Monday, December 31, 2018

End of 2018 Blog

2018 was a helluva year. It was the year my blog nearly died. I made only 20 posts this year. I used to posts 100s, but, partly out of laziness and partly out of how the platforms change, I did almost all my social media activities on facebook this year. It’s easy to waste time on facebook, but there are also numerous groups of likeminded readers and writers that can provide both entertainment and information. Plus, promotional activities there are generally seen by many more folks than on a blog.

2018 was also the year that I almost died. I had a heart attack in August, caused by a primary artery that was 100 percent blocked. Apparently, this blockage is commonly called “the widowmaker” because most people who have heart attacks from this source die. I’d like to think surviving it means I’m tough, but it probably just means I’m lucky. I went through several months of cardiac rehab and my recovery efforts are certainly not completed, but I’m feeling pretty good and in better shape than I was before the attack. I will continue my rehabbing in 2019. I don’t want to have that feeling again.

I played more Skyrim (Video Game) in 2018 than in most previous years, but I also read a lot, particularly at the end of the year after my heart attack. Those who follow this blog know I count my “reading year” through my birthday. Between October 14, 2017 and October 14, 2018, I read 106 books. According to Goodreads, I read 131 books in 2018, which is my highest total ever on Goodreads. Quite a few of those were by Harlan Coben, who moved up to #39 on my all time book total list after just 2 years of reading his stuff. However, there’s always a little bit of everything on my list.

As for writing, despite certain interruptions it was a fairly productive year for me. I wrote about 40,000 words of new fiction (includes poetry) intended for publication, and most of it has already been published with a few other pieces schedule for 2019. The biggest news was the publication of “The Scarred One,” my first western novel (under the Tyler Boone name). I was very happy to have this happen and my thanks to the fine folks at Sundown Press—Cheryl Pierson and Livia J. Washburn.

Half a dozen short stories also came out under the Tyler Boone name in 2018, and I had stories published in some really fine anthologies, including Unsheathed, Twilight Echoes, and Doorbells at Dusk. And I had stories appear in such fine magazines as Sirens Call, Night to Dawn, Pen of the Damned, and Beneath the Rainbow.

Although I didn’t do much writing in the first couple of months after my heart attack, I’ve been back at it for the past couple of weeks and am happy with the stuff coming out on the screen. Best of all, my mind is churning with ideas again. That’s probably the most enjoyable part. And so, I leave you with a hearty farewell to 2018 and a welcome to 2019. I hope the new year treats us all well!

Friday, November 09, 2018

Tyler Boone Rides Again

I’m very excited to announce that my first full-length western, and the first novel under my penname, Tyler Boone, is ready for release from Sundown Press. It’s called The Scarred One.  Many thanks to Cheryl Pierson and Livia J. Washburn for their consideration and support, and for outstanding work in the editing, cover, and formatting arenas.

There will be both a print and a kindle edition of The Scarred One. The kindle edition is available now for preorder, although it won’t be delivered until November 13. It’s at a good price too, only $2.99.  If you have any interest in the book, a preorder would be nice for both me and the publisher. I will eventually be having a few signings for the book in my local area. That is Southern Louisiana, and maybe I’ll try to get up Arkansas way next summer. These will be announced ahead of time, of course.

I grew up reading westerns and remain a huge fan of the genre today. It’s an honor for me to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, Zane Grey, Lewis B. Patten, Gordon D. Shirreffs, Will Henry, Luke Short, and even Robert E. Howard. Below is the blurb for The Scarred One. I hope it intrigues and tempts you. I’d love for you to read this story.

Scarred by a mysterious fire that killed his parents when he was seven, Trenton Banning grew up in a San Francisco orphanage. Ten years later he fled to the freedom of the Rocky Mountains. Now, he’s come to the town of Sun Falls, Wyoming, where a silver strike has triggered a boom. He isn’t after riches, though. He’s there for Jonathan Hunsinger, a ruthless businessman who may know something about the fire that orphaned Banning. 

Hunsinger has a beautiful daughter, Elizabeth. That complicates things for Banning. And after an attempt is made on his life, he realizes that someone is willing to kill to protect Jonathan Hunsinger’s secrets. There are plenty of suspects; Elizabeth is one. Besides trying to stay alive and solve a decade-old mystery, the young mountain man now has to wonder—is Elizabeth the woman of his dreams, or the architect of his nightmares?

Saturday, November 03, 2018


Scott Harris was kind enough to interview me about both reading and writing westerns. I had a few things to say. Check it out here

Thursday, October 18, 2018

My Year In Books

Since my way of figuring out my reading year is a bit different, I always explain in these blog posts. I count my reading year through my birthday. It starts October 14 and ends October 13 of the following year.

This year, I had a very good year, totaling 106 books read. This is up from a low of 67 last year.  A main reason for the change is that I eased up on some of my academic workload this year, and then I had an extended period after my heart attack where reading was about all I could do.  Six of these were also graphic novels, which was up from 0 last year and which do not take long to read.

I also classify my books by genre. One major change this year was my westerns going from 6 to 14. That's partially because I was writing my own western through much of the year and tend to like to read in the genre I'm writing in. The biggest change, though, was in mystery/thriller, which went from 14 to 19. The primary reason here was my discovery of Harlan Coben.  I binged on his books to the tune of 12.

Fantasy at 12 and SF at 11 continued to be staples for me. Poetry stayed about the same, at 5 versus 4 for last year. My nonfiction reading (not counting articles and essays but books only) has remained at 7 for the past three year.

Bizarre as it may seem, I also keep an average book-read stat. Figuring that I started reading actual books around the age of seven, I've averaged 80 a year for the past 53 years. I've only been keeping detailed records since 1987 but in that time my best reading year was 95-96 with 126 books read. The worst year was 2001-2002 with only 49. I had eleven straight years when I read at least a 100. I remember being disappointed when I dropped below that number one year to end the streak but it was because of family health issues.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Hard Loss for Us All

On September 29, a young woman of my acquaintance killed herself. I had not met her in real life but that doesn’t mean I didn’t know her. We had been friends on facebook for several years and had corresponded frequently. I had learned about her life, her pups, her house, her job, her fears and hopes.

Amanda was kind-hearted, intelligent, principled. She worked with animals and loved them. She had much to offer the world, but the world didn’t seem to want it. Not the whole world, certainly. She had friends and people who cared about her. But I believe she felt that there wasn’t a place for her in the world. It is not for me to address the reasons why she might have felt this way. I know others with the same reasons who also suffer.

On the day of the act, she posted a short message on facebook to say goodbye. Despite the fact that people responded within fifteen minutes and the police were called, it was too late. I did not find that out until late evening, and now my heart hurts. I wish the world had been better for her.

All I can say is, be kind to each other. One thing I try to ask myself when I make judgements about people from some brief interaction with them, or from just knowing their opinion about some particular issue, is: “What if you’re wrong?” “What if that’s not who they really are inside?” I don’t always succeed in doing this and certainly wish I was much better at it. But I do know, Kindness Matters!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Doorbells at Dusk Review

Doorbells at Dusk, edited by Evans Light, Corpus Press, 2018, 280 pages.

Released just in time for Halloween, Doorbells at Dusk presents fourteen varied tales of seasonal horror. These range from the gory to the atmospheric. I have a piece in this anthology but will mainly focus on other stories.

My piece is called “A Plague of Monsters.” I wanted to keep the reader guessing as to the source of the “monsters” until pretty far along in the story. I hope it worked. I definitely had a lot of fun writing the story. It’s a kind of ode to the many SF/horror tales and movies that I’ve enjoyed in my life.

Next up we have “The Rye-Mother” (great title) by Curtis M. Lawson. An eerie tale, very atmospheric. What lies at the heart of the corn maze on Halloween? Young David decides to find out.

Amber Fallon is next with “The Day of the Dead.” There’s a cool twist here with the role that costumes play in the tale. I certainly didn’t predict the kicker at the end.

“Rusty Husk,” by Evans Light is next. Another great title. This one ups the gore content of the collection. Rusty enjoys Halloween a little too much but he’s soon to learn the true meaning of the holiday.

“Adam’s Bed,” by Josh Malerman follows. Ronnie is a dad, and he loves his kid, although he loves his party lifestyle at least as much. What he doesn’t love is the presence under his son’s bed.

Jason Parent is next with “Keeping up Appearances.” They chose the richest looking houses to rob. And everything went smoothly. Until they picked the wrong house.

Chad Lutzke gives us “Vigil.” Different folks are probably going to have different favorites in a collection like Doorbells at Dusk. “Vigil” was one of mine from the collection. This tale is absolutely realistic, and maybe that’s why it creeped me out so much. I could easily put myself into the narrator’s shoes.

Gregor Xane gives us “Mr. Impossible.” A fun block party takes a turn for the worse. The last half of the story is visceral and relentless.

Ian Welke gives us “Between,” one of the atmospheric tales in the collection. The main character, Yolanda, has a fascination with mathematical forms, and with hallucinogenics. Definitely a character driven story.

“The Friendly Man” by Thomas Vaughn is up next, and I’m going to give this one a slight edge as my favorite piece in the collection. Gory for sure, but with a real underlying creep factor. The ending kept me thinking about the story long after it was over.

Sean Eads and Joshua Viola are up next with “Many Carvings,” (another great title.) Another atmospheric tale. Full of creepiness. If you raise an army of children to do your bidding, what happens when they take the reins in their own hands?

“Trick ‘em All,” by Adam Light is next. Travis is relegated by his parents to manning the candy dish for Halloween. He has other plans, and it begins with carving a secret pumpkin, a pumpkin with a secret of its own. Really strong ending to this one.

“Offerings,” by Joanna Koch is up next. This one is just fantastically creepy. All of us adults know how strange little children can be. We were like that when we were children. But the kids in this story have a little more strangeness than most.

The final story in the anthology is “Masks,” by Lisa Lepovetsky. No one can leave the party until the last guest arrives. That’s when the fun begins! I thought this was a good strong choice to end the anthology with.

Each of the stories in Doorbells at Dusk offered an interesting take on the horrors of Halloween. I read one story a day and was thus able to really milk each one for all it had to offer. I recommend that process to you as well, and I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed in Doorbells at Dusk.  

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Twilight Echoes #1

So, let me drop this casually on you. I’m in a magazine with Robert E. Howard. You might respond with, “Robert E. Howard died quite a long time ago.” Yes. Yes, he did. But his stories live on. And one of his living stories has just been reprinted in Twilight Echoes #1, from Carnelian Press, edited by Steve Dilks. And it so happens that my own story, “A Whisper in Ashes” is also to be found in the same magazine. It makes me a little giddy.

There are stories by two other writers in the mag as well, and plenty of great illustrations, so let me give my brief review here. First up we have my own story, “A Whisper in Ashes.” This is the first tale I completed about a character I call Krieg. Krieg is not a pastiche of any previous sword & sorcery character out there, but his development was certainly influenced by Karl Edward Wagner’s stories of “Kane,” and Howard’s tales of “Kull.” One difference is that nothing is revealed here, or in the first few stories, about Krieg’s origins. We don’t know where he came from and no one will until some of the later stories in the series. So far, only three tales are complete. The second one, “Where all the Souls are Hollow” was recently published in the anthology Unsheathed. The third one, “The Rotted Land,” is ready to be sent out. And two more are in partial stages of completion.

The second story in the magazine is “Bride of the Swamp God” by Davide Mana. I’ve not been familiar with Mana’s work but intend to change that. We’ve got strong characters in Aculeo, a Roman legionary, and Amunet, the daughter of a sorcerer who seeks her own power. Twists and turns and betrayals abound in this tale of sorcerous bargains gone wrong. Throw in an elder god and you have all the ingredients of a great sword and sorcery tale.

The third story is “The Eyes of the Scorpion” by Steve Lines. I was also not familiar with Steve Lines’ work but this is an excellent tale written in an interesting style. For those of you know of Conan, you know of the quote: “Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of…” To me, Lines’ style captures this kind of feel. Great atmospheric piece. I also loved the vocabulary here, which is something I always enjoyed about Robert E. Howard’s work as well.

Finally, we have Robert E. Howard, with a Conan tale called “The Vale of Lost Women.” “Vale” is not one of the better known Conan stories; in fact, it wasn’t published during Howard’s lifetime. These may be the reasons our editor selected it. The plot is very simple. A female captive needs rescuing, but Howard doesn’t give us that rescue in the way we think it’s going to happen. The tale certainly showcases the “vigor” of Howard’s prose. That’s always the word that comes to mind when I read Howard. There’s a “physicality” to his writing that is hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

These stories, along with dynamite illustrations by the likes of Jim Pitts, Tony Gleeson, Yannis Rubus Rubulias, Kurt Brugel, and Regis Moulun, as well as a substantive editorial by Steve Dilks, make Twilight Echoes #1 a sweet little package. If you’re interested in picking up a copy, here’s the link you need:

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Heart of the Matter

On Saturday, August the 4th, I had a heart attack. I was walking down the dirt road by my house when I felt sudden constriction in my chest, intense weakness, shortness of breath, and tingling numbness in my whole upper body. I started back toward the house; the pain and weakness grew. I started to sit down in the ditch but figured I wouldn’t be able to get up again so I worked my way back to the house and called 911. The paramedics arrived quickly and after they put a scanner on me a young lady said: “We need to go now!” I didn’t think that was a good sign.

With sirens blaring, they got me to St. Tammany Hospital in Covington pretty quickly, with the young woman working on me the whole time. I never lost consciousness or even felt any real confusion. Mostly I felt fairly calm since at this point I understood it was all out of my hands. Once at the hospital they told me that the frontal artery leading to my heart was 100 percent blocked. They quickly put in a stent. I was then sent to ICU.

I spent two days in ICU, being introduced to a host of new medications. These made me quite nauseated, meaning I couldn’t eat anything. Not that I felt very hungry. On Monday evening they moved me to a new room in the regular hospital, and then released me Tuesday evening, although I was sent home wearing something called “Life Vest,” which monitors me and apparently can administer treatment if I have another attack.

The doctors said there was clearly damage to the heart but they won’t know how much or how much recovery I might expect until several weeks have passed. I’m hoping for good news on that front and am trying to follow all their protocols. I’m weak and can move only slowly. Still no appetite. I’ve been able to process some emails but not much else. I’m going to try to build my strength slowly. I do plan to be back at school for my classes though there are contingency plans for me easing back into that.

Thanks goes out to all the folks from the paramedics to the housecleaners who got me through my stay at the hospital, particularly the nurses in ICU, who were very considerate and kind and helpful.

Also, of course, to Lana, who has been a rock. She was at work when it happened and was working the phones at the desk when the call came through for her. I understand it was quite a shock. She’s taking a few days off work to stay home with me while I begin to mend.

I always suspected that I would need a stent or stents eventually. My brother has had to have them. But I thought I’d get some kind of warning of trouble before the actual attack. It didn’t happen in my case so any of you out there with the risk factors, get yourself checked.

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Mighty Warriors, Edited by Robert M. Price

The Mighty Warriors, Edited by Robert M. Price, Ulthar Press, 2018, 239 pages.

If you’re like this nearing 60-year-old, you may remember such great anthologies from the 1960s and 1970s as The Mighty Barbarians, The Might Swordsmen, Warlocks and Warriors, Savage Heroes, The Spell of Seven, Warlocks and Warriors, Swords & Sorcery, Swordsmen and Supermen, The Fantastic Swordsmen, The Barbarian Swordsmen, The Dark of the Soul, and the Flashing Swords and Swords Against Darkness series. These books were edited by such folks as L. Sprague De Camp, Lin Carter, Andrew Offutt, and Hans Stefan Santesson. They collected imaginative tales of sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy. Most included a story by Robert E. Howard, the father of the genre. I collected and devoured them all.

            In 2018, along comes Robert M. Price, a well remembered name in his own right, to try and capture that fateful lightning in a bottle (or prose) again. I’m not sure exactly how the collection came about, but several authors well known in the S & S genre were persuaded to take part, including Adrian Cole, David C. Smith, and Charles R. Saunders, as well as quite a few relative newcomers. The collection contains eleven stories. Here is the TOC, followed by my thoughts:

"Know, O Prince: An Introduction" by Robert M. Price

"Spawn of the Sea God" by Adrian Cole

"The Corpse's Crusade" by Cody Goodfellow

"Thongor in the Valley of Demons" By Robert M. Price

"The Shadow of Dia-Sust" by David C. Smith

"Amudu's Bargain" by Charles R. Saunders

"The Secret of Nephren-Ka" by Robert M. Price

"The Temple of Light" by Milton J. Davis

"Kiss of the Succubus" by Charles R. Rutledge

"The Living Wind" by Ken Asamtsu, translated by Edward Lipsett

"The Last Temple of Balsoth" by Cliff Biggers

"Lono and the Pit of Punhaki" by Paul R. McNamee

Appendices I-III
            While interesting, the introduction by Price could easily have been expanded. I would have liked to have seen a little more historical context myself, but I understand that many readers just want the stories and don’t much care about the history. I’m not sure that’s the case for most of the readers who will buy this collection, but I understand the impulse to keep the intro brief.

I recall Adrian Cole first from a wonderful trilogy of novels set in his own universe (Dream Lords), but here we have him telling a story about Elak of Atlantis--"Spawn of the Sea God". Elak was invented by Henry Kuttner. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Elak stories, since the character didn’t quite have the vitality that I associated with Robert E. Howard’s barbarians, but Cole does an excellent job of capturing the character and telling a fine, fun tale.

I don’t know anything about Cody Goodfellow. His "The Corpse's Crusade" is a tale of Zothique, which was invented by Clark Ashton Smith. Zothique is a continent of a future, dying earth. Again, I thought the author did a good job of capturing the sense of Smith’s Zothique. I liked this tale quite a bit with its twist of irony plot.

Next is Robert Price with a tale of "Thongor in the Valley of Demons.” Thongor is the creation of Lin Carter and was essentially a kind of mix between Conan and John Carter. He lived on the continent of Lemuria. Price has a whole collection of Thongor tales out called The Sword of Thongor. This is a new tale, though, not included in that collection. I have a soft spot for the Thongor tales and this is a worthy continuation of the character.

"The Shadow of Dia-Sust" by David C. Smith is a tale of Oron. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Smith wrote numerous stories and a couple of books about Oron. I much enjoyed them and was very happy to see a new tale of the character. Smith was also one of the best of the Robert E. Howard pastiche writers of the 70s and 80s so he knows how to write a tale of high adventure.

Charles Saunders is best known for his tales of Imaro, a warrior hero of Nyumbani, a kind of alternate Africa. There were three novels originally of this character and I read and enjoyed them all. It was good to see a fresh Imaro story, "Amudu's Bargain." I believe this one has a slight edge as my favorite of the collection.

"The Secret of Nephren-Ka" by Robert M. Price is next. This is a story of Simon of Gitta, originally a creation of Richard Tierney, although based on the Biblical character of Simon Magus. These stories tend to involve more sorcery and less sword than I typically like, but Tierney was a very fine writer and, again, Price captures the character well.

Milton J. Davis is next, with "The Temple of Light,” a tale of his hero Changa. Changa is an interesting character, a literary descendent of Imaro, I should think. Very good writing and setting. Davis has other stories of Changa out as well.

"Kiss of the Succubus,” by Charles R. Rutledge, features his hero Kharnn. This one is set in the 1500s. Kharnn is a time traveling barbarian. This is a straightforward blood and thunder tale of a battle against a demon. Fun stuff.

I’ve read a little bit of Ken Asamtsu’s work before. He is a Japanese author. I haven’t read his work in the original language but the translations have been exciting and enjoyable. "The Living Wind" is no exception. Lots of sorcery in this one too.

Cliff Biggers was also a new name to me. "The Last Temple of Balsoth" featured a character named “Gondar.” Gondar is out for revenge, a not unusual motivation in sword and sorcery, but this was a really fun tale that could easily have been set in REH’s Hyborian age.

Finally there’s “Lono and the Pit of Punhaki" by Paul R. McNamee. I’ve been in an anthology with Paul and know him as a very fine writer. This was a great tale to end the collection, and with a unique setting among Pacific islanders.

All in all, an enjoyable collection of robust red-blooded tales of adventure.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books: Stepsons of Terra

Stepsons of Terra, by Robert Silverberg: Ace, 174 pages.

According to the introduction of this book by Silverberg, Stepsons of Terra was his 6th published novel, written in October of 1957. Silverberg indicated that he’d had plenty of shorter stuff published before this work, though, as well as the five other novels. The original title of the book was Shadow on the Stars, and it appeared in the April 1958 issue of Science Fiction Adventures, edited at the time by Larry T. Shaw, who requested a novel from Silverberg. Later that year it was picked up by Donald Wollheim for his Ace Doubles book line, where it appeared opposite of a book by British author Lan Wright.

In his introduction to “Stepsons,” which contains a wealth of good information, Silverberg says he’d written plenty of shorter “melodramas” for Science Fiction Adventures under various pseudonyms. By melodramas he means “blood-and-thunder,” and “blazing ray-guns” written “strictly for fun.” As is often the case when Silverberg talks about writing SF, he takes—at least to me—a slightly disparaging tone about the more pulpish aspects of the genre. This never fails to irritate me. Personally, his more pulpish tales are by far my favorites among his work. These include two that I read as a kid called Conquerors from the Darkness and Time of the Great Freeze.

As for Stepsons of Terra, Silverberg writes that since it was going to appear under his own name, he: “was a trifle less flamboyant about making use of the pulp-magazine clichés beloved by the magazine’s readers. There would be no hissing villains and basilisk-eyed princess in this one, no desperate duels with dagger and mace, no feudal overloads swaggering about the stars. Rather, I would write a straightforward science fiction novel strongly plotted but not unduly weighted toward breathless adventure.”

So, what was the result? In my opinion? Well, it was good but I think it would have been better with more of those pulp elements. It’s definitely a tale of intrigue rather than action and adventure. The adventure is certainly not “breathless.” Relatively little actually happens in the story, although the writing is good and the characters hold your attention. Too, Silverberg certainly does avoid the cliché descriptions of women often found in tales of the pulp era. And the epic space battle in the book is about as anti-climactic as you can get—certainly not cliché though.

According to Silverberg, the book was very well received by the readers of Science Fiction Adventures and the next issue of the magazine was full of “letters of praise.” I’m sure it was, and I did enjoy the book. Not my favorite of his, though. I guess I’d have to say: give me more pulp.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Snake-Man's Bane, by Howie K. Bentley

The Snake-Man’s Bane, by Howie K. Bentley, is a collection of heroic fantasy short stories from Wild Hunt Books. It contains: The Snake-Man’s Bane, All Will Be Righted on Samhain (with David C. Smith), The Heart of the Betrayer, Where There Is No Sanctuary, Thannhausefeer’s Guest, and Full Moon Revenant. Several have been previously published in magazines or anthologies but are collected here for the first time. Most are longish tales, which puts a lot of meat on their bones.
All stories in the collection stand on their own but there is a common thread that runs through them. This is the character of Thorn, a kind of demon-god from the “Rune Realms” who feeds on the essence of other gods and often possesses mortal warriors to use as avatars in our world. Thorn does not appear in all the stories but there is a connection to him in each of the tales.

The primary setting for these pieces is a mythical Europe. There are many hints to suggest that it is the same world, only later in time, as the world described by Robert E. Howard in his Hyborian Age Essay. Mention is made in the stories of Valusia (from Kull’s time) and Zamora (from Conan’s). There is mention of an imprisoned “elephant-headed god from beyond the stars” and of a “great warrior” who destroyed the tower where the god was imprisoned. This is certainly a reference to Robert E. Howard’s “TheTower of the Elephant,” which would make Conan the “great warrior.” In addition, the snake men of the title, who play a prominent role in the first story, seem quite likely to be related to the serpent men mentioned by Howard in some of his Kull tales.

One thing that doesn’t quite jive with the setting as described above is that in the story “All Will be Righted on Samhain,” which was co-written with the excellent author, David C. Smith, there is mention of Rome and the historical Queen Boadicea of the Kelts. A time is even given, 60 CE. However, the main character of this tale, Boadicea’s daughter, Bunduica, becomes a sorcerer who is able to open doorways to other realms. This connected realm concept may explain how this particular story links to the others in the collection.

Although the Howard influence is clear and spelled out for the reader in these tales, I also felt like there was a bit of influence from Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion” series. In particular, the way that the demon-god Thorn inhabits various forms through time suggests this. At least to me.

My favorite story in the collection is “Where There is No Sanctuary.” This tale starts out in a way that was reminiscent for me of Howard’s “The Frost King’s Daughter.” This story also features my favorite warrior character in the collection, Argantyr. Argantyr is a literary descendent of such heroes as Conan and Karl Wagner’s Kane, but he is unique to Howie Bentley, with a particular talent that I won’t spoil for you here. He’s quite an appealing character, albeit grim, and I’d love to read more about him.

All influences and discussion of settings and characters aside, the key aspect to these stories is that they are “tales of high adventure.” They’re exciting works full of both heroic and villainous deeds, violent swordplay, and the dark doings of sorcery. I very much enjoyed them and highly recommend them to you. The book is available in both paperback and kindle if you’re looking to pick up a copy. Here’s the link:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Unsheathed: A Review

Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection. 2018: Hydra Publications. ISBN = 9781940466682

Edited by Stuart Thaman.

Contains: 9 fantasy stories, all of which would be classified as either sword and sorcery or high fantasy. Full disclosure: one of the stories is mine.

Hanging at Crosbothar, by Austin Worley: A great opening line here, “Corpses hung from the ancient maple like leaves.” Has an historical feel—brought to mind the Templars—but brings in magic as a significant player in the story. The primary hero is female and is well drawn. Writing is good; lots of sensory details. Enjoyable.

Retribution by Night, by Chad Vincent: No real hero in this story, but plenty of villains. The one known as Armstrong is most memorable. I’d generally consider it sword and sorcery but the naming convention in the story sounds more historical. The writing style is very unusual, perhaps rather experimental on the part of the author. Interesting read.

Where All the Souls are Hollow, by Charles Gramlich: My story. Features the character, Krieg, a series character I’ve been working with. This was intended to be sword and sorcery with a twist. I won’t give that away. For those of you familiar with fantasy, the charter of Krieg probably most resembles Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane.

Switch Blade, by Dr. Scott Simerlein: More high fantasy than sword and sorcery, and a tale with humor. A magical blade that can switch bodies and souls. The tale hinges on the difficulty of getting the right soul back into the right body after an accident. Ingenious plot. A very satisfying ending that brought a smile and a “well-done.”

King’s Road, by G. Dean Manuel: This one has another magical blade and my favorite character in the collection, Prince William. William’s father, the king, is not serving his land well in the face of a sorcerous invasion. William has to act but he does so with honor by giving his father a chance for redemption. A good read with another strong ending. Has a kind of historical feel.

The Artefact, by Ross Baxter: Excellent start to this tale, when three companions enter a ruined estate in search of secrets. There’s a cool female warrior named Silja, and a tinkerer named Jud, who is the primary character. I liked Jud a lot and liked how the tale ended. Sword and sorcery.

Under Locke and Key, by Jay Erickson: The only story to feature a child as main character, although there are strong supporting characters. Gwendolyn is a slave girl in a land where a plague called the “Red Tears” is running rampant. The cure to the plague is hidden in plain sight but the story is well constructed so you don’t solve the mystery until the final reveal. I liked it quite a lot. Sword and sorcery with an historical feel.

Ransom for a Prince, by Liam Hogan: This one features a realistically portrayed female warrior who must fight a desperate battle to give her liege a chance to escape. No magic in this one. Lots of good fighting choreography. And a strong ending. Well done.

Only an Elf, By Stuart Thaman: This one features elves and dwarves and leans more toward high fantasy. The main character is an elven slave of the dwarves who discovers a way to strike back at her captors. Well told tale with interesting and complex characters.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Rope and Wire, and Lane Gabriel

I've joined an online western community called Rope and Wire, which is the brain child of Scott Gese. There's a tremendous amount to explore and so far I've just scratched the surface. Generally, it provides a place where western authors can find support and support each other. Lots of good stories are already posted there, although, as I say, I've only been able to read a few so far.

My first story accepted for the site went up yesterday (Saturday). It's called "Gun Law" and features a character named Lane Gabriel. I created Gabriel all the way back in 2013 and wrote three partial stories about him. Life intervened and I never finished any of them. Then I moved on to other projects, but I've remembered the character.

When I became aware of Rope and Wire, I decided I wanted to submit something to them. I went back to the Lane Gabriel stories and found one that I could whip into shape as a complete tale. If you read it, you can see that the "end" could easily be expanded on, and I may do that over time.

If you check out my story, you'll find it written under the name Tyler Boone, which is what I've decided to publish all my westerns under from now on. Anyway, if you'd like to read "Gun Law," you can find it here.

Thanks as always for the support!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Blog Rejuvenation

Well, I took off half of March and all of April from the blog. I just needed a break. Sorry to all those whose posts I’ve missed, but April, in particular, would not cut me any slack. However, school is just about out. A couple more tests and graduation and I’ll be done for the summer. So, I thought I’d see if I can rejuvenate the blog a bit over the summer.

First post back is gonna mostly be writing related updates. I’ve had various bits of good news, and some not so good. I’m putting the not so good behind me so here’s the good:

First and most recent, Sirens Call #38 is out. It’s a free PDF download and contains a horror story by me called “She Fled, Laughing.” It’s gone one of the grosser endings I’ve written. I do hope you enjoy. Like I say, it’s free to read. Here’s the link.

Second, the “Unsheathed” anthology is now available in paperback if anyone wants. Nine sword and sorcery tales, including “Where All the Souls are Hollow,” a Krieg story, from me. There’s also a kindle version, which I mentioned in my last blog post way back when. Here’s the link:


Third, “The Shot Rang Out” is the first in at least 4 western anthologies of 500 word flash fiction tales that will be published this year. All are helmed by the illustrious Scott Harris. Each will contain 52 stories, written by 52 different writers, in response to a specific prompt. “The Shot Rang Out” is already available in paperback and kindle. I’ll be in all four anthologies, under the Tyler Boone name. My story in “The Shot Rang Out” is called “The Long Ride.” My stories for 2 and 3 are already done. #4 is rough drafted. I had a lot of fun with these and I’ve read the first volume all the way through and will say it’s all great fun. Here’s the link to the first one:


There are a couple of other things upcoming that I’m excited about. I’m going to have a Krieg story in a brand new fantasy mag that’s coming out soon. I won’t say too much until it drops, but I’ve seen some illustrations for it and they are dynamite.

Looks like I’ll have a story in a Halloween anthology this fall, although I’ll share more about that later too.

Finally, my first western novel will be published this summer through my own Razored Zen Press. It’s called “The Scarred One.” I’m just looking for the right cover now but it should go up sometime in the next few weeks.

If anyone is still out there, thanks for reading. I’m going to make my blog rounds later today, although I’ll never get caught up on all the posts I’m missed, I’m sure.

Monday, March 19, 2018


A new collection of Epic Fantasy is out from Hydra Publications called "Unsheathed." This contains a story by me called "Where All the Souls are Hollow." This is the second story that I've written about the character Krieg, who is kind of a mix of REH's Kull and Karl Wagner's Kane. I just found out this was published so I haven't read it yet, but I like the cover and the story titles look pretty interesting. Right now it's available on Kindle here:

There's a third story of Krieg that is completed but not yet sold. It's called "The Rotted Land." I'm currently working on a fourth story called "Lords of War." I've been really enjoying writing about this character, more than any other heroic fantasy character I've created. Each of these tales starts with a brief, few line poem. Here's the one for "Where All the Souls are Hollow."

Out of choking dust and black smoke
came a warrior with eyes
like broken blades.
Wherever he journeyed,
war followed.
None could say why.
The survivors called him Krieg.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Lawyers, Am I Right?

A few lawyer jokes for your morning.

A lawyer dies and is standing before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates for judgment. The lawyer says: “I object.”

“Object to what?” St. Peter asks.

“I wasn’t given enough life. I’m only 50 years old.”

St. Peter consults his records and frowns. “It says here that you’re 87, not 50.”

The lawyer sputters. “Why that’s ridiculous. You must keep shoddy records. How did you figure I was 87?”

St. Peter replies: “We added up your billable hours.”

A Catholic couple die in an accident just before their wedding. They go to heaven, but because they'd really been looking forward to their wedding, they ask St. Peter if they can still get married. He tells them that he’ll have to get back to them.

Two years later, St. Peter comes and asks if they still want to get married. They say yes and so he takes them to a priest who performs the ceremony.

All is well for quite a few years but finally the couple decide that they want a divorce. They go and ask St. Peter if they can get a divorce in heaven.

St. Peter sputters: “It took two years to get a priest up here. Do you have any idea how long it’ll take to get a lawyer?”


A condemned man is asked on his last day if he’d rather have a visit from his lawyer or a hooker. Without hesitation, he says: “Lawyer.”

The guard says, “Now you know the lawyer is not going to be able to get your execution delayed.”

The prisoner nods. “Yes. But all I want is a last round of kinky sex.”

“Well then why not pick the hooker?” the guard asks, flabbergasted.

The prisoner answers: “Because there’s ‘nothing’ a lawyer won’t do to get his client off.”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Harlan Coben

Though I’d heard his name often enough, I didn’t discover Harlan Coben as a reader until I picked up “The Woods” by him in February of 2017. Here is my review on Goodreads:
“Very good. A standout mystery thriller that keeps the twists and turns coming. Well developed characters that you can root for, but who are certainly not perfect. I found myself irritated at interruptions that kept me from turning the pages and I think that is a pretty good recommendation. I'd not previously read anything by Coben but I'll be looking for more.”

Despite liking “The Woods” so much, it wasn’t until January of this year (2018) that I read my second Coben book—Darkest Fear. I loved it even more than “The Woods” and immediately headed to the bookstore and online to get more of his works. Here’s what I said about Darkest Fear.
“Wow, what a very fine book. The best I've read in a while. This is a good example of a page turner. I was completely caught up in the story and the characters. I've only read one Coben before, The Woods, which I also highly recommend. This is the first one I've read in the Bolitar series but I'm off to pick up the rest of them now. A very talented author.”

Since January 1st, 2018, I’ve read four more Coben books. This is rather unprecedent for me. I hardly ever select works from the same writer so close together. It goes to show how much I am enjoying his work. Here are some quick reviews below:

Six Years: “Really good. A professor uncovers the mystery of why the woman he loved suddenly married another man and made him promise never to try and contact her again. Layer upon layer of secrets are uncovered. Excellent plotting and very fine characters.”

Fade Away: “The third book I've read by Harlan Coben. This is also 3rd in the Myron Bolitar series. This is my least favorite of Coben's works so far, but it still gets 4 stars. A really good writer capable of creating very interesting characters and wrapping an exciting and intricate plot around them. Starting another Coben book tonight.”

The Innocent: My favorite so far: “An outstanding thriller. My favorite so far from Coben, which is saying a lot because I've liked everything I've read by him so far. It's a long book but I came close to finishing it in one session. That's how much I liked it. I did finish in two sessions and it was the kind of book where you close the last page and get that little feeling of melancholia because it's over. I highly recommend it.”

Gone for Good: This is the only one of Coben’s books so far that I didn’t just love. I still liked it, though. Here are my comments on Goodreads: “Is there such a thing as too complicated? Maybe, and maybe this one slips into that territory. I enjoyed it. Good writing. Interesting characters. I felt rather lost quite a bit of the time, particularly early. The ending was good.”

In short, I love me some Harlan Coben. Excellent storyteller and I highly recommend him.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories

So, I’ve now read my first Tolstoy. Not War and Peace. I haven’t the strength yet. I read a collection called The Kreutzer Sonata, which contains three longish short stories: "How Much Land Does a Man Need," "The Death of Ivan Ilych," and "The Kreutzer Sonata.”

Before I talk about the stories, some folks might ask me why I waited so long to read Tolstoy. I’m nearing my sixth decade. I blame high school English and literature classes. I already loved reading before I started Junior high. I read a bit of everything but particularly enjoyed animal stories, football tales, westerns, and SF/Fantasy. I hadn’t really been introduced to the “classics,” but in school we read such offerings as “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Silas Marner,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “The Scarlet Letter.” Grapes was about farmers, which my family was. It was long, with no action, and the settings were very familiar. When I reread it as an adult I appreciated it. But not as a teenager. As for “Silas Marner,” I still think it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Gatsby was actually rather enjoyable because it introduced me to a world I didn’t know, but it still didn’t have the excitement I craved. And Scarlet Letter was much the same, interesting, but not a page turner. I decided after these experiences that the “classics” were generally unimaginative, long, dealt strictly with internal rather than external experiences, and, worst of all, were boring.

In my mid-twenties I came back to the “classics” when I started reading Hemingway and realized that things ‘can’ happen in classic tales. “The Old Man and the Sea” is a great example. I also came to appreciate internal experiences more, and since that time I’ve read a lot of the classics but have certainly not caught up with everything I should read.

And now for Tolstoy and this collection. Seeing as how this is a translation, I can’t make much judgement about Tolstoy’s prose directly. These tales are well and simply told. There’s not much beauty in the prose—in the translation, but there is excellent scene setting and Tolstoy seems able to involve you in the tale quickly. The stories are long and a bit slow for modern readers, but it’s not unbearable and the interesting things that happen keep you reading. I gave the collection four stars, which is pretty darn good. With the exception of “How Much Land,” and the ending of “The Kreutzer Sonata,” these stories are almost exclusively “internal experiences.” Almost no action, mostly telling, with very little showing. Despite these negatives, the tales are compelling, especially “Ivan Ilych” and “Kreutzer.” They are compelling because they lay out moment by moment high level emotional destruction of a human being, and they are paced nearly perfectly to wring the most out of the reader.

“The Death of Ivan Ilych” is just that, a story about one man coming to grips with his impending death. The fears, the hopes, the pleading. They are all there in superb detail. I found the ending excruciating and was glad of it. “The Kreutzer Sonata” is about the destruction of a marriage through jealousy. The last sections of that are also excruciating but pretty close to ‘page turning’ intensity. The internalized experiences of the characters in these stories rang absolutely “true” to me, and that is the mark of a very good observer of human behavior. Tolstoy certainly hit the mark square center. I highly recommend this collection.

I’ve already picked up another collection of Tolstoy’s short stories and will start reading that soon. And then? Maybe War and Peace.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book List: Prices and Inventory

I suppose the new year is a good time to put this kind of thing up. Below is an inventory list of my books--meaning the ones I have in my house for sale. With prices attached. Most of these prices are better than you could get online. Some of them are pretty cheap, actually. And I could sign these copies if anyone were interested. A few of the ones on this list are very limited in number. I have only one Mage, Maze, Demon, for example, and one Strange Worlds. Those two I will not be getting more copies of, but everything else I can generally get more copies if needed. Of course, if you buy from me there is likely to be some postage costs. These are relatively minimal in the US but generally much, much higher for international mail. If you should be interested, you can email me at cagramlich11 at gmail dot com



(4)   COLD IN THE LIGHT----  $8

(13) SWORDS OF TALERA---- $12:50
(8)   WINGS OVER TALERA---- $12:50
(6)   WITCH OF TALERA---- $12:50
(2)   WRAITH OF TALERA---- $12:50
(2)   GODS OF TALERA---- $12:50

TALERA TRILOGY ----         $35

(12) BITTER STEEL---- $12:50
(9) MIDNIGHT IN ROSARY---- $12:50


(1) MAGE, MAZE, DEMON---- $5

(8) HARMLAND---- DARK TALES---- $5

(6) KILLING TRAIL---- $5

(6) UNDER THE EMBER STAR---- $12:50

(4) WRITE WITH FIRE----  $18


 (1) STRANGE WORLDS---- $12.50

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Two Strange Movies

So, thanks to Lana, I recently watched two movies that I would never have seen on my own. I liked one of them quite a lot and one not so much, but I'm glad Lana urged me out of my comfort zone on these.

Movie 1: The Lobster, 2015. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Wiesz. This is an absolutely absurd film about an SF dystopia. If you want to know the details of the plot, you can find it on Wikipedia. I won't repeat it. Basically, in the world of this movie, it is unacceptable to be single. Single people are taken to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find a partner, or they will be turned into an animal. They get to chose the animal, and Collin Farrell's character choses a lobster.

Farrell doesn't really want to become a lobster, though, so he strives to find a relationship. For a relationship to work in this world, it requires that the two individuals share some trait. One couple gets together because they both have nose bleeds, for example (although the man is faking it).

Farrell's character tries to start a relationship with a very cruel woman but cannot carry off faking his own cruelty. He flees the hotel and runs into a bunch of "loners" in the woods. Farrell's character is short sighted and he meets a loner woman (Weisz) who is also short sighted. However, the loners will not allow relationships so they have to hide their attraction to each other.

Throughout the whole movie, every character's dialogue and actions are delivered almost entirely deadpan. This adds to the absurdity of the situation. As with most artsy movies, the ending is left open-ended. I have to say, though, that I enjoyed this movie and was particularly interested in the dystopian world it envisions. I wouldn't mind reading a book that gave more detail about the world but apparently there isn't one.

Movie 2: Melancholia, 2011. Directed by Lars Von Trier. Stars Kirsten Dunst and Keifer Sutherland, among many other fairly big names. This is really a movie about depression. The big metaphor in the film is of a rogue planet named "Melancholia," which has entered our solar system and is supposed to swing close past earth. However, the first part of the movie barely touches on the planet.

Dunst's character is Justine. The movie starts on her wedding day. She and her husband are late to their wedding reception, but at first everything seems wonderful and they seem much in love. Gradually, the reception becomes a train wreck as Justine's depression comes fully into play. Her father is a dilettante and lush, her mother a vicious hag. Her sister, Claire, has some anxiety issues of her own but is generally trying to keep things together. Claire's husband, John (Sutherland) doesn't have much tolerance for Justine or her mother, but does have genuine affection for his wife and son. If you want to know more details of the plot you can find it here.

Although the acting is good, I found the first part of the movie to be pretty boring. I didn't really like any of the characters, particularly Justine. I sympathized with her depression initially, but when she began to behave in deliberately cruel ways I lost that sympathy.

The second half of the movie focuses more on Claire, Justine's sister, but it also brings to the forefront the plot with the planet Melancholia. Claire has heard that the planet will crash into Earth, while her husband, John, insists that it will only pass close by. This was interesting to me, and the visuals of Melancholia growing in the sky were great. My next couple of paragraphs are going to reveal the ending, so if you don't want spoilers you shouldn't read on. However, the beginning of the movie essentially reveals the ending anyway in a slow motion series of beautiful, digitally produced artistic images.

It turns out that John is wrong. The planet is going to crash into Earth. John cannot handle this and kills himself, abandoning his wife and child. This seemed completely out of character to me. Claire is left, panic stricken, to take care of her son. Justine is also there and now the movie tries to make Justine into the strong one. It doesn't work because Justine continues to exhibit cruelty and her solution to dealing with the impending destruction of earth is lie to the child about a "magic cave" that they can build to save them. The very end shows Justine, Claire, and the boy inside a haphazard construction of cut poles as Melancholia hits Earth.

Although I don't consider the time spent watching this movie to be a waste, as is sometimes the case with movies, I definitely did not like the movie. I thought it was well filmed and well acted but it was way too long, tried to make heroes of characters who were not heroes and tried to make cowards of characters who were not cowards. In a movie, or a book, the viewer or reader has to get to know the characters. It's a delicate thing to keep those characters true to the way they've been developed while still presenting new sides to them, but it is crucial. This movie didn't quite achieve that, in my opinion.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Year's Beginning: 2018

If you talk of 2017 now, you have to tell it like a ghost story. That year is dead, though I'm not sure it's buried. 2018 is fresh and vigorous, still feeling its sap rising. But life is like a gothic novel. The roots of the new grow out of the sins of the past. Nothing that "is" can escape the chains of what "was." And the older you get, the more "was" there is to deal with. The challenge, I guess, is to let the old inform the new without warping it.

I'm old enough now to have seen quite a few children grow up. I've seen them come into the world much like the new year, vigorous, curious, innocent. The innocence always goes. But some maintain their vigor and curiosity long after others have lost theirs. I wonder, were their childhoods less warping than those others? Did their roots start in a field free of sin, or relatively so, at least? Or do they have some inner strength, biologically given perhaps, that those others do not?

On a quiet day at work, with little to distract my thoughts, this is the kind of thing my mind turns to. Although my innocence is gone and my vigor diminished, it would seem that my curiosity has survive--although it has taken a morbid turn.