Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At We need more Unearthed Arcana

Traditionally, Unearthed Arcana books offer new and extra rules for D&D games, yet we don't have one for Fifth Edition, though there are some online options. In my Nerdarchy article this week, I say it's time for a UA book.

Books read in 2016: No. 59 -- Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

by David Hume

Started: Nov. 25
Finished: Nov. 29

Notes: I'm in a philosophical mood, so I turn to Hume. It's been a long while since I've dipped into any serious philosophy, though I've never been a big fan of the Empiricists as writers, though I don't have any hangups concerning their actual ideas. It's not impossible I read this 1757 piece in college lo those many decades ago, but I don't recall having done so.

Mini review: The writing style here was interesting in that it was a fallback to the pattern of ancient philosophers who often used fictional conversations to get their point(s) across. Still, like with most philosophers during Hume's time, I have to find fault when far too often fifty words are used instead of one and when, in an attempt at being precise, a sometimes confusing language is used instead of a more simple one. This particular book lands upon several related topics, but the gist of it concerns whether or not man can find evidence of the existence of God. Basically, this is an argument about the notion of divine design, though it scoffs at outright atheism. The side in this argument favoring design appears to be the winner here, though Hume himself was not known to favor it. Besides my own philosophical interests here, there is some historical interest, as Hume's arguments against intelligent design are often considered the strongest ever produced with the exception of Darwin's works. As for my own personal thoughts on the matter, though I consider myself a Christian, I do not believe there is any objective evidence for the existence of God. Subjective, yes, but not objective.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 58 -- Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons

by Michael Newton

Started: Nov. 20
Finished: Nov. 25

Notes: I've read this one a couple of times over the decades since its original release in 1990, but back then it was a Writer's Digest book and now apparently the rights have reverted to the author and he has published it on his own. I don't know if he has updated or changed it in any way, but regardless, I've always enjoyed this book and feel it wouldn't hurt for a refresher.

Mini review: The information here is pretty basic, and unfortunately has not been updated. If you're writing a police procedural or mystery novel prior to the early 1990s, this book can still be helpful, but it is nearly 30 years out of date, so I can't recommend it for authors writing in a modern context. Historical writers might find some use here, especially as the Old West and the World Wars are covered fairly well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 57 -- As You Wish

by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

Started: Nov. 16
Finished: Feb. 20

Notes: I recently watched an interview with actor Cary Elwes in which he mentioned a memoir he had written a few years ago about the making of The Princess Bride movie. I had not heard about this and thought it would be interesting as the film is one of my favorites, as it is with many people.

Mini review: This was a charming book filled with Elwes' recollections of making the movie, as well as more than a few commentaries from Director Rob Reiner, Author William Gibson, and most of the other cast members. Easy to read, this one also held more than a little nostalgia for a beloved film. Fans should check it out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 56 -- 100 Lost Treasures

by Time Inc. Books

Started: Nov. 14
Finished: Nov. 16

Notes: So I was in a line at the grocery store and got sucked into buying another of this History books. Sue me. These books, more like thick magazines, obviously are not meant to be deep, but they can provide a casual read for when one is in the mood. This one caught my eye not so much because of lost treasures from history, of which I'm guessing I'll be mostly aware, but because of more recent lost treasures.

Mini review: The title to this one was misleading. Maybe a fourth of the articles here were about actual lost items, the majority being about various bits of Americana or items related to historical events. Most of this I knew about, though there were a few interesting tidbits new to me, along with maybe a story idea or two.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 55 -- This is Not the End of the Book

by Jean-Claude Carriere and Umberto Eco

Started: Nov. 2
Finished: Nov. 13

Notes: I'm not familiar with Carriere, but I have enjoyed reading a number of Eco's works over the years, and while I cannot stomach Eco's hints of anti-Semitism and his flag waving for all things European, I do find enough genius in his material to consider him worth reading. This book is another example. On its face it is about the fate of print in the digital age, but it apparently goes into a number of related topics, the text supposedly told as a conversation between the two authors. I have high hopes for this one.

Mini review: This was a delightful book to read. Two old European bibliophiles get together to discuss books in general, the possible future of books, the past of books, threats against books ... basically all kinds of things about books. But with the exception of numerous references to rare authors and historical figures (I was lucky to recognize half of them), most of the talk here is fairly straight forward, like two old guys sitting around sipping wine in a tavern. Book lovers and those who relish an occasional dip into the scholarly should check this one out. And I have to say, in fairness, Eco seemed to backtrack some on what I had perceived as anti-Semitism, so maybe an old dog can learn new tricks.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

At All in on D&D

This week my Nerdarchy article is somewhat of an opinion piece in which I point out that imagination is likely more important for this most recent edition of Dungeons & Dragons than any of the earlier versions.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

At Be very, very frightened

Halloween might be passed, but that doesn't mean the horror ends. This week over at, I take a look back at one of the most memorable D&D gaming modules of all time, Tomb of Horrors.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Books read in 2016: No. 54 -- Let's Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should

by David Gaughran

Started: Oct. 17
Finished: Nov. 2

Notes: This e-book was a big boost to the indie writing community when it first came out about five years ago. I skipped it then, but more recently I thought I would check out its updated version. Maybe I'll learn a few things or pick up some tips, or maybe it'll simply act as a push for me to get off my butt and work more.

Mini review: As expected, there wasn't much new here for me, so for myself this was somewhat of a drag to read. That being said, I can't think of a better book or e-book for beginning indie writers to sink their teeth into. Gaughran lays everything out in simple form and provides enough links to more complex material. However, even though this is an updated version, the publishing world changes so quickly nowadays that even this might soon be somewhat out of date.