surprised when some people and events pop up that you've never heard of.

The author went to some extremes to find out his information.

As can be expected, for the most part, these are not gunfights as Hollywood portrays them. In fact, there's maybe only three or four out of hundreds upon hundreds listed here that would be anything close to what Hollywood often portrays as a Western gunfight.

On the other side of that, there are a few gunfights here in which such wild and crazy things happen that it makes one think of the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction."

If you want to write about this time period, or if you're just a history buff, I highly suggest you pick up this book.

Up next: Lonesome Dove

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 93

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

Ancient Inventions
by Peter James and Nick Thorpe

Ancient InventionsA fiction writer can learn a lot from non-fiction. In my case, mainly being a fantasy writer, I often learn quite a bit from books about history.

In this particular case, the book Ancient Inventions helped me learn just how intelligent and ingenious were ancient humans thousands of years ago.

Did you know ancient Romans had computers of sorts?

Did you know ancient Persians had batteries?

And did you know ancient Greeks had robots of sorts?

Probably not. Neither did I until read this book.

Now, I don't want to stretch things too far. The ancient computers and robots I mentioned above were not electrical, but mechanical devices, but they still qualify as rudimentary devices in their own right and would have been useful even a hundred years ago in the modern world.

And those batteries in ancient Persia? Archaeologists, historians and scientists are still not sure how or why ancient peoples in Persia had batteries. Did they even realize just what it was they did have?

As a fantasy writer, I feel sometimes those of us writing in pseudo-historical worlds sometimes rely a little too much on magic. We want something fancy to happen, so we say it was caused by magic. But in the real world, the ancient peoples were just as intelligent as we are today, they just hadn't been around long enough yet to make all the discoveries we consider commonplace today. For instance, mankind has only been using electricity commercially for not even two hundred years; that's a pretty short period of time, historically.

This book abounds with plenty of other inventions of ancient technologies, covering everything from ancient warfare to even sexual devices. If you want to learn, read this book. I'm sure there'll be more than a few surprises.

One last one: Brain surgery. Yes, the ancients could even perform brain surgery.

Up next: Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is book store's bankruptcy a sign of things to come?

In November of 1986 in Lexington, Kentucky, Joseph-Beth Booksellers opened the door of its first store. Operating as a successful independent book store and named the "1989 Small Business of the Year" by Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, the company soon expanded in the 1990s, eventually operating seven stores with the Joseph-Beth name and two stores as Davis-Kidd Booksellers. By the late 1990s, the company had stores in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately for book lovers, much of that is coming to an end.

On November 11, 2010, Joseph-Beth Booksellers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to give itself time to restructure within the company in hopes of surviving as a business. To that end, several stores will be closing, including a store in Cleveland, Ohio; one in Nashville, Tennessee; another in Charlotte, North Carolina; and one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At least for the time being, there are no announcements of further stores closing.

If this were the only business within the book industry that is facing hard times, this might just be the story of one business forcing itself to make changes.

But possibly this is a sign of the future.

Rumors abound about the book store chain Borders potentially filling for bankruptcy, and the king of book selling, Barnes & Noble, is not free of such speculation, either. Even book publishers seem to be struggling to thrive, possibly even to survive, with the new digital publishing looming.

What is bringing about these tough times for the book industry?

Ask writers, readers, publishers and editors and you will get a lot of different answers. People don't read like they used to. Books have become too expensive due to printing and paper costs. Digital publishing is destroying traditional print publishing. The economy. The Internet. Amazon.

But the book publishing industry has long been one to predict the sky is falling. Ask anyone who has been in the business for at least a couple of decades, and it's easy enough to find this out.

It's obvious the book industry is going through major, potentially painful changes. As for what is causing these changes, the smart answer would be "multiple things," including all of those mentioned above.

Are people reading less? Dozens of newspaper and media articles seem to say so.

And the economy and changes in technology are obviously rearing their heads.

Does all this mean more and more book-related companies will be filing for bankruptcy? Possibly even going out of business?

The truthful answer is, nobody knows.

But the smart money would be on "yes."

With digital publishing, mainly through e-books, the book industry is changing every day. Most in the business tend to believe e-books will never completely take over printed books, but those with smarts realize e-books still might be able to take up as much as 50 percent of the book market, or possibly even more, and only in a matter of years. How many years? Some say two. Some five. Others, fifty. No one knows for sure.

But it's a solid bet that with e-reading devices such as the Kindle and Nook becoming more common, and e-reader publishing sites such as Smashwords drawing in more publishers and indie writers, e-books are here to stay and will continue to be a growing segment of the reading market. Plus, more and more people are reading on their computers or through apps.

Whatever will happen with the print book industry, everyone knows it's going to change.

But for those of us who love books and reading, let's hope there will be as few bankruptcies and company closings as possibly. Even with a Kindle in our hands, many of us still love to stroll through book stores and many of us still like to have actual print copies of our favorite books.

And for those who love Joseph Beth Booksellers, who perhaps even grew up with the store and love it, do not be overly worried. At least not yet. The company is not going out of business, and the main store in Lexington, Kentucky, is still there. Who knows? Perhaps this restructuring will make the company stronger, and it'll be around for a long, long time.

Book lovers can only hope so. Especially me, because Joseph-Beth was the book store I grew up with, and I'd hate to see it gone.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 92

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by Alan Moore

WatchmenSomeone is killing masked heroes. But who could it be? Since society banned super heroes some years back, the remaining super villains are all too old, dying off or being murdered themselves.

Thus is the basic beginning plot of the graphic novel Watchmen. And it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe of the 1980s in which Nixon is still president and technology is slightly advanced over what we have in the real world. Oh, yeah, and they have super heroes. Actually, all but one could be called masked heroes but not super heroes because they don't have any real super powers but are just great with their fists and have some special gadgets; but then you have Dr. Manhattan, who is the most powerful being on Earth, practically a god.

All of this will sound familiar if you've seen the movie version of Watchmen. But if all you know is the movie, then you're missing out on a lot. Yes, I'll grant you the movie isn't bad, and it has quality special effects, fair acting (sometimes actually good acting) and the plot is okay.

But the graphic novel version is by far superior when it comes to character development and plotting. You get to know the characters quite a bit more, and for the most part these are complex characters, not just cookie cutter figures. Also, while the plots between the film version and the graphic novel are quite similar, they also are quite different, especially near the climax.

And then there are tons of sub-plots and side stories and ... and just little things in the background ... that the movie doesn't touch upon.

I won't say Watchmen is my all-time favorite story told in a graphic format. Neil Gaiman has earned that, in my opinion. But Watchmen comes darn close, and it's told in a more mainstream (thus accessible) fashion than many other great graphic novels.

Up next: Ancient Inventions

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another technical breakthrough

Okay, maybe not.

But after joining all the hip cats over at Facebook and Twitter, now I've also jumped onto the tumblr bandwagon.

Will it last? I don't know.

Will it do anything for me? I don't know.

Will it help my career as a writer? I don't know.

Will it be a big, colossal waste of time? Probably.

Only way to find out, though, is by diving right in.

So, now you can also find me over at tumblr.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 91

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Books of Magic
by Neil Gaiman

The Books of MagicIn 1989, DC Comics under its Vertigo title released a four-issue limited series of comic books known as The Books of Magic. A couple of years later that series was collected into a graphic novel format and then released to the reading public.

The series was popular enough that soon afterward the comic was made into a regular series.

The original four-part series was written by the excellent Neil Gaiman, with artwork by various artists, all quite good.

The original story lines concerns a British boy, Tim Hunter, who is contacted by four powerful mages of the modern age. Tim is told it is his destiny to be the most powerful wizard of his time, but is given the opportunity to turn aside from such a destiny. To help Tim make his decision, and to let him know some of what he's in four, each of these four mages takes Tim on a journey. One mage takes Tim to the past, and shows him many occult entities and events. Another shows Tim around the present world of magic. Yet another takes Tim to other mystical realms. And finally, Tim goes on a tour of the future.

Unfortunately, I've made this sound all rather dull. That's because I cannot compete, and have no intention of competing, with the likes of Neil Gaiman. It would be a foolish writer who would do so.

But imagine Harry Potter living in a much, much darker universe than that of Hogwart's. If you can imagine that, you'll have a pretty good idea of the world of Timothy Hunter.

Honestly, I find The Books of Magic to contain some of Gaiman's strongest writing every, in my opinion. And not all is dark here. There is also plenty of humor, though some of it is dark humor.

If you love graphic novels, reading about the occult or just like Neil Gaiman's writing, do yourself a favor and snag up The Books of Magic. You won't regret it.

Up next: Watchmen

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cheap Bowie knife

From time to time I post about weapons I have personally owned or have, at the least, used enough to have more than just some familiarity with them. One might ask, "Why does a writer post about weapons?"

Two reasons:

1.) I write fiction. A lot of fiction has weapons. I like to know what I'm writing about. Unfortunately, I've run across too many writers who don't know anything about weapons, and often enough it shows through in their work.

2.) I enjoy studying, reading about and using practically ... weapons, of all types and all cultures and historical eras. That simple.

Today, I'm writing about my favorite knife. It's a cheap stainless steel Bowie knife I think I paid something like $20 for. This is actually my second of such knives, the first one having been given to a friend some years ago.

Anyway, I can't tell you what company makes this knife. There was no manufacturer name on the box nor on the knife itself nor on the leather sheath.

By all reasoning, this should be a crap knife. First, it's only stainless steel instead of high carbon steel (aka. battle-ready steel). The blade is made in Pakistan, which in my experience is not a great place for making sharp instruments. And it's rough all the way around, obviously almost home-made, though more likely slapped together in some sweatshop.

Still, I love this knife. It's a good, solid piece of metal. No, I wouldn't want to take on a grizzly bear with it, even if it is 15 inches long, but for around the camp site or just out in the woods, it serves its purposes. And what are its purposes? 1.) As a tool for whatever purposes I need it for, and 2.) to make me feel just a tad better about being in the woods without a firearm (and for any gun haters who think I'm a nut for wanting to pack along a firearm when I'm out in the woods ... all I can say is, you apparently haven't had the same experiences back in the woods that I've had).

So, yeah, it's just a cheap knife of not-so-great quality. But the price was right and it does what I need it to. And again, I'm not hunting boar with it (though, now that I think about it ... hmm, it might make a good spear head), and it's not as if I'm storming the beaches of Iwo Jima or something.

Another reason I like this knife is for its simplicity. No fancy clips. No artsy engravings. Just a big, long blade, a wooden handle and a brass cross-guard.

My "More Than Kin" ebook trailer

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 90

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

Mysteries of the Unexplained
edited by Carrol C. Calkins

Mysteries of the UnexplainedThis non-fiction book has some personal importance for me. My grandfather bought it for me when I was about ten. He wasn't a man for literature, but he knew I loved books and each year he got me a subscription to Reader's Digest magazine and from time to time he would be me specific books that were published by Reader's Digest. This was one such book. My favorite, in fact.

Though I was young, I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer someday. At the time, my interests were mainly in fantasy, though I would discover horror in a few more years. I was also always interested in history, and things that seemed just a bit odd.

This book brought all of that together, my love for history, fantasy and things that were odd.

Mysteries of the Unexplained is a sizable book, physically and in its number of pages, and within there are tons and tons of articles about histories of world histories, covering such topics as the occult, ghosts, vampires, mysterious disappearances, mysterious historical figures, ESP, UFOs, alien abductions, etc.

For the young me, this was like having an encyclopedia of the supernatural. In one book, I could find out at least the basics on just about everything weird and unusual that I could ever want to know about. Keep in mind, this was decades before the World Wide Web came along, and while I could have found much of this information in a big library, it was a matter of pride for me that I had all this information at home in my room.

And it was good, interesting reading. No dusty, boring text here. There were also plenty of images to keep a boy's interest, from photos to maps to what today I realize is smart book design.

I couldn't have asked for anything better as a boy, and my grandfather realized this to some extent or other.

Even today, I'll turn to this book from time to time when I'm want a refresher about a piece of occult history, or a fact about a mysterious figure out of history, etc.

Thanks, granpa.

Up next: The Books of Magic

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NY Times to add e-book best seller rankings

The New York TimesIn case you haven't already heard, the New York Times has announced that after the first of the year it will add rankings of e-book best sellers.

No, those rankings won't be decided only upon Amazon's listings, which is as it should be. Amazon might be King, but the pie is growing larger all the time.

Actually, it's somewhat mysterious how the NYT will put together this ranking list, but I don't think it's anything to be concerned about. No conspiracy theories here. The NYT book rankings have always been somewhat complicated, based upon figures from different sources, including retailers, data-tracking companies such as Royalty Share, etc.

One thing this means for indie writers is that this opens up yet another door for the indies to compete with the big print publishers. If an indie writer can really push his or her e-book, with some help and some luck it's not impossible that writer couldn't make it onto those NYT rankings.

Good luck trying, everybody.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 89

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as an author.

The Midnight Sun
by Karl Edward Wagner

The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of KaneDuring his much-too-short life of only 49 years, Karl Edward Wagner was known for a few things. He was known as a horror/dark fantasy author, mainly the stories and novels involving his Kane character. He was also known as the editor of numerous horror anthologies. And he was known to party hard.

I first discovered the writings the Wagner through this book, The Midnight Sun, a collection of his Kane short stories. This particular book was published in the early 2000s by Night Shade Books, a known publisher of fine works of speculative fiction.

Why did I get this book? Well, I had heard of Wagner as an editor, but I had never experienced his actual writing despite being told by numerous sources that he was a quality author. Also, I myself tend toward mixing fantasy and horror in my own writings, and I had heard Wagner was known for this.

But the book was difficult to find when I went searching for it. No book stores had it. The publisher, at least at the time, was no longer printing it. And Wagner's older works, his novels, were particularly difficult to find, and I spent weeks upon weeks scouring used book stores for anything by Wagner. Then one night I was scanning through eBay, and sure enough, this book was available.

I snagged it up, and a few days later the book arrived in the mail.

I've been thankful ever since, and hold this book in high regard.

Wagner's short stories in this collection pinpointed particular times in the life of his Kane character, initially a swordwielding mage of extreme power who is immortal. Eventually the reader figures out this Kane is actually the Cain from the Bible, or at least some version of Abel's brother. The reader also discovers that Kane is quite ruthless and possibly insane. Also, being immortal, Kane exists in many worlds in many different times. Some of the stories in this collection are in another world seemingly far in the past, but a handful of the tales are set in modern times. Throughout these stories, Kane seems to have one goal, vengeance against God, and Kane often goes to extremes in searching out this vengeance.

Kane is rarely likable, though he can at times be somewhat honorable. Often he is ruthless to the point of betrayal, even to savagery.

He doesn't sound like a very nice person, now does he?

That's because he's not.

But his tales are still fantastic. The writing is strong here, mixing darker elements into fantastic worlds in a manner as strong as the writings of Lovecraft but sometimes with the pop culture knowledge of Stephen King. Many of these tales are not for the weak of heart, though a few are downright sentimental.

More than anything, Karl Edward Wagner showed me how horror elements could be mixed with Sword & Sorcery fantasy and still come off strong, quite strong, when done correctly. As a writer, I can only dream to be a hundredth as good as the tales in this collection.

Up next: Mysteries of the Unexplained

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guns N' Roses lyrics

Coma is my favorite song from Guns N' Roses, though it's not a tune you'll hear on the radio, and not often in concert by the band because it is a difficult song to sing. In an interview, Axle Rose once said, "I think one of the best things that I've ever written was maybe the end segment of the song 'Coma.' " And I can understand why. It's an intensive song, and the ending can be quite gut wrenching to listen to.

Or, at least, that's how I feel about.

So, here are my favorite lyrics from the song, taken from that "end segment" Axle mentioned. I think it's his best writing to date. Make sense of it, if you can.


You live your life like it's a coma
So won't you tell me why we'd want to
With all the reasons you give it's
It's kind of hard to believe.

But who am I to tell you that I've
Seen any reason why you should stay,
Maybe we'd be better off
Without you anyway.

You got a one way ticket
On your last chance ride
Got a one way ticket
To your suicide,
Got a one way ticket
And there's no way out alive.

And all this crass communication
That has left you in the cold
Isn't much for consolation
When you feel so weak and old
But if home is where the heart is
Then there's stories to be told,
No you don't need a doctor
No one else can heal your soul.

Got your mind in submission
Got your life on the line
But nobody pulled the trigger
They just stepped aside
They be down by the water
While you watch them waving goodbye.

They be calling in the morning
They be hanging on the phone
They be waiting for an answer
When you know nobody's home
And when the bell's stopped ringing
It was nobody's fault but your own.

There were always ample warnings
There were always subtle signs
And you would have seen it coming
But we gave you too much time
And when you said
That no one's listening
Why'd your best friend drop a dime
Sometimes we get so tired of waiting
For a way to spend our time.

And it's so easy to be social
It's so easy to be cool
Yeah it's easy to be hungry
When you ain't got shit to lose
And I wish that I could help you
With what you hope to find
But I'm still out here waiting
Watching reruns of my life
When you reach the point of breaking
Know it's going to take some time
To heal the broken memories
That another man would need
Just to survive

10 manufacturers of quality firearms in Italy

Some of the best and most beautiful firearms in the world, whether for civilians or law enforcement or military, are made in Italy. From shotguns for hunters, remakes of historical firearms for collectors, and more, Italy spouts numerous manufacturers of quality weapons.


Gun enthusiasts, military veterans and law enforcement throughout the world all know about Beretta. This company is the most famous of all Italian firearms manufacturers, mainly because numerous military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies throughout the world have selected Beretta weapons, often sidearms, for use. And it's no wonder. Beretta makes some fantastic weapons, from its famous pistols to quality shotguns and sometimes even futuristic-looking firearms, including sub-machine guns. Beretta weapons are not cheap, at least not compared to lesser manufacturers, but the prices are still usually within reasonability, especially considering the quality. Having been owned by the Beretta family for more than 500 years now, this company has expanded and now has plants outside of Italy, including one in Accokeek, Maryland, in the U.S.

Chiappa Firearms

This company is one of the more versatile listed here, at least when it comes to the variety of firearms they manufacture and sell. They make plenty of modern versions of historic firearms, making this company popular with re-enactors and the the cowboy shooting crowd, but they also make several modern firearms, drawing some support from the self defense folks, enthusiasts, competitors and collectors. This company even makes and sells some black powder weapons. The company is stationed out of Brescia, Italy, but they also have a U.S. headquarters in Dayton, Ohio. I don't have any experience with Chiappa firearms, but I've known several people who have and they have nothing but good to say. Oh, and the prices aren't too steep, either.

Caesar Guerini

If money is no object or you're willing to take out a decent-sized loan, and you love the idea of owning a fine shotgun for hunting or trap shooting, you will want to consider Caesar Guerini. Operating out of the Gardoneval Trompia, as do several companies on this list, this manufacturer puts out over-and-under shotguns, semi-auto shotguns and several competition shotguns mainly for trap shooting. You were warned, however, because the prices of these firearms run into the thousands of dollars. The guns from this manufacturer are quite beautiful, though they tend to be not as artsy as those of some others on this list.

Zanardini Arms

Bolt action rifles. Double barrel rifles. Big game rifles. All these and more are made by the folks at ZanardiniArms in the Gardone Val Trompia in Italy, a region famous for fine firearms manufacturing. These guns are quite unique, featuring engravings that are beautiful piece of art. There are several other gun manufacturers on this list that make beautiful weapons, but personally, my favorite for artistic value is Zanardini Arms. Please click on the title to check out the weapons from this gun maker, because these guns are truly a sight to behold. Keep in mind, these guns are expensive, running into the thousands upon thousands of dollars, so they're not for everyone's budget. Still, the craftsmanship is solid and inspiring.


This company, working out of the Gardone Val Trompia, focuses upon making replicas of historic American firearms, which makes Uberti popular among cowboy action shooters, civil war re-enactors, and collectors.Uberti's weapons mostly are from the American 19th Century period, and the company has a wide variety of lever-action rifles, single-action pistols and other firearms of that time. I've personally owned a couple of Ubertirevolvers, both 1875 Outlaws (modern remakes of Remington revolvers first made in 1875), and I have nothing but good to say about those two handguns; they were of quality make and performed like a dream, being better guns than I am a shot, to be honest. There's long been a rumor that film director Sergio Leone usedUberti firearms in the 1960s for his Dollars Trilogy movies, but I do not know if this is true or not. Also, I wanted to add that Uberti's pricing is quite reasonable, in my opinion, and they also make and sell black powder arms.

Luciano Bosis

Like several other gun makers on this list, this company works out of Brescia, Italy. I don't want to sound snooty about it, but if you have to ask about the prices of these weapons, you probably can't afford one. Yes, they're that expensive. I'm talking put-off-paying-for-your-kid's-college expensive. But that's to be expected from such fine, quality collectibles as the classic shotguns made by this company.


This company is probably best known for its competition handguns, but they also make pistol parts for a fewmilitaries. If you are into serious pistol competition, you probably want to take a look at the guns by this company, made in the Gardone val Trompia of Brescia, Italy. One nice thing about guns from this manufacturer are the prices. No, these aren't cheap weapons, but considering they're mainly competition pistols, the prices aren't too bad, usually in the range of $700 to $3,000 (U.S.)

Perugini & Visini Armi

If you are into collecting beautiful firearms that can be considered artwork, this might be the company for you.Perugini & Visini focuses almost entirely upon hunting firearms, double-barrel shotguns, over-and-under shotguns, double-barrel rifles and even a single-shot rifle. These guns are beautiful. They are so nice, I'd almost be scared to fire one. Especially considering the prices! If you plan on buying a weapon from this manufacturer, be prepared to get a second mortgage on your house, because these firearms, new, are going for $25,000 (U.S.) and higher. But considering each of this company's weapons are handmade and made to order, you can expect the quality to be high. This gunmaker works out of Nuvolera, Brescia, Italy.

Fratelli Poli

I wanted to point out in case you've not noticed by now, that while most of the links to these firearms manufacturers lead to pages in Italian, nearly all of them offer translation pages in English and sometimes other pages. Okay, now if you are into shotguns that look like pieces of art but are also quite functional and of fine quality, this is the manufacturer for you. Most of these are double barrels, though there is one single barrel, and all of them have fantastic engravings that must be seen to believe. Truly, these shotguns are artwork to make any artist proud. Like a few other companies listed here, this one works out of the ValleTrompia in northern Italy, a region known for firearms manufacturing.

Famars Abbiatico & Salvinelli

When you think of big bore rifles used for hunting big African game, this is one of the companies that comes to mind. This company makes several varieties of shotguns, but also some rifles for big game hunting. These are just pretty weapons, with fine engraving work all over the metal and polished woods that can make you teary-eyed just looking at them. Okay, I'll admit to some exaggeration, but these are darn fine weapons to behold. And the quality craftsmanship shows through, as well. The one drawback for many firearms enthusiasts is the pricing. Guns from this company tend to cost more than $10,000 (U.S.), so be prepared for some sticker shock. It's up to you whether or not the price is worth it. Can you guess where these fine firearms are made? If you guessed the Gardone val Trompia, you are correct.

Armi Piotti

Okay, I lied. If you've kept count so far, this would actually be firearm manufacturer No. 11. I just couldn't help myself. There are so many great companies in Italy that make solid, great-looking guns, I just had to add a bonus company. Working out of the Valle Trompia in northern Italy, this company produces some of the finest shotguns in the world for hunters and collectors, though considering the prices, probably mostly for collectors. How much do these guns cost? Usually five figures. I'm not kidding. You could spend as much money on a Piottishotgun as you would for an automobile. But this company's shotguns are beautiful, each being unique, and are quite impressive. These shotguns are all double barrels, some being side-by-side and others over-and-unders. One unique shotgun this company manufactures is its Mod. Serpentine Side Lever, which houses the lever for breaking the gun open on one side instead of on top, which is much more common.

Ty Johnston is the author of a number of fantasy and horror novels and other books, and he writes weekly articles for the role-playing gamer site Nerdarchy.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 88

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as fantasy author.

The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings Series, Part 3)Do I really need to go into The Lord of the Rings? I mean, come on, the thing is about as popular as the Bible anymore. It seems everyone has read the books, seen the movies, played the video games, etc.

It's a quest story to save the world, okay.

There, enough said on the plot. If you've lived under a rock for the last few decades and aren't at least familiar with The Lord of the Rings epic fantasy trilogy, then you probably should be. It's like Star Wars. A common part of pop culture everyone should be aware of.

Sound a little testy there, don't I? But I don't mean to be. And no, I don't hate this series of books or anything like that. I've enjoyed them immensely over the years, and read each of the books multiple times, but I kind of feel, "been there, done that, slew some orcs, bought the T-shirt."

It's like having to listen to Sweet Home Alabama or Stairway to Heaven one more time. I don't really need to.


But that being said, The Lord of the Rings has a lot to teach writers, specifically fantasy writers. Heck, most modern fantasy fiction somehow or other has Tolkien to thank in one way, shape or form. If nothing else, his popularity and that of his books helped lead to the popularity fantasy literature enjoys today.

What can a fantasy writer learn from The Lord of the Rings, specifically the final novel of the trilogy, The Return of the King? How about immersion. What am I talking about? About making your world real to your readers. About bringing breath to your characters and textures to the world they walk in.

The story of The Lord of the Rings itself shows Tolkien's work about building a world and a plot that immerses the reader into his fictional reality. But more importantly, at least in my opinion, were all the extra appendices Tolkien stuck in at the end of The Return of the King. Remember that stuff? The pages of history about Middle Earth. The text about the languages of Middle Earth. The religions, etc.

I'm not saying a writer has to include all that information in his or her stories and novels, but some readers enjoy that stuff. And, at the least, the writer should be vaguely aware of that type of information. If not, then your world could feel sort of flat and dull to readers.

So, that's one thing I learned from Tolkien, and I thank him for it.

Up next: The Midnight Sun

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 87

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Fantastic Four #200
by Marv Wolfman

Fantastic Four #200I've never minced words about my being a writer who was influenced by comic books at a young age. If not for comic books back in the 1970s, I might never have become a lover of reading and eventually moved onto reading prose works.

But of all the comic book stories I read back then, one of my favorite has always been the multi-part tale that lead up to issue number 200 of the Fantastic Four comic book.

What happened? Doctor Doom, a longtime foe of the Fantastic Four, kidnaps some of the members of the super group. Then he uses them to clone himself a son, a super super-powered being who eventually has to be destroyed by Doom. When the finale finally arrives, Doctor Doom has to face off with Reed Richards, also known as Mister Fantastic, who is the leader of the Fantastic Four.

The battle was epic, at least back then for comic books. The winner? Well, it's not likely you'll run out and look up a copy of this old comic, so I'll tell you. Reed Richards. Like you couldn't have figured that one out, right?

Doom is driven insane by seeing thousands of images of his scarred face in broken glass, but don't worry. He'll get his act together again eventually and show up once more.

From a writer's point of view, this story taught me much, especially about writing epic stories. Everything in this tale was BIG and IMPORTANT. The characters were big, bigger than life. The plot was big, spanning continents. The battle at the end was big, featuring swinging fists and super powers and all kinds of crazy stuff.

Like I said, everything here was BIG, BIG, BIG!

And if you want to tell a solid story, a story that's bigger-than-life in scope and characters, you could do far worse than to study issues 197 through 200 of Fantastic Four, especially the ending in issue 200.

Just in case you didn't notice, the famed Jack Kirby did the artwork for the cover of this issue.

Up next: The Return of the King