Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last-Minute Holiday Shopping

It's weird if I give copies of my books for the holidays, but if you do it it's awesome.

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

Pathfinder Tales on iTunes

I should mention more often that the Pathfinder Tales novels are available via iTunes. If you prefer Kindle, I understand it's a cinch to translate the files to that format.

Here is as good a place as any to start, especially if you like gothic mysteries. Or perhaps you would prefer something more Asian-influenced? Of course, you could always start at the beginning.

All of the Pathfinder Tales novels and many of the Pathfinder Journals and web fiction are available via iTunes. Check 'em out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

John Carter of Mars

The second trailer for Disney's John Carter has made me cautiously optimistic about the upcoming film. The cast list alone is reassuring.

The trailer also reminds me of the criticism of James Cameron's Avatar, which positions a human hero as savior of a (superficially) savage indigenous population. Perhaps I'm sensitive to this issue since a few readers leveled it against Master of Devils. I can't deny that's a reasonable take-away even though I, as an earnest fan of wuxia films, saw it differently while writing the book. All I need to do to emphasize with those critics is to remember my negative reaction to Tom Cruise's role in The Last Samurai.

It occurred to me while watching John Carter leap tall monsters in a single bound, that his situation (and to a lesser extent Jake Sully's) is the same as that of Kal-El of Krypton. The difference is that Superman is the alien, and all humans are the benighted natives.

Usually the inversion of a cliché bores me, but this one seems useful in examining what we find objectionable about the outsider as hero. It raises hackles when that outsider comes from the dominant demographic. Yet except for his Kryptonian powers, Kal-El is the epitome of a straight male European hero (unless you agree that he's more of a benign golem).

Is the only difference then that the natives are the local majority "us" rather than the local minority "them"? That feels like it might be the crux of the issue.

I don't have any answers to suggest, but I'm curious as to your thoughts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dear Santa

I've been a good lad this year. Please send me two more good Amazon reviews of Prince of Wolves and six more good reviews of Master of Devils. Nice round numbers will make me an even better lad next year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Master of Devils Reading

Where: Warp One Comics & Games
When: Saturday, November 26
Time: 11:00 am

I'll read selections from Master of Devils and chat all things Pathfinder Tales. Afterwards, some of us will cross the street for a bite and a pint at the Empress.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prince of Wolves Review

Fifteen months after the book's release, Prince of Wolves continues to receive reviews from readers discovering the line for the first time. This one from Geeklore is among the best written, and it might also be the most positive review of the book I've seen.

Since the reviewer wasn't previously familiar with Pathfinder or Golarion, it could be the perfect review to show someone who's on the cusp about trying the Pathfinder Tales line.

My day, she is made.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red Cliff (2008)

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

Upcoming Events II: Pathfinder Tales Web Fiction Chat

At last we’ve mastered time and space!

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.

To prepare for the event, check out the glorious and free web fiction.

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
12:00 PT

Pathfinder Tales Web Fiction Chat II
Monday, November 21
18:00 PT

* A few guests have cautioned me that their attendance depends on the day job, traffic, and similar obstacles.

Upcoming Events I: Pure Speculation

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.

Master of Devils Review

Mike Tresca posts his review of Master of Devils here. Add another member to the Arnisant fan club!

Mike also has a new book available, which you can buy in print or for the Kindle.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Four for Three

Amazon has a four-for-three promotion, and the Pathfinder Tales novels are part of it. Perfect time to catch up on the line after sampling the free web fiction.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pathfinder Web Fiction

Face it, you've seen that cute cat video so often its every frame is burned into your retina. Take a break and check out some of the nearly two score Pathfinder Tales stories available online.

Here you'll find some terrific fiction by Elaine Cunningham, Robin D. Laws, Howard Andrew Jones, Ed Greenwood, Amber E. Scott, Liane Merciel, Richard Ford, Robert E. Vardeman, Richard Lee Byers, Erik Mona, Monte Cook, Bill Ward, J.C. Hay, Kevin Andrew Murphy, James L. Sutter, and yours truly.

Reading those stories is free, although you can buy an ePub copy if you'd like to add some of them to your personal library. If you enjoy a story, the best way to support the line and the author is with a review. Even if you have read only the free version, please consider posting a rave on one of these product review pages.

If it's all the same to you, I suggest starting with those stories that have not yet received a review. And if you've a few more minutes of free time, please consider cross-posting a link to your review to spread the word.

More Writing, Less Blogging

I like to think it's a sign of great discipline that I haven't blogged so much since August, when I put my shoulder into finishing a few short projects and promoting Master of Devils. That's not quite over, with a pair of readings and a convention just around the corner, but with a couple of short stories and two longer projects in the works, I doubt that I'll be returning to weekly movie recommendations. I will try, however, to put up one or two in the month of November.

That said, I hope to post something, even briefly, once a week. In the meantime, I'm taking inspiration from fellow Alliterate Matt Forbeck's completely mad 12 for 12 project.

While producing the equivalent of six full-length novels in a year is too daunting for me, I was surprised to realize I'd written about three novels' worth of fiction last year. Thus, for the year beginning November 1, I'll shoot for a relatively modest 400,000 words of fiction. Unlike the fearless Matt Forbeck, I won't track my progress with an event; however, I'll likely post an occasional update here to keep myself honest over the next twelve months.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pathfinder Takes New York

I mean to resume blogging about wuxia movies and other subjects once I catch up, although there will be a change in venue--about which more in a few weeks. Until then I'm up to my eyes in several writing projects and preparation for a few public events, one of which requires a bit of homework.

Until then, here's the pressing news:

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.

Thursday, October 13 at 6:00 pm
Twenty Sided Store
362 Grand St
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

Edmonton Signing: Master of Devils

This Saturday at Audrey's Books, I'm reading from Master of Devils and signing both that book, Winter Witch (Elaine says hi!), and Prince of Wolves. Come join us. If you make a good impression, you can join us for a pint afterward.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pathfinder Tales Live chat

One week from tonight, on September 26, join the first five Pathfinder Tales novelists for a live chat. It all begins at 6:00 pm Pacific Time (9:00 pm Eastern).

Elaine Cunningham (Winter Witch), Dave Gross (Prince of Wolves, Master of Devils), Howard Andrew Jones (Plague of Shadows), Robin D. Laws (The Worldwound Gambit), and James Sutter (Death's Heretic) will entertain your questions and discuss the pleasures and perils of writing shared-world fiction.

Point your browser to chat.dmtools.org and choose a nickname. Then type /join PFTales to join the event.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dark Fantasy in Kung Fu Movies

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

Black Gate Review: Master of Devils

The estimable Bill Ward weighs in on Master of Devils. Mild spoilers.

Movie recommendations are still on hold while I catch up on matters of immigration and writing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Master of Devils Chat: August 29

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

Le Prince des Loups: Black Book Edition

Among the treasures I found at Gen Con is a beautiful French translation of Prince of Wolves. It looks much like the US edition, with a slightly different title treatment and a crisp reproduction of Dan Scott's cover art. The paper is bright and heavy, and it's just gorgeous.

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

Weekend Update

I've chosen this week's wuxia recommendation, but I haven't made time to re-screen it since returning from Indianapolis. By the end of the week, I hope to catch up.

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


Hero (2002) is the first in a thematic trilogy of wuxia films by director Zhang Yimou, previously known for art-house dramas like Raise the Red Lantern. That was until this film broke all previous box-office records in China and went on to critical acclaim worldwide.

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

Interview at Seekers of Secrets

Jeffrey Tadlock at Seekers of Secrets asked me some great questions about Master of Devils and my other Pathfinder Tales stories. If you enjoy the interview or have questions of your own, please leave them a comment.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More Reviews & Interviews

Part II of Bill Ward's chat with me has gone live at Black Gate. This part focuses on my formative years and the time I spent at TSR and Wizards of the Coast.

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

Gen Con 2011: Where to Find Dave

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

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

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.