Writing Thoughts

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

So today I stole a half hour to write from what I should have used as lunch time. I ended up writing for 45 minutes and getting quite hungry later, but the prose result left me feeling both satisfied and muddled.

Here’s the thing. On the novel WIP I am lucky to get a few hundred words every time I sit down to write, be it for an hour or two hours or three. Every sentence or so I stop to look at e-mail, or check up something pointless on Wikipedia, or what have you. But when I sat down to write today, I did none of that. I was in the zone. It was like taking dictation from my first person narrator. In that 45 minutes I wrote 1421 words, which I have just calculated up to be something like 31.6 words a minute. I was pleased. I can’t keep all of those words; some must be replaced and others must be expanded upon, but I will keep most of them. It’s a solid first draft, seven pages, and I am eager to write more.

This is what writing is supposed to feel like. I remember this. I had forgotten. So my experience begs the question — am I writing the right thing, or should I switch over to this? Working with certain characters, for me, is just like taking dictation. Should I stick with them? See, I’m muddled, but pleased.

I keep not having time to post my final thoughts on Universe R.

Hey, looks like I’m going to be interviewed Thursday night on a radio show! I’ll post on that Wednesday. Just finished some paper grading, now I must kitchen clean.

What are your thoughts on this whole writing quandary I find myself in? Might it be that I’m just weary of a long process (novel 2 in a sequence) or that I really am writing the wrong thing? How many of you find yourselves in the same or similar place? Life is short, no one’s jumping up and down to buy these mist novels, perhaps I should simply write about Dabir and Asim in novel form. They’re the only thing I write that sells to multiple markets…


Rich Horton’s Virtual Best of the Year — 2007

Sunday, April 27th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

This is it, the list you’ve been waiting for. Rich Horton’s picks for the best science fiction, fantasy, and space opera stories of the year is always a Black Gate reader’s favorite, and this time he’s truly outdone himself. Rich pored over 2343 stories — that’s over twelve million words — and from that massive mountain of tales chose the very best of the bunch for your edification. The result? A resource that you can use to acquire and read all of the very top novellas, novelettes, and short stories that were published in the field during the last year.

So whenever you start running low on reading material during 2008, pop back over here and take a gander at The List. Our resident reviewing superstar has put in all of the hard work so you won’t have to.


Parallel Universe

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

When it comes to the parallel universes we visit in speculative fiction, some of my personal favorites are the ones where Rome never fell, the one where Spock has a goatee, and Universe R. I don’t know if anyone’s written about Parallel Universe R, or named it before, but I imagine a lot of you have thought about it. It’s that other place where great artistic works were never lost. It’s the land where overlooked, forgotten, or underappreciated poets, playwrights, authors, and artists were encouraged and celebrated and lived on to craft more work. I don’t mean the Egoverse where you’re the top of the charts or have written a chain of bestsellers — this one is for the artists you wish had gotten a better deal. Universe R can’t be completely logical, of course. For instance, if the Library of Alexandria had survived, then we’d probably be further along with a lot of developments and some of the later artists might not ever have been born. When I think about Universe R I don’t worry about it making that kind of sense.

I dropped by my counterpart’s home in Universe R to look around his shelves: The work of Aeschylus, Sophlocles, and Euripides came to us complete in Universe R, rather than just a few plays from each, and the works of Menander and Sappho reached us whole, rather than just a few tantalizing fragments. Jumping ahead a bit, Chaucer finished The Canterbury Tales, though he had to live to 90 to pull it off, and it takes up a huge chunk of a shelf. There’s no confusion over Shakespeare folios and I see one fine copy of his Cardenio and other tantalizing things lost to history. On the music rack, Bach’s work was better preserved so that some of his music wasn’t lost because it was sold as fish wrappers. Mozart lived to a ripe old age, cranking out more and more astonishing and varied works.

On my fiction shelf in Parallel Universe R I can find all the great historical swashbuckling novels Harold Lamb wrote when he almost gave up fiction in the 1930s, just as his prose was at its peak. Near it is a complete run of all of Robert E. Howard’s fiction. He went back to writing fantasy a few times after the 1930s, but he turned also to westerns and teamed up with Hollywood producers to create some western film masterpieces. His DVDs are over there on the other shelf, next to the run of the original Star Trek. Here in Universe R the dogs of Star Trek’s second season never got made and the show didn’t get thrown to the wolves in the third season — thanks to the diligent work of the story editors and producers, the final three years of the show built upon the promise of early episodes. When a sequel series finally came out, Captain Sulu was also a resounding success. (Sure, I dare to discuss Bach and Sophocles and Robert E. Howard and Star Trek and Shakespeare in the same entry.) In Universe R The Beatles realized that they were greater together than the sum of their individual parts, and regrouped every few years to make amazing music, even while experimenting with their side projects.

I could go on, but this post is long enough already. I’ll save one more entry for later: The 27th of this month is the birthday of one of my favorite musicians, the guy who prompted this post because in April I always think about how things should have turned out for him. He was a Beatles contemporary who soared to acclaim in Universe R. I’ll post about him closer to his birthday.

So what works are on your shelf in Universe R?


New Reviews of Black Gate 11!

Sunday, April 20th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

This week we thought we’d take you on a tour of some of the online reactions to out latest print issue, Black Gate #11. You’ll find a gamut of opinions represented below, from both pros and amateurs.

Our first stop is The Fix, the longtime short fiction review magazine that over the last few years has reinvented itself as an online-only publication. Sherwood Smith delves into each story in #11, praising them by turns as “imaginative and complex,” “terrific and visual,” and “a masterly blend of image, action, and humor.” Sherwood has been a friend to the magazine since we started, and the care and attention she takes with all her reviews is obvious. This is another great overview that will have any fence-sitters out there panting to buy the issue.

Over at Michele Lee’s Book Love blog is a look at #11 originally intended for Tangent before that venue went on hiatus. Michele has a more subdued reaction to the issue, suggesting some readers might be irritated by continuing serials leaving some plot threads open, but that didn’t sting as much as calling Tolkien’s wizard “Gandolf,” instead of Gandalf. Ouch. Drop by and leave a comment anyway.

At Grasping for the Wind, another site dedicated to science-fiction and fantasy book reviews, John Ottinger offers a critical analysis declaring, that “nothing in this issue disappoints” (before admitting a bit further down, “I was a bit disappointed by this installment”). On the bright side, John has a lot of praise for selected stories, calling one “extremely well written and very creative in its approach. I’ve never read anything quite like it before.” To which tale was he referring? Click on the link and find out.

Finally, we end with our favorite review, courtesy of Karl Bradley at the Ultimate Sword & Sorcery Blog of Ultimate Destiny. As Karl puts it: “I wish I could’ve stayed up all night last night and read Black Gate Magazine cover-to-cover and given you a review today. Instead, I went to work. But I have to do something about Black Gate‘s recent release. So here is my review of the first sentence of every story in the magazine.” He actually goes through with it, and it turns out to be a lot of fun, so navigate over to US&SBoUD and enjoy.

And if you haven’t bought Black Gate #11 yet, what are you waiting for? There’s no magazine out there publishing more eclectic, thought-provoking, and action-packed tales of Sword-and-Sorcery and fantasy — visit our subscription page and place your order today.

Writing Thoughts

Friday, April 18th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

It is much easier for me to do this thing called NOT writing than it is to actually write. I imagine it’s easier for all writers to NOT write, except that when we’re NOT writing the NOT part eats away at us. Me, when I’m NOT, I feel more and more like a failure, or simply a wuss. Yet if I sit down and write 500 words I’m not satisfied. I say to myself, well, if I’d actually had two or three hours to write, I could have written a few thousand words, why didn’t I get it together? Wuss. On those extremely rare days when I actually have time to crank out a couple of thousand words I do feel a small sense of satisfaction, then plan to magically find time to make it happen the next day, and the next, so that whatever I’m writing will get done much faster than it ever really can. For me at least, writing is a continual act of self deception. The funny thing is that I’m not at all that unforgiving or unreasonable with other writers. Just with me.

For the last six months I have been concentrating solely on novel writing. One novel is making the rounds and I am trying to have a second, related novel finished should someone come calling. I’m enjoying the process, but it comes with different challenges. Maybe they’re all obvious, but I’ll go ahead and talk about them. Since a novel is a lot longer than a short story and I have limited time, it takes a long time to finish. I don’t like sharing my rough roughs, so I don’t show the work in progess to anyone for feedback until I’ve had a chance to finish and go over it at least once. I don’t need adulation, but I do like a pat on the back, even if it comes with someone pointing out the flaws (too, there is always a sense of satisfaction when you reach a conclusion). When I write short stories, I can finish one, then talk about it with the group of writers I exchange stories with. When I publish a short story, I can go talk about short stories with other writers and we can congratulate each other and trade notes. I miss that sense of community.

I’m not writing short stories right now, though. I love writing short stories and I have scads of ideas. But let’s face it. There are few markets out there that accept what I like to write, and cracking the short story markets doesn’t really establish you as a novelist. It is extremely difficult to make a living as a writer these days, but if you’re going to do it, you’d best be writing novels, not short stories. I tell myself that if the novels sell, maybe I’ll have time again for the short works. Maybe I’m deceiving myself about writing. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Whatever I do, I have resolved to write what makes me happy, because who knows what, if anything, will come of it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Robert E. Howard, who made a living writing in the 30s by writing for a variety of markets, and I have made attempts to try that myself. In retrospect, me trying multiple markets was probably silly. In Howard’s day there were many, many more markets. And THAT Howard was writing full-time. I barely squeeze in a few hours for writing every week. Rather than trying a scattershot approach with market and style, I decided that I would use that small amount of time to hone my craft and get as good as I could writing the kind of stories I liked to write. When not typing, my fingers are still crossed that something will come of it. I mostly enjoy writing, except when I’m NOT, or when I feel like I should be writing MORE, which is, honestly, most of the time. I think writers are a little crazy. I know I am…


New Column

Monday, April 14th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

My thanks to everyone who wrote in with suggestions. Monday’s a pretty busy day, or I’d try to set up a reader poll and have folks vote on their favorites. Well, I’d select five or so and then see which ones garnered the most votes.

The first column is up here, but it is without title for now. Next month, it will have a title, likely chosen from some of the excellent ones suggested here.


A Review of Broadsword and The World of Broadsword

Sunday, April 13th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

If there has been a single dominant trend in fantasy over the last thirty years, it has been the glacier-like migration and expansion of the genre from fiction into other media. Movies, video games, RPGs — all have taken the essence of sword-and-sorcery creations set forth in prose and carried them in novel directions that have shaped the genre in unforeseen ways.

This week, Black Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones kicks off a new column that will explore some of the many fresh gaming systems and products out there, giving you the lowdown on what’s brewing in the fantasy RPG field. His first installment reviews the hot 1PG from the mind of Jeff Mejia and his cohorts, Broadsword, along with the system’s first major supplement, The World of Broadsword. Have you drifted away from RPGs over the years, frustrated by the steep time and rules-learning commitment? If so, the simplicity and ease of Broadsword might be just what you’ve been waiting for.


New Column

Thursday, April 10th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

I’m starting a new monthly column over at the Black Gate web site, dedicated to pencil and dice role-playing games. The point will be to highlight overlooked games or supplements. In other words, I won’t be reviewing any and all things, but only affordable items I think are worth a look, especially items that might be missed. The items have to be obtainable, i.e., in print.

I’ve got months and months worth of ideas already; what I don’t have is a column title. Does anyone have a suggestion? Preferably a serious suggestion?


Black Gate 12 Sneak Peek

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

I’ve heard from a few regular blog visitors wondering where I’ve been. I wish I could say that I was off digging through Black Gate stuff, or that I was in the throes of a creative muse, but the truth is I just haven’t been very good company lately and I haven’t felt like subjecting myself on anyone, much less recording any compaints or whines for posterity. Fortunately, friends seem to have radar about such things. One of my very best called yesterday and lifted my spirits without even knowing I needed it.

On to some good stuff. I am excited about the cover of issue 12. Here it is, from the masterful Bruce Pennington.

John is just about done cramming in the stories, and I’m pretty excited about those as well. We’ll have 7000 more words than we had even last issue. Here’s what you can expect:

  • More Morlock from James Enge.
  • More Giliead and Elias from Martha Wells.
  • More adventures from Ed Carmien.
  • We dragged Todd McCaulty out of his cave and got him to finish another story, and you’ll find it within as well.
  • And hey, there I am, with another story John bought from me before I joined the staff.
  • John Fultz and Constance Cooper haven’t appeared in Black Gate before, and we’re excited to be introducing you to their work.
  • We have a classic reprint, as well, the final Tumithak story from Charles R. Tanner, which completes Tumithak’s entire run. “Reprint” is a bit of a stretch here, because this one never actually appeared in a magazine before.

As usual, we’ll have articles, book reviews, and game reviews. I hope you’ll pick up a copy (and read it!) and that when you do so you can spread the word!

Lastly, I’ve been meaning to point visitors here to James Van Pelt’s latest series of posts on writing, if you haven’t yet seen them. Really good stuff. My link starts you on the first one. There’s three or four, interspersed with other entries that, while NOT about writing, are still worth reading.

I’ll get back here in a few days.

Warm Regards,


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