Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Howard Days 2014 was Howard-tastic!

Robert E. Howard Days 2014 was so great I barely know where to begin in telling you about it! As I've finally recovered from two days driving home and another of unpacking loot, let's give it a try. More than one post will be needed, especially going through hundreds of photos!

Both Friday and Saturday featured some of the best weather ever seen for Howard Days. The upper 80's in mid-June in west Texas is about as good as it gets. Blue skies and lots of wind really kept us comfortable.

Project Pride, Cross Plains' wonderful civic organization, had everything ready for Howard fans. Fine hospitality is a watchword from these great folks and they welcomed Howard Fans from all over the world with open arms. This year featured guests from all over the U.S. plus fans from France, Germany, Scotland and Japan. REH is truly world-wide! Attendance seemed to be up a little from previous years. (I'll let you know some figures when I get them.)

The Robert E. Howard Museum was certainly all slicked up to receive guests! Thanks to the generosity of Howard fans earlier this year, some window and plumbing issues were repaired and a coat of gleaming white paint had been applied. The Museum looked fantastic!

House tours were conducted, the Gift Shop was soon depleted (almost), the Bus was filled and the Postal Cancellation was as popular as ever! The panels went off without a hitch and were extremely well attended (my un-official average was 45 per!) Plus, the panelists were all top-notch and their presentations were wonderfully interesting. The Friday night Banquet was again filled to capacity and the Silent Auction raised over $1,500 for Project Pride's maintenance of the REH Museum!

Patrice Louinet was a wonderful and witty Guest of Honor and amused the Banquet crowd with anecdotes of his Howard career and stories of a Frenchman in America. Tom Gianni as our Special Guest was honored to receive the Rankin Award for artistic achievement and gave a nice presentation of his working methods. The rest of the Featured Attendees were on their best behavior and hardly any gun or knife fights broke out at this Howard Days! (Y'all know I'm joking about that, right?)

The Saturday night Barbeque out the Caddo Peak Ranch was as delicious as ever, but also bittersweet, seeing as how it signals the end to Howard Days.

But the fellowship and friendship of the entire weekend was what shone like the sun in the Texas sky. New friends were made, old friendships continued and everyone came away with that warm feeling you get from seeing everyone at a family reunion. A year will go by quickly and we'll be in Cross Plains again. For now however, the glowing memories of Howard Days 2014 will carry us through. Happy trails, y'all!

Monday, June 9, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 10 - Checklist

We're saddling up and getting the wagons ready for the trek to Cross Plains, so here's a checklist for us to go over once we get to Howard Days. Everything on here is easy enough to do...well, with the exception of that last one.

Hope y'all have safe travels! We might be off the grid for a day or two but we'll try to get back on the air soon. Hopefully we can do some updates from Howard Days, but we are going to be a little busy!

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 9 - Guests Galore!

One of the metaphorical phrases I like to use when celebrating something connected with Robert E. Howard is "Blaze your pistolas and brandish your Bowies!" It would serve very well if you would all do so (metaphorically speaking, of course) regarding the Featured Guests and Attendees that you see here!

Patrice Louinet is our 2014 Guest of Honor and we are honored that he could come in from France this year. (We've been trying to get him for awhile now). In addition to being one of the biggest Robert E. Howard scholars in the world, he is one of the nicest guys you'll want to meet - we're glad that you'll be able to do so this year! I just have to figure out a way to get some Chicago-style pizza to him in Cross Plains!

Tom Gianni is our Special Guest - his cover paintings for Western Tales. Pirate Adventures and the four volume Fists of Iron Boxing stories (all from the REHF Press) capture the spirit of Howard's words so perfectly! Tom has been nominated for the REHF Rankin Award for Artistic Achievement, so fingers crossed for him! (Hmmm...Tom is from Chicago, so maybe he can bring that pizza...)

The 16 other folks shown on this poster (thanks, Jeff Shanks!) add up to several hundred years worth of involvement with Howard Fandom, but the older I get the less I feel like adding that up! Suffice to say this is one of the most erudite, eclectic groups that you'll ever meet in any walk of life. I'm proud to call them all my friends and it just goes to show you the far-reaching impact that Robert E. Howard has had on all of us here!

They'll each be wearing a special name badge at Howard Days and are ready, willing and able to engage in the wonderful Howard Fellowship we all will embrace in Cross Plains this week on June 13th & 14th.

Hope to see you there! In the words of the late Billie Ruth Loving, one of the founders of Howard Days,"Y'all come!"

Featured Attendee - BEN FRIBERG

Videographer Ben Friberg first discovered Howard's amazing work not long after college when he found the Baen edition of Solomon Kane at an Abilene bookstore and the rest was downhill from there. He attended his first Howard Days in 2005 and has been an attendee at every Howard Days since. After trying his hand at gathering material for a Howard Days documentary, he decided he could best serve Howard Fandom by recording all the panels presented over the two day event and posting them for free on Youtube. For the past few years he's been honored to be the unofficial Howard Days videographer, doing his best to make sure that each Howard Days is saved for future generations of Howard Fandom. In recognition of this work he has been nominated for the 2014 Black River award for outstanding achievement by the Robert E. howard Foundation

Just this year he also became a member of REHupa and is looking forward to exploring the brave new world of fanzines. If you see him at Howard days, you will probably have to say hello to him first, as he's kinda shy -- he's the big guy with the huge sombrero he wears to keep off the brutal Texas summer sun.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 8 - The Pavilion

In 1994 a small tornado hit the town of Cross Plains. Because of the damage it caused to the roof of the Howard House, Howard Days was cancelled for that year. The storm also destroyed the Butler house located next door to the Howard place and because of that, Project Pride wisely decided to erect an outdoor pavilion in its place.

The Alla Ray Morris Pavilion, named for the one-time owners of the REH literary estate, is an open-air, roof-covered concrete slab adjacent to the Robert E. Howard Museum. During the second weekend in June, it is Howard Days Central.

The Pavilion is the gathering place for all who come to Robert E. Howard Days. It will be open and available most of the day on Thursday and 24 hours Friday and Saturday. As you can see, tables and chairs are set up for all visitors to relax, converse with old and new friends and simply share in the fellowship of the like-minded souls who come to Howard Days to honor the Legacy of Bob Howard. There are restrooms too, along with a small kitchen and the grounds surrounding the Pavilion are nicely shaded for relaxing or a picnic lunch.

Project Pride also sets up a large cooler here, from which you may enjoy a cold bottle of water or can of pop. This is provided for any and all comers at no cost (but the Donation Jar is available - how's that for a not-so-subtle hint?) The Friday Luncheon also takes place here and again, cook-out hot dogs & hamburgers, chips & cookies are provided at no cost. (Another parentheses caveat: if you have paid the pre-registration fee, please enjoy a free lunch - who said "there ain't no such thing?" But, if you haven't done the pre-reg, a donation would be most appreciated!)

The Friday morning Bus Tour begins here - it starts at 9 am sharp, so plan on being at the Pavilion a little early. The final panel on Saturday is also held here. The Swap Meet takes place here also - you are invited to please take a little bit of space and display any Robert E. Howard type items. The only payment we ask for the space is a 10% of what you sell donation to Project Pride. The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press will also have their REH books for sale here in the Pavilion and I'm sure Featured Guest Tom Gianni will be happy to sign the books he's done cover paintings for!

So, if you have any questions during your visit to Howard Days, most certainly there will be someone in the Pavilion to help answer them. Without a doubt it is the friendliest spot at Howard Days. Hope to see you at the Pavilion!

The photo above shows the ample parking on the west side of the lot and there is also parking on the east side street.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Full Moon and Porch Light Poetry

On June 13th, the first day of REH Days, Mother Nature has seen fit to grace us with a full moon. Now, if we follow along that this is FRIDAY the 13th, the moon is FULL and that Bob Howard wrote for a magazine with WEIRD in its title - well, this may be an evening of cosmic proportions!

What better way to celebrate it than to read aloud some of Howard's fabulous poetry? While reading it by the light of a full moon hasn't really been tried (although this may be the year!) we do like to honor the magical words of REH by reading his poetry from the same place where it was written. We know that Bob liked to speak his stories aloud as he wrote them - he most certainly did the same with his poetry. If you've ever read any of his poetry, you know that it just screams to be read aloud. So, we do. And with the exception of Tim Arney here, we don't do any screaming.

Porch Light Poetry takes place after the Banquet is over and folks have come back to the Pavilion to relax and converse among new and old friends. It's a very extemporaneous event and if you feel like reading Howard Poetry aloud from the front porch of the house where it was written, please do so! It's a nice enhancement for the Howard Days Experience, even if you just sit and listen.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 7 - Saturday Afternoon & Evening

Only one week to go until Howard Days! Here's a look at the Saturday afternoon & evening activities in some detail.

Like we were saying, you'll be on your own for lunch on Saturday. With the great restaurants in Cross Plains and the Barbarian Festival serving up some good ol' Fair Grub, you won't go hungry!

2 pm Panel - Fists of Iron. Mark Finn, Chris Gruber and GOH Patrice Louinet, the Editors of FISTS OF IRON, the four volume boxing set from the REHF Press, are together for this one time only panel to discuss Howard's History with boxing and the stories he wrote. (Did you know REH wrote more boxing stories than any other genre?) Come hear the experts tell you all about it. Featured Guest artist Tom Gianni will also be present to talk about illustrating these stories. At the Library.

3:30 Panel - The World Building of REH. Follow Patrice back to the Pavilion where he'll join Rusty Burke and Jeff Shanks for a discussion of Howard's history and penchant for creating fantastic worlds. NOTE: THIS PANEL IS AT THE PAVILION.

After this last panel, folks hang out at the Pavilion and browse the Swap Meet for just a short while, anticipating the short drive to the final scheduled event for Howard Days. If you are heading to the BBQ, this is the time you will need to sign a release form to visit the Ranch. Details will be available.

5 pm to Sunset: The Caddo Peak Ranch BBQ. At 5 pm we caravan 5 miles west on Highway 36 to the Caddo Peak Ranch, where owners Marsha Murray and Janet Swanson are our gracious hosts for a genuine outdoor Texas chuck wagon BBQ dinner. It is another highlight of Howard Days and all are welcome! You'll feast on delicious brisket, sausage, potato salad, dessert and all the fixin's while enjoying the fellowship of your friends old and new. Before dinner, you may decide to ride up to the base of West Caddo Peak (pictured above) and trek to the top for a view of Callahan County like no other. This is fairly rugged climb and it is advisable to take a bottle of water with you. After dinner we gather on the rise and watch a gorgeous Texas sunset and say our goodbyes to a wonderful weekend.

PLEASE NOTE: THE OWNERS OF CADDO PEAK RANCH HAVE REQUESTED THERE BE ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING AT THE RANCH. Please respect their wishes - it will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

The final REH Days activity is a gathering of folks back at Pavilion for a final evening of conversation, fellowship and poetry reading as we celebrate the Legacy of Robert E. Howard one final time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 6 - Saturday Morning

Saturday June 14th at Howard Days is a time for more of the same goodness that happens on Friday, without the Postal Cancellation and Bus Tour. But there IS a big banquet at day's end.

The Howard House is open from 9 to 4 and the Pavilion is available for the Swap Meet as well as the "relaxing place". The tables & chairs are there for all to sit, visit and enjoy a free cold beverage from the nearby giant cooler. The Cross Plains Library is open 10 to 3 and will host two of the three panels of the day.

The Cross Plains Barbarian Festival also takes place from 9 to 4, located in Treadway Park, three blocks west of the Howard House on Highway 36. This is a good ol' country fair, with vendors of all sorts, rides and games for the kids, live music & special presentations, an antique car and tractor show, all kinds of great food plus more - a nice little getaway for the non-REH family members. New this year is the Barbarian Blast, a 5K run held at at time to be determined. Check it out at

10:30 am - Panel: The Legend Continues. And so does our discussion of Bob Howard re-writing history. James Reasoner and David Hardy will talk about REH's more "contemporary" history, especially his western and El Borak stories. At the Library.

Lunch time will wrap up the morning's activities. Please leave some of your dough with the variety of great restaurants in Cross Plains or enjoy the wide array of food offerings at the Barbarian Festival. Or, pack a picnic lunch and eat under the shade trees at the Howard House!

Coming tomorrow: we'll wrap up the programming but not the information!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 5 - Friday Afternoon & Evening

The Howard Days festivities continue Friday afternoon & evening. Of the ongoing events: the Museum stays open until 4 with the Swap Meet outside, the Postal Cancellation is available until 4 as well and the Library will stay open until 5.

1:30 - Panel: Guest of Honor Patrice Louinet. Come sit in as Rusty Burke does an interview style panel with Patrice. They'll talk about Patrice's long and storied career as one of the most important Howard scholars in the world. At the Library.

2:30 - The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards. We decided to give this presentation its just due with its own panel slot. The Awards for 2013 will be presented in nine different categories of Howard scholarship and fandom. Plus we'll take a little time to let the winners speak! Hosted by Bill Cavalier, with awards being presented by as many of last year's winners as we can round up.

But don't go away! As this won't take the whole hour (unless someone gets really long-winded), our Featured Guest, artist Tom Gianni, will then give a special digital presentation of how he works and what it took for him to paint all four covers for the REHF Press' FISTS OF IRON four volume boxing set.

5:30 - 6:30 pm: Before the Celebration Banquet starts up, take an hour to view and bid on the large assortment of REH items on display for the Silent Auction. You've already seen one item up for auction - there are always a large number of great Howard items waiting for your bids. After dinner there is a short period to increase those bids.

6:30 - The Robert E. Howard Celebration Banquet. One of the highlights of Howard Days, the Banquet features great Texas grub (dang, I've got to find find out what it is...usually chicken fried steak...check back soon). Anyway, your pre-registration entitles you to this fine feast, a keynote speech by Patrice Louinet and the warm friendship of the folks of Cross Plains and the fellowship of Howard fans!

When dinner and speechifying are finished, there's a five minute period to increase the Silent Auction bids! When the guns sounds (not really, but you know what I mean) and your name is high bid, you win the item! Please remember that you need to pay with cash or check - and that 100% of the proceeds go to Project Pride's continuing maintenance of the REH Museum!

9:00 Panel: Fists at the Ice House. Everyone gather at the concrete slab behind the Texas Taxidermy building on Main Street (where Howard really did box!) You'll get to hear the series editors for the REHF Press Fist of Iron 4 volume set: Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, Jeff Shanks and Patrice Louinet square off about Howard's boxing yarns by the light of Coleman lanterns! This panel is so good we do it every year.

After Hours at the Pavilion: from 9 o'clock on everyone gathers for an evening of Howardian fellowship where we swap stories and lies and enjoy a favorite beverage. Another highlight happens then: Porch Light Poetry, an extemporaneous gathering where we read the Poetry of Robert E. Howard right from the front porch of his home! REH's poetry just cries out to be read aloud and you can do it about 12 feet away from where it was written. This is one of those magical moments at Howard Days.

Up next: Saturday Morning at Robert E. Howard Days.

The three handsome gents pictured above are L-R: Jeff Shanks, Mark Finn and Chris Gruber, doing their thing at Fists at the Ice House.

Monday, June 2, 2014

REH Days Overview Part 4 - Friday Morning

The first "official" day of Robert E. Howard Days is Friday June 13th. You won't find a luckier day, especially for Howard Fans! Here's the morning line-up, with some commentary:

8:30 am (until gone) - Donuts and coffee will be served in the Pavilion, compliments of Project Pride.

9 am to 4 pm - the Robert E. Howard Museum is open to the public. Please stop by the registration canopy out front and sign in, and get a name badge so everybody knows your name. Then enter the House and either take a tour guided by docents in every room, or be free to wander the rooms on your own. The highlight of the tour is Robert's room, a space smaller than most of today's office cubicles but where entire worlds were created. There's a pretty nice Gift Shop in the rear of the house too!

9 am to 11 am - Bus Tour. This Friday only activity starts in the Pavilion where we'll congregate and then board an air-conditioned school bus. Local Cross Plains historians and Howard scholars will then take you on a narrated tour of surrounding environs and the town of Cross Plains, shadowing the footsteps of Bob Howard.

9 am to 4 pm - Postal Cancellation. The Cross Plains Post Office sponsors an annual REH souvenir postal cancellation, where you may get your envelopes and postcards postmarked with this special stamp.

10 am to 4 pm - REH Swap Meet. The Pavilion is available for you to set up and view small displays of your REH items for sale. As this is a free service, we ask that you donate 10% of your sales to Project Pride.

10 am to 5 pm - The Cross Plains Public Library is open. We have most of the panels here. The Library also has the world's largest collection of Robert E. Howard original typewritten manuscripts on public display for viewing and examination.

11 am - PANEL: "In the Guise of Fiction". Howard scholars Jeffrey Shanks and Al Harron will discuss Robert E. Howard's love of writing about real history disguised as a fictional story. Jeff and Al will talk about REH's "early" history writings.

Noon - Project Pride will host a genuine Texas cookout lunch (hot dogs, burgers, chips) for all attendees. Don't forget to help them out with a couple of bucks in the Donation Jar! Thanks.

OK, that's a pretty awesome morning schedule for y'all. Tomorrow we'll tell you about the afternoon and evening schedule, so y'all come back. Or, you can click on the REH DAYS 2014 tab over at and get the full story.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Featured Attendee - GARY ROMEO

Gary Romeo has been a Robert E. Howard fan for over 40 years! His first exposure to REH was Marvel Comics's Conan the Barbarian #4 featuring the adaptation of "The Tower of the Elephant," which remains his favorite REH story to this day.

A longtime member of REHupa, Gary has written articles for The Dark Man, The Cimmerian, and The Chronicler of Cross Plains and he also contributed a chapter to The Robert E. Howard Reader. In addition to REH, he is an enthusiast of movies and comic books.