This post, which contains a heck of a book promotion, first ran in 2015.

Robert E. Howard

In last week’s post I discussed a movie, The Whole Wide World, which chronicled a brief period of time in the all-too-short life of writer Robert E. Howard. Best known for his stories about Conan the Barbarian, Howard is considered by many to be the “father” of the genre that would come to be known as sword & sorcery.

Howard’s work became a great influence on my early writing. While Edgar Rice Burroughs was my main muse, Howard came in a close second. (See my posts on ERB, Thank You, Edgar Rice Burroughs,” and Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Master Of Lost Worlds,” and one on Robert E. Howard, Swords, Sorcery, and Cross Plains, Texas.”)


After writing a number of Burroughs-inspired sword & planet/lost world novels, I decided it was time to try my hand at sword & sorcery. By this time I was dreaming some of my storylines, and one in particular came at me like a runaway bantha. (I kid you not about the dreaming. Check out my post,Unpleasant Dreams: The Curse Of Creativity.”) That story, which would be published by Zebra Books a couple of years later, was originally titled, The Twentieth Son of Ornon. It has since been reissued by Atoris Press as The Sons of Ornon.

Just how much did this story grab hold of me? Well, I wrote the entire first draft, about 72,000 words, in twenty days. On a crappy electric typewriter. While taking care of my infant daughter. Twelve- to fifteen-hour days were the norm. Now, that didn’t mean that I wrote well; it just meant that I wrote fast. (See my post,Write Well, Not Fast.”) But the story came at me so swiftly that I could barely stay ahead of it.


So with Robert E. Howard’s stories as inspiration, and bloody nightmares filled with barbarian princes, sorcerers, and all manner of monsters, I spent twenty days creating one weird world. Here is a brief introduction.

An ancient kingdom called Shadzea has been ruled for hundreds of years by an unbroken line of powerful and ruthless kings. Its ability to survive and thrive in this dangerous world has to do with a, um, rather “unique” rite of succession. At the time of the story Shadzea’s present king, Ornon, impregnates fifty women during a period called the Mating Week. (Gimme a break; after all, this IS a fantasy.)

So, nine months later a whole lot of babies start popping out, and the first twenty healthy males are chosen as princes of Shadzea. They will be raised together, they will be taught to despise one another, and before they reach adulthood they will endure four deadly trials that will undoubtedly reduce their numbers. Finally, those that still live will face one another in bloody combat on the Day of the Reckoning, with Ornon looking on. Only one will remain standing—the Survivor, the future ruler of Shadzea.


Being the scumbag that he is, Ornon impregnates his scheming concubine, a shrewish woman, days before the Mating Week—a major no-no. She gives birth to Buz, his first—and favorite—son, who ultimately will make Voldemort and Darth Vader come off as warm and fuzzy. Nor does Ornon give a rat’s ass about Dulok, his twentieth son, a noble soul and the story’s main protagonist. The conflict between these two princes drives much of the story.

All of the princes spend their first eight years with their respective mothers, after which they are never to see them again. But Dulok loves his mom and sneaks off for occasional visits, even promising her that they will flee Shadzea one day and have a nice life together. Creepy little Buz catches on to his half-brother’s indiscretion and snitches to Ornon, who murders Dulok’s mom in front of him. Dulok silently swears vengeance on them both.

From there Dulok encounters monsters, sorcery, demons, deprivation, bloody battles, enslavement, torture—in other words, the usual for the sword & sorcery genre. Oh yeah, and one other element: romance. How will Dulok weigh his lust for vengeance against his love for the sweet, beautiful Sallia? I may spill loads of blood in my stories, but I’m a romantic at heart.


The eBook edition of The Sons of Ornon, usually $4.99, will be available for $1.99 on a Kindle Countdown Deal. The countdown begins at 8 a.m. (Pacific time) on Thursday, February 21st, and ends at 8 p.m. (Pacific time) on Sunday, February 24th.

Just so you know, before I reissued it a few years ago, I also rewrote The Sons of Ornon from start to finish, incorporating all that I’ve learned—and taught—about writing over the past three decades. Enjoy!

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