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.

Quote of the Day: Jeffery Deaver

Who are some of your favorite authors? What is it about their writing draws you? How do you see your own writing measuring up?

Robert E. Howard would look at my writing and ask where is your passion? His stories speak to me about a life worth living. Living in the moment and giving all of yourself to your writing. Perhaps this unwillingness to give myself up completely to both my writing and my reader is holding me back. Thoughts to explore for another day.

Cheers, james

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

Conan and Writing

Quiz time: Conan, first thought?

Some folks might answer the late night show host or Arnie’s big break out movie or the new Conan movie. A few die hards will think of the comic books or campy books from the ’70s and ’80s. Not sure how many will think of Conan and his creator, Robert E. Howard, the father of the “sword and sorcery” genre. Most us at some point have come in contact with the whole barbarian, sword and spell slinger tall tale and for a while it was a staple in the movie going world. Howard wrote for the “pulp” magazines of his day, some of which are still around. Weird Tales published most of his stories, including the Conan tales, Krull the forerunner of Conan, and Soloman Kane. The Kane stories pit a man’s desire to save his soul and saving the innocents around him. Very strange twist of writing and may expose Howard’s own conflicted emotions. I offer no info or conclusions as I have not yet read the Soloman Kane stories.

Conan offers no such moral dilema, he does as he pleases with little regard for the consquences. He is sure in his right, however rarely do we see him engaged in bad behavior. Howard through Conan alludes to his theivery and murdering yet when we join him on his quests there is method and purpose to his madness. Always portrayed as a barbarian from Cimmeria, he is intellegant yet supersious of magic and the supernatural. His code and honor are unbreakable and he helps the ones that can not help themselves. Only after they have proven themselves to be worthy of our hero’s aid. The old adage of help yourself and help will be given. 

A less kind reader would note and speak at length on the dated language and attitudes presented. In fact many an older writer has fallen into this quagmire Kipling, Hemingway and other distigushed writers. To this reader I would say in 80 or 100 years our own language could be viewed in similar terms. So if you look for bias you will find it. 

So what does this have to do with writing? In one of my writing projects I revisit Conan in the modern world. I use his mythos and strength to teach my heroine that she can be the hero of her own tale. She is contracted to create an illuminated manuscript of the Howard Conan tales in time for the hundred year celebration of his publication. And then the bad things start happening, her shop is broken into, her father disappears and other misadventures. 

Just some thoughts on how Conan is still a valid hero of the modern age. Cheers on the 4th of July week. 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

NaNo Project Named

Finally I have hatched a idea for my NaNo project.

Offically titled and created novel: Manuscripts Epiphanies Illuminated.

Main character has been named: Deleware Blanche “DB” Cooper. She is a manuscript and book restorationist and takes commissions to create modern manuscripts and books.

Plot so far: She is hired to create an illuminated manuscript of Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. While creating the manuscript she notices clues emerging that lead her on a quest.

Subplot intrique: For every work that she does, she makes the client’s copy and creates a second copy. She justifies it as an insurance policy in case something happens to the client’s copy.
I get the feeling this is going to lead to trouble at some point. (At least I hope so.)

So that is my NaNo project, wishing all the best to everyone writing everywhere. Hats off to the NaNo-ers that are planning to take part.

Cheers, james

Stages, and Libivox.org

I seem to go thru stages where I am writing and writing, but I am not reading much. Then I flip and I almost stop writing and I read everything I can get my hands on. Then things balance out and I read and write about the same.

Currently I am in the read everything stage. It dawned on me today that is what has been going on the last several weeks.

Currently I am reading “Antarktos Rising” by Jeremy Robinson. It is pretty interesting with a unique premise.

Just finished “Killer Gorgeous” by Jane Holleman. A quick read putting me in mind of the old detective noir with an updated timeframe. Through the whole book never managed to pin down the supposed location of the book. I think Houston Texas may have very briefly been mentioned, but that was all.

I have been listening to several of Robert E. Howard’s Connan series. Hour of the Dragon, A Witch Shall Be Born, and others are available thru both Librivox and the new Nook Audiobooks app. Listening to the Connan stories I am still in awe of Howard’s writing. His books read like movies with the perfect balance of action, details, and allowing the reader to be fully enveloped in the story.

Cheers, james

P.s. Check out http://www.libivox.org and Robert E. Howard’s Connan series. The nook audiobook app is wicked cool too.