Thursday, June 30, 2011

Amazon Humor

We love a good amazon here at Adventures Fantastic.  I mean, who doesn't?  But we still treat them with courtesy and respect: 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Best Six Novels I've Read in the First Six Months of 2011, Sort of

Well, 2011 is about half gone, and while I'm not going to look at the New Year's Resolutions I posted (because I've exceeded some considerably and failed at other even more), I thought this would be a good time to look back over the novels I've read during the first half of the year that I've written about and see which ones were the best.

One thing quickly became clear:  I need to read more novels.  Not all the novels I've read have appeared here for the simple reason that some of them were not fantasy or historical adventure.  I've decided to keep the science fiction separate (which is why I started Futures Past and Present), and after one review, I've not blogged about any mysteries or detective stories.

So here's my list of the top six (very loosely defined, as you'll see) of the best novels I've read so far this year.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

David Gemmel Legend Award Winners Announced

The winners of the David Gemmell Legend Award were announced

The winner of the Morningstar Award for Best Newcomer was Warrior Priest by Darius Hinks.

The other nominees were Spellwright by Charlton Blake, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)by N. K. Jemison, Shadow Prowlerby Alexy Pehov, and Tymon's Flight: Chronicles of the Tree Bk 1by Mary Victoria.

The Ravenheart Award for best cover art went to Olof Erla Einarsdottir for Power and Majesty by Tansy Raynor Roberts.  Since many of these books weren't published (at least originally) by US publishers, I'm going to refer you to the Award website, where you can see the cover art.  The art often differs from country to country, and what I find may not be the correct illustration.  (Since I'm writing this during a break at work, I'm pressed for time and doubt I can find the correct covers before I have to go back on the clock. And I'm not sure about the legality of posting them without permission simply to show off the ark.)

The Legend Award for Best Novel went to Brandon Sanderson for The Way of Kings.  The other nominees were The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett, The War of the Dwarves by Markus Heitz, The Alchemist in the Shadows by Pierre Pevel, and  Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan for Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, Book Thirteen).

There's a nice writeup on the Award site with a slide show of the presentations.  If you have a second, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gods of Justice

Gods of Justice

Kevin Hosey and K. Stoddard Hayes, ed.
Mark Offutt and Joel Gomez, ill.
Cliffhanger Books, 205 p., ebook $4.99, print (forthcoming)

This is turning out to be the summer of the superhero.  Not only are we seeing more superhero movies than we ever have in a single summer, but print-wise superheroes seem to be on the rise as well.

Case in point, Gods of Justice, edited by Kevin Hosey and K. Stoddard Hayes.  This the sophomore publication of Clffhanger Books, a new small press.  Their first publication was an anthology of paranormal romance.  It was a nominee for Best Book of 2010 for The Romance Review.  That means they set a high standard their first time out.

The question is, do they live up to it in this book?

First J. K. Rowling; Who's Next?

It's been a busy week, and I've not had time to post as much as I'd like.  (I did manage to submit a story to a top pro market, so the week hasn't been a total wash.)

One thing that did happen, which is still echoing, was the announcement by J. K. Rowling that she will be publishing the Harry Potter books herself through a new website.  She's able to do this because she retains the rights to the electronic editions.  (If you want to know more about this, start with this series of posts by Passive Guy at The Passive Voice.)

There's been a lot of talk (mostly from publishers and agents) about how Rowling is an outlier, that most writers won't be able to do this.  I'm not so sure.  This could very well change publishing permanently.  For the first time an author will control access and price, not a publisher, not a distributor, not a buyer for a major chain, not Amazon. 

While the ramifications of this development are still being debated, I thought I would throw out a question:

What other authors, fantasy in particular but other genres are open to consideration, could be the next to pull something like this off?  Which ones would you like to see next? 

From what I understand, it takes some financial resources to put together a deal like this.  Forget the interactive website for a minute and just think about books.  Who do you think is a big enough name to self publish their works and sell directly from their website only without going through an intermediary?  I'm not talking about a newbie who doesn't have the audience, but someone who is a brand name.  I'm also not talking about an author like J. A. Konrath, who sells through Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, etc.  I'm talking about the author being the only source for the book.

Stephen King and Tom Clancy come to mind.  George R. R. Martin is riding high right now with a successful adaption of A Game of Thrones on HBO and the upcoming release of A Dance with Dragons.  He could probably pull it off.

I realize that many of the top names may not own the electronic rights to their works or have other contractual restrictions.  Let's assume for the sake of this discussion that those things don't apply.  Also, Rowling's announcement says she wants her readers to be able to read he books on any platform.  So let's assume that the ereader isn't an issue.

Who is next?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RIP, Martin H. Greenberg

Dean Wesley Smith is reporting that Martin H. Greenberg passed away this morning after a long illness.  If you've ever picked up an anthology is the last twenty or thirty years, there's a good chance his name was on the cover, usually following the name of a well known author or editor.  (Isaac Asimov comes to mind as the most prominent, but he was far from the only one.)  If the anthology was published by DAW books, then his name was almost certainly on the cover.  Greenberg was the publisher of Tekno Books, one of the leading book packagers in the world.  (A packager puts the project together, then sells it to publisher.)  While his work was often behind the scenes, he was a major player in fantasy and science fiction publishing, as well as a number of other genres.  I never met Mr. Greenberg, but I've always heard only good things about him.  His passing is a major loss to the science fiction and fantasy fields.  Think of him the next time you read one of the anthologies he put together.  Dean Wesley Smith worked with Greenberg and has written a moving eulogy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1066: An Invasion, a Tapestry, and a Mystery

1066:  The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
Andrew Bridgeford
Walker & Co., 384 p.,  $15.95 softcover, various ebook editions available

From time to time, I like to post something having to do with history, and just history, no fiction.  Or rather, no more fiction than serious history books promulgate.  I came across this book while browsing in the local box store, read a chapter or two, came back a week later and read another chapter, and then bought the thing for my ereader.

I found it quite fascinating.  I knew, of course, who William the Conqueror was.  The coaches teaching my history classes in school were able to impart that much information to me.  And I'd heard of the Bayeux Tapestry, the only surviving tapestry from the time period, and considered one of the primary sources of information (albeit limited) that we have about the events leading up to the invasion.  But I'd never really known many of the details about either.  Until now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Announcing Futures Past and Present

I'd like to announce a new blog I've started, Futures Past and Present, which will focus on science fiction. 

Relax, I'm not abandoning Adventures Fantastic.  Far from it.  I want to keep AF going and make it stronger.  It's looking like this month is going to be the best one yet, and thank you, everyone who has stopped by to browse, see what I said about your story, followed (formally and informally), or posted a comment.  This is still going to be my primary blog.

So why am I starting another one?  That's a  good question that has several answers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blogging Kull: Swords of the Purple Kingdom

Kull: Exile of Atlantis
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey, 317 p. $17

There are three stories left in the Kull series, and they are "By This Axe I Rule!", "Swords of the Purple Kingdom", and "Kings of the Night".  I'm going to skip "By This Axe I Rule!" for reasons I'll explain at the end of the post.  Instead, let's turn our attention to "Swords of the Purple Kingdom", shall we?

In his afterward to this volume, "Hyborian Genesis", Patrice Louinet says that this story was probably written sometime around June of 1929.  That makes perfect sense, considering the opening paragraph.  Here are a few lines describing conditions in the city of Valusia:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trading on the Oldest Profession

The Ladies of Trade Town
Lee Martindale, ed.
Harp Haven Publishing, 297 p., $16.99

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly.  The anthology under review is about the world’s oldest profession.  But before we get into that, a few words regarding what this book is not are in order.  This book is not porn.  Nor is it erotica.  Lee Martindale has been working on getting this book published for a while, and part of that process involved, if you’ll pardon the phrase, pimping it at various conventions to prospective contributors.  Her words when explaining the restriction about explicit sexual content were, and I quote, “How good a writer are you?”  In other words, she was more interested in well written stories about the characters themselves than the details of said characters’ plumbing.  Some of the stories have essentially no sexual content.  Sexual themes, yes; sexual content, no.

Also in order is a small disclaimer.  Lee is a longtime friend, as you know if you’ve read the interview with her.  That does not mean I am automatically going to cut her slack if I think this is a poor book.  (She didn’t cut me any slack when she rejected my submission, and she was right in rejecting it.)  We’ve known each other for too long and have too much mutual respect to let the other get away with substandard work.  I’m going to be honest about what I think.

The Adventures Fantastic Interview: Lee Martindale

Lee Martindale is a renaissance woman in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, wearing multiple hats, including writer, editor, publisher, mentor to new writers, convention guest, and filker, just to name a few.  She makes multiple convention appearances every year, often accompanied by her husband George, so if she’s at a convention near you, stop and say hello to her.  Recently at ConDFW, Lee sat down with Adventures Fantastic to discuss writing, publishing, her new book (reviewed here), and other interesting topics such as her preferred weapons.  Interviewing her was a blast.  I’ve known Lee for more years than either of us is willing to admit, so there’s more back and forth between interviewer and interviewee than in previous interviews I’ve run.  Here’s what she had to say.

AF:  What got you into writing and why science fiction and fantasy?

LM:  That’s a good place to start.  What got me into writing was being raised by a grandfather who was probably one of the best oral storytellers I’ve ever heard.  He was Irish – it’s genetic – and I grew up pretty much learning the craft at his knee.  I started crafting my own stories before I learned how to write.  And there was, until a tornado took out my house in 1974, a pencil-on-lined-yellow-notebook-paper romance novel hidden away.  Thank God, it ended up in Oz or I’d still be living it down.  I started writing nonfiction and selling it when I was 30.

Report on Howard Days 2011, Day Two

The second day of Howard Days was pretty laid back for me.  I arrived at the Pavilion about 9:00 or so.  One of the anniversaries being celebrated this year is the 50th year since Glenn Lord's zine The Howard Collector first appeared.  At the banquet the previous night, one of the announcements was of a new issue.  The issue went on sale at the Pavilion Saturday morning.  I, of course, bought one.  It contains the the original version of "Black Canaan" as Howard wrote it, an untitled poem that wasn't included in the collected poetry, an untitled Breckenridge Elkins fragment, and a drawing by Howard.  If I heard correctly, there are only 200 copies.  I don't have information about purchasing, so if someone reading does have that information, I would appreciate it if you could put it in a comment.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Report on Howard Days 2011, Day One

The side of the Cross Plains library
Robert E. Howard Days 2011 was a great success, at least in my opinion.  The weather was hot, but not humid, and the breeze helped keep things cool.  Some people might say we had wind, but since the sky didn't turn brown from dust like it has for the last few months where I live, I'll say we only had a breeze in Cross Plains.

Festivities started on Thursday night, but I wasn't able to arrive until Friday morning.  I'll report on what I participated in.  Al Harron, at The Blog That Time Forgot, has posted daily summaries, starting with this one for Thursday.  Al and I participated in some of the same activities but also a number of different ones, so check out his posts as well.  Others will be posting their reports, and I'll try to provide links throughout the week as I become aware of them.

I'll put in more photos than I usually do, at least for the first day.  My camera battery died on the second day, so all I have are a few photos I took with my phone.  I'll put the best of those in.

I got to the Pavilion shortly before 9:00 a.m.  Several familiar faces were already there.  I grabbed a donut and coffee and began saying hello after swinging by the bin with the issues of The Cimmerian for sale.   I picked up a few and began mingling.  One of the people I had the pleasure of meeting was Miguel Martins.  Rusty Burke was leading a trailer tour again this year.  Until last year, this was known as The Walking Tour, but a trailer with chairs on it has taken its place.  And a good thing, too.  Even though it was still relatively cool at this time in the morning (low 80s Fahrenheit), it would have been hotter than that before the tour was over.

House where Novalyne Price lived
Just before the tour started Al Harron, arrived.  I met Al last year and made it a point of saying hello before we left.  The tour was packed.  All the chairs on the trailer were taken and four people were piled into the bed of the pickup towing us.  We went by the cemetery (the Howards are all buried in Brownwood) and behind downtown, crossed the highway, and went by the house where Novalyne Price lived while she worked as a teacher at Cross Plains High School from 1934-1936.  That's her room on the right with the air conditioner sticking out of the window.  If you haven't read her memoir about her relationship with Bob,  One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard the Final Years, you should.  It formed the basis of the movie The Whole Wide World, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and an at the time nearly unknown actress named Renee Zellweger. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back From Howard Days

I returned from Howard Days a few hours ago and have been playing catch up on email and other online things.  I stayed at my parents' house in Breckenridge, like I usually do.  (Their internet connection was shot, hence the playing catch-up now, and the repairman didn't show up when scheduled.)  It's an hour's drive away, but the rate I get on the room is good and I can make the trip into a family trip that I sneak off from to go to Cross Plains.  Unfortunately I tend to miss the late conversations at the Pavilion.  I've driven and slept at the same time before, and it's not an experience I want to repeat.  I'll be posting a report over the next couple of days.  I took plenty of pictures (until the battery on my camera died; it had gotten turned on without my realizing it).  Afterwards, I had to use the camera on my phone.  Those will be going up over the next few days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vikings and Werewolves and Loki

M. D. Lachlan
Pyr, 355 p., $16

If you like Vikings, werewolves, or Norse mythology, then this is the book for you.  

Wolfsangel opens with a bloody Viking raid on a small Anglo-Saxon settlement.  Authun, the king leading the raid, gives his men orders to kill everyone except the children.  He's looking for a prophesied male infant, one supposed to have been stolen from the gods.  If he takes the child, the boy will grow up to lead his people to glory, or so he believes.  What he ends up with are two infants, twin brothers.  Not knowing which one is the one he wants, he takes them both along with their mother.  He leaves his men to die.

It gets darker from there. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Hawks

This year marks a number of anniversaries in Robert E. Howard fandom:  25 years of Howard Days in Cross Plains, 50 years since the first publication of Glenn Lord's The Howard Collector, 75 years of Robert E. Howard's Legacy, and 100 years since the founding of Cross Plains.  In addition to these, this year is the 40th anniversary of Marvel Comics bringing Conan to comics and the 45th year since the Lancer publication of Conan the Adventurer.  It's the last that's of interest to us in this post. 

Or to be more precise, it's the stories that L. Sprague de Camp either finished or rewrote that we're going to take a look at.  Specifically, "Hawks Over Shem", which was a rewrite of an unsold historical adventure entitled "Hawks Over Egypt".  Those of you who are familiar with the Lancer (later Ace) editions might be saying, "Wait a minute, that story is in Conan the Freebooter", and you'd be correct.

I was reading "Hawks Over Egypt", remembered it was one of the stories de Camp had rewritten, and thought a post about the changes he'd made might be of interest to some of you, especially since this was the 45th anniversary of the Lancer editions.

So let's take a look at what de Camp changed.  As you might suspect, there will be spoilers.

Leigh Brackett

I'm still working on a post about Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp that probably won't be done before tomorrow.  In the meantime, John M. Whalen has posted an article about Leigh Brackett and her character Eric John Stark over at Home of Heroics.  If you've not read Brackett, you've missed out, although you're probably familiar with her work.  She wrote or co-wrote the screenplays to such movies as The Big Sleep (starring Humphrey Bogart), Rio Bravo (with some guy named John Wayne), and the first draft of an obscure film entitled The Empire Strikes Back.  In other words, she worked with the best.  Her collected short fiction is available from Haffner Presss and the Eric John Stark books are available from Paizo/Planet Stories as well as some other work.  Go read what John has to say and if you've not read her before, see if she's not the type of writer whose works you want on your shelf.

Friday, June 3, 2011

RIP Joel Rosenberg

Black Gate is reporting that fantasy author Joel Rosenberg died yesterday, June 2, of a heart attack.  He was 57.  Mr. Rosenberg is survived by his wife and two daughters.  He is best known for his Guardians of the Flames series. 

Jim Cornelius and Frontier Partisans

Former blogger for The Cimmerian Jim Cornelius has a new blog that just launched on June 1.  It's called Frontier Partisans, and if you have an interest in the men and women of the various frontiers throughout history, you really should check it out.  It's well put together, informative, and fascinating.  Since historical adventure is supposed to be one of the foci of Adventures Fantastic (I know, I know, I need to emphasize that aspect more), I would be remiss if I failed to encourage you to spend time there and give Jim your support.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Changing World of Publishing

Kris Rusch has been doing a series over at The Business Rusch about how publishing is changing.  Over the last few weeks, she's written about agents.  Here's the latest that just went up.  There are links in it to the earlier installments.

Why am I writing about this here?  Two reasons. 

The Greatest Show...Anywhere

A few weeks ago, when I was doing the series Seven Days of Online Fiction, I looked at what was the then current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies on Day 1.  Because I wasn't reviewing series fiction as part of the Seven Days, I only examined one story.  The one I didn't look at was "The Finest Spectacle Anywhere" by Genevieve Valentine.  After I posted the review, the editor, Scott Andrews, kindly sent me an email telling me the story was self-contained. 

I'd intended to go back and look at the story.  Then Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus came to town.  They're set up at the coliseum getting ready for a series of performances that start tomorrow.  I've been driving by the elephants going to and from work every day this week.  What better motivation to visit a circus in a fantasy world?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Challenge Writing Competition at Rogue Blades

Rogue Blades announced its 2011 Challenge Writing competition this morning.  This year's theme is Stealth.  Judges are author Mary Rosenblum, Black Gate editor John O'Neill, and cover artist Storn Cook.  That's the cover over on the right. 

There's a $10 entry fee, which is more than reasonable.  Rouge Blades will begin accepting submissions in 15 days, so that should give all of us time to get something ready.  I'm intending to submit.  There's a minimum of 30 entries needed for this project to go forward.  The stories can be any genre, so long as there's a heroic element. 

Here's our chance to make sure there's good heroic, adventure oriented stories to read.  Let's inundate the judges and make their job hard by having to agonize over choosing form an avalanche of great stories.