Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Silas Shoes

Who could have thought that one of my favorite memories of all time would involve tennis shoes. Here’s a picture of mine. I love the Velcro straps, a real boon to an old man like me. But that’s not the memory. 

A few months back we were babysitting our beautiful grandson, Silas. I’ve mentioned before how sweet he is. On this day, he wanted to play in the backyard so I slipped on my shoes. But it’s not easy for me to bend all the way over from a standing position to fasten the straps. Silas, on his own, without any prompting, bent down and fastened the straps on both shoes for me. Of course, he’s a lot closer to the ground than I am. But he wasn’t even two years old yet.

 I told Lana this morning that I was never going to be able to get rid of these shoes. Every time I put them on I get a big grin on my face as I remember Silas helping out his grandpa. Below is a picture of the little cutey, taken by his mom, Heidi. Sure am glad I’m still around to see him growing.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Writing the Ranger Series

Have to admit I was a little scared when Paul Bishop of Wolfpack Publishing offered me a chance to write the first book in The Ranger: Concho series, as A. W. Hart. I’d written books for the Avenging Angels and the Black Rose, but to “begin” a series was something else again. However, the character outline he gave me was intriguing, and challenging. There seemed to be lots of interesting possibilities. Within an hour of talking to Paul and asking for a little time to think, I knew I wanted to do it. The ideas were already spinning in my head.

Now, I’m three books in (with a 4th manuscript just turned in), and it’s like learning a language. I’ve started to dream in Ranger. Even after just finishing a book, I keep thinking about what Concho Ten-Wolves is up to and what might happen next. It’s a lot of fun, if a bit all consuming.

Outside of the action sequences, which I’ve either based purely on my imagination or on historical events, the character of Concho comes from the real life of either myself or people I know. I’m neither black nor Kickapoo, and Concho is, but I’m human, and one thing I’ve learned in my life is that the hopes and dreams and desires of humans are mostly universal. People are more alike than they are different.

I’m not as good of a person as Concho, but a few of his characteristics and mannerisms come straight out of me: the foods he enjoys, his love of reading, even his inability to arch an eyebrow. The fact that he is a talker. I didn’t want to create another laconic Texas Ranger hero. Concho talks, jokes, laughs. He likes words, as I do.

I’m not sure where the Ranger series will go next. I certainly hope to write more books about Concho. An idea is already percolating for a fifth book. And I can probably go on as long as there are readers. I’ve sure been happy that the first two books seem to have attracted quite a few readers, and I’ve loved the great reviews. I don’t know about other writers but it is certainly a thrill for me to hear that someone enjoyed a work that I’ve written, or that it touched them in some way. Maybe that’s a human characteristic too. If you want to check the books out, here's the link:

 Thank YOU for reading!









Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Power of Coincidence

I was working on book 4 in the Concho: Texas Ranger series this morning when an odd event occurred. Concho is half Kickapoo and there's a fair amount of Native American lore in the series. Since I did not grow up in that culture, I've had to do a lot of research. And it's been both fun and enlightening. I do not want to use what I've learned as a mere "leavening" in the stories. And I haven't. I've tried to incorporate all such information in a respectful manner. 

Concho, for example, is a modern, educated man. He starts the series not having any belief in spiritual forces. But as the books continued I wanted him to have some experiences that force him to rethink. Many of these experiences are connected to a character named Meskwaa, an elder of the Kickapoo who is a friend and something of a mentor to Concho--as well as providing some biting but often humorous dialogue. 

I was writing a Meskwaa scene this morning where Meskwaa encounters what the Kickapoo refer to as the Thunder Beings. I was reading about the Thunder Beings and had just highlighted a piece of text giving the name of a Thunder Being in preparation of copying it into the manuscript--to get the spelling right--when a tremendous cannon shot of thunder boomed directly outside my window.  The house shuddered but the lights didn't even flicker. 

I've heard thunder boomers before, of course. And it was raining here. However, there'd been no previous thunder this morning, and none after  until much later in the day. And that single boom was the loudest one I'd ever heard. I'm not afraid of storms but I jumped at that boom. 

Coincidence? Almost certainly. But such a coincidence! It changed my day. For a while, at least, I felt the power of the numinous. 

Monday, June 07, 2021

Bruce Boston: Gallimaufry

: By Bruce Boston. Plum White Press, 2021, 134 pages.

Bruce Boston is a Bram Stoker Award winner, but that says little about the breadth and depth of his talent. As others have remarked on his work, you’ll find facets of language and story that resonate with the art of Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Dylan Thomas, and Oscar Wilde in his offerings.  But all of his work is uniquely “Boston,” and I hope that someday, someone will remark that they see a little of Bruce Boston in my work. It would be a high honor.

This is a collection of Boston’s short stories that span some fifty years of his life. Every single one of these is a small jewel of effort and art, from the profound sadness of “Cold Finale,” written with Marge Simon, to the absolute hilarity of “An Unrecognized Masterwork,” to the peyote-like stream of images in “Surreal Chess (which I desperately wish I’d written.)

Let Boston tell you where luck comes from in “Tales of the Dead Wizard,” or scratch an itch with “The Infernal Itch.” I highly recommend this collection. I loved it.

You can find it here!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Review: The Lost Empire of Sol

 Here is my review of The Lost Empire of Sol anthology, which was a labor of many years and at least 2 incarnations. The initial discussion from Scott Oden regarding this project must have happened on Facebook as far back as early 2012. A facebook group for the concept/anthology was created on May 17, 2012—so, nine years ago today. A number of people were excited about the project, including me. I wrote a story a little later in 2012 for the book called “The Machineries of Mars.” I know that Tom Doolan also wrote a tale for it, because after the initial plans fell through and the stories were released back to us, both Tom and I self-published ours on Amazon. I’m not sure if other writers involved at that time completed their stories or not. If they’re reading this, they can let me know.

In 2015, the anthology stirred to life again. Since I’d self-published my original story, and the new concept was subtly different than the original, I wrote a fresh story in 2016 called “A Sandship of Mars.” Scott brought Fletcher Vredenburgh aboard as editor and cat herder for the authors, and soon most of the stories were actually completed, edited, and ready to go. Things languished for want of a publisher.

Only when Jason M. Waltz joined the group and suggested that he’d like to publish the anthology did things really start moving. However, Covid hit and various other real-world events intervened so that the work finally appeared only in April of 2021. That’s certainly the longest developmental period for any anthology I’ve ever been involved in.

The idea was for ten shared world stories, with a story for each planet (including Pluto), and for the supposed planet that used to exist where the asteroid belt is now. When I wrote “Sandship,” the background concept was that there had once been a planet-spanning human empire ruling within the solar system but that the empire had fallen. The planets were now largely isolated, although some high tech space travel remained in a few places. In other places, the planetary populations had fallen back into a kind of Sword and Planet level technology, meaning lots of sword-fighting and a little bit of advanced tech.

To make matters worse, an alien entity was invading the solar system to pick up the pieces of the old empire. My understanding was that the entity was moving slowly and employing a variety of means to try and “take over” the lost empire of Sol. I wrote a fairly small world, self-contained tale about Mars being invaded by parasites that could turn their victims essentially into zombies under their control. I was pretty happy with it.

The final book contained not only the ten stories, but an introduction, forward, prologue and epilog. Here’s the TOC (Thanks to Joe Bonadonna).

Foreword, by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Sword & Planet is the Genre We Need, by John O'Neill

Prologue, by Scott Oden

To Save Hermesia, by Joe Bonadonna & David C. Smith

The Lost Princess of Themos, by Tom Doolan

What Really Happened at the Center of the World, by Christopher M. Blanchard

A Sand-Ship of Mars, by Charles Allen Gramlich

Whispers of the Serpent, by Howard Andrew Jones

Outcasts of Jov, by Mark Finn

Written in Lightning, by Keith J. Taylor

Survivors of Ulthula, by E.E. Knight

Hunters of Ice and Sky, by David Hardy

A Gate In Darkness, by Paul R. McNamee

Epilogue, by Scott Oden

To Save Hermesia, by Joe Bonadonna & David C. Smith is set on Mercury and did a bang-up job evoking the feel—for me at least—of the early Eric John Stark stories by Leigh Brackett. Stark was born on Mercury.

The Lost Princess of Themos, by Tom Doolan is set on Venus. Although not described in detail, the world brings to mind ERB’s jungle Venus. And the lost princess, Tamarra, follows in a long line of Sword and Planet Princesses, although much younger and less experienced than ERB’s Dejah Thoris. She finds her own hidden strengths, of course.

What Really Happened at the Center of the World, by Christopher M. Blanchard is a Pellucidar inspired piece with a little Journey to the Center of the Earth vibe.

A Sand-Ship of Mars, by Charles Allen Gramlich is my entry. It’s a little bit of a Dune meets the Ice Schooner meets The Puppet Masters. I really enjoyed creating the setting for this and might some day revisit it.

Whispers of the Serpent, by Howard Andrew Jones takes place on the planet that became our modern solar system’s asteroid belt. This is the first of the tales to have more of a Space Opera feel than Sword and Planet. Given the concept of the collection, you’d expect there to be all kinds of tech levels existing in the solar system so it makes sense.

Outcasts of Jov, by Mark Finn is set on Jupiter. Another Space Operish tale. It was good to see the Great Red Spot play a role!

Written in Lightning, by Keith J. Taylor is our Saturn tale. Very much a Sword and Planet work, although our heroes come from Venus rather than Earth.

Survivors of Ulthula, by E.E. Knight brings us to Uranus, or Ulthula in this story. This one also has a Space Opera feel, maybe a kind of E. E. Doc Smith and Edmond Hamilton meets Event Horizon.

Hunters of Ice and Sky, by David Hardy brings us to Neptune. The sky cities of Star Wars and Star Trek become low tech and are melded with the tale of Moby Dick! Great setting for many adventures.

A Gate In Darkness, by Paul R. McNamee is set on lonely, lost Pluto. The airships of Barsoom and Kregen meet slow decay as portions of the planet are lost to darkness and war.

So there you have it, ten imaginative tales that remember the shared history of Sword and Planet and Space Opera but take things in new directions and work in surprising connections from other realms of literature. I highly recommend it, and not just because I have a story contained within.

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Lost Empire of Sol

I cut my teeth on Sword and Planet fiction, first reading the Barsoom stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and then the many tales by those ERB influenced, such as Gardner Fox, Alan Burt Akers (Ken Bulmer), and many others. I consider S & P to be the purest form of adventure fantasy, and I've always wanted to write my own tales in the genre.

The first publishable book I wrote was Sword and Planet. That was Swords of Talera. I wrote four others in that series, and I've also written some S & P short stories. I'd say that, in general, I've never had more fun writing anything than writing this kind of tale.

A few years back, author Scott Oden had an idea for a shared world S & P anthology set in the era of the "Lost Empire of Sol." A number of writers got a chance to choose a world of our solar system to tell a story in this connected universe. I got my choice in early, and I picked Mars! What else would I have chosen?

That book is now available for preorder at this link. This is a kindle version but there are plans for a print edition as well. I'm very excited to be part of this collection with my story, "A Sand Ship of Mars." I'm looking forward soon to reading all the other tales.