I’m here as one of the presenters at a conference for young writers and artists. During the day, I’ll be teaching a class to grade-school students on how to make the monsters and mythical creatures in their fiction more believable. In the evening, well, I’ll mostly be here in this room, more than a hundred miles from home. I’ll be missing my wife and kids terribly, but — let’s be honest — not entirely without appreciating a temporary reprieve from the myriad demands of home. As always, I start out with inflated ideas of just how much work I’ll be able to get done without interruption or distraction. Which is my intent — I’ve brought work projects and some freelance editing to tackle.
But I can’t do that the whole time I’m holed up here in this room. So of course I grabbed a few books. Five, it looks like (they always seem to multiply as I pack my various and sundry bags and make my way out the door).
In case you can’t quite make them all out in the picture, the books that snuck in along with the business stuff this time around are:
- Pathfinder Tales: Stalking the Beast by Howard Andrew Jones. Name sounds familiar… Why yes, that’s our very own Managing Editor here at Black Gate (the author, not the beast being stalked). I just started reading it and am already quite taken with Elyana the elven ranger and Drelm the half-orc.
- Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance. All four Dying Earth novels in one volume, and I’m looking forward to some serious schooling in this neglected corner of my reading.
- The Sundered Realm (The War of Powers: Book One) by Robert E. Vardeman and Victor Milan. I remember this being on my dad’s bookshelf when I was a kid. It was published by Playboy Paperbacks (Did you know they had a mass-market fantasy line back in the day?) and Roger Zelazny promises on the cover blurb: “A lusty hero, a quest, action, intrigue, magic, mystery . . . all add up to a rousing tale!” I’m about halfway through it and it has, at times, been rousing.
- The Gardens of Lucullus by Richard L. Tierney and Glenn Rahman. I’m about halfway through, and so far it is proving to be an overlooked gem, deftly mixing Roman history and Lovecraftian horror. I’m looking forward to reviewing it and possibly introducing it to some new readers.
- Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening by Ken Wilber and a bunch of other people.
Granted, I probably won’t even get to all these during my sojourn here at the Microtel, much less finish any of them. A little quirk about my reading habits: when I grabbed these, they represented a small fraction of the books I’m currently reading. I probably have around 15 or 20 books going at any one time, about 50-50 fiction/nonfiction. Since I read them concurrently and finish them in clusters, I may go a couple months without posting anything new to Goodreads and then suddenly — wham! — I add three or four books to my “Read” shelf all at once.
Looking at that picture I uploaded from my hotel room, you may be wondering where the hell all those assorted dragons and dinosaurs came from (did you spot Godzilla?). They’re props for my class; they come with me to all these conferences. Just me and my monsters…
Now I’ve got to get to work. But, man, it’s after eleven. Okay, maybe I’ll rejoin my Pathfinder friends as they stalk the beast. Or go back to ancient Rome, or the sundered realm, or the dying Earth…