Hot Summer Haul

Yesterday was a hot summer day.  I add the word ‘hot’ even though summer already implies that, because even for a summer day, it was hot.  Forty degrees.  But despite that, my wife and I went to an old used bookshop that is one of those places that is easy to miss, to drive right past, closer than you think, and the only reason I found it to begin with was because I was exploring some back streets to try to find my way home from where I had been.  I purposefully turned down out of the way streets and when I did, I passed it and thought, as you do when you notice things that have been there all along, ‘I didn’t know that was there!’

So, marking its location in my mind, I waited.  An entire busy week of work had to go by, then finally, with that done and it being Saturday, we found ourselves walking in through its doors at last.  And to me, the bookshop didn’t disappoint;  overflowing with stacks of books.  So much so, that they leave books outside in full bins when they finally close up.  It’s a ‘biblical’ (according to the salesman) system of honour.  You want a book?  Just slide a $1 coin ‘all the way’ through the mail slot.  I’m happy to do that, for if it’s a book that I want to read, surely it’s worth at least $1.  I am fortunate enough to have a job and consider myself to be a ‘person of honour’, a phrase I heard a young woman say once about herself.  

Books of all types, except romance books, my wife grumbled, were stacked floor to ceiling, spined out, in stacks and on the floor.  Just the way it should be.  We also brought three books we didn’t need anymore to trade-in, and honestly the only one worth much was a Patricia Cornwell that I couldn’t get into.  Please don’t judge the rest of her huge body of work by me not liking one of them.  Read them for yourself- you might love them all.  But anyway, the salesman (as I call him, was he the owner?  Manager?  Volunteer?  Definitely a fellow book lover) generously gave us $5 credit on them.  That brought our tally down to $80 and I think it was a steal.  They included (not pictured) three books related to psychology, a field that my wife could be considered an expert in and one of those was $20.  

My haul is pictured above; there’s a 2000 edition of the D&D Monster Manual, White Dwarf Issue 89 from 1987 (those in the know can tell you that the first 100 or so issues of the magazine contained a lot of D&D content), The Tomb of Tutankhamen written by Howard Carter himself, The Mummy Case in the Hardy Boys series, a nice pocket-sized Silmarillion, and Still Digging by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.  I’m a big fan of the late Professor Mick Aston, who was called ‘the Mortimer Wheeler of his time’ so naturally I’m curious about this earlier archaeologist.  And I think the story of Tutankhamun and the discovery of his tomb in 1922, over three thousand years after the pharaoh’s death, that I learnt about in school, started my interest in archaeology the same as hearing The Hobbit on a story-LP did for my love of fantasy, the same as seeing Star Wars in 1977 at least solidified my love of science fiction.

It’s been nearly a year since my last post, and with my books being out of print currently, I thought to myself over that time, should I even have an author’s page?  But the thing is, I’m still writing.  And quite recently was inspired to revisit my ideas for Haldan Thane, Book Six.  I think there’s some fun stuff there, but please be patient.  There’s no need to email me about how it’s going.  I’m working full-time and my job takes up a lot of brain space.  But ideas pop into my head all the time and if one is right for HT6, I may use it.  

I had a strange dream recently and I often get ideas from them.  I usually only remember them if I am awakened abruptly and that’s what happened.  I fell out of the bed.  Being some sort of legendary wizard, it was up to me to prevent a disaster that was happening.  It involved four long, stringy dragons of different colours and extraordinary size, swirling in the sky and linking together in an arcane spiral.  Just before the fourth was locked into place to set off whatever it was that was to happen, I broke out of the transfixation that I had been in and apparently that involved me falling to the floor, banging my head on my side-table in the process.  I know I was in a deep sleep because for a moment, the dream was all there was, there was no me and no place where I was.  

I also want to tell you what I’ve just read and what I’m reading at the moment.  Just the other night, propped up in the same spot in my bed where I had the dragon dream, I read a short story by Italo Calvino, part of the Our Ancestors collection.  Again, (following on from If On A Winter’s Night, A Traveler) the Italian former newsman stoked my imagination with his story about one of Charlemagne’s knights, with all his glorious battles and chivalrous deeds, missing out on those things that are what make us human, for example, he could never know ‘what it was like to shut the eyes, lose consciousness, plunge into emptiness for a few hours and then wake and find oneself the same as before, link up with the threads of one’s life again’ (Italo Calvino, The Non-Existent Knight).  

Now I choose to read Dead Letters: An Anthology of the Undelivered, the Missing, the Returned short story collection edited by Conrad Williams.  The one I’m reading currently is Is-And by Claire Dean, and am enjoying it the most of the ones I read so far, possibly because of the Scottish setting.  I’ve recently found that a large part of my DNA says I am Scottish, and so have been learning about that part of my heritage.  I’m even drinking an Irn Bru, for a bit of fun.  


New books and writing

Hello! I wanted to write to let you all know what I’ve been up to. I haven’t felt much like writing anything for a long while, as last November I lost my brother. He was much older than me, and I never felt that I knew him as well as I would’ve liked, but in some ways that made it so much worse. Always make time to keep in contact with your family and friends while you still can.

I’ve continued writing some really cool ideas down when they occur to me or I dream them, but haven’t sat down to actually write some narrative. I’ve written before about D&D adventures, and I’ve not only written (or edited) some new D&D adventures, but I’ve started gaming with some friends. It’s been so very long but I’m having a lot of fun and am DMing a campaign which includes the adventures I’ve created; GR1 Ruins of Dread, GR2 Wolf Hill, F’Chelrak’s Tomb (edited), The Haunted Tower (edited) and my latest one, Temple Ruins: Cellars & Crypts (edited). The characters; Garman Stonegrey the dwarf fighter, Naarga the croc-headed beastman ranger and Tessa the half-elf druid have already explored the haunted tower, which you can find as the sample dungeon map in OD&D’s Basic Handbook (as old as Jacquay’s 1976 F’Chelrak’s Tomb).

The beastman has some natural intimidation, as crocodiles do, and so the hobgoblin leader they came up against was willing to negotiate. Now they’re off to find out more about the bandits and ruffians plaguing travellers, but there’s lots of opportunities for adventure. We’re about to add a fourth player, and there’s even the possibility of a fifth, but we’re wary of adding too many people too fast. Oh, there was one session where a player was absent, so I ran an impromptu MSPE session and they’ve been ambushed by a couple of thugs while paddling down a jungle river. It was fun to re-use some of my MSPE stuff.

Of course, I’m always reading something and got about halfway through Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller when it suddenly vanished. I get filthy about losing things and after searching for days, muttering a few oaths, I ordered another copy of the exact same cover. You know what’s coming, don’t you? By the time my book arrived, I found the one I lost. Yep. Now I have two… But at least it’s a good book and when I was ordering the replacement, I found another meta-fiction type of one called S by Doug Dorst and none other than JJ Abrams. Inside the S box is a mysterious book from a library, Ship of Theseus by VM Straka, in which a couple of people are trying to uncover the mystery of the book and fill the margins of the library book (ex-library book?) with their notes. Also in the pic is a bit of crime mystery fluff I picked up, The Snow Killer. I’ll let you know how all these go.

Fathers and Uncles

Today is Father’s Day, at least here in Australia, and this morning I was treated to a plateful of delicious pancakes covered in maple syrup, yoghurt and strawberries with a fresh, hot coffee. And then there was the loot given to me by my wife and children; a big bag of discontinued dice from a UK company, some speccy new earphones and best of all, a facsimile edition of The Hobbit’s first edition. The Hobbit, my favourite book, was first published on 21 September, 1937, and if I ever have the opportunity to travel back in time, I’ll go back to then and buy one of the 1500 copies that were released.

If you’ve ever done any research into Tolkien, you may be aware that early editions of The Hobbit were different than what’s available today. You see, Tolkien revised the book around 1947 so that it made more sense in the world he created and was still developing. Probably the most famous difference in the first (and possibly other early ones) edition was that in the riddle game, Gollum actually wagers the magic ring.

The other thing that is important to know about this classic book is that it started as a bedtime story, and Tolkien would read it to his children. His children, especially his son Christopher, honoured their father by organising his unfinished writing, expanding upon it and sharing it with his many fans.

It makes me wonder what other things Tolkien talked about with his children. Did he tell Dad jokes? Did he ask them, ‘What do you call a man with a rubber toe?’ (answer below). My own father delighted in telling us a circular story that he thought was terribly clever, his face lighting up a with a great big smile, which was part of the fun;

‘Ten little Indians were sitting around a campfire. One of them was telling a story, and the story was this, “Ten little Indians were sitting around a campfire. One of them was telling a story, and the story was this, “”Ten little Indians were sitting around a campfire…”””‘

Ah, Dad Jokes. Aren’t they great? I shared one with my own child just now;

‘What do you call a man with a rubber toe?’


Today I was thinking of a young man who should’ve been a father. One of the great tragedies of my family was the death of my uncle. He was only 24 years old when he died and hadn’t become a father himself yet, but he would have been a great one I think, because he was so… alive. The person I remember so well was full of energy, mischief and funniness. I think I can safely say that he was the most popular person in our family (on my mum’s side). He was the baby of the family in my mum’s younger years and was only four years older than I was, which is one of the biggest reasons we were so close.

About five years after his death, I started writing a story that somewhat captured the gaping hole his absence left in my family, and mixed that with my love of fantasy stories like The Hobbit. Below is the first chapter of the latest draft of that story, which I last touched nine years ago. It captures his somewhat reckless daring, but his personality was so much larger than that.

Chapter One

The King Upon His Mountain

Swords in hand, two warriors circled each other.  From the hillock where they were standing, numerous mushroom-shaped stone and thatch houses which grew from the valley floor could be seen, had they cared to look.  But the boys were playing The-King-Upon-His-Mountain, and both fancied themselves King.  The whacks and clunks of their wooden swords striking and their laughter echoed down into Jorgund-town, rousing nearby dogs to bark.

In the outskirts of town where folk went about their business, they meandered through the smells of cooking fires. The boys walked towards the market, where they would find Tanith’s father selling his vegetables.  Tanith slipped on his waistcoat and began tucking his shirt in.  Pinching Taniths upper arm, Fank laughed.   “You keep going like that, you might beat the Mountain King himself!  I liked your new fighting stance.”  Tanith rubbed his shoulder and snarled.  Fank, grinning stupidly, mooned his face in Tanith’s way.  He couldn’t keep a smile from appearing and shook his head.

Tanith had lost the game, but not by much, and Fank was one of the best Mountain Kings in all the surrounding villages.  He was also four summers older than Tanith. Tanith was not as muscular as Fank, but already had passed him in height. 

In the distance, a crowd of people up ahead cheered as a horse galloped across a field.  Tanith’s stomach tightened.  This was all about men who wanted to earn their chance to become a Protector of the People, the Lord’s armed men who enforced his will.  He turned to Fank.  “Are you still entering the tournament?  Do you think you’d get chosen to be a Protector?”

Fank patted a sewn-on pocket on his threadbare pants.  “Whether I get choosed or not, there’ll be a fat coin in me pocket when I win the sword-fighting!”  Fank did a little skip-dance as they walked, bringing another faint smile to Tanith’s face.  Fank rambled on as they walked, “With that fancy waistcoat o’yours, you would look right in thar fancy armour.  Of course, thar swords would better in my hands.”  He ribbed Tanith, causing him to grunt uncomfortably.  “Do keep your hands to yourself!”  Tanith pulled down on his leather waistcoat.  He could hardly imagine being a Protector and the first time Fank had mentioned that he wanted to be one, he thought Fank must have hit himself on the head.  

For the past two summers, bands of rough men had been haunting the trails which stretched across the kingdom.  More than one merchant had lost their earnings and more than one family had lost a father, brother or son.  Protectors had been up and down the roads but they hadn’t seen anything.  By the time the Protectors had come onto the victims, it was too late.  One or two had survived the attacks by running and hiding.  Shaken and barely coherent, they could only describe the cruelty and blood-smeared faces of evil men.   

Nearly half the Protectors had retired because of the highwaymen, perhaps sensing that their easy job might now bring them face-to-face with real danger.  And many were so old that they weren’t up for anything more than sitting around the backroom of the merchant, Cirrol, and gossiping about the problem.   With the diminished trade, the town coffers were drying up.  Now Cadrellan, the Lord of all Jorgund-land, was going to be opening his purse to hire more Protectors, and he would choose them from among those men who did well in the tournament.  

The hopefuls would have to prove their mettle, and be among the last standing in the brutal sword duels or throw a spear farther or run faster.  In the sword fighting, where Fank hoped to win, they used wooden practice swords like Tanith and Fank used in their games, but it would be no friendly competition in the pit.  

Some were considered to be above the common fighting, being sons of families who were wealthy in Jorgund-land.  Felian, whose father was the High Protector, would be among those.  They were still required to show off their skills, and a field had been cordoned off with colourful banners to keep out the common-folk.  They pranced around on fine horses, hitting targets hung from trees with finely-wrought iron swords.   Felian looked resplendent in his silver-trimmed hard leather armour and his bobbed hair curled up from his shoulder.  Fank and Tanith watched along with the crowd while Felian and the others trotted in a procession to their pavilions.  Fank yelled out, “Come try your swords over in the pit!”  Tanith covered his eyes then looked up just as Felian sneered their way.  His icy blue eyes fastened onto Tanith for a moment.  “Har Har Ha,” Fank chuckled merrily.  

After the horse show, they walked on to the market square to find Tanith’s father.  Aside from the many farmers and their wares, were traders in town to sell their goods from afar.  For the young people, these were by far the most popular for their stories and wares.  They were also admired by all of the hill folk for braving the dangers of the lowlands.

Fank and Tanith were fond of the sweetgums that Ar’avor the northman sold there in the markets. The giant, shaggy man delighted in telling children tales of the frozen north-lands far beyond the lands of Jorgund, where dragons flew and no trees grew in the icy landscape. The booming laugh of the wrinkly-faced giant filled the square, the children squealed with glee, and he was generous with his sweetgum candy. Even now a rabble of a half-dozen children were climbing all over him, and he knew all their names.

Fank was in awe of the digging tools and bush blades hanging from the table by Oskrum’s wagon. Oskrum was a sour-faced, nasally man whose wares where whispered to have come from the dwarves of the northern lands. Tanith looked at what was hanging at the back of his wagon, in the centre where one could always find the most desirable and least affordable things the traders had to offer. And these things could only be bought once a year at the harvest festival. An arm-length sword gleamed silvery bright and came with a finely carved dark wood scabbard. Dwarf swords like that were worth the price of a bit of land, they were only owned by the wealthy or in the dreams of those like Tanith.

A whistling woke him from his dreaming, and he clomped over to where his father was selling vegetables from his rickety cart. Tanith’s father, Loul, gave them a box of vegetables each to deliver, then wandered back to his stall. Heaving the bulky boxes over to the edge of the square, they set down their loads and waited. Chewing Torberry sweetgum, the boys sat on a wall kicking their feet back and forth, watching the folk.

. . . . .

In amongst the traders was the popular prester from Morivome, Ulfric.  He was a rotund, richly dressed, smiling man, who had only arrived this morn.  Tanith and Fank watched as his caravan, twice as long as any they’d seen before, was being unloaded. Tables were set up amongst the other vendors in the market square.   Tanith remembered when he was little Ulfric giving him candy once, but there was a sour smell to his breath and an odd look in his eye that stayed in his memory. 

Cheers erupted as the popular prester shuffled his considerable bulk to the steps above the cobblestone market square.  He extolled the virtues of a bottled drink called Aracee, as he called the smoky wine, and crowds of townsfolk gathered.  They bought and carried off arm-loads of the bottles from Ulfric’s men, who could hardly unload it fast enough.  One of his men, a stocky, short barefoot man still young enough to also be called a boy, stood high above the crowd on the roof of one of Ulfric’s long wagons.  Bottle after bottle flew through his hands and the air, and he sang a rowdy song and step-danced while he juggled.  His sleeveless tunic showed off his muscular arms. 

c.2010 Darren Neumann

Back at his father’s cottage, while his father prepared a stew-pot, Loul popped open the Aracee, then poured it in.  Sipping at the drizzle left at the bottom of the bottle his father bought, Tanith found its taste more in common with the parsnip soup his father had over-cooked yesterweek than the wine popular in Morivome as Ulfric promised.  At the prospect of a whole bottle of the stuff in the stew, an uncontrollable shudder went through his body.  Fank, sitting it a chair near the table, clutched his belly and laughed merrily.  The people of Morivome obviously had no sense of taste at all. 
After morning chores, Tanith found himself following an eager Fank back to the markets.  His cold fingers, dirt buried under every nail, still hurt from all the weed-pulling.  His knees hurt and he only wanted to sleep, and kept finding himself running to catch up to Fank.  Fank looked back.  “Father will be vexed if I am not back before he returns from building in Kingscoat.”

Fank led Tanith over to the sword pit, where all manner of hairy, sweaty and burly men flexed their arms and taunted each other.  “Come on Tanith.  Come have a go with me.  We could fight together!”  A cold shiver went through Tanith and he backed away shaking his head.  Fank climbed over the wooden fence just as a man called out, “Orright!  Come get your swords!” 

Tanith had wrestled with other boys, sometimes in heated pushing contests, and had once copped a kick to the jaw from a boy called Rallen.  But he had never seen big men beating each other before.  Noses were bloodied, men fell from being cracked over the head and one man’s arm snapped and buckled.  Fank leapt about, the shortest and youngest hopeful there, but even though he gave a few vicious strikes, he also took a few.  Tanith wanted to leap over the fence boldly and defend him, but he couldn’t.  He sunk down the bars of the fence, staring at Fank’s crumpled body after he fell, while his attackers turned on each other.  Finally the fighting was called to a halt and three men, mouths gaping and bodies battered, were proclaimed the winners.

Fank’s muddy face turned and looked up as Tanith pulled him up by the arm.  Fank’s cheek was so swollen his eye could barely be seen, and a gash in his cheek dripped blood.  The one deep blue eye looking at Tanith didn’t have any expression behind it.  Tanith led him towards home.  It was slow going because of Fank’s sore back and numerous other wounds.  By the time they had reached the cottage, Fank had recovered his senses, wiped away most of the blood and smiled through some broken teeth.  He clapped Tanith on the shoulder with a smile, then rushed off into the woods towards Greenplum.  

Tanith didn’t see Fank for weeks after that.  He found out later that his greatfather had been so angry that Fank entered the tournament that he took a switch to Fank’s bare bottom until it was red with whelps. It had taken Fank weeks to recover fully from his adventure in the tournament, but he laughed off his wounds, smiled and talked of having a go again the next summer.  He reckoned that being made a Protector would be worth it.  

In the garden again

As you can see, today was a welcome break from the rain, as it’s midwinter here.  The rellies came ‘round today and we had a big garden clean-up with their help.  Afterwards, I was tired but grateful as I enjoyed a cuppa and a Cleeves book at my outdoor table. 

It was a strange thing for me as I looked up my books on Amazon and saw they are out of print, but that was the plan.  You see, I was never entirely happy with the size of the print versions, as they are the same as young adult books nowadays, and I never wanted that.  They are adult science fiction, and somewhat in the style of the short classics of the mid-twentieth century.  Not really in plot, though, as I wanted them to be exciting a bit like Star Wars.  

Eventually, I’d like to find a way to have them printed in the same format as those classics, which I think is called pocket size now, but we called it ‘mass market’ in the 90s.  I’ll be exploring my options, which might include selling them myself right on this site.  I’ll take the opportunity to revise them if needed too, but we’ll see.  In my mind, I’d have them all ready for re-release upon publication of the long-promised sixth book.  

I’ve still been working on it, and the other manuscripts, but have also been working on my secret coding project and a series of D&D adventures that I might run.  I haven’t even played in yonks but it’ll be fun to share my ideas with others.     

Back to the Start

I’m here at work on my break, enjoying some homemade iced coffee and a pork pie.  I was told that the best way to eat a pork pie is for it to be room temperature, providing for extremes of course, and I have to agree.  It just tastes better than when it’s fresh from the deli, but left out for a little while so it’s not so cold. 

When I visited America a few years ago, I was somewhat shocked and disappointed to not find the iced coffee I’m so fond of here in Australia.  I used to love a good cold Masters or even better, Browne’s Coffee Chill or a smooth Mocha Chill.  And unlike the pork pie, with an iced coffee they’re best when they are almost to the point of freezing over.  Ah, good combination. 

While taking pleasure in my lunch, I was also thinking about my reading and writing.  What have I been doing lately?  Well, I have been quite busy at work and have another month to go before we get three long weeks for a winter break.  I’ve finished Dead Water by Ann Cleeves and think it’d be marvelous for the BBC to base a Shetland episode or series of episodes on the book.  I definitely prefer the episodes that aren’t based on Cleeves’ characters, but rather on Cleeves’ books.  They’re tighter, more focused and more interesting. 

I’ve not been doing too much with my three writing projects; HT6, the fantasy story and Ruzscom, but I think that’s probably a good thing, because I find it incredibly useful to shelve them, then later dust them off and see things in a different light.  It may take me longer, but they’ll be better as a result of this process.

After thinking about it for a while, I’ve made the decision to unpublish my books. You can still get them secondhand, but no longer from Amazon. I’m shelving them too, and may eventually publish new editions.

A final gift from Clive

On 24 February, we lost Clive Cussler.  He wasn’t a literary great, but for me he was a reliable and enjoyable story-teller, and I have read so many of his books when I just wanted a fun adventure.  He had finished his 85th novel, Journey of the Pharaohs, but didn’t live to see its March release.  My wife and I were in Dymocks the other day, and she suggested a book to me, but I thought, nah, not that one.  And I turned around, and there on a bay end, was the latest and sadly, final, Clive Cussler adventure.

Of course, with the the bad dream that we’re all experiencing with this damned pandemic, having a book to read is a very good thing.  You know me, I have so many to read, but still, I had to have this one.  I’m still working, but do have holidays coming up.

One thing that cheers me up a bit is the realisation that just came to me.  There’s a saying in the book world that ‘even the oldest book is new to those who’ve never read it’, and there are a LOT of Cusslers out there that I still haven’t read.  Thank you so much, Clive Cussler.

On a side note, I’ve been reading my fantasy story draft, or at least one of my drafts, to my youngest child.  You see, I’ve found at least four different drafts where I’ve done work.  So, what I’ve done is printed them all out to do a detailed comparison and will see if I can bring them back together into one story.  So, it’s coming along slowly…



Breakfast and books

I had an enjoyable morning today, having breakfast out with my wife and one of my children at The Little Shop of Plenty, one of the gems of Perth.  I enjoyed a pot of English Breakfast to have with my salted cashew and olive oil butter toast with a couple of sous vide eggs.  Tasty!

We then had a bit of a browse at the Guildford Book Exchange, where I found a few used books to read (see pic).  As much as I like classics and crime/mystery, I’ve never read much Agatha Christie, but am aware that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a special one.IMG_6470

The Star Trek collection by James Blish is special for a different reason.  Long ago, before Star Wars, my love of science fiction was based on my pre-school dream of being an astronaut, Saturday morning TV shows like Ark III and especially Star Trek.  I wasn’t yet able to recite the names of those heroes; Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but they loomed large in my mind and I wanted to be them.  I didn’t have many toys growing up, but just seeing television commercials showing the super-lucky children playing with them was enough to spark my imagination, and the broken off sticks and rocks in my Dad’s backyard became the space men and the planets they explored.  Much later, as a young teen, when I spent time with my mum (I grew up with my dad), the memories made while with her were extra-special, like finding an outdoor bazaar in the middle of nowhere and discovering thin Star Trek books like the one pictured to allow me to escape into the world of the space men once again.

Of course anyone who knows anything about D&D knows about the rpg books detailing those worlds, and this is one that I’ve not read before, so I’m looking forward to that.  My own fantasy story, still in draft form, is what I’ve been reading to my youngest child to run it past him.

A pulp RPG treasure trove!


I’ve been hanging out to have all these pulp adventures and source books in print format.  If you’re looking for long out-of-print treasures I don’t know a better place than Noble Knight Games.  I was thrilled to get some MSPE classics; Mugshots 2, Stormhaven and Raid on Rajallapor, the latter of which brings to my mind the exciting of Indiana Jones’ Temple of Doom (which was even an RPG adventure).

Added to that are some other rarities, some printed from the much-more-IMG_6406affordable electronic copies.  These include Border Crossing, Hot Item in a Cold War and one of the earliest, Daredevils (the rulebook).  I also found a ‘home-brewed supplement’, Into the Wasteland, which I believe is set in a post-apocalyptic future, and a Pyramid magazine which focussed on interesting locations, including The Temple of Sobek.

So far, one of my favourites of this lot is Trail of the Gold Spike by Hero Games, co-created by the man behind Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes (MSPE) itself.  I’ve included lots of hyperlinks if you want to read more.


Escaping the Museum!

In a rare moment of me coming back to finish off something I had started previously (see my The Magic of Museums post from 4 July 2019), I finally found the time to pull out IMG_6350Trapped in the Museum, the solo OpenD6 adventure by Peter Schweighofer that I bought last year.  I became Jamie Douglas, a scholarly young man exhausted by the demands of finishing up a year at university.  I could certainly identify with that, how near exam-time, professors tend to give you much more work that it seems anyone could possibly handle.  Of course, I don’t want to spoil the adventure, but will say that I enjoyed it and recommend it.  I should mention that there are some supernatural elements, so if you like pulp modules without that, maybe change those bits if you want to use it.

There’s an interesting Further Adventures section that discusses the possibility of game-mastering the adventure for others.  I have never needed to be told that- as an old DM, I’ve often begged, borrowed or stolen ideas from books, comics, films, TV shows and other adventures.  I’ve personally found it fun to add-in my own ideas to an existing adventure, whatever the genre.  For anyone who likes the pulp genre, which I’ve been exploring, I’d recommend this.  And since it’s a solo adventure, you can try it yourself to feel it from a player’s perspective first.

BTW, I checked out the author’s publishing site, Griffon Publishing Studio, for more information, and downloaded the free original version that used Risus rules.  He also has a blog called Hobby Games Recce, so click on these links to check it out yourself.

Star Wars Ramblings

I know that there is a lot of criticism about the last Skywalker film (hopefully not the last Star Wars film), but that’s how people are these days, aren’t they?  I do have my own complaints, but I want to make it clear that I loved the film and will try to write about what I loved in it as well as what disappointed me.  So you’ve been warned.

[S P O I L E R S     B E L O W]

I’ll start with my disappointments.  Some of Luke’s former students followed Ben Solo after he destroyed Luke’s training facility and killed the loyal students.  So, where did they go?  I would’ve thought that at least some of the Knights of Ren were these guys.  Obviously, they wouldn’t have been as powerful as Ben Skywalker/Kylo Ren, but seeing a couple or more of the knights whip out lightsabers would’ve been kewl.  And they had those awesome-looking weapons.  Integrating some unusual lightsabers with them would have had so many people drooling [click to see some of Forever Geek’s lightsaber variants].

And Finn.  I get that he’s now one of the heroes, as I would’ve expected him to be.  He’s willing to sacrifice himself to save others and has some great lines.  But now he’s become force-sensitive?  That was just stupid.  If he had been force sensitive, he’d have shown signs before now [click for a discussion on this topic].  Really, really disappointed with that.  Why not leave him as the frightened-of-all-the-First-Order’s-evil grown into one of the leaders of the rebellion?  He doesn’t need that other crap.  I really hated that.

Whew!  I feel better getting that off my chest.  Now for the good stuff, which will be a 33783632472_94252021f7_bnice way to finish off my rant.  I loved Poe’s character development, how he knows how to do ‘all that shifty stuff’.  How the main characters have all grown close enough that they argue- that was great.  The oh-so-clever use of the late Carrie Fisher was amazing, and I think she would’ve had pretty much that same role and scenes had she still been with us.  I was also relieved but saddened at Rey’s love for Ben (saying no more) and relieved that what Finn wanted to tell Rey was NOT that he was in love with her.  Love between any of the big three would’ve wrecked things.  I am confused as to whether Finn loves Rose (who kissed him in the last film) or Jannah.  Maybe he’s just friends with both of them, or it’s too soon for anything to have developed.  Oh, one last thing.  So many people bagged out the character of Rey, portrayed brilliantly by the gorgeous and charming Daisy Ridley.  One of my favourite parts of the film was Rey pleading to the Jedi of the Past to, ‘Be with me’; but I think it’s also a plea to us, the public/fans/critics to be with Rey.  To get behind that character.  She’s my favourite new character and one of my favourites of all the films and I’ll always be a fan of Rey [click to view some stunning fan art of Rey].

Now back down to Earth, or my little corner of it anyway, and I’ve prepared myself to handle sure-to-be-coming Star Wars withdrawals with the 2019 novel Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel which features stories about a young Han and his new friend and co-pilot Chewbacca and also a story set even earlier featuring a young Lando Calrissian and his friend and navigator L3-37.  I’m looking forward to reading that one.

But at the moment I’m still enjoying good crime/mystery stories.  And I’ve discovered that I love atmospheric stories that aren’t too gruesome or dark, such as the extraordinary novel, Bog Child.  Lately, I’ve become a huge fan of the Shetland series by British author Ann Cleeves (and the BBC TV series, which are even better), and having read the first one, which is sure to be my favourite of the whole lot, Raven Black, I’ve been searching for the next one, White Nights.  Yesterday, my wife, kids and I went for a walk ’round one of our favourite places, where we know of a great little independent book shop.  My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to find that down the footpath was a newly-opened used book shop, and so we went in and I happily found not only White Nights, but another in the series.  And I picked up a P.D. James book too.  Rest assured that I’ve continued to jot down ideas for HT6 and although it’s now been five years (hard to believe!) since Koleos was published, I still intend to write it.  My coding project is also ongoing but has slowed down as ‘improvements’ now.  Enjoy the covers: