Monday, May 6, 2019

Rockville 2019

My family all went to Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, Florida two years ago to see some of our favorite bands playing at the festival, including A Perfect Circle, Soundgarden, and Alter Bridge. This year the kids couldn't make it, sadly, since they are in the middle of finals at college, so only my wife and I went. The only real reason we went (other than to get to spend some rare quality time with my wonderful Aunt Jan and her family in Jacksonville) was to see Tool. I hadn't gotten to see Tool live yet, and not only was this a chance to fix that, it was also a chance to see them unleash a couple of new songs from their forthcoming album that no audiences had yet gotten to experience.
My Aunt Jan with Victoria and me
We didn't go to the first two days of the festival, since none of the bands really appealed to us, so instead my Aunt Jan showed us some cool places out and about in Jacksonville.

Victoria and me at Meshuggah

Then on Sunday we finally went to the festival. We got there in time to see the last couple songs by Meshuggah, then whole sets by Papa Roach, Bring Me the Horizon, and Incubus before the grand finale with Tool.


Tool did their two new songs, which was nice, and they played well. I was a tad disappointed at some of the song selection, as I didn't get to hear some of my favorite Tool songs, but still it was a great experience.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

First Article Published on Chessbase

I'm really proud that I got my first article published on the largest chess news site in the world, I've been published in Chess Life in the US before, but Chessbase has a global audience!
Nathan Smith, photo by Gurth Smith

Monday, December 31, 2018

What I Read in 2018

At the end of each year I do a summary post of what I read throughout the year. I find it interesting to see my reading habits, and to make note of what the best books were each year. I did better than last year but still haven't gotten back to the more than 50 per year that I am used to. I use a standard five star rating method with five stars meaning I loved the book so much I intend to re-read it throughout my life, so there are rarely any five star books.

1. Farewell to Russia by Jim Williams ***
2. Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan ****
3. Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles ****
4. Noumenon by Marina Lostetter **
5. Inside Out, a personal history of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason ***
6. Custer's Trials by T.J. Stiles ***
7. No Quarter, the three lives of Jimmy Page by Martin Power ****
8. Age of Swords by Michael J Sullivan *** and a half
9. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev ***
10. Play Like You Mean It by Rex Ryan **
11. Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King ***
12. Putin Country, A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels ***
13. The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker *****

14. Tick Tock by James Patterson ***
15. The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker *****
16. The Thousandfold Thought by R. Scott Bakker *****
17. Ghosts of War by Brad Taylor ***
18. Revival by Stephen King ***
19. The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker *****
20. Tales from Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin ****
21. Novels and Stories: The Call of the Wild/White Fang by Jack London ****
22. The White Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker *****
23. The Ghost Line by Andrew Gray **
24. A Relative Invasion: The Prequel by Rosalind Minett *** and a half
25. Life by Keith Richards ****
26. Bandwidth by Eliot Peper ***
27. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames ****
28. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky ****
29. The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker *** and a half
30. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi ****
31. The Fix by David Baldacci ***
32. Evolution's Darling by Scott Westerfeld ****
33. Eon by Greg Bear ***
34. Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey ****
35. Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin *****

36. Nightflyers and Other Stories by George R. R. Martin *** and a half
37. Tau Zero by Poul Anderson ***
38. The Return by Joseph Helmreich **
39. Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss *** and  a half
40. Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill ****
41. Artemis by Andy Weir ****
42. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn *** and a half

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Cover for The Shard

I'm happy with the new cover for my epic fantasy novel The Shard. The artwork was done by Phuoc Quan and the cover design was done by Steven Beaulieu.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Working on New Cover Art for The Shard

Our eldest left for his junior year in college today, and we head out on Monday to take our youngest to start his freshman year. We'll be empty nesters! Sad ones, though, since of course we'll miss our boys.

My epic fantasy novel The Shard rarely sells, despite terrific reviews, so I figured it was time to work on a new cover. I looked around for a while and stumbled across Vietnamese artist Phuoc Quan. I saw some things I really liked and thought he might be able to pull of what I was looking for. He offered a great price and full rights to the completed work, so it was definitely worth trying. Now seeing his first draft of the cover, I'm extremely pleased.
art by Phuoc Quan
It depicts and important scene from the story, where a baby dragon ambushes the party as they were passing through some caverns beneath a mountain. That dragon doesn't look much like a baby, but then the mother is much, much larger! I love what Phuoc did with the wings and how he managed to make a pitch dark cavern view-able, which can't be easy. I've asked if the figures can be moved down a bit and not yet notice the dragon, so that it can be more like the scene in the book, where only Lord Midas spots the dragon and he doesn't have time to warn anyone before it attacks. I think this is going to be a great cover, if only I can work out the typography properly.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Best Neil Gaiman Film

I was thinking about all the movies made from Neil Gaiman stories, and it struck me that my very favorite one--the one I truly think is the best of all of them--is the one that gets the least attention. When I see people discussing Gaiman movies, they always mention the decent but not great ones, like Stardust or Coraline, but they never mention Mirrormask.

If you haven't seen Mirrormask, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It's surreal but also gorgeous and amazing.

Today is the day my youngest son turns 18, and we're very proud of him. He was valedictorian at his graduation, and he's off to start Political Science at UMass Amherst this August. He got accepted to Georgetown as well, which he really wanted, but it just wasn't affordable, sadly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Grandmaster of Fantasy - R. Scott Bakker

I don't typically blog about trade published authors. I'm not a book reviewer, so it just never enters my mind to do so. But I recently started a series by an author I'd never read, and the brilliance of the books made me think it worthwhile to post something.

Usually if an author is brilliant, fans of the genre tend to hear about them fairly regularly -- Tolkien, Howard, Martin, Rothfuss, etc. In the case of R. Scott Bakker, I had heard of him, but I rarely hear him discussed in the various fantasy outlets where I hang out. This should be remedied, because he is easily one of the best fantasy authors I have encountered.

I am halfway through book two of his first series, "The Second Apocalypse" (also called the Prince of Nothing series), which started with The Darkness That Comes Before. My youngest son has already finished this series and is on the final book of his four-book second series set within the same world. He loves it so much that it's the first time I can recall him demanding that I order the next books of a series.

Like I said, I'm not a reviewer, so I don't want to get too far into the details of the stories. They are intellectual and take a bit of effort on your part to get invested in them, but the payoff is tremendous. They remind me of a saner version of Steven Erikson, imaginative and vast in scope, but Bakker's work is more accessible than Erikson's is. I think it's a shame that all lovers of fantasy fiction haven't given him a try.