Living with Conan

Robert E. Howard (REH)’s best known character is a sword welding barbarian and yet he isn’t. Conan has a code he lives by. His barbarian instincts give him an edge when he deals with the bad guys. Yet he acknowledges that he can not survive on instinct alone.

Conan learns languages, reading, and writing. REH shows us Conan doing this stuff for himself even though he has people to do it for him. In some stories when he wears the crown of Aqualonia, he has people doing stuff for him. Even before he becomes Kings, he learns the customs and languages of whichever group of people he happens to be adventuring with. Most adventure authors focus on the blood, battle, and babes, and less culture.

(Possible Spoiler Alert!)

Hour of the Dragon shows Conan off in both the ruler and the lone individual fighting to take back his country and save his people… If you haven’t read it perhaps go read it and then come back to this post? Or if you have no clue then maybe I can tempt you into giving REH a try. We first see Conan in the middle of a battlefield talking strategies, tactics, and the logistics of caring for an army in the middle of a war. Advisors, servants, military leaders, etc are flowing around him in the tent, he is the focus of their universe. A man in control of his world and his fate.

Later we see Conan (Are you sure you want to read spoilers if you haven’t read the story?) being spirited away by the bad guys. A victim to forces beyond his control, REH gave Conan a strong aversion to magic and the supernatural. He fights to regain control of his person and his fate. Often REH describes him as a lean lone wolf or a lion prowling amongst men. As he is escaping his captors he runs and fights like the cornered wolf. He is willing to accept help from anyone that can aid him, and yet he is willing to protect those same people if a threat is offered.

At one point while Conan is on the run, he questions whether he even wants to go back to being king. And instead go back to an adventuring lifestyle, only the demands of having his kingdom taken from him urge him to fight it out with his enemies.

I believe REH and Conan still have much to teach us in this modern age. And I realize the time period in which these stories are written paint a less stellar view of both women and minorities. Take it with a grain of salt. When we look back at our current literature there will be some cultural differences from now and the norms of then.

Cheers, james

P.S. Go read Hour of the Dragon.

A Special Gift

October 31st marked our tenth wedding anniversary. The hubby always jokes when he sees kids dressed funny he knows its our anniversary. He is the one that introduced me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian, the original stories.

For several years I have been looking for a 3 book anthology that is made up of Robert E. Howard’s writings alone. I give credit to Mr. L. Sprague de Camp, he did a lot towards the revivial and keeping Conan and REH in the public’s mind. However his vision is not quite exactly Howard’s vision. Back to the story.

The week before our anniversary I was cruising ebay and on a whim type up books. Well sir there were books of all types, ages and genres. Curiosity loosed I went searching for our Cimmerian. I found an auction of all 3 anthologies for a steal. I mentioned it to the hubby and he gently pressed bid.

Those books came this week. They are in pristine condition, as far as I can tell nobody has even flipped through their illustrated pages. This proves beyond a doubt he knows me so well.

This anniversary is extremely special for another reason. This summer he got very, very sick and I almost lost him. Two and half weeks in the hospital and then another three and half months of recovery and doctor appointments hammered it home. So we came very close to not making this anniversary. So that makes it even more special.

I beg you guys, cherish the ones you love. Every chance you get tell them you love them. That you are thinking of them. Don’t weep the bitter tears of should have. Don’t take this moment in time for granted. We are not promised tomorrow. Cheers, james

Friday Night Fun

Tonight I was left to my own devices, so I took myself for a spin out on the town. I headed for Jacksonville, the home of Camp Lejune Marine Base. Also home to best used bookstore that I know, The Bookend. 

I have been visiting and drooling over the Bookend books for about half of my life. Mr. James is the owner and he is awesome. He knows every book he has in stock and if he doesn’t haven’t it, you probably don’t need it. (That may be a slightly stretching it but not much.) For tonight’s viewing pleasure he had the leather bound editions of the Louis L’Amour westerns released back in the mid-90s, and the more mundane books. He showed me some orginal paperbacks of Kull, Conan, and Soloman Kane. Now if you don’t reconize those names they are all characters written by the late Robert E. Howard. 

Mr. Howard is most famous for Conan and the creation of the whole sword and socery genre. Impressed yet? Kull was Conan’s great 2 or 3 times back grandfather. And then the strangest and leaser known Soloman Kane. A purtain do-gooder/evil banisher, Kane is at war with himself over turning the other check and being the avenging Hand of God. Very interesting fellow. There was a movie done a few years back that didn’t quite do him justice. Anyway that is a discussion for another day. 

Mr. James normally closes up at 7pm and I got there a couple mins before 7 pm. I know what you’re thinking, there isn’t anyway you could have looked books in 5 minutes. Well see it pays to have been an iregular regular of the best used bookstore in Jville. Mr. James stayed open and let me look for about 20 mins beyond his closing. (See told you it is the best.) 

So after making my purchase, I headed on to other locales of interest. Namely Staples to see if they had a fountain pen with my name on it. I looked at the pens and the notebooks and other stuff and wondered how much longer we will be able to shop at a physical store. Compared to the pre-Amazon days, there was very little stuff in there. Most all the desks were gone. I loved going and looking and the desks and trying to pick “the one” that was going to be the home of my writing. (A girl can dream.) Trying out the chairs and looking at the cool stuff we thought would keep us organized and on track. (Still dreaming) I don’t know brick and morter seems to becoming a less sure thing in the future. Also discussion for another day. 

After Staples I took a gander through 2nd & Charles. Count ’em that is two bookstores in less than 1 hour. Do I know how to party or what? I browsed, hunted and meandered through the store until I realized it was almost 9pm. The mall closes at 9pm and I was supposed to be picking up some stuff for Hubby. Oops. 

So I dash out with my new to me books and headed for the mall. I walked in Barnes & Noble just to hear the mall is now closed and the gate will be locked blah blah. Catch that did you, bookstore number three. I pursued and browsed and looked and drooled. I did heed the siren call of a cup of Earl Grey and a blueberry scone. Now if I had properly prepared myself, pen and paper would have joined the party. Alas they remained in the car with my newly aquired books. 

After B&N shut down, I headed over to 5 Guys Burgers. They do a meaty real burger that is so tasty. They too were closing but nice enough to let me order. The food was awesome, thank you again. So I happily drove home to take pups out and wait for Hubby to get a load of his burger. It is huge!

And that, dear friend, is how to party in eastern North Carolina on a Friday night. Cheers, james

Welcome April

Last couple of months I haven’t posted as much as I wanted. However I couldn’t seem to find the words. I read a few books and posted the reviews and that was fun. My stories on the other hand, I had trouble putting pen to paper. I have thought about them quite a bit, yet it never translated to words on the page. 

I know I am far from the first and far from the last to experience this. It is comforting knowing I’m right there in the middle with everybody else and fustrated that I can’t seem to move past it. I just finished reading a Conan story and it has rekindled my passion for the Cimmerian. Mr. Howard’s hero is still valid and worthy of consideration in our modern world. 

In my NaNoWriMo project, Manuscripts, Ephinanies, Illuminated, Conan plays a part first as a comissioned project and they when my heronine needs to believe in herself. The Cimmerian visits her dreams to build her confidence. Ambitious but worthwhile project, if I could just get the story out of my head and on the paper. 

Here’s to a new month and inspired writing. Cheers, james