Monday, February 27, 2012

Amarante: A Tale of Old Tharduin

I don't usually like stories where the "heroes" are actually bad guys. There are exceptions, mostly in the crime fiction field, such as Richard Stark's Parker, Max Allan Collins' Nolan, and Andrew Vachss' Burke, but I generally prefer my heroes to be heroes. I'm just a square that way.
However, I just read Scott Oden's short story Amarante: A Tale of Old Tharduin which features two Orcs as the protagonists and humans as the "bad guys" and I have to say I really really enjoyed it. Amarante is a dark sword & sorcery tale following the two Orcs, Muzgaash and Kraibag, through a ruined human city that has been overrun by the Orc armies. But the rebel humans are fighting back with darkest sorcery and blood magic. This makes the humans seem just as evil as the Orcs so it's not too hard to root for the two Orc protagonists as they fight the humans.
If you're not familiar with Oden, he's the author of bestselling historical novels like Men of Bronze and Memnon, as well as the recent historical sword & sorcery book The Lion of Cairo. Oden is an admirer of Robert E. Howard, and like Howard he uses his knowledge of history to imbue his fantasy with a degree of realism that's beyond a lot of fantasy writers. His backgrounds, even when populated by Orcs and sorcerers, are convincing and grounded in small, well thought out details. The sort of thing one learns from study of ancient cultures. But fantasy buffs shouldn't worry. Oden doesn't scrimp on the magic. However, much in the spirit of REH and Karl Edward Wagner, all the magic is somewhat creepy and comes at a price.
Amarante is also Oden's first foray into self publishing. It's available as a 99 cents download for the Kindle and also as a watermarked pdf from DriveThruFiction, and will soon be available at Smashwords. 99 cents is a small price to pay for a quality sword & sorcery story from a talented story teller. So go download Amarante. Recommended.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Whisperer in Darkness

Occasionally, some Hollywood-type will mention how 'unfilmable' the works of H.P. Lovecraft are. The folks at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society keep proving people like this wrong. Back in 2005 HPLHS released a faithful adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu, filmed as a black and white silent movie to fit the times in which the story was published. It wasn't perfect, the stop motion effects being perhaps the weakest part, but overall it was well executed and succeeded in bringing the 'unfilmable' Lovecraft story to the screen.
Now the HPLHS is back with their second film, The Whisperer in Darkness, and in terms of production values it is miles beyond Call of Cthulhu. The stated goal was once again to film something that looked like it could have been released at the time the story was published, the 1930s, but to my eye it looked more like a Universal Horror film from the 1940s with it's crisp images and stark, almost Film Noir lighting. This one has sound, and though still shot on a reasonably low budget, it also has some professional special effects. It's not quite as faithful to Lovecraft as The Call of Cthulhu film, but I'll get to that in a bit.
Lovecraft's original story concerned Albert Wilmarth, an authority on folklore and the occult, who finds himself in a strange exchange of correspondence with a man named Henry Akeley. Wilmarth has recently been ridiculing newspaper reports and letters about a monstrous extraterrestrial race living in the hills of Vermont and Akeley writes that he can produce physical evidence of the existence of the creatures. A long series of letters follows, in which Akeley becomes more frantic and agitated, speaking of cults and of a growing menace toward himself because of his knowledge and his correspondence with Wilmarth. Then, out of the blue, Wilmarth receives a final letter (typed instead of written) in which Akeley recants most of what he had said about the creatures being dangerous and threatening and invites Wilmarth to Vermont to see first hand what he's talking about. Wilmarth makes the trip and of course finds something horrible.
The script for the film follows this pretty closely, using great chunks of Lovecraft's prose, however this is where the divergences from the written story begin, necessarily, I think, because trying to film an exchange of letters wouldn't make for interesting cinema. The writers had to find a way to dramatize most of the information which was exchanged in the letters and to do this they had to invent new scenes and characters to show instead of tell. (There's a nifty bit in the DVD extras about where some of these characters came from, but I'll let you discover that yourself.)
Still, the first two acts stick very close to the Lovecraft story.
The third act is where some Lovecraft purists may take exception. Basically the big reveal at the end of the prose Whisperer in Darkness takes place at the end of the second third of this film. The third and final act is entirely the devising of the film's writers and extrapolates on what might have happened after the end of Lovecraft's story in order to make a more satisfying movie. I didn't have a problem with it, and in fact really liked most of it. There's a particularly gruesome bit that confirms what Lovecraft's readers must have suspected for years about the fate of Henry Akeley which is great. And really, the actual story is mostly intact if you turn off the movie two thirds of the way through. But don't. The rest of it is a lot of fun and you get to see Lovecraftian monsters gloriously realized and you don't want to miss that.
The acting is very good, particularly Matt Foyer as Wilmarth and Autumn Wendel as one of the new characters, Hannah, a little girl caught up in the horrible events. The overall look of the film is amazing. Sometimes I really felt I was watching a lost horror film from the 40s. And as I noted, the special effects are much better in this movie.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the film and highly recommend it to Lovecraft fans. The filmmakers are fans too and their love of the material shines through. The movie comes with a second disk loaded with behind the scenes extras. Oh, and the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society mailing label and invoice are the coolest things I've seen in a while. You know something's going to be good when even the envelope and invoice are that nifty. I'll be watching this movie again come Halloween I'm sure. Maybe as a double feature with the Call of Cthulhu. I hope they tackle my favorite Lovecraft story, The Dunwich Horror next.

PS you can order the movie from Amazon or directly from the HPLHS here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Jim just finished his run through the second draft of Blind Shadows and sent it to me for my turn. I'm feeling very writerly...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Complete Carcosa

Cliff emailed me at work today to let me know I had a package waiting at Dr. No's (his comic book store) so I swung by to get it on my way home. It contained the books Far Lands, Other Days by E. Hoffman Price and Murgunstrumm and Others by Hugh B. Cave, which were the two Carcosa Press books that I was missing. Carcosa was the small press run by Karl Edward Wagner and David Drake back in the 1970s-1980s. The company ultimately only published four books and until today I only owned two of them, Lonely Vigils and Worse Things Waiting, both collections of stories by Manly Wade Wellman.
Like some of my other recent acquisitions, these books are from the Wagner family library, but unlike the others, which were the property of KEW, these two volumes had been given by Wagner to his father for Christmas and both are inscribed to Wagner's dad. I like to think that both Wagners would be glad that the books had found a home with someone who was such a fan of KEW's work.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Brief Note

Today I started reading the stories in whispers Vol V, which was one of the books I picked up that once belonged to Karl Edward Wagner. Inside the book was a small beige card with Doubleday Books Logo on it and upon the card was written in bright blue ink:

Dear Karl,

Sorry it took so long for you to get your contributor's copy, but Doubleday fucked up...again.



I wondered, as I read the card, if Wagner had grinned at the note as I did, before putting the book away. I bet he did.

Halloween All Year Round

I mentioned a while back that I'd picked up the six volumes of the Whispers anthlogies. My friend Cliff, who's been moving books from his house to his other house mentioned that he'd run across his collection of the Whispers magazines and he'd bring them to me so I could read all the stories. My pal Jim, who had already given me his collection of the Daw Year's Best Horror books and had also given me the Charles L. Grant edited Shadows anthologies, asked if I had the two Borderlands anthologies. I did not. He said he would bring them to me, and he did. With friends like these, it's getting to be Halloween year round around here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Infestation 2

Last year comic book publisher IDW did a series called Infestation, linking many of their series through a common menace. It went so well that they're doing it again this year in Infestation 2 . What's cool about it this time is that the common menace, or rather menaces, are the creatures of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Not homages or vaguely Cthulian creatures, but honest to gosh Lovecraft entities. IDW publishes a lot of licensed properties so in Infestation 2 we get to see the likes of Transformers, Dungeons and Dragons, G.I. Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles square off against Cthulhu and the gang. Chuck Dixon's Transformers versus Deep Ones has been the most fun so far, though writer Paul Crilley does a nice Sherlock Holmes riff in Dungeons and Dragons with an elf acting in the Holmes role and a dwarf as Watson. Tentacled horrors. Gibbering and slavering. Robots. Elves. Turtles. What more do you want? I'm having a lot of fun with this mini-series.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reading Report

It was something of a disjointed reading weekend. I spent a lot of time in the past, reading about the Library of Alexandria and its eventual fate. History, being a large and uncertain place, has a lot varying reports about what actually happened at the Library and what was the cause of its eventual destruction. Julius Caesar may have destroyed part of it in 48 BC when he set the ships in the harbor ablaze during his power struggle with Pompey. Then again he may not have, or if he did he may have only been responsible for the destruction of part of the library or just the book storage warehouses near the docks.
Christian radicals are thought to have stormed the place around 391 AD (They had permission, kind of.) and they may have destroyed most of the books in the place then. Then again they might not have, since there are reports that a lot of the scrolls were carried away. The main building was definitely converted to a church, so we know the stuff was gone. However there was another building which held a lot of the books as well.
Whatever was left of the place was probably wiped out by Moslems in 640 AD when Caliph Omar took the city. They reportedly burned all the scrolls over time as fuel for bath houses. All of these accounts have to be taken with a grain of salt because the people who wrote them usually had an ax to grind with the people being blamed. History isn't always written by the winners. Sometimes it's written by the people who know how to write well and have a chance to slander an enemy.
All this led to me watching the movie Agora, a 2009 film that tells the story of the Christian attack on the library and the murder of the famous female philosopher Hypatia. Most of the 'facts' are right, but the film does compress time somewhat and it seemed to me to have a definite anti-Christian slant, so viewers beware if that sort of thing bothers you. The coolest thing to me about the movie was the CGI recreation of the city of Alexandria. The lighthouse on Pharos. The Library and Museum. Some great shots of a city which you know can't be real, but which are totally convincing. Special effects have come so far in the last ten years or so, it's amazing.
After that I switched to reading about the Crusades, a subject I've visited often in the past couple of years, but something I'm still trying to get a good grasp on. I've got the first and second crusades down pretty well, but I'm trying to learn more about the third. Oddly enough, the third is probably the most famous because it involves Saladin, Richard the Lionhearted and the legends of Robin Hood, but it's still the one I've studied the least. Correcting that now.
Fiction wise I did get around to Howard Lamb's short story The Golden Empress, which my friend Paul brought to my attention when we were discussing my Conan the Ruthless post. The incident with the harbor chain does show up in this tale and the hero's name is Harald, but he's not Harald the Ruthless, but rather a slightly different Harald the Unruly, created by Lamb, I suppose because the real Harald's backstory would have been too complex for a nice, tight short story. A rousing tale though, for sure.
Somewhere in there I read some comic books and a few other short stories, but for the most part the weekend was devoted to history. Who knows? Some of this might even end up in my fiction eventually.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Conan the Barbarian #1

I was rather amazed at the amount of reviews that showed up in the blogosphere and other areas of the Internet after the first issue of Dark Horse Comic's Conan the Barbarian was released on Wednesday. However I avoided reading any of them until I'd actually had time to sit down and read the comic myself. Now I have read comic and reviews. What threw me just a bit, was that I'd been expecting lots of scathing reviews from grumpy old Conan fans who were predisposed to hate the comic no matter what, and what I got were lots of fawning reviews from fans of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan who seemed predisposed to love the comic no matter what. To be fair, there were some more objective reviews as well, but a surprising amount of gushing.
Anyway, here's my take on the first issue of the adaptation/expansion of Robert E. Howard's Queen of the Black Coast. I liked it quite a bit. While writer Brian Wood doesn't seem quite as concerned with keeping REH's prose intact as some of the previous comics writers have, he still keeps the spirit and the outline of events mostly by the original story. One has to keep in mind, that just as Roy Thomas did 30 years ago, Wood is expanding the story and so he's going to have to draw things out and move elements around so that he has the 23 issues of material he needs to fill the gap between the beginning and ending of Howard's Black Coast.
He also did a couple of things that I really liked. One was setting up Conan's fascination with Belit even before he meets her. We don't actually see Belit in the first issue, but rather Conan's erotic imaginings of her. The idea of this wild eyed pirate queen had already captured his imagination. The other was showing Conan's still growing understanding of civilization. If you read REH's Queen of the Black Coast, the scene where Conan is explaining how he ended up in jail is hilarious, as the barbarian explains why he can't just turn in the man the court is looking for.

"Well, last night in a tavern, a captain in the king's guard offered violence to the sweetheart of a young soldier, who naturally ran him through. But it seems there is some cursed law against killing guardsmen, and the boy and his girl fled away. It was bruited about that I was seen with them, and so today I was haled into court, and a judge asked me where the lad had gone. I replied that since he was a friend of mine, I could not betray him. Then the court waxed wroth, and the judge talked a great deal about my duty to the state, and society, and other things I did not understand, and bade me tell where my friend had flown. By this time I was becoming wrathful myself, for I had explained my position. "But I choked my ire and held my peace, and the judge squalled that I had shown contempt for the court, and that I should be hurled into a dungeon to rot until I betrayed my friend. So then, seeing they were all mad, I drew my sword and cleft the judge's skull; then I cut my way out of the court, and seeing the high constable's stallion tied near by, I rode for the wharfs, where I thought to find a ship bound for foreign parts."

To Conan, his duty to his friend is clear and he's amazed and confused that the judge would want him to rat out a comrade. Wood does a good job of showing this (aided by Cloonan of course.). To go slightly off topic, I wanted to mention that when I re-read QofBC a few weeks ago I was struck by how much this passage sounded like Robert E. Howard himself in his letters. The tone also reminds me quite a bit of some of Howard's more humorous heroes, Breckenridge Elkins and the like. Made me think that if Conan had narrated his own stories in the first person, they might have had a lot more ironic humor to them.
Okay, now to the artwork. For the most part I absolutely love Becky Cloonan's art. Her visual storytelling is good. Her characters are well designed and have expressive faces. She draws the drop-dead sexiest take on Belit I've seen so far. She also has one of the best inklines in comics. The lady can draw. But...I'm still not taken with her Conan. His face is too boyish and he's just not big enough. Lest you think I'm just a grumpy old fan, pining for John Buscema (Well, Okay that might be true) Robert E. Howard's own descriptions of Conan in his teens and twenties show a brawny burly youth. Conan's first artist, Barry Windsor Smith, drew a more slender version of Conan as well, but he was well defined. Cloonan's just isn't physically imposing enough. That's pretty much my only quibble with the art and really, I can get past that as long as the comic is good.
So all and all, thumbs up for Conan the Barbarian #1. Looking forward to seeing how things go.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Conan the Ruthless

I mentioned in my first post about Chuck Dixon's run as writer on the Savage Sword of Conan that I seemed to recall him giving a trick used by my favorite Viking, Harald the Ruthless, to my favorite Cimmerian in one issue, but I couldn't recall which. Turns out it was issue #148, which I read during the weekend. Here's how it went.
According to King Harald's Saga, at the end of his time as a member of the fabled Varangian Guard in Constantinople, Harald Hardrada had incurred the wrath of the Roman Empress Zoe and had to make a quick get away. Unfortunately, a huge chain was stretched across the mouth of the harbor to keep ships from entering or leaving without permission, and as Harald's longship approached the chain, with Zoe's men in pursuit, it looked as if the Viking prince was trapped.
But, clever Harald had the crew members who weren't needed for rowing run to the back of the ship, causing the prow to lift out of the water. Then he had the rowers row for all they were worth. The longship slid up onto the chain, and almost became stuck, but Harald now had his men run to the front of the ship where their weight carried the ship over the chain and into the clear.
In Savage Sword of Conan #148, Conan has incurred the wrath of the Empress Auraldia, for whom he had once been a general, and has to make a quick escape. But there's this chain over the harbor, so Conan has any crew not needed for rowing etc, etc.
I thought this was a nice use of Harald's trick. Keep in mind it's a small incident in a multi-issue story, so it's not as if Dixon was rehashing Harald's Saga as a Conan story. There are a few other parallels, but this one had stayed in my head for a decade or so. I'll see if I can put a up a scan of the page with the harbor chain scene later on.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

All Our Yesterdays

Over at her blog The Literary Omnivore, my friend Clare was talking about a book she'd read about the early days of Star Trek Fandom. Now, I'm hardly a hardcore Trek fan, but back in the day I really loved it, as I loved all things science fiction and sword & sorcery and super hero.
As I told Clare, when I think about my early days in fandom, what I remember most is the sheer unavailability of the stuff I was geeking out over. In those pre-Internet, pre-VCR, pre-cable days the only way to even see episodes of Star Trek was to wait for them to come on whatever channel had bought the series in syndication. And there seemed to be episodes they showed only rarely, like they would constantly re-run Shore Leave and Let That be Your last Battlefield and a Piece of the Action, but Amok Time seemed a rare gem.
It was the same way with movies. Ted Turner's Superstation would occasionally rerun Forbidden Planet or The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, or This Island Earth, but usually at 1:00 am on a Saturday night. I can remember many times camping out in the living room in a sleeping bag, sitting up late to catch some fabled SF/Fantasy film. And for things like the Star Trek Blooper reel or the Fleischer Superman cartoons, I could only see those at conventions.
And books? Fugeddaboutit. I sent want lists to book dealers. I mailed away for catalogs. I haunted used bookstores on weekends. Now, between Ebay and Amazon and ABEbooks, I can find anything and have it two days later.
Comics were much the same. Conventions were my only shot at getting old or unusual comics. There weren't any comic book shops near me and any in Atlanta might as well have been in Atlantis before I could drive. Nowadays I can get pretty much any comic book I want, and most of my favorites have been collected in reprint volumes. As I've said before, I don't care about owning expensive originals. I just want something I can read.
But you know, I don't begrudge the new fans their more accessible fandom and I don't think it's dulled the excitement of being a fan. I certainly take advantage of the new technology every day. I've met so many great folks through the internet that I never would have known otherwise. The internet has broadened fandom in so many ways.

Monday, February 06, 2012

What Dreams May Come

Occult investigator John Thunstone is Manly Wade Wellman's second most popular character after John the Balladeer, and while the other John ultimately appeared in more adventures, Thunstone's career was longer, starting with the Third Cry to Legba in the November 1943 issue of Weird Tales and ending with the novel The School of Darkness in 1985. Forty two years is a good run for a fictional character.
I had read School of Darkness a couple of years back, but only got around to the other Thunstone novel, What Dreams May Come, this weekend. Read it more or less in a sitting. In this book, Thunstone's curiosity almost gets him killed when he travels to the small British hamlet of Claines to have a look at the two stone age relics the town boasts, one a giant outline of a mysterious figure on a hillside (based, one assumes on the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset) and the other a toppled stone monolith. The figure is called Old Thunder and the monolith is know as The Dream Stone but no one knows why. Every year at midnight on July 4th, the villagers turn the monolith over, and no one knows why they do that either. It's been done as long as anyone can remember.
Thunstone, in England for research purposes, hears about the town and its odd ritual and decides to check it out. On his first night there he has a strange vision where the walls of his hotel room vanish and he finds himself in the open air, looking at what surely must be Claines long before the town was built. But Old Thunder is already there, glowing on the hillside. Soon Thunstone meets a young woman, a self proclaimed white witch, who tells him that what happened to him wasn't a vision, but that he was actually in the stone age past, and that she too has made the trip. For a few nights each year as the turning of the Dream Stone approaches, those with some psychic ability can actually travel to the past in the dark of night.
Thunstone begins to investigate the monolith and Old Thunder, bringing him into conflict with the mysterious Mr. Ensley, who owns most of the town and who seems very interested in making sure that this year's turning of the stone goes off as planned. Thunstone makes another trip into the past as an experiment and is almost killed by three stone age warriors. After that, things really get weird, as Ensley's real plans and the nature of Old Thunder and the Dream Stone are revealed.
This was a short book, only 175 pages in hardback, and it shows Manly Wade Wellman still working at the top of his game well into his eighties. In fact, Wellman would pass away a year after this novel was published. His writing is just as smooth and well crafted as ever, and the slow build to the reveal of the nature of the evil in Claines kept me turning pages until I was done with the book. Wellman's horror fiction is rarely graphic (though he's not above the gross out) but more of the kind that leaves you a little disturbed rather than terrified. What Dreams may Come is a fine example of this.
We also get a little background information on Thunstone. Originally created for Weird Tales as a sort of playboy who fought supernatural menaces in New York City, in this book it's revealed that Thunstone was born in the South. It's interesting to note that as Wellman's love for the mountains of the Southern US grew, all his characters gravitated to the South. In Thunstone's final appearance in Weird Tales, (The Last Grave of Lil Warren, 1951) he left New York to trail a vampire into the Southern hills. A little while after than, Wellman's first John the Balladeer story appeared, set in the Appalachian Mountains of the Carolinas. Thunstone wouldn't appear again until the 1980s. Wellman himself eventually settled down in Chapel Hill NC where he lived out the last half of his life. Seems he took his characters with him.
Anyway, I enjoyed What Dreams may Come a good deal, and will probably do a reread of The School of Darkness soon. I've also been accumulating the John the Balladeer novels and now have three of the five. Looking forward to them.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Season of the Witch

I'd read several bad reviews of this movie, but I rather enjoyed it. A nice little historical sword & sorcery film with zombies, dire wolves, and blackest sorcery. Throw in some lovely European scenery and a reasonably intelligent script, and I've certainly spent a worse 95 minutes. The most frequent complaint I've heard about this film is that the actor's performances were phoned in. The only one I really felt that was just there for the paycheck was Ron Perlman. He did seem to be just hitting his marks and saying his lines. Nicholas Cage didn't seem any less involved than he ever does.
Cage and Perlman play two crusaders who have become disenchanted with the cause, especially after they witness the slaughter of a city full of women and children. They walk away but soon find themselves arrested as deserters and slated for execution. However they are offered a way out. A young girl has been accused of being a witch and blamed for a horrible plague that is sweeping the countryside. The Church wants the knights to escort the witch to a far off abbey, where her fate will be decided by learned monks who have a book of rituals for fighting witchcraft.
Cage's character doesn't believe the girl is a witch and he agrees to escort her only if she is assured of a fair trial. Soon the two knights are on their way in the company of a priest, a former alter boy, and a swindler who is to act as their guide. Along the way they will face menaces both natural and supernatural before coming to grips with a terrible evil.
It ain't high drama, but as an action movie it's pretty decent. The special effects are good and the characters, while a bit thin, are mostly interesting. It's certainly more entertaining than another recent S&S movie I could mention. Anyway, if you're up for a little Crusades era horror/action film, Season of the Witch isn't bad for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Crom, Count the Dead!

Still reading my way through the Chuck Dixon run on Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan. I noticed that Dixon coined his own battle cry/catch phrase for Conan, "Crom Count the Dead!" It doesn't pop up in every issue that Dixon scripted, but it does show up in a lot of them. Having read about a dozen of Dixon's stories so far, my initial take on them has been strengthened. Dixon's Conan is gritty and usually is pursuing work as a sell sword. This gives Dixon a chance to surround Conan with fellow mercs, which makes for some interesting characters.
In later years, Dixon would become one of my absolute favorite comics writers when he was working on DC titles such as Robin and Green Arrow. He was already showing strong storytelling skills on these Conan tales. As I noted before, his take on Conan seemed to be pseudo-historical adventure+magic+monsters=sword & sorcery, and while this was also the approach Conan's creator Robert E. Howard used, Dixon makes no attempt at writing like REH. His Conan is his Conan. Plotwise Dixon tells all kinds of stories, from a King Kong like adventure featuring a Tyrannosaurus to a Seven Samurai inspired tale where Conan and his fellow mercs defend a village against bandits, A nice, evil twist on this story is that in the previous harvest season, the bandits blinded most of the adults in the village, leaving the children to guide them in the fields.
No matter what the stories hold though, there is lots of action, including many massive battles and plenty of chances for Crom to count the dead. Fun stuff.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Jim and I were fortunate enough to be allowed a little input in picking a cover artist for our novel, Blind Shadows. I had been really taken with the cover for one of Jim's earlier books, Little Boy Blue, by artist Alex Mcvey, and asked if we could possibly get him. Turned out we could. Mcvey has done work for publishers including Cemetery Dance, Bloodletting, Centipede and Weird Tales, for writers like Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Keene, Ramsey Campbell, and even Stephen King. Needless to say, I'm very pleased to have him on my first novel, and I can't wait to see what he does for the cover.