Category Archives: Howard Andrew Jones

Brackett and Bradbury: “Lorelei of the Red Mist”

Planet Stories - Lorelei of the Red MistThis is a unique item.  The only collaboration between two great science fiction authors, Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury.  Here’s how it came about:

Both authors were living in the Los Angeles area in the 1940s, and both had been working hard to develop their craft as writers.  Both were regulars in Planet Stories at the time.  They were friends who had both been mentored by Henry Kuttner.  They used to meet once a week to read and critique each other’s work.

no good from a corpseBrackett had sold some detective short stories as well as one novel, No Good From a Corpse.  The novel caught the attention of movie producer Howard Hawks, who decided he wanted Brackett to work on the screenplay for his next project.  She was approximately halfway through a novellette she was writing for Planet Stories that was set on Venus (More about Brackett’s Venus in a bit.) when she got a call from Hawks, or more probably his secretary.  Which is how Brackett launched her screenwriting career by coauthoring with William Faulkner the script for Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  How freakin’ cool is that? Continue reading

Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Start Conan Read Through

If you aren’t reading Howard Andrew Jones’ blog, then you’ve been missing some good posts.  He and Bill Ward have been reading through works by major fantasy authors for about a year now and discussing them.  They started with a couple of collections by Lord Dunsany and then moved on to Swords Against Darkness and Swords in the Mist, two Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser collections by Fritz Leiber.  Each week they’ve discussed the story they’ve read and invited anyone interested in doing so to read along with them.

Today Howard postedComing of Conan a wrap-up of Swords in the Mist and a discussion of their next project.  This will be The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.  Today’s post was mostly about Conan, not so much about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.  Next week they discuss Howard’s essay “The Hyborian Age” before launching into the stories themselves.

If you’re a Howard fan, or just a Conan fan, you should check it out.

The Next Few Days, Plus a Kickstarter of Interest

Classes start today; I’ve got one from11:00 – 1:50.  On top of that, my wife is having shoulder surgery tomorrow morning.  Nothing big, i.e., not a rotator cuff, but I’ll be tied up with that and won’t be at work.  Depending on how long her parents stay and if her painkillers are working, I may or may not be at work on Friday.  (It hey are here and the drugs aren’t working, I’m coming in to work.)  Anyway, I might not be very active online until next week.

Farewell-200x300In the meantime, there’s a new Kickstarter readers of this blog might be interested in.  It’s called, Farewell, Something Lovely.  The title is a play on Raymond Chandler’s novel, Farewell, My Lovely.  It’s a collection of hardboiled sword and sorcery tales by Fraser Ronald.  Since S&S and hardboiled/noir are two of my three favorite subgenres, I’m looking forward to this one.

And if you haven’t been following the discussion at Howard Andrew Jones’ blog on the relationship between hardboiled and sword and sorcery, start here.

Writng Fantasy Heroes Arrives

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Waltz, ed.
Rogue Blades Entertainment
trade paper, 202 pages, $14.99

This isn’t a review.  That will come later, after I’ve read the book.  I don’t normally profile books until I’ve read them, but in this case I’m making an exception.  I think you’ll understand.

This volume contains 13 essays (plus an introduction by Steven Erikson) on how to write heroes in fantasy.  The contributors include (in no particular order) Glen Cook, Brandon Sanderson, C. L. Werner, Howard Andrew Jones, Ian C. Esslemont, Ari Marmell, Paul Kearney, Orson Scott Card.  I could go on.  But I won’t.  You can discover the rest for yourself.

I’ve reviewed works by several of the above here at Adventures Fantastic, and there are others on that list I haven’t gotten to yet, at least as far as reviews are concerned. There will be some great writing advice in there.  (I know, I’ve already peeked.)

I also know some of the people who read this blog are writers at various stages of their careers.  In the interest of helping you improve your craft (because I’m selfish and want great books by you to read), I thought I’d announce this book here.  And, yes, gloat, because my copy arrived today.  I’m going to steal time from some other commitments later tonight and start reading it.  I’ll post a full review when I’m done.

Writing Fantasy Heroes is from Rogue Blades Entertainment and is available from Amazon and B&N.  I was completely surprised when I heard about it.  Rogue Blades Entertainment hasn’t had anything out in a while, and they’ve been sorely missed.  Jason, it’s great to have you back.

One Day in the Arabian Nights…

The Desert of Souls
Howard Andrew Jones
Thomas Dunne Books
tpb $14.95
ebook $9.99  Kindle Epub

So there’s this guy, Howard Andrew Jones, see?  He’s done a lot of things in the field.  He’s held some editorial positions, most recently with Black Gate.  In addition to publishing some well received S&S short fiction (often in the aforementioned BG), he’s the author of a novel in the Pathfinder Tales.  Mr. Jones has also edited an 8 volume series collecting much of the short fiction of Harold Lamb.  These are accomplishments which should make any man proud.

But Nooo.  This isn’t enough.  The guy has to go an be an overachiever.  What do I mean by that?

Allow me to enter into evidence as exhibit A the novel The Desert of Souls.

This is a novel that gathered a great deal of attention when it was published last year.  If you’ve read it, you know why.  If you haven’t, get thee hence and obtain a copy.  (Use the handy link at the top of the page if you like.)

To set the tale, Asim is the captain of the guard for Jaffar, a high ranking official in the Caliphate of Baghdad.  (He’s also a real historical personage, as is the caliph.)  In order to take Jaffar’s mind off the death of his favorite parrot, Asim and his friend, the scholar Dabir, accompany Jaffar on an anonymous outing into the city.  Or to put it another way, they go slumming.  Jaffar decides to visit a fortune teller, but the fortune the old woman tells isn’t one he wants to hear.  As they leave her house, a man fleeing a group of thugs collides with them.  Asim and Dabir fight off the thugs, and discover he’s carrying an unusual door pull. 

It’s not just any door pull.  Between the fortunes given to them by the old woman and the number of people seeking this door pull, Asim and Dabir will find themselves on a dangerous quest across more than one world.  This was grand adventure in the old style.  Lots of action, chases, thrills, humor, and excitement.  In short, it was a heck of a lot of fun.

I’ve already mentioned that Howard Andrew Jones edited a set of Harold Lamb books.  If you’re familiar with Lamb, you’ll know what I mean when I say this book is very much in that vein.  If you’re not (and why not?), then get thee hence and obtain copies.  Lamb was one of the greatest adventure writers of the 20th century.  He was also a major influence on a guy from Cross Plains who was also named Howard.  I haven’t read all of the Lamb volumes yet, but I saw echoes of them here.  I mean that as high praise, not to imply that The Desert of Souls is in any way derivative.  It’s not. 

There are other influences here as well.  The Arabian Nights, obviously.  There’s also a strong element of Sherlock Holmes running through the book.  Dabir is the Holmes figure, observing and using reason, whereas Asim plays the role of Watson.  The book is narrated by Asim many years after the events he transcribes. 

Jones takes these influences, and others I probably missed, and combines them into something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.  I know that phrase has been overused to the point of cliche, but in this case I think it applies.  This is a rich novel, full of wit and heart, that treats its source material with respect.  It carries on the tradition of fantasy adventure and takes that tradition into new territory.  Jones writes like an old pro, not a relatively new author.  You care what happens to the characters; you hurt with them when they hurt; and you want to know more about what comes after you close the last page.  Jones gives enough hints that you now there are other stories yet to be told.

The sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, came out this past Tuesday (December 11).  My copy is on order.  Look for a review soon.  There are also some short stories starring Dabir and Asim collected in the ebook The Waters of Eternity.  My original intention was to review Desert a couple of months ago, Waters last month, and Bones sometime this month.  I was foolish enough to mention this plan in an email to Howard, and I apologize for not keeping with my schedule.

So I rest my case.  The evidence shows that Howard Andrew Jones is an overachiever.  Pretty shameless one, at that.  And that’s fine by me.

The Desert of Souls and The Bones of the Old Ones are featured books at Adventures Fantastic Books.

Status Report

I’m almost done with my grading, which should be finished with all grades turned in tomorrow, assuming the university server comes back up.  (It should.)  I’m also in charge of the labs, which means I check the TA grading and make sure everything is consistent (it wasn’t, but I can’t talk about that) and pass lab and recitation grades on to the faculty.  Except for one course where there were some problems, that’s done.  Then to jump on the edits of the lab manual. 

I’m about one third of the way through Howard Andrew Jones’ The Desert of Souls.  I’d hoped to have the review posted by tomorrow, when the sequel, Bones of the Old Ones, is released.  Sadly, that’s not going to happen.  My apologies, Howard.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the novel and will be ordering BotOO later today. 

I should be back up to speed later this week.  Next week, I’m off but my son isn’t.  I should be able to get some stuff done. 

December’s Agenda

Finals start this week, so things will probably be hectic until around the 14th.  My only final is Friday morning, but I’ve got a new lab manual to edit and send to the publisher by then.  All of which means that posting here is going to be sporadic.  I may post for two or three days straight, then not have anything new for a week or more.  ‘Tis the season.

Here’s what I’ve got lined up as far as novels go.  The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones is first up, followed by The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins.  After that, it will be two science fiction novels, The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper and Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele. I’ll post those reviews over at Futures Past and Present.  There are a couple of forthcoming novels I’ve committed to review, plus 3 from Angry Robot that I had intended to review in August before moving threw my schedule into chaos.  Those will probably wait until January since none of the forthcoming titles have release dates before then.

I want to spend the rest of December getting caught up on stuff I’ve had on the shelf for a while that I haven’t been able to get to:  some sword and sorcery, a few historical novels and collections, a lot of space opera, and some Henry Kuttner I’ve been wanting to either read or reread.  Plus some noir, and The Bones of the Old Ones, the sequel to The Desert of Souls.  I doubt I’ll be able to read all of that in the few weeks I’ll have, but I’m going to try.  Of course, I’ll review some short fiction, too.

I’m not going to accept requests for reviews, nor will I be asking for many review copies over the next couple of months.  I’ve mentioned a Sooper Seekrit Project a couple of times before.  There are actually two now.  I should be able to make one public by the end of the month; the other, I’m not sure when I can announce.  In both cases, these are things I’ve been invited to participate in, and I’m really excited about them.  There will be some changes here and at Futures Past and Present because of these projects, but I’ll wait until I can announce the projects before I discuss how my personal blogs will change. 

Why You Soon Won’t be Able to Find a Good Book in a Store

I was reading one of Kris Rusch’s columns over at The Business Rusch the other day, the topic being shelf space disappearing in book stores.  At that reminded me of an unpleasant experience I had the other day in Wal-Mart, one that is now repeated every time I walk into the store (which isn’t nearly as often as it was a few weeks ago).  If you haven’t read Kris’s column, please go read it now.  I’ll wait.

There, that didn’t take too long, did it?  Ms. Rusch brings up some very disturbing points, and while some of them are negative, others are mixed.  For what it’s worth, here’s my take on things, including why I’m not going to be shopping at Wal-Mart as much in the future.
 For starters, I understand the point Kris makes about Barnes and Noble trying to drive customers online.  It helps their bottom line for two reasons.  First, in the short term, it provides an incentive for Nook purchases.  Eventually that market will saturate, either because everyone will have one and the technology will mature to the point that repeatedly releasing an updated version will no longer be cost effective, or more likely that a new technology will come along and make the Nook obsolete.  The second reason, and the one that bothers me, is that it will allow B&N to either close more stores to get out of expensive leases or devote more shelf space to non-book items such as toys, games, stationary, and greeting cards.  Along with more floor space to sell the Nook.

Borders, even before it declared bankruptcy, was undergoing this at a disturbing rate.  When I started graduate school at UT Dallas back in the early 90s, the Borders at the intersection of  Royal and Preston was one of the two go-to bookstores in the Dallas area, the other being the Taylor’s near Prestonwood Mall, although living at what was then the northern edge of the suburban sprawl, i.e, in the other direction, I tended to frequent the Bookstop in Plano near Collin Creek Mall rather than drive an extra hour.  All three had excellent selections of science fiction and fantasy, mystery, and scientific and technical books, and all were willing to order titles not in stock (although Taylor’s charged to do so). 

Then Taylor’s closed, Barnes and Noble bought the Bookstop chain and closed the one in Plano to open a B&N on the opposite side of the mall, and suddenly Borders was the only good place to get almost anything in print. 

That didn’t last long.  I’ve only been in that Borders a few times in the last five years, and usually it was to find a magazine I couldn’t get at the big B&N on Northwest Highway.  I don’t know if that particular store is still open.  I’ve bought very few books there in the last half decade or so.  Each time I went in, it seemed the fantastic literature had been moved to a different area and had less shelf space.  Along with all the other books.  And there more titles turned face out, which is one of the points Ms. Rusch made in her essay.  Books facing out take up more space, meaning the shelves hold fewer books.  The last time I was there, it wasn’t worth the gas to drive over.

So how does Wal-Mart figure into this?  It’s simple.  They’re committing the same type of stupidity as the major chains, but they don’t have the excuse of an ereader to fall back on.  I live a little over two blocks from K-Mart, four or five blocks from Target, and about a mile and a half from the nearest Wal-Mart (there are four in town).  I’ve been going to this Wal-Mart for one reason.  They have had a section of their book department devoted to science fiction, meaning that the section was labeled as such.  Now the selection was at least 50% fantasy, but I’m not complaining.  I read considerable amounts of both. I’ve seen Wal-Marts that devote some shelf space to a few sf/f titles before, but this is the only one with entire section devoted to the stuff.  A number of them have sections for westerns, which I’m not knocking, except I don’t think westerns sell as well as sf & f.  Maybe Wallyworld is different, because the westerns section in my local Wal-Mart is still intact.  And none of the employees, excuse me, associates, I talked to could tell me who made the decision to remove the fantasy and science fiction. 

What did they put in its place?  They moved the romance section over and put “Books” where the romance previously was.  They’re still putting the display together (they’re anything but quick here), but it appears to be mostly children’s books and cook books.   All face out.  I guess they think fewer titles with more visibility will sell more books.

So now I have one less venue I can walk into, pick up any one of several books, and browse through them.  As far as I’m concerned, electronic browsing isn’t worth the time it takes.  I like to flip through the book.  I’ve bought plenty of books at that Wal-Mart, some of which I’ve reviewed at Adventures Fantastic. And I like a good selection, which, given its size, this one had.  But it’s no longer worth the time and gas to drive over and put up with the crowd for the books they have now.

My local B&N has a decent selection, meaning I can find something that interests me.  But I can’t find everything, including much of the stuff I want.  Kris Rusch wrote about not being able to find her latest science fiction novel, City of Ruins, in a B&N but being told it was in the warehouse and she could order it.  The local one here didn’t stock it either.  Nor did they stock Howard Andrew Jones’ The Desert of Souls or Scott Oden’s The Lion of Cairo.  They had a novel by Paul Finch which I wanted to review, only they sold it before I could buy it and didn’t order a replacement copy.  It was a zombie novel; the replacement would have sold.  I’m going to have to order all of these books.  And that’s a hassle.  I ordered the Oden, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.  The other three will probably get ordered sometime before the end of the summer.  I want to review and discuss all four of them, but I’ll probably review other things I have at hand first.  It’s easier and faster that way.

I could go on.  There’s a locally based chain with a number of stores in Texas called Hastings I could write an entire post about, but this is negative enough as it is.  The more I write, the grumpier and more depressed I’m getting.  If you’re like me and like to spending time in book stores just browsing to see what treasures you can find, I don’t hold out a lot of hope of being able to do that much longer.

This essay has been cross-posted at Futures Past and Present.

Cool Stuff at Rogue Blades’ Home of Heroics

There have been a couple of posts up at Home of Heroics, the new feature on the Rogue Blades Entertainment site, the last few days.  Friday Bruce Durham reviewed Howard Andrew JonesDesert of SoulsThis morning, Luke Forney surveyed the graphic adaptations of Robert E. Howard’s work, including Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, and Red Sonja.  Interesting stuff, so check it out if you haven’t already.