Monthly Archives: April 2013

RIP, Andrew J. Offutt

Locus is reporting that Andrew J. Offutt passed away earlier today.  No cause of death was listed.  He wrote a number of erotic novels, many of them science fiction, as well as fantasy.  Included in his fantasy works are pastiches of the Robert E. Howard characters Conan and Cormac Mac Art.

As Charles Rutledge points out in his tribute, his greatest contribution to the field was as an editor rather than an author.  He was the editor of the 5 volume Swords Against Darkness series of original sword and sorcery anthologies.  I’ve got all but volume 3 (with duplicates of 2 and 5).   I was considering doing a series of posts looking at each one when I track down volume 3.  That plan hasn’t changed with Mr. Offutt’s passing.  I’ve also got one or two of his novels around here somewhere I intend to read at some point.

Even though he hasn’t been active in sword and sorcery circles for a number of years (at least not that I know of), we’ve lost one of the major players from the sword and sorcery boom from the 70s.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral Like You’ve Never Seen it Before

The Buntline Special
Mike Resnick
Trade paper, $17.00
Kindle  Nook $11.99 (note: ebook prices may vary)

One of the legendary gunfights of the Old West took place in Tombstone, Arizona, between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday on one side and the McLaurys and Clantons on the other.  Of course there were a number of things leading up to the gunfight and many consequences following.

Mike Resnick has taken a look at the gunfight through a steampunk fantasy lens.  It’s a fascinating blend of fact, almost fact, and should have been fact shown from the point of view of Doc Holliday.

Before I go on, I have to say that for a while as I was reading I kept seeing and hearing Val Kilmer as Holliday.  You may recall he played Holliday in the 1993 film Tombstone.  Kilmer brought such a – [ We interrupt this review to bring you the following public service announcement:

Pyr publicist Lisa Michalski contacted me late last year asking if I would like a review copy of Mike Resnick’s latest Weird Western novel, The Doctor and the Rough Rider.   I replied that while, yes, I would very much like a review copy, I hadn’t read the first two books in the series.  Ms. Michalski very graciously sent me all three, for which I would like to thank her.

Since then a number of Pyr books have shown up without my asking, many of them second or third volumes in series I haven’t started yet.  I’ve been acquiring the volumes I’ve needed, and I intend to read and review them all.

I  would like to apologize to Ms. Michalski as well as editor Lou Anders for taking so long to read and review the titles they’ve sent me.  I’ve had an extremely heavy load this semester, and my reading time has been curtailed like it hasn’t been in years.  Guys, thank you for the books.  I intend to read and review all the ones you’ve sent (plus the preceding volumes I haven’t read, since I hate starting series in the middle).  I greatly appreciate your sending the review copies and only hope I haven’t appeared ungrateful or opportunistic by not having reviewed them yet.

Anyway, once finals are over in a couple of weeks, I intend to take some time off and get caught up on reading, blogging, and personal writing.  About every second or third review here will be a Pyr title until I’ve caught up, so don’t be surprised at the sudden proliferation of Pyr titles.  The straight science fiction titles will be reviewed over at Futures Past and Present.

We now return your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress.]  – Holliday to say “I’m your huckleberry” like he did in the film.

Val Kilmer, as Your Huckleberry, Doc Holliday

But you don’t want to hear about a 20 year old movie, you want to know about The Buntline Special.  The premise of this series is that in an alternate timeline, the westward expansion of the United States has been stopped at the Mississippi River by the magic of Native American medicine men, Geronimo being chief among them.  This hasn’t stopped individuals from moving westward, settling in many place that they settled in our timeline such as Texas, Colorado, and Tombstone.  (I’m curious if Texas is still an independent nation in this universe.  Resnick mentions Texas but doesn’t give much detail.)

In Tombstone, a pair of inventors, Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline, have been working and producing such things as electric lights, a horseless carriage, and mechanical whores that never tire.  It’s the horseless carriage that is causing the most problems.  The decreased demand for horses has made some of the local horse thieves antsy, particularly the Clantons.  But what has really made Edison a target of assassination is that he has been contacted by the US government to find a way to defeat the spell preventing the US from expanding westward.  That’s got the medicine man Hook Nose all in a tizzy.  He cuts a deal with the Clantons to eliminate Edison to their mutual benefit.

The first attempt on Edison’s life cost Edison his arm, which he and Buntline replace with a mechanical arm.  Upping the stakes, Hook Nose resurrects the recently killed gunslinger, Johnny Ringo (who is very much alive in the Tombstone of our timeline).  In an effort keep Edison breathing, Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp send for Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson.

And thus the stage is set for one of the wildest showdowns in the Old West in any timeline.

There are two things Resnick excels at, and those are dialogue and attention to detail through painstaking research.  (Well, actually, he excels at more than two, but those are the two things I want to focus on.)  First, the dialogue.  If you’ve read Resnick, you know how he makes conversation seem natural.  The result is a story that flows, sounding as though real people are having real conversations.

The second is the detail.  Resnick either knows his history, does his research, or as I suspect, both.  He includes an extensive bibliography along with an appendix telling what really happened to the major players in our timeline.  One of the most fun things about The Buntline Special was seeing what things Resnick kept the same and what things he changed in the telling of his tale.  The result was staying up long after I should have been in bed one night researching some of the major players online.  (That’s not a complaint, BTW.)  I’d read quite a bit about Tombstone and the Earps, but that was over a decade ago, and memory, like radioactive substances, has a half-life.  And in my case, not a very long half-life.

This was a highly enjoyable book.  We’re seeing a resurgence in the weird western.  Here’s one by a master. 

There are two more books in this series so far, and the next one has Billy the Kid in it.  I’m looking forward to what Resnick does with him.

Titles in Mike Resnick’s Weird Western series are currently featured books at the Adventures Fantastic Bookstore.  The Buntline Special is on sale for $12.36 plus shipping.

A New Series by Tom Doolan

“Blood from Sand”
Tom Doolan
Short Attention Span E-Publishing
$1.25 mobi epub PDF

A beautiful assassin on the run from an evil sorcerer.  A lone warrior from a desert tribe who aids a woman in danger.  Their lives will never be the same.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve enjoyed the short fiction of Tom Doolan (reviewed here, here, here, and here).  Most of his work to date has involved orcs, but with “Blood from Sand” he goes in a different direction, adding to the current trend of Arabian Night style fantasy.

The story opens with Mazlochan and his djinn companion on patrol.  When he sees a beautiful woman being pursued by four thugs across the desert, he intervenes.

The woman is Lily, an assassin.  She’s on the run from her former employer, the sorcerer El Ahmar.  By aiding her, Mazlochan runs the risk of bringing El Ahmar’s wrath down upon his village.

And if you want to know any more, then buy the story and read the rest.  This is a short story, after all, and I don’t want the review to be longer than the story itself.

And if you enjoy sword and sorcery, you should read it.  This is the beginning of a new series, and I’m looking forward to reading more installments.  Doolan seems to be mainly setting things up for future adventures.  This story was fairly short, but I can see the potential for longer works.

The action is well done, and the combat scenes move quickly.  Doolan’s prose is smoother than I remember it being in his earlier stories, and I had no complaints about the prose there.  What I’m saying is that he’s getting better, which is what any writer worth his/her salt would want to have happen.

“Blood from Sand” is only available in electronic format.  Since Doolan has published all his previous work in electronic format, he knows what he’s doing.  I bought the epub version.  There were no formatting problems or typos that I noticed.  The layout was good.  The cover art has a professional appearance.  This was a good buy from the formatting perspective.  I wish some of the major publishers could achieve the same.

Short Attention Span E-Publishing is Tom Doolan’s new venture, and “Blood from Sand” is his premier offering through SASE.  I had no trouble with ordering.  I placed my order one evening, and the next morning, Tom emailed me a zip file containing the story in all formats.  Here’s wishing him much success with it.

Return to the Empire State in The Age Atomic

The Age Atomic
Adam Christopher
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
ISBN: 9780857663139
Format: Medium Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
ISBN: 9780857663146
Format: Large Paperback
R.R.P.: US$14.99 CAN$16.99
ISBN: 9780857663153
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

The Age Atomic is the sequel to Adam Christopher’s debut novel, Empire State (reviewed here).  Since that book was published, he’s also produced a superhero novel, Seven Wonders, which has been in my TBR pile since last summer.  (The Great Move happened just after that and really threw my reading schedule off; I still haven’t caught up.)

The Age Atomic continues the story begun in the first installment of this series.  When the tale opens, private investigator Rad Bradley is in the process of stumbling on a plot involving an army of robots.  If that weren’t bad enough, the Skyguard has disappeared.  So has Captain Carson.  The Fissure has as well, cutting off the Empire State from New York.

And speaking of New York, a dead woman named Evelyn McHale runs a government sponsored agency called Atoms for Peace.  What she’s doing is building a robot army to invade the Empire State.

Evelyn McHale

Christopher pulls out all the stops in this one.  There are not one but two robot armies.  (I think I see one of the reasons this novel appealed to this particular publisher.)  The writing was smoother and the characters more defined than in Empire State.  That was one of the things that appealed to me.  Christopher carefully selects some of the minor characters and lets us in on things from their viewpoints.  It deepens the story and gives it more of an epic feel.  What’s happening isn’t a battle between a few superpowered mystery men.  It will have an impact on everyone, great and small.  By fleshing out the bit players, the walk-ons, and the redshirts, Christopher adds a layer of humanity to his story.

The action moved the story along at a fast clip.  There are plenty of chases, fights, and intrigue for fans of pulp fiction.  There isn’t as much superhero action as there was in the previous novel, but that’s more than made up for by the robot armies.

If you liked Empire State, this is one you will most certainly enjoy.  Pick it up.  Adam Christopher’s books are currently Featured Books at Adventures Fantastic Books.

Here’s a sample:

An Open Letter to Those Responsible

This is an open letter to those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings and mailing ricin to Senator Wicker.

We don’t know yet if the perpetrators of these two vile acts are the same or different, if a single person acted alone or a group carried out these acts.  For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter.

Do you feel like a man,…punk?  Are you happy that you’ve injured or killed people who never did you any harm?  Do you get a sense of satisfaction from having killed a child?  Does it make you feel brave to attack defenseless people from hiding?

If you were really a man, you would come and fight out in the open, against opponents who have a chance of fighting back.  That’s what  you would do if you were a real man, a real hero, and not the craven cur you are.
  I don’t know what you hoped to accomplish by these cowardly acts, or what your motivations were.  At the moment, I don’t care.  I spit on your hopes.  I spit on your motivations.

I spit on you.

You are beneath contempt.

Looking on Beauty and Death

“Look You on Beauty and Death”
James Reasoner and Livia. J. Washburn
ebook $0.99 Kindle  Nook

This just became available today.  After grading exams all day, I needed a nice diversion.  This sword and sorcery tale by a long time husband and wife team was just the ticket.

It was originally published in New Amazons, edited by Margaret Weis.  Reasoner and Washburn have touched it up and made it available again.

It’s the story of Ralna, personal bodyguard to the Empress.  She’s called back to the mountain village where she grew up for her younger sister Mardith’s wedding.  It seems a wizard has come over the mountains, and among other things, he was to marry Mardith.  The feeling is not reciprocated.  The family needs Ralna to handle the situation.

I won’t go into any more details regarding what happens.  This is a short story, after all.  Rather I’ll talk about my reactions to some things.  First, the wizard Grond, isn’t your stereotypical wizard.  He’s not totally evil, although he’s not exactly a nice man either.  He has some good intentions if he can get past his overdeveloped sense of self-importance.

And Ralna isn’t without her character flaws.  She’s a drama queen of sorts, and likes to play to the crowd and make bombastic statements.  She also has something of a chip on her shoulder towards the in village in which she grew up.

Probably the most admirable character is Mardith, who may be the most clever and admirable of the three.

This story didn’t go in the directions I was expecting.  When I thought I knew how the conflict between Ralna  and Grond would turn out, it went in a different direction.  Reasoner and Washburn did some deft turning of stereotypes of their heads.

Washburn is a noted historical and mystery writer.  Reasoner is best known for his westerns and historicals, although he’s got a nice body of crime fiction as well.  (I especially enjoyed the short noir novel Tractor Girl.)  They’ve written collaboratively and individually.  And of course, they write across a number of genres in short fiction, having contributed to Cross Plains Universe (reviewed here).  Reasoner has written enough science fiction to fill a collection (reviewed here), and I wish he would write more. He said in the blog announcement of “Look You on Beauty and Death” that he has a fantasy novel in his files that needs a bit of work, but that he intends to publish as an ebook.  Maybe if we bug him enough…

Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick read, especially a quick S&S read, give this one a try.

A Review of Writing Fantasy Heroes

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Ward, ed.
Rogue Blades Entertainment
mmpb $14.99
ebook $7.99 Kindle

It’s taken me longer than I anticipated to finish this book, and that’s in no way a reflection on the book.  It’s been one of those weeks.  For about the last two months.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to for me to kvetch.  You want to know about the book.  It’s a keeper.

If you’re looking for a technical manual on the nuts and bolts of writing, things like basic story structure, you won’t find it here.  Well, not much, anyway.  This book is designed more for the aspiring writer who is looking to hone his or her craft and take it to the next level, which preferably would involve publication, rather than the novice writer just learning to put a story together.  I read Writing Fantasy Heroes from cover to cover, albeit in pieces between other books, but I think the book’s values rests in its use as a reference that one picks up and consults as needed more than as volume to read straight through..

The reason I say that is that each chapter addresses a different aspect of heroic fantasy, and not all aspects will appear in all stories or novels.

For example, Howard Andrew Jones discusses the dynamics between partners/friends/comrades and how to use the interaction between two heroes to best effect.  Paul Kearney explains what it really takes to move a large army and to fight a major battle. not so much the combat itself (although he does address that issue), but the logistics involved in military life.  Alex Bledsoe contrasts the older, wiser hero with the young pup and delves into how to write maturity in a way that’s consistent with the reality of that stage in life..

Ari Marmell talks about using tropes effectively and how to avoid cliche in doing so.  Glen Cook deals with adding a dash of the unexpected.  C. L. Werner discusses things from the monster’s perspective.  Brandon Sanderson blocks out several fight scenes, taking them from boring to engrossing.  Ian C. Esslemont demonstrates the difference between showing and telling.

There’s much more.  One of the added bonuses is that Jason Waltz required each contributor to use examples from his or her own work.  I found several authors whose work I want to hunt down and read through this process, so thanks, Jason.

I learned a lot from this book.  More than that, some of the chapters helped me to bring together concepts or techniques I’d been more or less aware of and helped me either to see them in a new light or to see new connections or applications of them.  It was the same kind of A-Ha moment I get when I gain new insight into a physical system after studying a scientific problem.  One of those Oh-of-course!-Why-didn’t-I-see-that? kind of thing.

There’s a lot of good advice here, and while I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, I like to think I’ve acquired enough wisdom to realize that there things in this book I’m not ready for yet.  What that means is that I haven’t yet tried to write the story where I need that piece of counsel.  But if/when I try to write that story, I know where to go to find out how it’s done.

The list of contributors is impressive, with some of the major names in the field weighing in on various aspects of the craft.  The glimpse into their minds is fascinating at times. And invaluable.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, this isn’t an introductory writing manual.  It’s delves into the deeper, more accomplished aspects of the craft.  If you write heroic fantasy, or aspire to, then this book needs to be on your shelf.  It will be more valuable to you than any number of the writing guides out there.

Writing Fantasy Heroes Giveaway Ends Tomorrow

I announced a few weeks ago that I was going to do a giveaway for Writing Fantasy Heroes.  The contest would run until I had posted a review of the book.  Well, in spite of the universe’s best efforts, in the form of my job, from keeping me from getting any reading done, I’ve finally finished the book and written the review.  I’ll post it tomorrow.  That means you have until 11:59 p.m. CDT on April 11, 2013 to enter the contest.

How do I enter, you ask.  Go to the original post and answer the following question:  What one characteristic above all others is essential for a fantasy hero and why?  Your answer could be long or short, but you have to say why that characteristic is the one you think is the most essential.

Once the contest ends, I’ll put all the names in hat and draw one at random.  The winner will be announced the day after the review is posted.  Unless something unforseen happens, the review will go up tomorrow night and the winner will be announced on Friday. 

I’d like to thank everyone who has commented, whether they are entering the contest or not.  There’s been some great discussion.  In fact the quality of the discussion was complimented in the comments of the post announcing Black Gate‘s giveaway.

Author David Farland’s Son Seriously Injured

Last week, Ben Wolverton, son of author David Farland, was seriously injured in an accident.  What follows is from a friend of David Farland’s family.  I’m posting this in its entirety in case anyone wants to help.  My thoughts and prayers are with the Wolverton family.

Ben Wolverton, age 16, was in a tragic long-boarding accident on Wednesday the 4th, 2013. He suffers from severe brain trauma, a cracked skull, broken pelvis and tail bone, burnt knees, bruised lungs, broken ear drums, road rash, pneumonia, and is currently in a coma. His family has no insurance.

Ben is the son of author David Farland, whose books have won multiple awards, and who is widely known as a mentor to many prominent authors, such as Brandon Sanderson, Stephenie Meyer, and Brandon Mull. Costs for Ben’s treatment are expected to rise above $1,000,0000. To help raise money for Ben, we are having a book bomb (focused on Nightingaleand Million Dollar Outlines) on behalf of Ben.

You can learn more about Ben’s condition, or simply donate to the Wolverton family here:

What is a Book Bomb?

For those that don’t know, a Book Bomb is an event where participants purchase a book on a specific day to support the author, or, in this case, a young person in serious need: Ben Wolverton. 

David Farland’s young adult fantasy thriller Nightingalehas won seven awards, including the Grand Prize at the Hollywood Book Festival—beating out ALL books in ALL categories. It has been praised by authors such as James Dashner (The Maze Runner), Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn), and Paul Genesse (Iron Dragonseries), and has received four and a half starts on Amazon. You can read reviews here:
(Book Synopsis)
Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness. Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was—what her people call a “nightingale.”

But Bron isn’t ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know. Bron’s secret may be the most dangerous of all.

Nightingale is available as a hardcover, ebook, audio book, and enhanced novel for the iPad. 

You can purchase it on Amazon: (If you buy ANYTHING else on Amazon, with or without Nightingale, through this link a small percentage will also go to David Farland. So if you have a few other books you want to read, get all of them if you can.)

Barnes and Noble: 

on the Nightingale website: 

or, you can get the enhanced version, complete with illustrations, interviews, animations, and its own soundtrack through iTunes:

If you are a writer, you may want to consider purchasing David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines instead. Both books are part of the book bomb. Million Dollar Outlines has been a bestseller on Amazon for over a month and is only $6.99.
(book description:)

As a bestselling author David Farland has taught dozens of writers who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

In Million Dollar Outlines, Dave teaches how to analyze an audience and outline a novel so that it can appeal to a wide readership, giving it the potential to become a bestseller. The secrets found in his unconventional approach will help you understand why so many of his authors go on to prominence.

Get it on Amazon: (If you buy ANYTHING else on Amazon, with or without Million Dollar outlines, through this link, a small percentage will also go to David Farland. So if you have a few other books you want to read, get all of them if you can.)

Or on Barnes and Noble:

Read one of the 26 reviews here:

Would you like to just donate money? You can do that here: 

If you can’t spare any money, but would still like to help, you can do so by telling others about Ben’s donation page, and/or this Book Bomb. Share it on facebook, twitter, pinterest, your blog—anywhere you can. We have an event page set up on facebook here:

There is also a website set up here:

Thank you!
Ben and his family greatly appreciate your support, and so do all who love and care about them.