Thursday, June 22, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Convention report

A few days ago, I got back from the 2017 Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, and I yak about some of the things I saw, people I met, and games I purchased.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 18 -- Earthmen Bearing Gifts

by Fredric Brown

Started: June 12
Finished: June 12

Notes: Though I'm more a fan of fantasy than science fiction, I do have a soft spot for sci-fi literature from the 1940s through the 1960s, especially in the short form. That plus Fredric Brown's "Arena" being one of my favorite shorts from that era, I thought I'd check out more from this late author.

Mini review: Quite the short tale, but enjoyable for one who loves science fiction of the era. Earth is sending its first rocket to Mars, though unmanned, and the Martians are waiting in hopes of ... ah, to say more would be to give too much away. Let's just say I enjoyed this one.

Books read in 2017: No. 17 -- Fistful of Reefer

by David Mark Brown

Started: March 31
Finished: June 12

Notes: Occasionally one will pick up a book just because the title is so zany. That is the case here. Plus, I was looking for something different to read, and maybe this will be it.

Mini review: An interesting novel, basically a Western of sorts set along the Mexico/Texas border during the age of Pancho Villa. During the days just prior to Prohibition, a trio of marijuana farmers go on the run after a Texas Ranger tries to shut them down, a Texas Ranger who seems to have killing more on his mind than arrest, and despite the fact marijuana is still legal. Most of this novel is strictly fun action and adventure, but the last fifth or so, it takes a turn and becomes more introspective. I like this book, but I did have some issues with it, the big one being that until near the end, I didn't really feel much for any of the characters. That, plus the fact the legalities involved seem unbelievable even for the day and age (the Texas Ranger's attitude, some politics, etc.), leave me not quite able to recommend this one to others. Still, it wasn't an unenjoyable read and it was definitely interesting.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Israel Amadeus

This week over at Nerdarchy, I give all the lowdown on my Open Legend tabletop RPG character, Israel Amadeus. And in case you're wondering, I can't give myself credit for that name, which might be the most pulp-fictiony name of all time. Some friends of some friends actually named their child that. No, I'm not kidding.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 16 -- Farewell, My Lovely

by Raymond Chandler

Started: May 25
Finished: March 31

Notes: I've not read a lot of Chandler, but I don't recall hating his writing, so I thought I'd give him another go, this time with one of his best known novels.

Mini review: It took me about 40 pages to get into this one, mainly because there seemed to be too many loose ends that weren't connected, but once the connections started to show, I was sold. A seemingly complex tale involving a possible jewelry heist gang, an ex-con out of prison, a few murders, drugs, crooked cops, a psychic and a private detective, the one and only Phil Marlowe. A good read, and worth the time of any hardboiled fans.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 15 -- Haunted House

by Jack Kilborn

Started: May 22
Finished: May 25

Notes: Kilborn is actually author J.A. Konrath, who I have read a few times before, sometimes liking his stuff, sometimes not so much. Either way, I'm a sucker for tales about people paid to spend a night in a supposedly haunted house, and that's what brought me here. What might even be more interesting is that some of the characters are supposed to be survivors from other Kilborn/Konrath horror novels.

Mini review: Not bad. Not great, but not bad. The set-up took far too long in my opinion, practically the first half of the novel, but once the action kicked in, it kicked in big time. The ending was a little too happily-ever-after for my liking, but it is what it is. A nice breezy read.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 14 -- Joyland

by Stephen King

Started: May 20
Finished: May 22

Notes: Still seeking some fiction, I turn to another of my regular authors, this time delving into his second novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher. I'm not a big fan of King's earlier foray into Hard Case territory, but it's King, so I'll give him a chance here.

Mini review: This was a much better book than King's other for this publisher, though it did take me 40 to 50 pages to kind of get into this one. The year is 1971, the scene is an amusement park on coastal North Carolina, the main character a 21-year-old college student working the summer at the park. Then there's a murder that happened years earlier, a sick kid with his mom and dog, and a string of carny characters that are unforgettable. Plus, a ghost. Not quite King at his best, but even King not at his best is pretty good.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 13 -- Blood Relatives

by Ed McBain

Started: May 19
Finished: May 20

Notes: I'm desperately in need of some fiction, so I turn to my old standby of Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct. Besides, I've a stack of these novels and they aren't going to read themselves.

Mini review: This was one of the shortest 87th Precinct novels, only about 150 pages and focusing entirely upon a single crime. A 17-year-old girl is brutally murdered with a knife, the slaying witnessed by her 15-year-old cousin who managed to get away though wounded. Yet questions remain about the culprit, and the 87th boys must figure it out. As always, a lovely read.

At Nerdarchy.com: Star Trek

Star Trek, the original show, I talk a little about it and my five favorite episodes over at Nerdarchy.com.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 12 -- On the Origin of Species

by Charles Darwin

Started: April 7
Finished: May 19

Notes: I've read some of this over the years, but not the whole thing. I'm probably as familiar with the material and the notions of evolution as any average college-educated American, but I'm no scientist and definitely no expert. Still, I feel the material is worth study by me. This particular e-book edition is based upon the first edition of the printed book, so I do not expect it to be anywhere near up to date on current thinking concerning evolution, but I'm reading as much for historical interests as scientific.

Mini review: There were some surprises here. For one thing, though admittedly Darwin is writing in an age far less technical than our own, the majority of his writing is very down to earth and non-scientific, capable of understanding by the average person. The notions he proposes are done so matter-of-factly, not depending upon a bunch of scientific jargon, but are based upon common sense and his own witnessing and studies, and those of a handful of other individuals. Also, his writing style isn't bad, though my eyes did tend to glaze over towards the middle when he got into hybrids and mongrels, etc. Regarding the seemingly never-ending debate of evolution and creation, Darwin makes a good case, and those who stand against him have probably not read him and are not likely to, which doesn't bode well for their own position. This isn't some high-minded scientific theory, but ideas based upon actual evidence, and I'm not talking fossils pulled from the ground (though that is part of it). Darwin, and others, did experiments with plants and animals, growing and raising them, watching them, studying them, measuring them, and that combined with the fossil record and other sciences and reflection gave rise to his thoughts on this subject matter. "Evolution" isn't here a word Darwin used, him coining the term "natural selection" instead, but it is based upon evidence one can see with one's own eyes and experience, not just something some scientist thought up in a lab somewhere.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Forget about your writing

When you finish a writing project, often it's best to set it aside for a while before returning to look at it again. I talk about this some over at Nerdarchy this week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Just play the game

Sometimes when you're a tabletop RPGer, you don't want to think about all the rules, all the online nerd fights, all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes or under the hood. You just want to play the game. And I discuss that this week over at Nerdarchy.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 11 -- The Imitation of Christ

by Thomas A Kempis

translated by Rev. William Benham

Started: March 19
Finished: April 7

Notes: Originally written in Latin in the 1400s, this here is a 1905 translation. Apparently there is some debate about the true author, but generally a German monk known as Kempis is considered to be that author. Though I'd never heard of this book, apparently it was quite popular throughout the last handful of hundreds of years, especially in Catholic circles. Here's to finding out what it's all about.

Mini review: While nearly all of this material would be familiar to those who know their Bible, it is the sheer weight, the force, the seemingly never-ending barrage of the subject here that to some extent damns it in the eyes of a modern audience. Most of this can be boiled down to, "we are not worthy." The rest of it is basically, "worship God." To a reader of the Middle Ages or even the early Renaissance, this might have been old hat, but I'd have to believe many would still tire of its ongoing woefulness. To the modern ear, it reads as rather pleadingly pathetic, at least to some extent. However, in fairness, one has to keep in mind when this was written and, if possible, by whom. Also, again in fairness, I don't believe most Christians today would necessarily have a problem with the subject matter itself, just the extent to which it is taken.

At Nerdarchy.com: Book stores

Today over at Nerdarchy, I talk about book stores and how much I love them.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 10 -- Nazareth Orphans' Home Golden Anniversary, 1906-1956

by Thomas L. Moose

Started: March 18
Finished: March 19

Notes: I've mentioned before I have a fondness for unusual, forgotten books, publications that either were never popular in the first place, maybe weren't meant for a broader audience, or simply have vanished from the public's mind over the years. Usually I find such publications in e-book form, as Amazon and plenty of other places online have tons of them, but in this case, I have the actual hardback book. A friend of mine who works for a childrens' home showed me this book a while back, informing me a number of them had been discovered in the home's attic. This is the early history of that home, back then called an orphanage (though that term seems to be out of favor in most places today). I asked to borrow one of the books, and now that I have it I can delve into a little piece of history in one small corner of North Carolina. I'd like to add that the author was superintendent of the home when he wrote this book and had it published by the home's Board of Managers.

Mini review: Some of this was boring, like the long lists of donors and children and staff, etc. But some of it was quite interesting, mainly the parts about the early days of the orphans' home, how certain individuals worked to gather funds, construct buildings, purchase property, and of course, help the children. Some of it was even a little humorous. My favorite line in the whole book was, "Our children are happy whether they realize it or not." Oh, how child rearing has changed over the decades.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 9 -- Myths and Legends of the Sioux

by Marie L. McLaughlin

Started: March 16
Finished: March 18

Notes: This is another of those quirky little free e-books I find from time to time on Amazon (I've got quite a number of them now on my Kindle). Not quirky because they are weird, but because they are uncommon, not well known, often 19th or early 20th Century texts that have been largely forgotten. This one is of interest to me because it apparently focuses upon folk tales of the Sioux, as told to the author by her grandmother, who was Sioux.

Mini review: To be clear, the author also lets it be known her husband was an officer at various forts and reservations during the 19th Century, so she also heard and/or learned a number of these tales while living in such environs. Many of these are morality tales, but a few seem to be simply for fun, or perhaps were even considered part of Sioux history. Unktomi, a spider figure, shows up in a number of these tales as something of a trickster, not unlike Coyote in some other Native American myths; most times Unktomi seem merely mischievous, but in at least one story he is quite bloodthirsty. Those with interests in folklore, myths, American Indians, the Sioux specifically, etc., will probably want to check out this one.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 8 -- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

by John Berendt

Started: March 9
Finished: March 16

Notes: I've been to Savannah where the events of this true-crime book took place in the 1980s, even visiting some of the sites of the events, which are sort of historic sites now as is much of the city. I've also seen the movie, but it's been so long I don't recall much about it. I've had this one for a while and been meaning to check out how the author handles the subject matter, so here goes.

Mini review: This was actually a very well written book. It starts off with the author's introduction to Savannah in the early 1980s and the many eccentric characters he met, then goes into the Jim Williams trials for murder. Those eccentric characters, voodoo, alcohol ... it all adds up to an interesting tale, all the more so because it's allegedly true, at least according to the author. A good book. A true Southern book.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Fiction writing

This week over at Nerdarchy, I ramble on about how fiction is possibly the last true frontier for man to study, at least on the planet Earth.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 7 -- Lethal People

by John Locke

Started: March 3
Finished: March 9

Notes: This thriller comes from one of the earliest stars of the indie writer movement from 8 or 9 years ago (gosh, has it been that long already?). I've not heard much about him of late, but his books still seem to sell. I've been meaning to try his work for some while, so here goes.

Mini review: A former CIA agent who is now a hit man and who still clandestinely works for the CIA as an anti-terrorist juggles multiple missions here, including taking on a Mafia boss and getting his ex-wife's boyfriend out of the picture. It sounds all serious, but this was a novel meant to be full of laughs. Unfortunately, the humor wore thin for me relatively soon. Some of the humor was funny, but the plot was a mess, when I could even tell there was a plot, and the ending became downright silly. Still, the writing was pretty good, and I could see how this could draw an audience. Personally, I don't think I need to read more of this author's work, but those who like silly thrillers might find something to enjoy here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Tolkien vs. Howard

Eh, the headline is misleading, but not totally. This week over at Nerdarchy, I take a look at some of the roots of modern fantasy.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 6 -- Ice

by Ed McBain

Started; Feb. 23
Finished: March 2

Notes: It's been about a year since I last read one of McBain's 87th Precinct novels, and since I love them so much, I figured it was time to get to one.

Mini review: The boys of the 87th have to solve a string of murders that all involve the same .38 revolver, and there doesn't seem to be any connections between the victims. So, is their some crazy random killer on the loose, or is there something deeper going on? You have to read the book to find out, but as always, I enjoyed it. I won't say it's my favorite of the 87th Precinct novels, but it was still a good one.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Test yourself

This week my Nerdarchy article offers up a test to prove how much you know about fantasy literature. Only 30 questions, but do you know your stuff?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 5 -- Fire & Ice (Book I of The Icefire Trilogy)

by Patty Jansen

Started: Feb. 15
Finished: Feb. 23

Notes: This is another author new to me, someone I've been meaning to check out for a while now. Plus, I often feel as if I don't read enough women writers, so here's another opportunity to correct that; this isn't some need to be politically correct, but my wanting to experience different writers' voices.

Mini review: A generation earlier there was a rebellion that overthrew the magic-wielding royals in this world, but now the heir who has been in hiding for decades is trying to sneak back into the palace to regain his political power from the current rulers. That brief description doesn't sound all that unique, but it's the details which make the difference. Unfortunately, this one had some similarities, especially thematically, with the Awakened books, one of which I'd just read before this book ... so, that shot down some of my interest. That's not the author's fault, however, just timing. That being said, the writing here is decent, the characters interesting enough to hold me along, and the plot and world were better than average. What interested me the most was how magic worked in this world. There's still some things needing explaining, but that's for future books in the series. Could I recommend it? Sure.

Monday, February 20, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: The Darkness

Over at Nerdarchy today, I write a little about how I don't consider most of my fiction writing to be all that dark, despite what some have said about it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

ResAliens Blog: Review of The Kobalos Trilogy

ResAliens Blog: Review of The Kobalos Trilogy: Review by Lyn Perry The Kobalos Trilogy by Ty Johnston  is a high fantasy series featuring Kron Darkbrow. Here are my short reactions t...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 4 -- The Awakened II

edited by Hal Greenberg

Started: January 21
Finished: Feb. 15

Notes: My short story "Marazook" appears in this anthology, based upon the upcoming The Awakened RPG from Samurai Sheepdog. I've read some of these tales, but not all of them, so I figured I'd check out what my fellow writers accomplished.

Mini review: It was nice to see what others have done with this fantasy world in which some people gain magical powers when they turn 19 years of age, a world where kings vie for the powers of these Awakened, even to the point of kidnapping them, in groups or individually. My favorite story was probably the last one, "Ice" by Jaleigh Johnson, because it had a soft, personal touch absent from most of the rest of the tales, but I also truly enjoyed "Many Tentacles, Reaching" by Ed Greenwood and a handful of others. As of now, there is to be an "Awakened Modern" book and "The Awakened III," and I'm looking forward to taking part in them and reading them.

Monday, February 13, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Adventure, the video game

This week my Nerdarchy article is another Blast from the Past, this time looking all the way back to the Adventure video game for the Atari 2600.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Nerd shopping

This week over at Nerdarchy, I take a look at just what you can buy at the Nerdarchy store. No kidding. They have shirts, hats, mugs, and a thong. Yes, I said "thong."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: When the cat's away ...

The Nerdarchy guys recently went on a cruise out of the country, so this writer had a little fun with it in his weekly article.

Monday, January 23, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Magic items

If you play Fifth edition D&D and are looking for some more magic items, check out this week's article over at Nerdarchy.com.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 3 -- Echoes of Valor II

edited by Karl Edward Wagner

Started: Jan. 5
Finished: Jan. 20

Notes: Continuing my recent Sword & Sorcery readings, I now turn to this 1989 KEW collection of reprints. Included are notes about and these stories by Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Manly Wade Wellman, Ray Bradbury, and Leigh Brackett.

Mini review: This was a fun mix of stories, though I don't consider all of them winners. One fault, in my opinion, was starting off the book with a couple of Howard tales, as Howard's writing is so strong many of the others fall short in comparison. So, I would have put the Howard tales at the end. Wellman's story of Hok in the Stone Age (or possibly even earlier) was probably my next favorite of the lot here, though I didn't care much for Bradbury and Brackett's work on "Lorelei of the Red Mist." To add, not all these tales were Sword & Sorcery, with a few being Sword & Planet or a mixture of sub-genres.

At Nerdarchy.com: Wheat pennies

Nerds come in all types. Some of them even collect coins. Which is why today's Nerdarchy article takes a look at the basics of collecting wheat pennies.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 2 -- Conan the Mercenary

by Andrew J. Offutt

Started: Jan. 2
Finished: Jan. 5

Notes: After just finishing "Red Nails," I felt like reading some more of Conan the Cimmerian. Looking around my to-be-read pile, I stumbled upon this, forgetting I had it (probably for years). While Offutt was rarely a strong writer, he did have a certain lovable goofiness to his prose, and occasionally there were sparks of mild genius; I tend to think he was a better short story writer than novelists, but that's just my opinion.

Mini review: Offutt's writing was more subdued in this one, but it read more like an extended short story than a true novel. In this one, an 18-year-old Conan hires on with a noble and then discovers a plot of treachery within the royal palace. Not a great book, but not awful. Still, only Offutt or Conan fans need apply.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Books read in 2016: No. 66, Books read in 2017: No. 1 -- Red Nails

by Robert E. Howard

Started: Dec. 26, 2016
Finished: Jan. 1, 2017

Notes: For too long have I not been reading enough speculative genre fiction, and for too long have I not read any Howard, so I was thrilled to see this tale from the author available for free on Amazon. I've read this one several times over the decades, but it's always enjoyable to come back to Howard every once in a while.

Mini review: What with the holidays, I didn't have much reading time lately, but it was nice to drop back into Howard's writing. As always, his prose here was excellent. The story I've always found a bit predictable, but I suppose it would seem so after one has read so much Sword & Sorcery over the years. Anyway, a solid read worth the time of any fantasy fan.