No Sunset Today

The sunset was blocked by a big ol’ thundercloud. But the clouds were interesting:

Yes, they’re very pretty, until they’re right on top of you. Which they’re about to be, here.

Off to Charity

You may recall that in April I put up my short story “How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story” as shareware, for people to read, and if they liked, to send me money for. When I put the story up, I noted that half of the proceeds would go to the Lupus Foundation of America, that being a favorite charity of Bill Schafer, publisher of Subterranean Press, which originally published the story. Well, today I sent off the donation. The amount of money brought in by the story was in the neighborhood of $570, but I rounded up and sent in $300. Thank you to everyone who sent in money for the story; I appreciate it.

After this point, the story is still available to download and read (it’s a zipped .pdf file), but I’m not actively taking any more money for it. If you send me money, I’ll take it, but you shouldn’t feel obliged. That said, if you read that story and like it, and want to be a good human, consider making your own donation to the Lupus Foundation of America; it’s a good cause, and at this point I would appreciate you making a contribution there more than I would taking any more of your money for this story. Thanks.

If Only I Had Known

Henceforth, whenever mail, electronic or otherwise, delivers to me news I don’t wish to hear, or act upon, like the President of the United States, I shall simply not open it, and therefore, it won’t have happened. I’m kicking myself now about all the mortgage payments I have stupidly made over the years.

And now, the following discussion with the wife on the matter:

Me: What would you say if I suggested to you that from now on, if something comes in the mail we don’t want to know about, like our mortgage and bills, we just refuse to open them, like the President?

Wife: Okay. Can we do that with our taxes, too?

Me: I don’t see why not!

Wife: Actually, I have a better idea. Rather than ignoring our bills, why don’t we just mulch the current president and put someone else in there?

Me: I don’t think we have to mulch him. There’s an election coming up.

Wife: No. Mulch and start over.

I should note that Krissy’s tolerance for shenanigans these days is really rather low.

Also: Hey, you know what I would do if the White House told me that it wouldn’t accept an e-mail with a Supreme Court-ordered document in it? I would PRINT IT OUT and DELIVER IT BY HAND. Because you can do that. Seriously, now, does every single appointee of the Bush Administration have the IQ of a LOLCat?  “Oh noes! Theyz not openz our e-mailz! Our public policiz is rooned!” To be flummoxed by a recalcitrant refusing to download a file suggests, well, that you are a candidate for mulching.

The more I think about this the more I feel I am in danger of bleeding uncontrollably from the ears, so instead and per recent tradition, here’s a picture of a cat:

Hmmm. I think I’ll just go ahead and bleed from the ears anyway.

Interesting News for the Members of Company D

Got my copies of the German version of The Last Colony today, and put it next to the other books in the series so you can see the wild variety Heyne, my German publisher, provides each new title in the Old Man’s War series:

I have a sneaking suspicion I might know what the cover of Zoe’s Tale will look like when it comes out over there.

But never mind that now. What I really want to say is this: In the German version of The Last Colony, Heyne also added in “The Sagan Diary” as an extra, which I think is kind of cool. But what’s really cool is that when they did the translation, they also kept in the pages that are “In Memoriam” for the ill-fated Company D, the company Jane and her other fellow Special Forces soldiers are meant to rescue on her first combat mission. The names of the soldiers, you may recall, were the names of the folks who pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition of TSD from Subterranean Press. So, if you were one of them: Congratulations, you’ve been memorialized in two languages! Don’t worry, your names have remained the same, although it’s now “Kompanie D” that you were part of.

A Musical Walkback

Robbie Robertson and U2:

Sweet Fire Of Love – Robbie Robertson

I remember playing this song for a kid in my college dorm who was absolutely insane for U2 and watching him go insane because a) he didn’t recognize the song instantly and b) that his heroes somehow managed to put out a song that he didn’t know about. After the song was done, he actually ran out of my room and went instantly to the record store to buy it for himself. Robbie Robertson had a cup of coffee on me that day, he did.

Reminder: Insult the Crap Out of Me

Remember that you have only until 11:59:59 tonight (Eastern) to get in your entries for the “Hate Mail” contest, in which the winning hate mails will be published in the book itself. Yes, that’s right, your words describing how much I suck will be enshrined forever in the Library of Congress. That puts it all in perspective, it does. And the winners will of course also get their own copies of the book, to enshrine (or not) as they see fit. Have fun with it, you bastards.

The Big Idea: Judson Roberts

The Vikings: You know them as burly guys with braids and swords who gave teleological and philosophical underpinnings to the music of both Richard Wagner and scores of heavy metal bands — but what do you really know about them? If the answer is “really? Not much,” don’t feel too bad; most people are in same boat (one that has a dragon head) with you. But fortunately for you Judson Roberts does know a lot about the life and times of the Vikings, and uses that historical verisimilitude to inform his “Strongbow Saga” of books, of which The Road to Vengeance is the latest installment.

So there’s not a small amount of irony that in his quest to recount the world of the Vikings, Roberts discovered he had to go through some experiences here and now, in our world, to get that era right. Here’s Roberts to explain why that was so.


When I set out to write a historical fiction series, I had several specific goals in mind. First, I wanted to tell a fast paced story with lots of action, excitement and adventure. Second, I wanted to bring the ninth century time period and the Viking peoples, within whose world the story is set, so vividly to life that readers would feel like they were being swept into that world and were experiencing it. And third, I wanted to strive for the highest possible degree of historical accuracy, particularly because I feel the Vikings have for the most part been badly misrepresented in fiction.

Two of my all time favorite books served as my inspirational role models. The first was James Clavell’s Shogun, and the other The Lord of the Rings. As far as I’m concerned, Shogun sets the gold standard for the three goals listed above–prior to reading it I’d known nothing at all about medieval Japan, with its samurai history and Bushido culture, but by the time I finished the book I felt like I’d been transported to the far side of the world, and back to the early 17th century. And Tolkien’s Middle Earth, although a fictional creation, becomes more real for me every time I read it than the real world settings of much historical fiction.

My earliest drafts fell far short of achieving my second goal. I wasn’t bringing the Vikings’ culture to life. I wasn’t succeeding at getting inside the heads of a people who’d lived over a thousand years ago. What I was creating felt comparable to the dreadful 1993 Disney-produced film of The Three Musketeers, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen, whose characters may have been garbed in costumes appropriate to the period, and placed in authentic looking settings, but as soon as they opened their mouths you heard twentieth century surfer dudes, and every shred of the movie’s credibility went out the window.

Ironically, what led me to my breakthrough big idea was having almost every aspect of my life get blown to hell.

I was living on the east coast at the time, where I’d created and had been running an innovative anti-gang and drug program for a local district attorney’s office in North Carolina. The program, a several-year project funded by a federal grant, had been so successful that a larger statewide drug intelligence and interdiction program modeled after it was being planned, and as my small, local project was being gradually phased out I was offered a high level position in the soon to be created new agency.

Unfortunately, the new statewide program was to be funded primarily by the federal government. The year was 2001, and the newly elected Bush administration swept into office, bringing with them a disdain and distrust for any program or plan originating during their Democratic predecessor’s term, including the new state program I’d been planning to move to. With a stroke of a pen they killed its funding. I suddenly found myself, at age fifty, unemployed and with an unusual background and skill set: investigating and prosecuting various types of organized crime, with special expertise in large conspiracy cases and electronic surveillance–skills for which there was virtually no market, especially in North Carolina, except for the government that now was not hiring.

On top of that, my first marriage, which had endured for thirty years but had been struggling for the last ten, came to an end, and I was having a lot of trouble with my health, but a succession of doctors were unable to diagnose the cause. After months of efforts to turn things around that proved unsuccessful on every front, I followed in the footsteps of Davy Crockett, who uttered these immortal words as he left the east and headed west toward the destiny he found at the Alamo: “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”

There is a point to this story. In Texas, I built a new life from the broken fragments of my old one. I fell in love and remarried, I succeeded in getting my health problem identified and under control, and on the career front I moved in new directions–first as a private investigator, and later as an actually published, income-earning writer rather than merely an aspiring one. But going through the overall experience led me to an understanding of how the Vikings’ beliefs gave them a perspective on their lives very different from how we tend to view our world today.

In the modern western world, we have a tendency to believe (until events beyond our control prove us wrong) that we are the masters of our own destinies. The Vikings knew better. They believed that everything–the lives of all men, the pantheon of pagan gods they worshipped, and even the world itself, was subject to and controlled by a power or force they called fate. And they believed that fate was not random, but was shaped by an intelligent hand, or more precisely, three pairs of hands. For the Vikings visualized fate as an immensely vast tapestry being woven on the looms of three ancient sisters called the Norns. Although the life of any individual might consist of no more than a few brief lengths of thread in the overall tapestry of fate, nevertheless every thread was positioned and woven into the pattern of the tapestry with purpose and intent. It was not necessarily granted to men to understand the purposes of their lives, or the reasons for the twists and turns they might follow. And for certain no one could escape their fate. But it was within the power and control of every man to face whatever his fate brought him with courage and dignity, or with fear and disgrace–and such, to the Vikings, was the ultimate measure of a man.

Understanding that, I was at last able to re-approach my characters, and to tell their stories and portray their world as they themselves might have seen them. The rest is history–mixed liberally with fiction, of course.


The Road to Vengeance: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Read excerpts from The Road to Vengeance and the other Strongbow Saga books here, and explore through Roberts’ research on the life and times of Vikings here.