Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Prince of Wolves is an a mystery & horror novel full of savage werewolves, decadent nobles, and evil cultists.
Master of Devils is an action & intrigue novel full of martial monks, wicked sorcerers, and magical spirits.
You can read free short stories of the heroes of the novels in "The Lost Pathfinder," "A Lesson in Taxonomy,"* or "A Passage to Absalom." You can also buy an ePub version of these stories and more for a few bucks.
And if you simply must get me something, a glowing review at Amazon or Paizo is the perfect gift.
* Don't read this one first.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
We celebrated October with scary movies each Tuesday, but I’d forgotten to cue up the DVD, so one night began with previews. All the chatter subsided, and everyone stared at a war between ancient Chinese factions. Units of footmen formed tortoise-shell defenses, luring the cavalry into a trap. Heroes threw back six foes at a time while their brooding masters pored over maps, wrote poetry, and studied cloud formations.
When the preview ended, everyone turned to me. “You want to see that one instead?” I asked, knowing I had it in the vault.
Did they ever.
After a decade spent making movies in Hollywood, John Woo returned to his native land. There he undertook a film version of one of the famous battles of China's Three Kingdoms period.
On this blog, I’ve used the term “kung fu” pretty loosely, but this time I need to point out that this film is a war epic. While there are some impressive wirework stunts in Red Cliff, the film is far more concerned with the leaders of the opposing camps, the flaws and virtues of their characters, and the particular strategies they use to take advantage of their foes’ mistakes. That said, once the action begins, it will kick your ass all the way up to the fiery finale.
The movie opens by establishing the influence Chancellor Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) has over the young emperor. Seizing power over the military, he turns his forces against the lords who have resisted his control. Soon after, the heroes Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Yun display superhuman fighting prowess in a retreat against the imperial army. Any one of those heroes could be the star of a film, but here they are the supporting cast.
The learned and brilliant strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) proposes an alliance between his master, Liu Bei, and the reluctant warlord Sun Quan (Chang Chen), who comes around after a lesson learned during a tiger hunt. Quan places Zhang Yun (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) in charge of the combined forces, and the unified rebels prepare to meet Cao Cao’s vastly larger force, including an enormous navy.
The battles that follow reflect the personalities of the faction leaders, each clash somehow topping the previous for audacious tactics. The drama among the allies is equally gripping.. In a desperate hour, Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liange wager each can achieve a seemingly impossible task—assassinating the opposing admirals, and acquiring 100,000 arrows—and the stakes are their lives.
Men are not the only combatants in Red Cliff. Both Zhou’s wife, Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi-ling) and Sun’s sister, Sun Shangxiang (Zhao Wei) play pivotal roles in the conflict. The beauteous Xiao surrenders herself to the enemy in a ploy to delay the lustful Cao Cao, while tomboyish Sun Shangxiang serves as a spy in the enemy camp, where she bonds with a dim but sweet-hearted enemy soldier.
Such a brief description can’t do justice to a 280-minute film. The 148-minute North American cut is said to be quite good, but I wouldn’t want to miss any of the subplots or deliberately paced character development leading up to the spectacular fights.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
In November, to accommodate people in more time zones, we’re hosting two Pathfinder Tales chats, each featuring about ten authors of Pathfinder Tales short fiction.
Authors expected* to attend include Richard Lee Byers, Elaine Cunningham, J.C. Hay, Howard Andrew Jones, Liane Merciel, Erik Mona, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Steven Savile, Amber E. Scott, James Sutter, Bill Ward, and Yours Truly.
The events officially last one hour, but some folks hang out much later, so come on by even if you must be late. To join the event, point your browser to chat.dmtools.org, choose a screen name, and type “/join PFTales.”
Pathfinder Tales Web Fiction Chat I
Saturday, November 19
Pathfinder Tales Web Fiction Chat II
Monday, November 21
I’m excited that Pure Speculation, Edmonton’s SF/F convention has moved to new digs in downtown’s Grant MacEwan University. We’re expecting fewer plumbing catastrophes and much better AV equipment. The festivities run from November 18-20.
At 17:00 on Saturday I’ll co-host the “Sounds of Science” panel with musicologist Alex Carpenter. We’ll talk about the effects and influences of SF, fantasy, and horror soundtracks. Come armed with a list of your favorites to discuss.
At 11:40 on Sunday I’ll join Joe Walton, Joe Wos, and Jennifer Kennedy for “Which Book Stays on the Island,” in which the panelists pitch their choices for the best classic SF/F novel. At the end, you decide which book prevails.
At 15:00 on Sunday I’ll read from Master of Devils and chat about shared-world fiction, the challenges of writing in a world designed for a game, and pretty much anything else related to my sordid past as a writer and editor. If you buy me a pint afterward, I might tell you the really sordid stories.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Join us at two of the area’s finest game stores where Pathfinder Tales author Dave Gross runs a short game using the Beginner Box rules.
Brooklyn NY, 11211
Friday, October 14 at 6:00 pm
1163 Old Country Rd
Plainview NY, 11803
At the New York Comic Con, pick up your free copy of Prince of Wolves, Winter Witch, or Master of Devils. Dave will be on hand to chat and autograph books.
Saturday, October 15 from 1:00-2:00 pm
New York Comic Con
Diamond Book Distribution Booth
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The fine folks at Flames Rising have posted a survey of five of my favorite Chinese fantasy films. I hope this will make up in part for my last few weeks of conventions and catching up on writing.
Look for more kung fu movie recommendations here soon.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Join us on Monday, August 29, at 9:00 ET (6:00 PT) for an inquisition on the matter of Master of Devils, the latest Pathfinder Tales release. We'll probably also end up discussing Prince of Wolves and the other Radovan & the Count stories.
To join the chat, point your browser to chat.dmtools.org, choose a screen name, and type /join PFTales.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
To call my French "rusty" would flatter me, but I can understand more of the translation than I'd expected. I can't shake the suspicion that I'm a better writer in French.
Thanks to Art Director Damien Coltice and the rest of the Black Book team for making sure a copy came my way.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Until then, check out the latest Master of Devils interview, this time with Alana Joli of Flames Rising, one of the first sites to review Prince of Wolves last year. Soon they'll also post an essay in which I recommend a few more wuxia films.
Also, the Amazon release date has been sorted out, and are now shipping Master of Devils. The first review has gone up. There are more reviews (including one stinker) at Paizo and a few other sites.
Finally, for those attending When Words Collide in Calgary this weekend, I'll participate in one panel and, if the schedule is corrected, read a few chapters from Master of Devils on Sunday. If you want an extemporaneous reading before that time, the venue is "Bar" and the cost is "cocktail." Also, the fine folks from The Sentry Box will definitely have the new book as well as some of the older ones for sale in the dealer's room.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Jet Li plays a nameless prefect who claims the bounty on three assassins who have previously tried to kill the king of Qin. By turning over the weapons of these famed warriors, Nameless receives rewards and is permitted to sit progressively closer to the king. Dubious that an unknown minor official could defeat the assassins who nearly took his life, the king demands that Nameless tell him the story of each battle.
The first pits Nameless against the spear-wielding Sky, played by Donnie Yen. Wuxia fans had long desired a rematch between the two actors, who fought a famous duel in Once Upon a Time in China 2. While that fight scene is great, Hero tops it with a spear vs. sword contest set in a rainy chess court. The music, action, and choreography set the bar so high that it’s hard to imagine the film exceeding its first set piece … and yet it proceeds to do just that.
To defeat the lovers Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Nameless incites a jealous quarrel by requesting a scroll from the famous calligraphy school where they reside. As the Qin army attacks with clouds of arrows, Flying Snow and Nameless defend Broken Sword’s work in a display of epic-level deflecting of incoming missiles. After watching this scene, no Pathfinder player will ever again feel satisfied knocking aside a single arrow.
After the love triangle reaches its tragic climax, Flying Snow faces Moon (Zhang Ziyi) in a duel surrounded by falling autumn leaves. The flying and wind-mastery of this fight take the wirework to a new level, yet the grace of the performers (and SFX artists) will win over those averse to the idea of swordswomen soaring like superheroes—which is important for a following scene in which the combatants literally fly above a lake.
Later scenes show off different combinations of foes, each dominated by a different primary color, and finally revealing the true purpose that brought Nameless to face the king. The final twist of the story became controversial: The word “Tianxia” was initially translated into English as “All Under Heaven,” while later iterations changed it to “Our Land” to avoid the suggestion that the movie’s message was one of global unity by Chinese conquest. (“Tian Xia” is also the name of the setting of Master of Devils.) Regardless of the political fuss, critics and audiences loved Hero, and despite its art-house sensibilities, the film drew thousands more North American fans into the world of wuxia films.
The strongest influence of Hero on Master of Devils comes from its splendid fight choreography. Readers who’ve seen this film and Yimou’s other wuxia pictures (House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower) might also notice an echo of character names and a blend of heroic and tragic destiny.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Also, the first review of Master of Devils has lit up at Paizo, and the poster (xellos) knows the source material behind my source material. While I wrote the book with those unfamiliar with Chinese fantasy in mind, I couldn't have asked for a better-informed first notice, nor a more enthusiastic one.
Another interview goes up tomorrow, and another on Monday. Stay tuned.
Friday, July 29, 2011
The Paizo Booth is #302 in the exhibit hall, just inside entrance J.
Writers' Symposium events are in rooms 244 & 245, just above the exhibit hall.
The Pathfinder Tales Seminar takes place in the Santa Fe room at the Marriott.
noon- 2:00 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
3:00-5:00 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
5:00-6:00 pm .......... Writers' Symposium: Reading
11:00 am-noon .......... Writers' Symposium: Villains as Heroes
12:00-2:00 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
2:00-3:00 pm .......... Writers' Symposium: Shared Worlds and Work for Hire
4:00-6:00 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
11:00-12:30 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
1:00-2:00 pm .......... Writers' Symposium: Tension and Conflict
2:00-3:00 pm .......... Paizo Fiction/Pathfinder Tales Seminar
4:00-6:00 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
11:00-12:30 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
2:00-4:00 pm .......... Signing @ Paizo Booth
Monday, July 25, 2011
What I’ve been calling “kung fu” movies consist of a wide variety of films from high fantasy to historical action dramas. Even within the narrower realm of what we think of as martial arts movies, individual pictures range from relatively realistic depictions of hand-to-hand combat to wuxia romances in which the heroes fly like superheroes.
Many fans love some of these films but not others. Martial-arts purists draw the line at wire work, in which heroes can leap over the heads of their opponents or run along a wall—effects many North American fans encountered for the first time in films like The Matrix. Others find the gravity-bound choreography less exciting and prefer CGI-laden fables like the art-house wuxia of Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower). For many the sweet spot is in the middle, with films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or many of the classic Shaw Brothers Studios pictures of the 70s and 80s.
Me, I love it all, as long as the movie is fun. I’m as keen on a great superhero movie as I am on a moving historical romance, so Chinese films have a lot to offer me. Of course, the first few times I saw some films that mixed wire-work with wacky comedy and revenge drama, it blew my mind. But once I saw how this mixing of genres and tones works, a whole new world of entertainment opened up for me.
Recently I’ve recommended films that folks depending on Netflix or other rental outfits have had trouble finding. For the next few weeks, I’ll focus on movies that are easier to find. If you check them out, please comment here, encouraging me to do more of these in the weeks and months following the release of Master of Devils.
You’ve probably heard the title of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin even if you’ve never seen the movie. Or perhaps you’ve seen the English-dubbed version entitled The Master Killer, a grindhouse sensation in the late 70s. Whether you prefer the subtitled original (as I do) or the dubbed version doesn’t matter. This is the film that made a star of Gordon Liu (aka Lau Kar-fai) and etched the kung fu training sequence into the psyche of North American audiences.
The story is simple and familiar: The young scholar San Te (Liu) witnesses the death of his family at the hands of the Manchu. He flees to Shaolin temple, where the monks initially refuse to train him because they know he has revenge in his heart. Gradually he learns the lessons of the monastery in a series of often-funny lessons described as the 35 Chambers. (There’s some comic relief in San Te’s training, but not so much as to make the movie a comedy. For that you will want to watch Return to the 36th Chamber, also starring Liu, this time as a different character.) In the end, San Te returns to the world outside the temple and gains his revenge, afterward establishing the 36th Chamber: bringing martial arts to the people.
While San Te is based loosely on an historical character, this story is almost 100% fiction. Even so, it deals with the real friction between the Chinese people and the corrupt Manchu government, so its message of righteous revenge resonates with virtually any audience. The iconic fight scenes come courtesy of Lau Kar-leung, the star’s adopted brother and one of the foremost directors and choreographers of kung fu movies.
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin was the principal inspiration for Dragon Temple and its training regimen, although perhaps the film’s most obvious influence on Master of Devils is the oxymoron of a peaceful monastery training students in martial arts. The film offers plenty of rich material for GMs looking to put their players through a demanding—and sometimes humiliating—training sequence. Also, no player should be allowed to give his character a three-section staff until after seeing this film.