Books Books BOOKS!!!

April 15, 2018

Yesterday, my wife and I took a little adventure to some of the cooler parts of southeast Michigan. I’m not talking chic nightclubs and fashion outlets, but bookstores. The place where all the cool kids hang out! Hey, we were there, so that counts, right?

But seriously, there were a lot of interesting folks out. It’s good to see that reading, and books in general, are still so popular. I’ve always loved reading (hey, that’s good for a writer, huh?), and when I have a chance to get my hands on something that is damn near impossible to find, I’ll relish the chance.

First, we went to John King Books in the great city of Detroit. I found out about King Books about a year ago, maybe even sooner. It’s odd, too, considering how much time I’ve spent up there, and I used to live there for a short while. I get that I’m not going to know about everything up there, but still, something like that you’d think I’d have heard of it.

So we braved the rain, sometimes a slight mist, others a torrential downpour. At one point, traffic stopped completely due to an accident hogging two lanes. I love having to merge all the way over! I realize it was one lane, but there was no reason for it to take that long to get past. Typical with accidents, though, people love to gawk, people love to think they are obligated to get out and help, even when cops and rescue squads are on the scene.

Anyway, we got there and once we were inside, the stench of old, musty books slammed into us at once. No surprise, because there were tons of books. Literally. This is a four-story building that is crammed to capacity with used books. Anything and everything you could imagine—except romance, apparently, because neither of us saw any of those. Not that we were looking, but you’d expect to see a huge selection.

So I was looking for many titles, but two in particular. Did they have them? Nope. In fact, most of the stuff on my list wasn’t there. Plenty of other titles by those authors, but not the ones I wanted. It was okay, though, because I found two books I’d had my eye on for some time.

Dreamsnake, by Vonda McIntyre. I’m pretty sure this recommendation came from a list I was looking at on Goodreads, but possibly from somewhere else. It sounds interesting, not like all the typical fantasy that you always see. I’ve read a few of her Star Trek titles before, a long time ago, sure, but she didn’t make me throw the book across the room, so there’s that.

Knight of the Black Rose, by James Lowder. This is from the Ravenloft series, D&D’s horror line from the 90’s. Someone still does Ravenloft, but I’m not sure who. That’s not important. What is, however, is the fact that I had tried to get into Ravenloft bigtime in the 90’s, but never managed to afford the books and boxed sets, let alone find friends willing to play it. I had read a few of the novels, but never followed up on it because I never knew which ones were worth reading and which were trash, in addition to not wanting to devote myself to a long series like that. This was one I’d always had my eye on, and Lord Soth was always a cool character, so hey, why not? Plus, the other night I went through my Goodreads list and filled in a lot of books that I had read over the years, which included three Ravenloft books, which led to me reading reviews of other ones, and that led me to having the idea fresh in my brain.

So that was that. We left, and went over to Lafayette Coney Island for lunch. It was okay, but not spicy enough. Not the issue. We jumped on I-96 and stopped at RIW Hobbies in Livonia, my old gaming store/hangout from way back when. I mean, it’s in a different building now, but I still love the place. I was hoping to find paints I needed, and they had them! Plus I found a brush that doesn’t look like it’ll wear out on my in two weeks. Back on track!

Finally, we went over to Ann Arbor. Isle of Dogs had been playing at the State Theater for a while, and yes I am aware it is in wide release finally, but we wanted to see it up there. The State in as independent theater, and an Ann Arbor institution, so why not?

After getting a coffee, we walked over to the Dawn Treader Bookstore. Not nearly as huge as King Books, this is a quaint, quiet place with a nice selection. Plus, Star Wars toys hanging from the ceiling! And the owner is super nice (which you’ll find out in a moment). Again, the main books I wanted they didn’t have, but I did find several others.

The Deep, by Nick Cutter. A horror book I’ve never managed to find. Even my library system doesn’t have this! So, I snatched this up at once, not even thinking about it. Excited, and probably next on my list.

The Riddle Master of Hed, by Patricia McKillip. I found this while searching for Riddler merchandise on ebay, of all things. Having never heard of it, but liking the cover art, I read the synopsis. It sounds interesting, and yet another fantasy novel that breaks the mold. A lot of longtime fans speak highly of this book and the series as a whole, so I figured I’d get it when I saw it.

Under Enemy Colors, by Sean Thomas Russell. I have always loved pirates and books about them, which has spilled over into an interest in nautical fiction. I saw this in a bookstore a while back, and couldn’t seem to find it ever again. It has rave reviews, and supposedly the naval battles are incredible, which is right up my alley.

So the owner who was ringing me out saw Under Enemy Colors, and asked if I was into O’Brian at all. I never really wanted to read any of the Aubrey books; I mean, they sound cool and all, but it’s a long series, and I just couldn’t find an interest in them. We got into a big discussion about the movie Master and Commander, which is nothing like the books supposedly, so he ultimately went to the shelf, grabbed the book, and told me to take it. If I read it and like it, pay him. If not, bring it back and he’ll recommend something different.

That was a cool move, but I still don’t know if I want to read it. I’m sure I will, because I keep seeing that it’s a quick read. Plus, hey, another “classic” I can put on my list.

So after that we saw Isle of Dogs (awesome, as usual for Wes Anderson) and ate dinner, then came home. All around, a great day, and one with some new books as well.

You’re probably wondering, Myke, why don’t you just get those books from the library? Or off Amazon for that matter?

Look, I love supporting small, local businesses. I realize online shopping is often easier, and sometimes cheaper (not so in this case), and oftentimes you don’t have to drive around and hope to find something. But being in those bookstores, around people, finding new things, sometimes getting into conversations with perfect strangers about all sorts of stuff is not an experience you get on Amazon.

I’m into gaming, and a lot of gaming stuff is readily available and cheaper online, but my friend’s store might collapse because I didn’t buy from him. That particular bottle of paint I need for my miniatures that none of the five shops in Toledo have in stock? I found it at RIW in Livonia, plus other cool stuff I didn’t know existed, which I subsequently didn’t know I needed.

Please, ladies and gentlemen, buy local. Support small businesses. Support authors and artists and musicians! You’re helping a good cause, and might just find your next favorite thing while you do.

Be cool, my sexies. Always nice to know you’re there, and I can’t thank you enough for that!

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Reading has always been one of my biggest hobbies. In a major way, it’s why I got into writing. As any good writer is wont to do, I read as much as I can, constantly upping my game.

But I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not the best reader in the world.

Don’t get me wrong. My reading skills are above average. I can’t speed read, but I do know how to read the English language. The problem is, I haven’t read all the books and stories I’m “supposed” to read.

Over the years, I’ve had a running list of stuff I should read, the classics and inspirational books that all the greats swear by. Some I’ve read, and most I couldn’t stand. Some were awesome and I can’t get enough. Reading Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories inspired me to do more with my writing than anything else that I’ve ever read!

Well, there should have been others. Most importantly, Elric and the Lankhmar tales. Everyone I know who’s big into fantasy, specifically sword & sorcery, will eagerly tell you how awesome this stuff is. In fact, an editor I’m working with right now told me that a lot of my writing, especially Clay & Styg, are very similar to those specific characters.

If anyone ever tries to claim I ripped off someone else’s characters or ideas, specifically Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, I can honestly claim ignorance since I’ve never read them.

Soon, I will. I found a copy of some Elric stories, and I have a few Lankhmar tales as well. I’m very eager to dive in, despite them being written many years ago. Why is that a problem? The “rules” of writing that have been drilled into my head since taking up this never-ending battle of getting words on paper are rarely, if ever, present in these older works. Adverbs, telling instead of showing, and very VERY long run-on sentences are just some of the issues I have with these.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect, and I break “rules” too. In fact, sometimes these rules don’t even need to be followed. But since I’m so aware of it, it’s hard to follow sometimes when the writing is very clunky, at least by today’s standards. I’ll survive, though, and get through it. After all, isn’t it more about the story than the writing?

The biggest thing that scares me, however, isn’t the quality of writing. It’s the list that keeps growing of all of this stuff. I know I don’t have to do anything, but I like to expand my horizons. There are so many “classic” works that I’m eager to read, but that adds to the list of newer stuff as well. Hey, why don’t I read a classic and then a newer work? What a great idea!

The point I’m making is, I feel like much of the original stuff should come first. But then again, what does it matter? As long as I’m reading and/or writing something I want to, why should I care what comes out of it? I’ve been inspired by just as much new stuff as old, so will it matter if I complete my required reading list before I do anything else?

Nope. And I had a lot of fun along the way.

In the comments, tell me some stuff you think I should write. What’s a good fantasy/sword & sorcery story/book/series that I might benefit from? I’m looking forward to your choices!

To be like Bilbo Baggins…

February 7, 2016

If you’ve never heard The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, go to YouTube and watch it now. Do it! Possibly one of the best things ever to come from the late, great Leonard Nimoy.

Back? Good.

Sometimes, we have to make those confessions that make people wonder about us. For me, it’s regarding a small hobbit by the name of Bilbo…

I’ve only read The Hobbit twice.

I just finished reading it for the second time. The first was back in 2001, shortly before the first Lord of the Rings movie came out.

What kind of writer am I? What kind of fantasy fan am I? Shouldn’t I have read The Hobbit in 7th grade, just like the rest of western civilization? I know, I know, turn in my nerd badge and go watch a football game, right?

Anyway, outrage aside, I did just finish reading it again. A few weeks ago, I was at the library looking through movies because I missed a bunch of movies last year (and the year before that, and the year before that…). My taxes pay for the library to get new books/movies/cd’s, so hey, why not? Anyway, I saw all three Hobbit movies and realized that not only have I not watched them, I should probably read the book again. It’s a classic, and pretty much sparked an entire genre.

Man, it’s a good book.

I mean seriously, it’s got everything. It isn’t just a fantasy epic, it’s an adventure story, a thriller, suspenseful, and even a little scary at times. Just look at all of the different conflicts in the book and you’ve got a pretty diverse array of events and characters. Pretty much how fantasy should be done, or at least the perfect stepping-off point.

Now I realize, the book isn’t without its flaws. Things just conveniently happen, for instance. The narrator, very friendly with the reader, waves off many things as “a story for another time.” While I get the expediency that Tolkein was going for, by today’s standards, that would get you a flat out rejection. Also, too much head-hopping, too many perspective shifts, and not enough detail shown. Seriously, when Bilbo and the dwarves are in Smaug’s mountain, can’t we get an in-depth description of what the mountains of treasure look like? “Some object” could easily become “a small chest, crusted with purple gems” or “a trophy dedicated to some long-forgotten lord.”

I know that critiquing the book now is beyond pointless, but as a writer, I notice these things. Something else, something much more important, however, is even more noticeable.

How awesome this book truly is.

I feel reinspired. I’m two-thirds of the way through writing a new book, and I actually want to finish it. Well, I always wanted to finish it, just when the time was right.

Why delay? The time is now! Go forth, and make fantasy!

 

It’s the life

October 12, 2015

There is so much going on right now. In fact, I probably shouldn’t be writing this blog, but how else would you know what is going on in the wide world of Myke Edwards?

Books! I’ve been reading lately, more than I have been. It feels good to lay back every night before bed and read for an hour or so. Mostly to unwind and prepare myself to ease into bed and sleep, but also because hey, reading is what I do. For some reason I didn’t read as much as I should have this summer, but it’s okay. We’ve all been there.

“Transhuman” by Ben Bova was a random selection. I went to the library to drop off something and decided to check out the sci-fi section because, why not? Ben’s name caught my eye and I checked out the book…not bad. An interesting story, definitely, but I’ve got to say that Ben breaks a lot of “rules” in writing. As someone who has had it drilled into him and every orifice you can imagine on how to properly craft a sentence, it is disarming to say the least when you read a book (published by an actual publisher, no less) that has a lot of these “sloppy mistakes” in it.

But I digress. It’s the story we should be concerned with, hmm? I didn’t want to put it down at times. Ben created characters and a plot I actually gave a shit about, and wanted to read. I stayed up a bit late some nights while reading, but it was worth it. Definitely check it out. While some characters and small events within the story are cliché as hell and rather predictable, it’s still great.

Interesting thing, about me. I’d never read anything by Ben Bova. His name was one that I’d known since high school (way back in the 1990’s!), and someone I’d always planned on reading. His book “Mars” was high up on my list, but for some reason, I never read it. It’s back on my list now, so hopefully I get around to it. I guess I was so enamored with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy that I had enough Mars for one person. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to it.

These past few weeks I’ve been reading some of the new Star Wars books. Again, the writing is sloppy but the stories are…okay. I can’t argue because some of them are for little kids, and I guess the thought is that kids will eat up anything with the Star Wars logo on it. They’re supposed to have clues leading into the new Force Awakens movie, but I can’t imagine what they are. Maybe characters, maybe a mention, or maybe nothing! Maybe they just said that so you buy it!

Well, I didn’t. Thank Glob for the library.

Lately, I’ve been dying to read some Conan stories. Naturally, I want to read the ones I don’t have at the moment…

Ugh. Anyway…

Other stuff! So I mentioned that my editor was done with “In the Pale Moonlight” and I’ve finally got my novel back! I went through it and cleaned it up a little, and poof! As far as I’m concerned, it’s done. Now I just need to get off my ass and get it sent out to agents! Then, hopefully, the good stuff.

That will let me get “The Third Tower” finished, as well as all the other books I plan to write. In fact, just the other day I got an idea for a new novel that’s making my eyes water. I’m sure you’ll all love it.

Also, there’s a contest story I need to get around to writing soon! It’s due in a few weeks, so what am I yapping away on here about?

Not to mention all the stories I need to edit and workshop and submit and everything else…

Sigh. Too much to do. Would I have it any other way? It’s the life!

Back to basics

June 10, 2014

Last night, I finally finished a book I’d been reading for close to two months. It’s a great, liberating feeling when you finish a book. But after two months? Talk about a breath of fresh air.

It wasn’t a bad book by any means. “Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson, his first book, was a unique, interesting take on a fantasy novel. While a lot of the writing “rules” that I’ve had drilled into me appeared to be broken many a time throughout the book, it was still interesting and fun to read. My major problem was the characters, in that the main characters and their closest companion were all intelligent and could figure out every problem, while everyone else was a complete and utter moron.

But that’s beside the point.

It took so long to read mainly because of my new job. I started reading it shortly after I started, and didn’t have a lot of time to sit down and read. Not just because of work, though, but because I prefer to spend the majority of my free time editing my own novel right now. And no, I haven’t started writing that story I mentioned yesterday.

As a writer, nay, a lover of words, I immediately went to find a new book to start reading. I love to read, and I love to learn from what I do read. So I am going back to basics, and continuing to read some of my all-time favorites.

Bloody, dirty, gruesome, wretched Conan the Cimmerian. A king, rogue, pirate, killer, thief, lover, savior, fighter, and all around badass.

My own characters, Clay and Styg owe more than a lot to Conan. One of my favorite characters and licensed properties EVER, He-Man, owes damn near everything to Conan. And my model for how I want my body to look as I continue to attempt sculpting it at the gym more than I should, is Conan (specifically, the Jason Momoa incarnation as I could never hope to look like Arnold).

To me, Conan is as basic as it gets. The writing lacks the finesse and flow we are used to these days, they the stories raw. They are bloody. They are true. But more importantly, they are stories. They leave me feeling entertained, and thirsty for more.

I want my body to look like Conan, and I want my stories to be as revered and entertaining as Conan. Is that too much to ask?

Thank you, Robert E. Howard. Thank you, Conan. You are what make it worthwhile for me.

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