Discovering Robert E. Howard: Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Re-Read “The Tower of the Elephant”

Monday, August 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Art for "Tower of the Elephant" by Mark Schultz

Art for “Tower of the Elephant” by Mark Schultz

Over at Howard Andrew Jones’ blog, Bill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones continue their re-read of the first Del Rey Conan volume, The Coming of Conan, with the classic “The Tower of the Elephant,” originally published in the March 1933 issue of Weird Tales.

Howard: THIS is Robert E. Howard at his absolute best, in complete control of his narrative, knowing his character better than his closest friend. His Hyborian history article was written just prior to his penning of “The Tower of the Elephant,” which makes sense, because he knows the history and societies so well that he casually mentions cultures in such a way we can usually intuit what he’s talking about…

Bill: Here Conan is a “gray wolf among gutter rats,” to paraphrase just one of the great lines in the opener. From the first paragraph of this section that paints a vivid picture of The Maul, the thieves district of Zamora where the guards have been bribed with “stained coins” to leave the criminals alone, all the way to the conclusion… I think this opener, and this story in general, is one of the best introductions to Conan, and probably the one I would hand a novice that was interested in seeing what all the fuss is about…

Howard: And damn, there are giant spider fights, and then there’s the fight with the thing in the top room of the tower. The only giant spider fight I’ve read that’s on the same level is the one from the first Bard book by Keith Taylor. You can see this monster and its dripping venom, so virulent that it scars Conan for life… It’s just incredibly well written, so much so that even after reading this story multiple times I still find it thrilling. And unsettling.

Their previous posts on this topic have included discussions of Howard’s “The Hyborian Age,” and “The Phoenix on the Sword.” Read the complete exchange here.

New Treasures: Stairwell To Hell, and Other Fine Stories by Michael Canfield

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Stairwell to Hell and Nine Other Stories to Disturb You-small The Woods Wife and Other Tales of Mystery and Magic-small Bad People-small

Michael Canfield has been a very busy guy.

In the past few weeks he’s published a novel and two short story collections, and re-published two novellas that originally appeared exclusively in digital format. A pretty impressive accomplishment, no matter how you look at it.

Bad People (August 2)
Stairwell to Hell: and Nine Other Stories to Disturb You (August 9)
The Woods Wife & Other Tales of Mystery & Magic (August 10)
Scaffolds (August 17)
Super-Villains (August 18)

It’s like Michael Canfieldpaloza! But without all the headache over parking.

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A Medieval Birthday Cake

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

2015-08-17 20.45.02

Photo courtesy Philip Cresswell

I’m halfway to 92, and being a crotchety old fart I don’t have a proper post for you this week. So here’s a photo of yours truly enjoying a medieval gingerbread birthday cake cooked by a good friend of mine. The recipe comes courtesy of The Society for the History of Medieval Technology and Science.

This and other recipes were the subject of a talk by Caroline Yeldham, an expert on historic cookery. The recipe is below. Be warned it makes quite a lot so you might want to cut down the quantities. The end result is rich and tasty and you don’t have to eat much to fill you up. It’s also quite gingery. Is that a word?

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New Treasures: His Father’s Eyes by David B. Coe

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

His Father's Eyes-smallDavid B. Coe’s adventure fantasy tale “Night of Two Moons” appeared in Black Gate 4. His three-book LonTobyn Chronicle (1997-2000) and five-volume Winds of the Forelands series (2002-07) were both published by Tor. He currently has two series on the go — under the name D.B. Jackson he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy, and under his own name he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy featuring a hardboiled, magic-using private detective.

His Father’s Eyes, the second book in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, in which Fearsson faces off against dark sorcerers in Phoenix, Arizona, was released earlier this month by Baen Books.

Justis Fearsson is a weremyste. He wields potent magic, but every month, on the full moon, he loses his mind. He’s also a private detective, who can’t afford to take time off from his latest investigation while his sanity goes AWOL.

A legion of dark sorcerers has descended on Phoenix, wreaking havoc in the blistering desert heat. With the next moon phasing approaching, Jay has to figure out what connects a billionaire financier and a vicious drug kingpin to an attempted terrorist attack, a spate of ritual killings, and the murder of a powerful runemyste. And he has to do it fast. Because these same dark sorcerers have nearly killed the woman he loves and have used their spells to torment Jay’s father. Now they have Jay in their crosshairs, and with his death they intend to extend their power over the entire magicking world. But Jay has other plans, and no intention of turning his city, or those he loves, over to the enemy.

David’s most recent blog post for Black Gate, in which he discusses the ongoing Hugo Award controversy, was Enough, Part II.

The Case Files of Justis Fearsson began with Spell Blind (2014). His Father’s Eyes was published by Baen on August 4, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Alan Pollack. Read more — including a lengthy excerpt — at the Baen website.

The Great Serialization Experiment: The Lay of the Land

Monday, August 10th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Nigh Marie Bilodeau-smallSerializing stories is an old art form, from the penny dreadfuls to Charles Dickens. Even Robert E. Howard serialized a few stories in Weird Tales. I recently decided to serialize a novel and, over the next few posts, I’ll share lessons learned. As I tend to leap without looking and landing on thistles, I typically learn a lot of lessons (woo?)

My first serialization, composed of one storyline over five short releases (15-20,000 words each), did well. Released from January to June 2015, it hit bestselling status in Canada, U.S.A., and a few other spots like Italy. It grew my fan base dramatically, which I assume is good for future sales (either that, or they’re waiting to warn people off my next book. Well played, Internet. Well played.) Am I living off this book? Um, no. But I’ve bought many a fine meal with it. And I still have plans to continue growing the series.

But first, the beginning.

Basic Economics (or, Eating is Fun and Good)

A year ago, when I left my full time job to focus on my storytelling (think bard) and writing careers, I wanted to look at different ways of maximizing sales. Because, dear friends, money buys food and every time I try to organize a raid on the supermarket or on my neighbor’s vegetable garden, I’m rather quickly reminded that those activities are not only illegal, they are even frowned upon. Since that societal penchant spoiled my plans for eating, an activity I’ve grown quite fond of, I had to come up with alternative methods. I’m lucky because storytelling offers me a scalable means of making money (tell story, make money. Tell more stories, make more money. Tell no story, get arrested for raiding neighbor’s garden). But writing has a longer term potential of continuous revenue, which is extremely appealing to those of us who eat every day.

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Cover Reveal: Howard Andrew Jones’ Pathfinder Tales: Beyond the Pool of Stars

Monday, August 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales Beyond the Pool of Stars-small

We’ve received a lot of inquiries about Howard Andrew Jones’ third Pathfinder Tales novel, Beyond the Pool of Stars. It will be released by Tor Books on October 6, and we’ll be telling you more about it over the next two months. But in the meantime, here’s a glimpse at the gorgeous cover art by Tyler Jacobson (click for bigger version). Beyond the Pool of Stars is a fantastical adventure of deep-water danger and unlikely alliances set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It follows Plague of Shadows and Stalking the Beast, but is a completely standalone adventure. Read more at Howard’s website, and stay tuned as we reveal more over the next few weeks.

Discovering Robert E. Howard: Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Re-Read “The Phoenix on the Sword”

Sunday, August 9th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Phoenix on the Sword Weird Tales-smallOver at Howard Andrew Jones’ blog, Bill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones continue their re-read of the first Del Rey Conan volume, The Coming of Conan, with the very first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” originally published in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales magazine. Here’s Howard:

Look at the story’s opening quote. That’s practically the gold standard of quotes from imaginary historical sources. That fabulous “Know, O Prince” and all that follows has been imitated but rarely, if ever, equalled. This, fellow fantasy fans, is the way it’s done. Admittedly, there are a few phrases in the middle of the paragraph that are less inspired. I’m looking at “Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem.” Most of the rest of the quote paints lovely word pictures, but those phrases don’t remotely approach the poetic majesty of the rest — what does Zingara look like? What does Koth look like? But the rest is lovely, and the quality picks right back up with “dreaming west” and powers on to that fantastic finish, “Hither came Conan…”

Look at the opening line of the story: “Over shadowy spires and gleaming towers lay the ghostly darkness and silence that runs before dawn.” Damn. Why doesn’t anyone write like that any more? Howard sets the scene with sharp, sensory laden description. He’s a film director guiding the camera with a fantastic establishing shot.

Their first post on this topic discussed Howard’s “The Hyborian Age.” Read the complete exchange here.

Sarah Avery Wins the 2015 Mythopoeic Award for Tales from Rugosa Coven

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

tales-from-rugosa-coven-Avery-smallBlack Gate blogger Sarah Avery has been awarded the 2015 Mythopoeic Award for her novel Tales from Rugosa Coven, published in 2013 by Dark Quest. (As she put in in her e-mail to us, “Don’t look now, but there’s a very small lion in my suitcase.”)

The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature is given to the fantasy novel, series, or collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies “the spirit of the Inklings,” the Oxford literary discussion group that included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The winners were announced at Mythcon 46, held July 31 – August 3, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The complete list of winners follows.

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • Sarah Avery, Tales from Rugosa Coven (Dark Quest)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Natalie Lloyd, A Snicker of Magic (Scholastic)

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Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Re-Read The Coming of Conan

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian-smallBill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones have wrapped up their detailed and highly entertaining look at Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar stories over at Howard Andrew Jones’ website. But without pausing for breath, they’ve leaped into a re-read of Robert E. Howard’s classic tales of Conan, starting with the Del Rey edition of The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, and Howard’s essay on the world Conan adventured in, “The Hyborian Age.” Here’s Bill:

“The Hyborian Age” isn’t the place to start if you are new to Conan, in fact I’d say it’s really only interesting if you are already familiar with Conan’s world, as well as the enthusiasms of Conan’s creator. REH himself didn’t start with “The Hyborian Age,” either, he started with the character of Conan, only settling down to iron out his “world bible” once he had three Conan stories under his belt and realized he wanted to write many more… It’s the history of a lost age before the rise of the civilizations we are familiar with, but it’s also a way of getting around history. REH wrote fast and he wrote for publication and, though he loved history and writing historical fiction, he felt it took too much time to get the research just right. Enter the secondary world of his own slice of pre-history, a way of not only having a world he didn’t have to exhaustively research, but also a vehicle for bringing together the character and flavor of many different cultures and eras that would allow Conan to adventure in the equivalent of everything from the Ancient Near East to Medieval France. That may not be completely clear just from reading “The Hyborian Age,” but it is clear from the stories themselves, as well as by glancing at the two maps REH used when planning his world — his Hyborian Kingdoms superimposed over a map of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East is probably even more eloquent than his essay…

Join the discussion here.

Future Treasures: Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Carter & Lovecraft-smallOne of the most popular authors in the later issues of the print version of Black Gate was Jonathan L. Howard. His first story for us, about a young thief named Kyth hired to penetrate a deadly tomb, was filled with surprises — not least of which was the amiable lich who congratulated Kyth when she reached the heart of his lair. It was titled “The Beautiful Corridor,” and its sequel, “The Shuttered Temple,” appeared in BG 15. Jonathan has had a very successful career as a fantasy novelist since those early days, and his latest novel, about a private detective who teams with the last descendant of H.P. Lovecraft to investigate some very bizarre crimes indeed, arrives in October. It’s one of the most anticipated titles of fall for me.

Daniel Carter used to be a homicide detective, but his last case — the hunt for a serial killer — went wrong in strange ways and soured the job for him. Now he’s a private investigator trying to live a quiet life. Strangeness, however, has not finished with him. First he inherits a bookstore in Providence from someone he’s never heard of, along with an indignant bookseller who doesn’t want a new boss. She’s Emily Lovecraft, the last known descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, the writer from Providence who told tales of the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods, creatures and entities beyond the understanding of man. Then people start dying in impossible ways, and while Carter doesn’t want to be involved, but he’s beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be. As he reluctantly investigates, he discovers that Lovecraft’s tales were more than just fiction, and he must accept another unexpected, and far more unwanted inheritance.

Jonathan L. Howard’s previous novels include the four volumes in the Johannes Cabal series (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Johannes Cabal the Detective, The Fear Institute, and The Brothers Cabal), and The Russalka Chronicles, including Katya’s World. Our previous coverage includes Jonathan’s article on writing the Johannes Cabel series, and his interview with John Joseph Adams. Carter & Lovecraft will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 20, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. See more details at Jonathan’s website.

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