Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Part 1 of The Last Giant: Transgression is published!

After a long gestation and numerous interruptions, we have finally gotten our first book published!

Part 1 of The Last Giant: Transgression is 396 pages long and includes a two-page spread map. A hi-res version of a more detailed map is also available for download from our website. Check it out! Links to purchase the book are on the right.

The Kindle version will be available later at a lower price than we have been touting, but the MS first has to be re-formatted to yield optimum Kindle performance. E-books loose a lot of the typographic fireworks found in the printed version, but it should still look fine on a Kindle. We expect it to be available around December 24th, but it could be sooner. Cross your fingers!

This has been a heck of a ride and we have learned much. Having ridden over some major bumps in the road (delays, interruptions in the writing, publishing issues, etc.) future volumes should go much more smoothly. We still plan on having Part 2 available in January and the second volume of The Last Giant (Retribution) is still tentatively scheduled for July.

Don’t forget that you can download the first chapter for free as a PDF (see link on right) and get a preview of the book before you buy.

That’s all for now. I’m going to relax now and enjoy a fine cigar and a snort or two of a good Scotch.

‘Till next time!

– Richard
for J. R. Hardesty

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Watching the Beasts Within.

Within the fence, that is.

Our yard on a spring day. Photo by R. L. Hardesty.
We are fortunate to live in a small, unincorporated town where the boundary between “town” and “forest” is rather indefinite. There are many lots around town still sporting their original timber cover. Our own place has quite a few of the original trees still here, but many were cleared out for two reasons: (1) they were where the house was going to go and (2) they were severely damaged by a major bark beetle infestation. The latter were largely Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta latifolia). The felled trees were replaced with various deciduous, primarily various Maple (Acer) cultivars and several flowering crabapples, and a few conifers, notably two specimens of White fir (Abies concolor), which join the remaining spruce and Douglas-fir trees. The under-story consists largely of Snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) and some things we planted.  We have little grass to cut, and what exists is largely native bunch grasses or the insidious quackgrass, so the lawn mower gets little use. There are two very large groups of Glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) gracing the sunny spots in the yard and there a few other native flowers as well. All in all, we have an interesting biome in our yard and we enjoy watching the critters that come to visit. Just the other day, Jan had the privilege of watching a doe Mule deer calmly munching some of the remaining pomes on one of the flowering crabapple trees in the yard. She was not in the least worried about my wife’s presence as she passed by on her way to the front gate. We don’t get deer in the yard that often, but once in a while, one shows up. We have had bears wander through town from time to time, including a female Grizzly that wandered down the main drag one summer and we had a black bear wander down our alley one summer eve some years ago. Moose occasionally show up as well, but not very often.

Most of our visitors are of the avian variety, and we have had some grand ones stop by.
Evening Grosbeak, male. Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette.
Each spring sees the arrival of a flock of Evening Grosbeaks who hang around for a while before moving on. The males are just gorgeous. We never tire of seeing them or listening to them though they are a bit noisy. We've also had the pleasure of seeing Western Tanagers, also a very lovely bird, but they have not been seen for some years now. We always had several Steller's Jays in the yard, then one day, an Eastern Blue Jay showed up and a new dynamic began. The Steller's occupied the front yard and the Blue Jay the back. This lasted for a few years, but the Blue Jays got the upper hand and now we haven't seen a Steller's around for some time. The Blues, however, are quite common now. Then there was the time I heard a rather loud knocking sound rather high up in the trees. After looking around for some time, I spotted the source: a very large woodpecker up in a cottonwood tree. I stared at it for some time before accepting that what I was seeing was indeed a Pileated Woodpecker, a most uncommon sight!

There have been many, many more bird species appear in the yard: grouse, collared doves, finches, wrens, robins, an occasional meadowlark, and on one winter's day, we watched a Pygmy Owl hunt voles in the front yard. That was a rare treat! That reminds me, we also were visited by an owl on the other end of the size spectrum, a Great Horned Owl. He hung around the yard one summer for a month or so before moving elsewhere.

One resident we've had for many years is a Pine Squirrel, AKA American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). He keeps us entertained during the summer and sometimes in the winter as well. In autumn, one has to watch one's head, as the squirrel seems to delight in dropping pine cones on one's head! The sound of falling cones is a common sound around the yard then, as is the chittering of the culprit involved. There are several squirrels in the neighborhood and from the amount of chasing that goes on, it would seem that there are males and females. 

Overhead, we hear loons calling as they move from the Flathead Valley through Badrock Canyon in the morning on their way to Lion Lake and then back to the Valley in the evening. We often see hawks of one sort or another, eagles & ravens.

We mustn't forget the insects! Now, I do not pretend to scour the yard looking for these six-leggedy beasties, but I have taken note of some. At least two species of Dragonfly and two of Damselfly can be found regularly in the yard, and I have made a detailed list of butterflies that have been found to occur in the yard. That list tallies 44 species seen over the years since I first began keeping track in 1993. However, due to changes in the vegetation in the yard, we have not seen that diversity of late. The gardens have gone to pot and my rock garden, which had many native species in it, was finally given over to the blasted quackgrass. But the lilacs still attract the swallowtails.

-- Richard for
    J. R. Hardesty


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sharp, pointy things

High Elven King sword

I have a fascination, nay, love of sharp, pointy things, which is a good thing if you’re writing heroic/epic fantasy. Swords, knives, axes and other weapons of singular destruction---that is, singular as opposed to mass destruction. One on one, face to face combat. You know, the manful, manly and messy way to kill, maim & mutilate your opponent.
    I came to this love when I was but a child and discovered those knights in shining armor in books and movies: Robin Hood, both in books and the movie with Errol Flynn; When Knighthood Was in Flower (the 1956 TV showing of Disney’s The Sword and the Rose) with Richard Todd and Glynis Johns and many other books/movies. I shared this love of sharp, pointy things with many of my friends and cohorts, and it seems to be common to most boys of a certain age, or at least it was.
    All those knights and sword-wielding fellows instilled in me a desire to own my own sword, so of course, I made one out of two pieces of wood, one longer than the other with the short piece nailed to the long one for a guard. A bit of carving on the point of my “sword” and I was ready to go. My mother, while indulgent of my childhood fantasies, was not so enamored of my use of her kitchen knives to do a little wood carving. But what else was I to do? I had no knife of my own. Yet. That came later.
    So, with wooden sword in hand, I joined my fellow Merry Men or knights as the game of the day dictated, sallied forth and had great fun in the depths of Sherwood Forest or on the tournament field, and I was satisfied.
    As I grew older, however, wooden swords began to loose their appeal and I increasingly lusted after a real one, not a toy, whether of plastic or cheap metal. No, I wanted a REAL sword, but where on earth was I to get one? In the days before the Internet, finding sources for odd things was not easy, especially when you lived in the hinterlands as did I. Eastern Nebraska and, later, eastern Wyoming were not replete with stores selling arms & armor. Thus, I lived the 1950's, the ‘60s, 70's and on without a real sword. Nor a fake one, for that matter. But the desire to possess one lived on.
    It was not until the late 2000's, around 2008 or so, that my need to own a REAL SWORD came once again to the fore. Now, however, I had the power of the Internet at my beck and call! And so it came to pass that I found a website that was guaranteed to feed the need: Sword Buyer’s Guide and the related forum. This place was my Nirvana for I had found a place that dealt with REAL SWORDS and specialized in those for $300 or less! Oh, wonder of wonders! However, I soon found myself wallowing in a sea of decisions, for the fulsome number of swords available quickly overwhelmed my fevered brain.
    A few months lurking on the SBG Forum helped immensely in sorting things out, as one of the more valuable features of said forum was its sword reviews. I finally settled upon my first purchase: the High Elven King longsword, which is, unfortunately, no longer available. It is a fantasy blade, and not an historical one, but that matters not. Its fantasy element is quite restrained and it is a thing of beauty. A two-handed sword it is, but can be used one-handed if you have the strength for it, and it cuts like a dream. See photo above.
    What do I cut with it, you ask? Well, one gallon plastic milk jugs filled with water, for one. There are other acceptable targets used, but I stick with the jugs.
    My sword collection is small, but I have enough to make me happy. Jan is also enamored of sharp, pointy things and has claimed the huge German two-hander for her own. It’s OK. She can have it. Never argue with a chick with a sword, especially a two-hander! I have only two others. One, an arming sword, was made by Angus Trim and is a very nice work. Sharp, point and handles easily. The other is a custom Chinese jian (straight sword). It was made to fit me and is an awesome weapon. I thoroughly enjoy using it on those terrible milk jugs. Just writing about it makes me want to run outside and hack a few into little pickle chips.
Dragon jian - Chinese straight sword

    All this sword-lust translates into our books. Having used swords of different lengths & weights, we have developed some feel for how the weapons handle and we know that having mass which translates into momentum, suddenly stopping or reversing a swinging sword is not going to be easily done. We have also delved into sword-lore and fighting techniques the better to understand how these things were actually used. While no experts by a long shot, we do better appreciate what these weapons can do and how to use them. 
     We have weapons galore, and I confess that we show a preference for swords, although some of the characters wield axes, hammers and other lethal weapons to great effect. The swords, however, take front stage, beginning with the sword of Menannon’s father. Gorlanndon, being a Giant of 15 feet in height, wields a mighty two-handed sword. Yeah, I know. Giants use clubs, right? Not THESE Giants!!! Sorry. No muscle-bound dumb-dumbs here. Gorlanndon’s sword is made of a steel alloy unique to Linden, Tanguranya steel, a very interesting metal indeed. The result is a sword like no other. In addition to being bloody huge, it takes a keen edge and keeps it almost forever. Gorlanndon’s sword is longer than his son is tall. One can imagine the amount of damage such a weapon can cause when wielded by a 15 foot Giant! Rather scary, that.
    Menannon’s own sword (he gets it later in life) is 8.5' long, just a bit shorter than its owner, and it is a one-hander. Then there are the malinirs, the long knives of the Teluri. There are swords with interesting properties—I hesitate to say magic swords. Some are unique, such as the Sword of the Orb, about which you will learn much later into the Lindensaga™, and there are at least two pairs of these “special” swords, the most important of which are Daylight and Darkness. The other pair, Kalina & Kalana, are equally interesting, but play a very small part in the saga.
    I think that is enough about sharp, pointy things for now. Read the books and you will learn much more!

Remember:  Part 1 of the first volume in the Lindensaga™, The Last Giant: Transgression, is due 10 Dec, will be available from Amazon and will be followed by Part 2 in January 2015. The second volume, The Last Giant: Retribution, will be published sometime in mid- to late 2015.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Thunderbirds, jet trucks and flying.

Taking a break from talking about our books, I'm going to digress a bit this time around.

We went to the air show today---Mountain Madness 2014---at the Glacier Park International Airport just north of Kalispell, Montana. There were some very good performances by several talented aerobatics pilots which we did enjoy very much. And then there was that jet truck, the Flashfire Jet Truck. It makes a lot of smoke & fire for show, but when it heads down the runway with throttle open there's no smoke and you'd best look fast cuz it zips by at over 300 mph and isn't in front of you for long. Crazy!!  Absolutely insane and we loved it!

Let's face it though, the main attraction---and what a good many folk came to see---was the USAF Thunderbirds. I never miss a chance to watch these fine men and women do their mind-numbing aerobatic maneuvers, and despite my being a former airman, I enjoy the Navy's Blue Angels just as much. Both teams are just flat freaking awesome! I love airplanes and I love flying.

That love of flying goes a looooong way back. My dad had a private pilot's license and back in the late '40's and early '50s did a lot of flying over eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. We lived in a small farming town north of Omaha called Oakland, and Dad was primarily an aerial photographer, but he often took us up with him on a joy ride. My earliest memory was of one such flight. I was still a babe in arms, and rode in Mom's arms the whole time. I remember looking out the window and being fascinated by all the cars, trucks and people around the little airfield. Then they began to get smaller and smaller and now I was entranced by all the toy cars & trucks outside the window. I had no sense of movement that I remember, either on take-off or landing. but I do remember those toys were replaced with real cars and trucks and I laughed at all that was going on.

When I told Dad about that memory a few years before he died, he was incredulous and could not believe I remembered that as I was but a few months old, but remember it I do. And I've been crazy about flying ever since.

I wanted to be a fighter pilot like many a young man before me and since, but that was not to be, as my eyesight was too bad. I started wearing eyeglasses in sixth grade. Well, when the time finally came, since I couldn't be an Air Force pilot, I chose another path: I enlisted and ended up flying on C-130s. Although this aircraft is a cargo plane, it has also filled several other roles, among them gunships and reconnaissance platforms. My flight time was on the latter. I was a Russian linguist and I flew aerial recon missions over the Baltic Sea. There were a few missions over the Mediterranean, but most of my flight time was over the Baltic.

The aircraft we flew on were owned by the 7406th Support Squadron and we flew out of Rhein-Main Air Base. That base no longer exists, as it was turned over to Germany in October of 2005, but it was very active during the period I was there, 1971-1972. My unit was the 6916th Security Squadron, and we were referred to as "the backenders" and sometimes as "sailors." That last term stems from the fact that the mission supervisor, an enlisted man, was usually referred to as the "admiral." Why that was is a story in itself. Regardless of the terminology, we didn't exist. Our missions were highly classified and so our presence on those missions was not officially admitted to. They were fun, however, and that time period holds some of my best memories.  And I was flying. Not piloting, but flying.

Back to the Thunderbirds.  They're flying F-16s right now and they are as impressive (and loud!) as ever. There is something about a fighter jet blasting overhead at a couple of hundred feet that just gives me goosebumps. I love it! My only complaint is that their program is too short. I'd enjoy three hours of it!  Ok, I know. It isn't practical. Pilot fatigue and all that. Still....

Tomorrow is the second day of the airshow. We just bought tickets.

-- Richard
   for J. R. Hardesty

Monday, July 21, 2014


As everyone who has ever read a work of fiction knows, the work has to have a setting, whether it be this world we live in or in a world specifically created for the work at hand. How does one set about building a world? Much ink has been spilled on that subject and much advice given, absolutely none of which have we paid any attention to. We’ve just built the thing as needed.
    A character has a run-in with a drakta. What’s a drakta? The answer to that question resulted in a short treatise on draktas, complete with a Linden-ized scientific name. Seems only logical. Need a particular dessert? No problem: redberries with cream and spices, a rare and heavenly treat. So, what’s a redberry? Let us check the Linden Lexicon™ and see what that tome has to say:

 redberry, (H), n., plant. The term applies to both the plant and its fruit.  It is found only in Rhindol Vale, and is extremely particular in its habit. It requires a great deal of calcium, and thus is limited to limestone outcrops and the resultant calcareous soils. It often grows in close association with creeping-tree but is not as common. Because of its limited habitat, it is very localized but common when found. It is most frequently encountered on the limestone ridges around Last Chance in the northeastern part of the Vale on the route to Garnet Pass, but is found in a few other locations in the Vale, notably in the SE corner around the approaches to Sythra and a few limestone outcrops in the Blue Mountains along the southern border of Rhindol Vale.
     Its fruit is edible and has a unique flavor that is not easily described, but which causes those who eat of it to go into raptures over it. Consequently, the fruit of the red-berry is the most desired and sought-after fruit in the Vale, the location of particularly bountiful patches being a closely-guarded secret and poachers are treated very roughly. What violence there is in the Vale is usually the result of a dispute over the picking rights to a redberry patch. Some enterprising souls have attempted to cultivate the plant, but without success.

What is the “Linden Lexicon™,” you ask? Ah! It is a growing compendium of every city, town, geographical feature, named person, people, institution, history or anything concerning our world of Linden. It is, in effect, an encyclopedia of Linden. Without it, we would be hard pressed to keep track of everything and everyone in the world and consistency would suffer greatly. With it, we have a plethora of detail that may—or may not—end up in one book or another in the series, With it, as an example, we have recorded within the Lexicon the geological history of the island of Kalyria and the history of the Kalyrian Empire and its capital city, Kirith Kalyria. Some of that gets into the stories and some does not, but knowing those details helps us to understand things more completely and thereby to write better scenes.

We are constantly adding new entries to it, completing existing ones (I’m a bit behind in that) or making revisions to entries if needed. This normally happens only when the plot or circumstances within a book necessitate a change. Such changes are usually minor, but important. The most frequently changed data in the Lexicon is distances, as an entry may have been made some time ago off the top of my head but as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the number I came up with won’t work. So, we change the Lexicon to a realistic number. Here are a few samples of what one may find withing the pages of this tome:

Aridion, political division. With its capital of Aridion City, the empire of Aridion extends from the southern tip of Greater Aridion to Rhindol Vale on the west and as far north as the Snowy Mountains on the east where its eastern border is considered to be a line drawn from the ruins of the Black Teluri realm of Maloria north to the great bend in the River Ludde. In the center of the sub-continent, the northern border is the Sleeping Giant Hills, to the north of which lie the High Plains of Cala between the Sythrin Mountains and the Black Mountains and which are the domains of the Horse Clans.
      Within this area are several Dwarf realms and Teluri city-states which are independent kingdoms in their own right but are allied with the empire. 
      Aridion was originally a city-state, Aridion City, founded by the People of the Long Ships in 5337, one hundred years after their arrival on the eastern shores of Greater Aridion. Their initial landing place became their first settlement and was named Blue Bay after the blue waters of the bay in which they landed. This is north of the present-day city of Corellon at the mouth of the Blue River. 
      To escape the depredations of pirates and slavers who haunted the eastern coast, the Long Ship people moved inland, eventually settling where the river Ari emerges from the Sythrin Mountains. Safe from the raids of the pirates, the new town quickly grew and prospered and the Long Ship people helped greatly to stabilize the area which was still recovering from the destruction of the Dim Times (ended SW 4001).

Aridion, Greater, place. A sub-continent of the world of Linden. It's northern borders lie in the Roof of the World, and most scholars consider that the northern borders of the Teluri realm of Lilientharien constitute the northern end of Greater Aridion. It is bounded by the Dawn Sea on the east and the Dusk Sea on the west. The sub-continent extends south  to 14º 3' 0' N, a distance of approximately 2000 mi. It is approximately 900 miles wide at the mouth of the Rhindolin River and slowly narrows down to about half that at Gormidad in the south. Within this area, there are extensive mountain ranges (approx. 50% of the total land mass is mountains) which contain many peaks above 15,000 feet, most of which remain unnamed. The named peaks include Silvertop (16,782 ft.) in the Roof of the World, Wind Lord (18,945 ft.) and Thunder Lord (16,323 ft) in the Sythrin Range and the Throne of the High One in the Black Mountains, which at 27,358 ft. is the highest point in Greater Aridion. The non-mountainous regions include swamp, desert, jungle, steppe, plains and hills. The mountain ranges are covered primarily in coniferous forests in the north and central portion, with deciduous trees progressively gaining prominence the further south one goes. South of the southern tip of the Sythrins, the only coniferous forests are found on the western slopes of the southern coastal mountains, the eastern side being too dry to support trees.  Consequently, the climate varies from permanently frozen ice in the far north to steamy tropical weather in the south.  
      Once home to all of the Greater Races, only the Teluri, Humans, Dwarves and Giants are known to still exist in the region. The Fæorlinga, are now probably extinct, as no confirmed sightings have been recorded since the Dim Times. With such a great geographic range, it is not surprising that the region is blessed with a wide variety of natural resources (e. g. gold, silver, silverstone, etc.) and a vast catalogue of animal and plant life,  with over 100,000 kinds of plants known, 3000 animals and birds, 2000 fish, and innumerable insects and vermin. The southern jungles are especially prolific and account for approximately 25% of the total number of plants, 50% of the insects, and 20% of the fish. It is especially rich in kinds of birds. 
     Among the notable creatures known to live in Greater Aridion are all five known varieties of draktain (see drakta); the Wild Horse of Ronn; the Blue Lantern Beetle and Demon’s Mouth, a biting fly (see Insects) and the Spiralhorn. There are many more remarkable creatures, both on land & in the oceans surrounding Greater Aridion. It is recommended that the interested reader consult The Greater Aridion Book of Life, by Master Gilhooli, which attempts to catalogue all know forms of life in the subcontinent.

Aridion City, place. Capital of the empire of Aridion.

Caldor (D).  Dwarf of Sythra known for his long, luxurious red beard. A common oath in the Vale is By Caldor’s beard! Caldor was famous for other exploits which the writer of this work declines to relate as unbefitting proper company.

Breikka’s Inn (H), place. Town in the rolling northern plains on the road between Pyr and North Ford on the road to Blue Bay. In 6032 and for reasons known only to himself, Breikka Shortbeard left his home in the Dwarf delving of Starkhad in the far northern Snowy Mountains and established an inn at a point between Pyr and North Ford on the road to Blue Bay, the main sea port for Aridion City before the sinking of Kalyria and the subsequent development of Corellon. His inn quickly became  known for the fine quality of its food, and he soon added a stable to accommodate the mounts of his guests. Healso added an extension to the inn itself, thereby doubling his dining space and increasing the number of rooms to 75. 
    It didn’t take long for other entrepreneurs to take advantage of the popularity of Breikka’s establishment by building other facilities to handle his overflow, and soon a small village grew up around the Inn.     People began beseeching Breikka to teach them his method of cooking, and the demand for such training soon became too much for the Dwarf to ignore. He built an attached cooking school to accommodate a maximum of 30 students, which limit is in force today. It was promptly filled, even though the entry requirements were stiff and competition keen, and the fees exorbitant. Breikka’s School of Cuisine got an additional boost when Delanorian I, king of Aridion, granted it Royal status in gratitude for the fine wedding feast that Breikka and his staff had provided when the king married Nirna, the Princess Royal of Kalyria. Breikka promptly re-named his cooking school The Royal School of Most Excellent Cuisine and Fine Cooking.
     Breikka earlier had run afoul of the Most Honourable Company of Bakers and Confectioners, the guild of the bakers and candy makers of Aridion, when he began teaching classes in fancy desserts and confections and thereby intruding into what the Company rightfully considered their exclusive territory. This feud ran on for some years with occasional confrontations ending in fisticuffs and public brawls between members of the rival factions before finally being resolved by Royal Decree during the reign of Delanorian II who settled the issue by making all graduates of Breikka’s school members of the bakers & confectioners guild AND members of their own guild, the Private Association of Practioners of the Fine Art of High Cuisine and Fine Cooking. This served to mollify both the Company and the chefs and kept the peace.

Ethelendar the Bald (H), 8346 - 8449. The oldest harper ever to make Master, he earned his Master’s cord at the age of 63. He entered the harper hall at Aridion City at age 46 when he was accepted as a journeyman, it being deemed that his time spent as an itinerant minstrel (26 years) was an acceptable apprenticeship. His long-time patron, Jermin Whitehose, wealthy landowner of Rothcrest in Rhindol Vale, was loathe to loose him, but on the other hand, felt that Ethelendar’s successful entry into the Master Hall was due to his influence and thus was a credit to him, but then Jermin tended to exaggeration. Ethelendar went bald at age of 35. It was rumored that he accredited this event to life in the afore-mentioned patron’s household, but this has not been verified. He lived to the ripe old age of 103 and was buried with great honor in the extensive vaults beneath the Master Hall in Aridion City.

The Downs, place. The villages of High Downs, Old Downs and New Downs in Rhindol Vale are often referred to by this term, as they are each no more than ½ mile or so from the other. Located on the Black Downs, the residents of these villages are, not surprisingly, closely interrelated. High Downs and Old Downs are the oldest of the three, and were founded within a few years of each other, the exact timing a matter of some dispute to this day, but about SW 7835. New Downs was founded about 50 years after Old Downs as the result of an argument between two brothers, Mikel and Edwin Sweetman, over a matter of two coppers. Edwin packed up his family and moved 3/4 mile SW of Old Downs and settled there. Two cousins and their families went with him. These two villages to this day deny their relationship, to the annoyance of the residents of High Downs who have relatives in both of the other two villages. 

volnaka (H, n., from Com. volna, water < OA volona [OA: volo, life + ona, breath, spirit] + dim.  suffix -(a)ka ). An intoxicating distilled spirit made from potatoes and other, secret, ingredients. It is the secret ingredients that give the drink its unique flavor which has been variously described as “unique,” “indescribable” and “I don’t remember.” It has the capability of wiping out the memory of ever having drunk it. This drink is unique to Cromb and is made by a single family whose identity is often disputed and who guard the recipe jealously. No one has ever succeeded in finding out what the special ingredients are. Little is exported, the quantities produced being sufficient for local consump- tion. It is a clear liquid that is very potent and can be used in lamps in an emergency, as the alcohol  content is about 98%. It has also been used as an excellent, though very expensive, paint-thinner and stripper.

–Richard, 7/21/14

 More on the Linden Lexicon™ can be found at Lindensaga(TM)

Saturday, June 7, 2014


How did you get into fantasy? My road to realms fantastical was really quite direct, as it started with—as with so many others, I suspect— The Lord of the Rings, but the road to LotR was a long one, and not so direct.
     That work had been in print for some time and I remember seeing the old Ace paperbacks on the book rack at the local Safeway in Douglas, Wyoming, where I lived at the time (1965), and my journey should have started then, but it did not. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school and the only fantasy I had ever read up to that point was David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd way back in second grade. Although I had enjoyed that book immensely, it did not cause me to venture further into that realm. I stuck with my non-fiction reading, as all I wanted, like Sgt. Friday, was the facts. Fiction did not interest me. I was interested in mythology which is how I was caught by David, but I considered mythology a section of history, in that it was the study of ancient religions. I read no other fiction until 7th grade, and so those LotR paperbacks meant nothing to me and the outlandish cover art puzzled me more than anything else. I was so firmly entrenched in factual mode that I found such fantastical fiction essentially unintelligible. Seriously. I distinctly remember reading the back cover blurb on one of the Ballantine paperbacks and finding the words simply making no sense whatsoever. I shake my head over that today, finding it hard to believe I once thought that way, but there it is.
    Seventh grade English class included English literature, and so I perforce read the assigned works which included Thomas Hardy (The Return of the Native) and Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Shakespeare was included as well, of course. It wouldn’t have been English lit without the Bard! Outside of class however, fiction just was not on my plate.
    I must now introduce my good friend Dennis, for he has a large part to play in this little tale. He was a grade ahead of me and lived on the next street over, but here was an empty lot between his street and mine, as we were on the edge of town. By this time, we had moved from the eastern Nebraska of my second grade years and earlier, the place of my birth, to eastern Wyoming where I had started third grade in the small town of Douglas. I got to know Dennis while I was in junior high school. His mother and mine often had coffee together of a morning and it was inevitable that we became acquainted. What really got our friendship off the ground was a mutual interest in butterflies, but that is another story entirely.
    Dennis was solely responsible for my appreciation of fiction. I might never have cracked the cover of another work of fiction without his goading. While I was a sophomore at the University of Wyoming, ca. 1967, he was flabbergasted at my ignorance of certain authors he considered essential reading for any college student and so provided me with a reading list of required reading. These included such things as John Barth’s The Sotweed Factor and Giles, Goat-boy (loved them both), Hesse’s Steppenwolf (mind-numbingly awful, although the tale of the Steppenwolf itself within the novel was fun) and Siddhartha, which I enjoyed. With these under my belt, I began to explore and during this time, I found, read and immensely enjoyed to my surprise Jane Austen’s Big Three (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion) and Russian literature, among others. But what about fantasy, you ask? Ah, patience, Grasshopper.
    The following summer, Dennis and I were in his basement room/lab talking butterflies when he threw a paperback at me and said (and I quote him exactly), “Read this or I’ll kill you!”
     It was the Ballantine pb of The Fellowship of the Ring. I recognized the cover and was really not that interested, but considering Dennis’ very strong desire that I read it and not wanting to test his resolve to follow through on his threat, I conceded, took the thing home and read it.
    I stayed up all bloody night reading the thing. I could NOT put it down and I was amazed that I had passed over such a fantastic book for so long because it had looked & sounded weird to me. Within those pages, I left my own world and journeyed into a new one, one which seemed so real to me that I wanted to stay there. So, after breakfast, I gave Dennis a buzz on the phone to make sure he was up and about and practically ran over there. Accosting him in his room, I demanded, “This was great! Got any more???”
    Oh, the fiend! Grinning like a slightly demented gargoyle, Dennis, my friend mind you, said in an almost warlockly cackle, “Buy....your....own.” Then he laughed.   
    AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHH! He had me good and he knew it. A Tolkien addict had been born!
    Well, what could I do? I said some not very polite things and left, ran home, jumped into my car and headed downtown where I promptly bought the whole trilogy, the went immediately back home, headed to my room in the basement and did not emerge until sometime late on the third day. I had read The Two Towers & The Return of the King back-to-back and had then fallen into a state not far from a coma for hours. Upon arising, I stumbled upstairs to find my mother giving me a quizzing look.
    “Been reading. Finally finished the books. What’s for supper?” That was about all I could muster at that point, as I was still a little muzzy from insufficient sleep. I ate and went back to bed, but was up early the next day and got over to Dennis’ as soon as I was able. I told him I’d read the other two volumes of that trilogy and asked him if that author had anything else out, so of course he told me about el hobbito. It took me a while to locate a copy of Mr. Baggins’ story, but I did and read it straight through, too.
    Those four books awakened in me a flame that still has not been quenched and I doubt e’er will be. I craved more fantasy, and fortunately, Ballantine Books came out with their Adult Fantasy Series (“At the Sign of the Unicorn”) and I bought ’em all right up until the series’ demise. I also discovered Conan along the way, thanks to those incredible Frazetta covers on the original Lancer paperbacks. Bought all of those, too.
    The thing is, fantasy was only the beginning. As I traveled down that road, I kept finding interesting side branches which took me to places I’d never thought of. And each of those side roads had branches and those, too, branched out. So, I’ve spent time delving into the life and times of William Morris, fine printing, Icelandic & Norse sagas, typography & book design, hand bookbinding (self-taught there), the Kalevala, Lord Dunsany, fine printing, Thomas Burnett Swann, H. P. Lovecraft, Immanuel Velikovsky, catastrophism, H. Warner Munn, and the road goes ever on and on.
    The road to the worlds of fantasy leads to many other places and you never know where you will end up!
    I must confess, I haven't read much fantasy lately...been too busy writing/editing it. Our first book, long overdue, is almost finished. Look for The Last Giant: Transgression soon. Seriously!

--scribbled by R. Hardesty. J has her own tale to tell and I'll let her tell it, if she wills.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Irrecoverable loss

We all have experienced loss during our lives, but some losses are greater than others and more difficult to deal with. Recently, we experienced the loss of a dearly beloved Cocker Spaniel, Christie. She had been part of our family for a tad over thirteen years and was Jan's boon companion. Her loss was felt very deeply by both of us, but Jan has been the most severely affected. And over the years past, we have both had to deal with the loss of parents, something that is inevitable, but which nonetheless can be quite traumatic. Material losses most often can be replaced, but losing a beloved pet or a family member is not always easily dealt with. Yet, these are common losses and occur multiple times throughout our lives and we develop ways to cope with them that allow us to continue on with our lives.

How, then, would we deal with a catastrophic loss? If your house is lost in fire, flood or other such disaster, it can in time be replaced, but what if your home and all that was near and dear to you is lost so utterly that it ceases to exist? Not just your house, but all your neighbors and friends and the very land itself? Such a loss is irrecoverable. You cannot find them and bring them back. How then? Will you give in to despair or somehow muddle on after a great part of your life has been obliterated from the face of the earth?

Loss is a recurring theme in our books, from the trivial to the catastrophic, and our characters deal with it variously: some appear unaffected, others disintegrate under the pain of the loss while others deal with it reasonably well.

I think Menannon the Giant suffers the most loss throughout the Lindensaga, both catastrophic and significant. The trivial losses he ignores, but how fares he with the life-changing, irrecoverable losses to which he is subjected?

Ah, for that, you will have to read the books!  The first volume of the Lindensaga, The Last Giant: Transgression is getting closer to publication. Barring further interruptions, it should be out by Spring.

-- RLH

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Return of the Blog

After a long absence due to various and sundry events in our lives, I'm back. Not much to say tonight (it's approaching 1AM and I am bleary-eyed), but within a day or two, I'll have something to say which you might possibly find of interest. Then again, maybe not!