Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collection, There is No Wheel. In 2017, I'll be releasing a new superhero series, The Butterfly Cage. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public.




Saturday, December 7, 2013

Year in Classics, a Recap

For 2013, I decided to focus my reading on classic books that I'd somehow missed out on reading before. A lot of them I hadn't read because I thought I knew their stories since I'd seen so many adaptations, things like Dracula, Tarzan of the Apes, and Frankenstein. Others I hadn't read because nothing I'd ever heard about them interested me; a lot of romance novels like Pride and Prejudice fell in this category.

I started out the year mostly intending to stick to public domain novels. I could download them free on Kindle or listen to them free on Librivox, and free has always held a certain charm for me. But, in March, when Bitterwood came out on Audible, I signed up for an Audible account which gives me one download credit a month, so I started adding in classics not in the public domain yet, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I also added a few books I'd read before in high school or college but had only the dimmest memory of, like Old Man and the Sea. I'd intended to count only novels, but wound up with a couple of plays and books of the KJV Bible also making the list. In the end, I read 36 classics:

Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift 
Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne  
The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie 
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë  
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare, William
The Tempest, William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare  
Job, KJV
Ecclesiastes, KJV
King Solomon's Mines, H. Rider Haggard
A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Riders of the Purple Sage, Zane Grey
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck 
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut 
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut 
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë 
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair 
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

These aren't all the books I read this year. I read a couple of novels of recent vintage, and five or six non fiction books (Walden's the only one I felt merited inclusion on my list of classics).

Next year, I'll probably stay focused on classics, since there's still plenty I haven't read, but will probably start adding in more contemporary fiction as well. If you're interested in finding out what I thought were the best and worst of the classics I read, check out my other blog, Jawbone of an Ass, where I'll be publishing my list of the five most deserving and five most overrated classics.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My biggest E-Book sale ever! Get 'em while they're hot!

Did any of you pick up a new tablet, Kindle, or Nook while you were out shopping this weekend? Looking for something to read on it? Or perhaps to load up the device with books for when it's opened later in the month? I'm pleased to announce that for all of December, you can get three of my ebook titles for only $1 each, on both Kindle and Nook platforms!

Bitterwood: The first book of my Dragon Age Quartet, but also a critically acclaimed stand alone novel and by far my most popular title to date, having been through four print editions and translations into French and German. Set in a world where civilized dragons rule and mankind exists only as their slaves, their pets, or their prey, Bitterwood is a legendary dragon-slayer waging a one man war of vengeance against the dragon-king Albekizan. But when he kills Albekizan's beloved son, the dragons respond with an all out war to wipe out humanity. It's non-stop action as a ragged band of refugees fight to save mankind.
Available on Kindle and Nook.

Nobody Gets the Girl: Richard Rogers wakes one day trapped in a world where he was never born, an intangible ghost invisible to everyone save for a family of superheroes. He's recruited to join the superheroes in their battle against an army of meta-human terrorists, operating under the code name Nobody. As the battles escalate, whole cities are wiped off the map, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Who can save us? Nobody!
On Kindle. On Nook.

There is No Wheel: A shark swims through a kitchen. A biology teacher dumps a dead angel onto his grandmother's dining room table. A billion bees swarm the Empire State Building. In an empty attic, a teapot filled with lizards reaches a boil. Everything is understood when a small town sheriff bites into an eyeball. These are the door through which you enter the world of James Maxey's award winning short fiction. Good luck finding your way back out.
Kindle! Nook!

Finally, it's not a dollar, but it's still a great deal: Solaris has bundled all three of the Dragon Apocalypse novels together into a single e-book package and have priced the whole thing at a mere $9.99. This series combines both my love of superheroes and my love of epic fantasy, meshed together by general bad-assery and a generous dose of humor. The first chapter of Greatshadow might just be the best 5000 words I've ever put onto paper. Download a free sample if you doubt me!
For Kindle! for Nook!

Update on the Accidental Gods project

I finished November with just over 50k words written on the second draft of Accidental Gods. I'd really hoped to be done with the draft in November, but this project has started to grow on me. I don't mean 'grow on me' in the sense that I'm feeling greater affection for it--I've hit the stage in writing this book that I hit in almost every book where it slowly dawns on my that, oh, right, this is actual work. It's work that I get a great deal of satisfaction from, but that doesn't make it any less of a mental challenge to try to keep all my plot threads and characters consistent and growing across the chapters.

I mean that the book has grown on me in the sense that the 50k words I've completed on this draft were only 30k words in the first draft, and I wound up completely rewriting all but maybe three scenes of that first draft. I've been doing my best to take a closer look at the supporting cast and the larger world and add more detail and depth. I'm really excited about the possibilities for future stories that keep opening up as I explore all the characters. Seriously, I feel like this one novel has the potential to spawn dozens more. The protagonist, Cut-Up Girl, is part of a larger universe where I've created over 30 original superheroes who either play some role in the plot or are at least referenced as being part of the world.

This is a role call, in a alphabetical order, of the superheroes in the Accidental Gods universe. In future blog posts, I'll start revealing more about who they are. Some have already appeared in my short story Where Their Worm Dieth Not in the Masked Anthology. A few others appeared in a short story I published under the pen name called Tendrils. I'll probably be adding that story as bonus material to some future book in the Accidental Gods Universe. Also, the Final Flight of the Blue Bee is set in this world.

I know just reading a list of superhero names probably isn't particularly satisfying, but here goes:

Apex
Atomahawk
Big Ape
Blister Betty
Blue Bee
Brain Boy
Chopper
Crimson Shroud
Cut-Up Girl
Dr. Dragon
Everyman
Fogman
Golden Victory
Honey
Hourglass
Humanzee
Icer
Imp
Jailer
Kelvin
Lava
Monkey Boy/Monkey Man
Nubile
Owl Girl
Punk
Queen Kong
Reset
Retaliator
Rose Rifle
Screaming Jenny
She-Devil
Sky Clad
Stinger
Tempo
Unwelcome Guest
Velvet Mask
Witness
X-Ray Robinson
Yodeler
Zapper

Names in bold either appear in my current project or are at least discussed by other characters. In future blog posts, I plan to flesh out details on all these heroes. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Little by little, the work gets done: A Cut-Up Girl update.

Back in July, I was able to bang out the first draft of Cut-Up Girl/Accidental Gods in just four days. The second draft... is taking a bit longer. I started the rewrite several weeks ago, but have really been struggling with it due to a flaw in my initial structure. Cut-Up Girl's life story is told in four major parts, her childhood when she first learns she has superpowers, her early adulthood as part of a vigilante gang of superheroes, her years as a scandal plagued celebrity, and finally her years of decline ending in a final battle of redemption.

I wrote the first draft sequentially, but planned to thread all four stories together and tell them simultaneously. Mostly, this is because I admire a lot of works with this sort of interwoven timelines, but also because I had really uneven quantities of action sequences. The second part of the novel, her vigilante years, is filled with lots of big superhero battles as well as a sordid sexual relationship. But, her childhood had exactly one action sequence, and a lot of scenes detailing important events in her life that shaped her personality, but that weren't exactly gripping action sequences. Stuff like a crush on a boy at school, and the story of how she meets her one friend who stays faithful to her through the rest of the book. Important, but not exactly action packed.

But, the interweaving approach wasn't working for me. It felt too disjointed, more an instrument of confusion than clarity, and I worried that my underlying motives for attempting it weren't good ones. I was trying to hide the dull parts of the character's life among more interesting ones, with the effect of making it all dull.

Cutting out her childhood years was an option, but not an attractive one, since some of the stuff, like her relationship with her father, is really important for the later plot.

Finally, though, I've figure out a better approach to her childhood years... don't make them dull. Duh. There were plenty of interesting things happening in this part of the story. There's a freaking alien invasion, for god's sake. Also, a city gets obliterated by an asteroid. And she's kidnapped by a secret government organization! And somehow, I was making all this dull, mostly by having the big stuff happen at a distance. I really couldn't place her at ground zero for the asteroid strike and have the book continue, right? Luckily, I've figured out how to change her from an removed reporter of these major events into an engaged participant. Now, I can simply tell the story sequentially and keep the reader engaged all the way through.

So, I'll call this draft 2.5. Since my revelation of how to tell the story right occurred on November 2, I'll call this my NaNoWriMo novel. Forward!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Joe's Spider Farm--The most important story I ever wrote, finally in print.



The new horror anthology Soon: Four Chilling Tales, has just gone live on Kindle. It contains horror stories by Abby Goldsmith, Rebecca Roland, Sarah Kelderman, and myself. At .99 cents, it's a perfect way to get yourself into a Halloween mood.

My contribution to the collection is "Joe's Spider Farm." This is kind of an ancient story for me, one I wrote all the way back in the year 2000. It's a horror story about a trailer park of retired carnival freaks who get a visit from a former carnival geek. The fire king, Pete Pyro, is none to happy about the new arrival and conspires to chase him off. Things go down hill after that.

So, it's a 14 year old story that I wasn't able to sell when I wrote it. I think the reason I couldn't sell it was that there weren't a lot of paying markets for non-supernatural horror when I wrote the story. I shelved it and mostly forgot about it, despite feeling like it was a really solid tale.

So, why do I call it the most important story I ever wrote in the title of this post? Because my earliest big sales have their roots in this novel. First, one of the highlights of my short fiction career was my first sale to Asimov's, "To the East a Bright Star." In it, Tony, the former circus tightrope walker, makes mention of his old friends... Pete Pyro and the Wolfman, both of whom are featured in "Joe's Spider Farm." The existence of JSF gave Tony a rich back story that helped make him a fully realized character. It's a story behind the story, a larger universe not seen in the Asimov's tale, but the foundation that the visible story rests upon.

If Spider Farm had just got me my first pro magazine sale, that would be noteworthy. But, it did a whole lot more than that. Shortly after I wrote "Joe's Spider Farm," I wrote my superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl. I wrote Nobody very quickly, making up stuff as I went along, and at one point I hit the scene where I knew I needed to introduce some low-level villains for my heroes to face off against. I still had the villainous geek from "Joe's Spider Farm" kicking around in my head, so I decided to make him one of the villain gang. Instead of having him bite the head of chickens, I decided to give him the power to bite through anything, and also implied that he could survive any injury. If you've read Nobody Gets the Girl, then read "Joe's Spider Farm," you'll instantly see what I'm talking about: Except for the superpowers, it's the same character in both stories. So, I got an important supporting cast member for my first published novel from my little unpublished story.

Of course, that led to Burn Baby Burn, a novel where Pit Geek graduates from supporting cast to protagonist for the entire novel. He's fleshed out considerably in the novel, of course, but there are still elements of his character that originated in the short story. For instance, in the short story, the geek has suffered enough brain damage that he doesn't remember his own name any more, just as Pit in Burn Baby Burn is unable to remember who he used to be.

If there's a larger lesson to be drawn here, it's that nothing a writer puts on paper is ever a waste of time. "Joe's Spider Farm" took a lot of time and energy to write and polish, and back in 2000, it probably seemed like the time and energy I'd put into it weren't going to be repaid with publication. But... without it, I might never have sold anything to Asimov's, and I might never have sold my first novel, let alone wrote a sequel to it.

So, now's your chance to discover the short story that did more to shape my later career than anything else I wrote from that period. Even if you haven't read Nobody or Burn Baby, check it out. It's a pretty kick ass tale on it's own merit, and I'm thrilled to finally see it in print.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Classics Update

In the past few months, I've had a pretty great run of enjoying the classic novels I've read. First, I reread Catch 22, a book I read in high school and still remembered fairly well. The book was even better than I remembered it.

I also read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Wow! I can't believe I hadn't read this before. Definitely one of the best books I've ever read. The voice was perfect, the characters were rich and complex, and the humor was spot on. The only drawback was the outright misogyny of the book, since all the female characters are either evil castrating control freaks or saintly whores who sleep with men and expect nothing from them but a good time.

One of the worst books I've read, hands down, has to be Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. It's told at such a distance, from the POV of a not particularly close friend, that anything interesting in the novel is kept from actually happening before the reader's eyes.

So, it was with some delight that I moved on to Treasure Island by the same author and discovered that it was fairly awesome. Fast paced, lots of immediacy, interesting characters, an actual plot, and the writing felt crisp and sharp, something that could be published today. The flaw of the book is that Long John Silver is kind of an incompetent dud. He loses his ship, loses his treasure, and basically escapes by being a sniveling boot licker.

Another old book that surprised me way Jane Eyre. Wow! I was indifferent to Pride and Prejudice, mostly disliked Wuthering Heights, but Jane Eyre really drew me in. I liked that she was working class for most of the book. While the book ends, of course, with her marrying the rich man of her dreams, I thought he journey to the happy ending was really interesting and that the characters paid a big price for their final happiness. The only thing I didn't like was Jane inheriting a fortune from a long lost uncle. I always wondered where that cliche came from! But, the book would have worked if she hadn't come into a fortune. And, Jane did nothing to earn her fortune, it was pure luck that she wound up with the money. These gripes aside, it's definitely my favorite romance novel to date.

War of the Worlds: Just finished this and was impressed by how plausible every thing seemed even given how much we now know he was wrong about Mars. Not quite as gripping as Island of Dr. Moreau, but much better than the Time Machine.

Finally, I also read Murder on the Orient Express. Meh. I know all mysteries are contrived to some degree, but this was kind of ridiculous. Still, I did appreciate the pacing and the handling of the various characters.

I'm probably forgetting something... I shouldn't wait two months to update next time! Coming up: The Invisible Man, Kidnapped, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nobody Gets the Girl giveaway on Goodreads!

I'm giving away 4 free copies of the new Nobody Gets the Girl Tenth Anniversary paperback on Goodreads. You have until October 31 to enter the drawing. Just follow the link below. (Note, when I preview the link code I cut and pasted from Goodreads, I get a lot of big gaps for some reason. However, the bottom link that says Enter to Win still works.)



 
 


    Goodreads Book Giveaway
 

   

        Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey
   

   

     


          Nobody Gets the Girl
     
     


          by James Maxey
     

     

         
            Giveaway ends October 31, 2013.
         
         
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.
         
     
   
   


      Enter to win



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nobody Gets the Girl: Tenth Anniversary Edition!


Ten years ago in October, my debut novel Nobody Gets the Girl officially hit bookstores. Not a lot of bookstores as it turned out, but enough to officially mark the beginning of my career as a novelist.

To celebrate the anniversary, I've written a new story, Girl's Night Out, that tells the story of the first appearance of Baby Gun and Rail Blade, and explains why Sarah (the Thrill) first decided to go along with being a superhero despite her underlying cynicism about her father's mission. For now, this new story is only available in the new paperback, not in the e-book. I won't say I'll never include the story in the e-book, but for now I want there to be at least a little bonus available to people who still like to read books on paper.

In addition to the bonus story, I think the new cover is a vast improvement over the cover of the first edition. Can you see Nobody?

Odds are low you'll discover copies of this edition at your local bookstore, though they can always order a copy. And, of course, the book's available at Amazon, currently at the bargain price of $8.99! That's a full buck off the cover price? How can you afford to say no? Honestly, not ordering a copy is like burning money.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Bitterwood Ebook Covers

So, for about the fifth time, I've decided to revamp my Bitterwood series ebook covers. Ever since I designed the cover for Dawn of Dragons, I've felt that it didn't fit visually with the other books. Paying for new art by the same artist who did the original print Bitterwood covers was way too cost prohibitive, and looking for four related bits of affordable pre-made fantasy art that could be appropriate for all for books proved to be a pointless challenge. Believe me, I've looked at hundreds of fantasy covers on the "pre-made" sites. Sometimes, I'd see art that might be a good fit for Bitterwood, but I couldn't really use the same art four all four books.
 
 
The various editions of the covers I've made myself have all had elements I liked, but none really looked professional. I contented myself with the inferior covers because I figured, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble at least, if you search for Bitterwood or James Maxey, the first covers you see are the kick ass print edition covers. The fact the ebook covers weren't as good shouldn't matter, should it?
 
But, my peers at the Codexwriters' Group weren't impressed by my excuses, and their collective scorn for my previous covers has sent me back to photoshop once more. This time, I think I'm onto something:
 

 

 
 

Coming soon to an ebook supplier near you!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Progress report

I haven't written a short story in several years. I love the form, but short stories don't make a lot of money and they don't really do a lot to generate publicity for larger works. But, there's some things you do for money and other things you do for love, so in the last month I've cranked out the first drafts of three new short stories. One is a Kiaju story for an anthology I've been invited to take part in, another is a modern magic story for the Codex Halloween contest, and the last is a short story set in the world of Nobody Gets the Girl, telling the story of the first time Amelia (Rail Blade) fought Baby Gun, and exploring the reason that Sarah (the Thrill) played along and became a superhero despite her cynicism about the whole undertaking. 

October marks the tenth anniversary of the official release date of my first novel, Nobody Gets the Girl. In celebration of that date, I plan to release a new deluxe print edition of the novel that will include this short story as a bonus. I may also include another short story set in the same world, something I wrote a few years ago but never found a home for, though I'm on the fence on this one, since it's built around a supernatural event and the world of Nobody is seemingly structured in a way that precludes supernatural intervention. Still, it might be interesting to include it just as a historical curiosity, a document of the strange places my mind sometimes wanders. Also, I think it's a pretty cool story. 

Right now, I plan to include the new material exclusively in the print edition. In recent years, I've started releasing more and more stuff as ebooks, but I feel like celebrating the fact that, when Nobody first saw print, it was, you know, in print, on paper, something I could put on my bookshelf. Ebooks might dominate my reading now, but I still have a certain nostalgia for paper. 

After I have the new version of Nobody ready, I'll be plunging into the rewrite of Accidental Gods/Cut-Up Girl, the novel I wrote last June in just four days. My initial instincts had been to self publish the book this fall, but now I think I'm leaning toward trying my luck with two publishers first, in hopes that they can help the book reach a larger audience than I can on my own. Hopefully, I'll have this redrafted and ready to show to people by the beginning of November, clearing me for a NaNoWriMo. Though, right now, I'm not firmly committed to taking part in that. A lot depends on whether or not I hear back from publishers about my Oz novel, and whether I wind up doing one more draft of that book and try to get a version of it out before the holidays. 

After this, it's back to dragons one last time. The final book of the Dragon Apocalypse, Soulless, is taking shape nicely in my head. I've always known where I wanted to take Stagger and Infidel, not to mention Sorrow and Slate. But, my original vision had been to tell their stories in separate books. Now, I've figured out how to thread both story lines together. Brokenwing, Greatshadow's offspring, will play a major role as well, and of course we'll be seeing the Black Swan and Zetetic the Deceiver. Even Father Ver might put in a return appearance. The one last thread I'm trying to weave in is what to do with the Romer family. I'll figure it out. 

After that, I'm probably done with epic fantasy for a while. By that point, I'll have written eight books about dragons, and there are just too many other stories I want to tell. Most of my short stories fit in the category of urban fantasy, so it's odd that I've never written a novel in the genre, especially when I've got a good one kicking around in my head. And, when I first started writing, I always imagined I'd be writing big, epic science fiction novels with characters zooming around between planets on rocket ships, fighting duels with ray guns, and making sweet, sweet love with busty blue-skinned sisters from other suns. I still want to write one of those! And, again, I've got a good one kicking around in my head. 

Now, it's mainly a matter of finding the time to write. I lost my previous job due to corporate restructuring, and my new job has an hour commute each way, not to mention longer hours. I've gone from spending about 37 hours a week out of the house working a day job to spending close to 50 hours a week out of the house. Those extra 13 hours represent a lot of words I could be churning out. Plus, since I'm in a new job, it's taking a lot of my brain power just to figure out all the new stuff I'm doing, and that's sapping my creative juices. I've gone from cranking out a novel in four days to struggling to finish a short story in two weeks. But, hopefully I'll settle into a new routine soon and return to my old productivity, or, even better, an even higher productivity. I'm almost fifty. There's an infinite amount of stories left to write and a finite amount of time to tell them. 

Forward!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Classics Update

I've mostly abandoned my public domain strategy for the moment. I think that I've now read many of the most obvious public domain classics, and the ones that remain are either daunting in their length (War and Peace, for example) or likely to be pretty awful (Warlord of Mars comes to mind). Way back in July, I downloaded Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey and I'm still struggling through it, reading a little each night, but always right on the verge of abandoning it. Every now and then there's a tiny hint of why it might have been popular in its era, like an exciting chase on horseback, but mostly the writing is just excruciating. He keeps hitting the same points over and over again, and the characters regularly launch into long speeches that would make Ayn Rand glance at her watch. And, while Tarzan is the most racist book I've read to date, Purple Sage is by far the most bigoted. Mormons are the villains here, save for a single good one, the leading lady Jane. Her faith has made her brave and charitable, but every other Mormon in the book are cowardly greedy schemers who steal Jane's horses so she'll have to get married. Also, none of them can hit the broad side of a barn, where as every "gentile" in the book can plug a sparrow at three hundred yards blindfolded and shooting from horseback. I'm determined to see the book through to it's bitter end, hoping that, like Tarzan, it might surprise me on the last page and somehow redeem itself.

Luckily, before bogging down in Sage, I raced through two awesome books, Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five. Slaughterhouse Five was definitely the better of the two, daring in scope and beautifully honest in its absurdity. Cat's Cradle was funnier, but it's broad humorous strokes took away some of the plausibility for me. There were times when characters did things not because it was the realistic thing for them to do, but because it was the funny thing for them to do. Still a brilliant book.

In audio, I've listened to Of Mice and Men, another wonderful book, though not as interesting as Grapes of Wrath. I suppose that's the danger of writing one of the greatest books of all time; everything else is, by definition, not as great. But, on the subject of great books, I finally listened to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. Holy cow! This book was stunning it was so good. The style and voice were impressive, the story had real heart, and the characters kept showing one more layer of depth just as you thought you knew all there was to know about them. The only downside to the book was it's blatant misogyny. While the male characters are allowed to be characters, every woman in the book is one dimensional. The "good" women are prostitutes, giving their bodies to any man who wants them, thus making men stronger and healthier. The "bad" women in the book are the wives and mothers who exist solely to castrate the men with their words. The book's villain, the Big Nurse, is given no motivation for her cruelty other than speculation that, since she never married, she's never been forced to submit to a man sexually. She has desexualized herself and now exists to unman the men. The protagonist's final "triumph" over her is little more than attempted rape, as he rips open her uniform to reveal her breasts.

Despite the book's flaws, I still think it's going to assume a place among my pantheon of favorite books. The good points of the novel outweigh the bad. I emerged from the book with a renewed purpose as a writer to always, always fight against the "Combine."

Currently I'm listening to On the Road; I'll write more about it when I'm done, but I'm hitting a point where the plotless nature of the book is starting to wear on me. The style is wonderful, but it would be nice if there were even a tiny hint of direction.

On a side note, I did deviate from my classics only rule for the year recently with two books. First, I listened to Alethea Kontis's novel Enchanted as an audio book. It's really the best audio performance I've yet encountered. The book itself is also really good, though I suspect I may be the wrong gender and age to really fall in love with the story. The majority of the plot is built around a series of royal balls, and there's a whole lot of words devoted to describing the dresses worn by every woman in the book, and there are a lot of them. Fortunately, the book is funny, so there are plenty of rewards for putting up with all the talk about dresses.

Finally, I listened to Mary Roach's new book Gulp. I'd read Bonk and Stiff and found them excellent. Gulp didn't disappoint; it was exactly the sort of non-fiction book that has dominated my reading choices for the last decade, full of quirky, interesting facts, put together in such a way that it makes you feel as if every aspect of humanity can be understood simply by studying what we put into our bodies, and what comes out. I'll definitely be looking for more books like this once I'm through my year of classics.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Free Bitterwood Audio Books!


Audible has generously provided me with some free downloads of Bitterwood for me to distribute to reviewers. I wanted to first offer these to readers of my blog. Dave Thompson does a pretty sweet job of narrating a challenging book, switching between 8 year old girls and 100 year old sun dragons with flair. If you've read Bitterwood before, this is a great chance to revisit the book. If you've only read my Dragon Apocalypse novels or superhero stuff, this is a good chance to discover my older series. All I ask in exchange is a review.

If you're interested, just drop me a line at nobodynovelwriter (at) yahoo.com.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Accidental Gods, draft one, is done! 61k words!

Wahoo! I finished Accidental Gods #1, the Confessions of Cut-Up Girl just a few minutes ago. The first draft is 61k words long; if experience holds, it will probably grow closer to 75k in the final draft as I fill in sketchy scenes with more sensory details.

I'm still a little stunned by what I've done. I remember for years I boasted that I wrote Nobody Gets the Girl in 45 days. What a slacker I was then!

But, I also know that, having these four relatively obligation free day spaced together so closely is a rare thing. I doubt I'll have many opportunities in life to duplicate this experience.

Still, I can't help but dream... what's next? Could I lock myself in a room for a single weekend and manage to crank out a whole book if I had everything just right, like an outline and all my facts prechecked? No internet connection? (I lose so much time succumbing to temptation to look up random facts, like how many revolutions a second a helicopter blade spins, stuff I could just annotate for later research, but instead decide to look up, then check my email, then check facebook, and before I know it I've lost ten minutes. Stupid internet!)

I will also say that, physically, I'm not sure my hands would survive two back to back writing sessions like the ones I just did. Hopefully, my fingers will stop tingling my the morning. To that end, I'll stop typing now.

Seriously.

Done for the day.

Stop reading.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day three of Accidental God: 16745 words

16745 words today. Characters completely took over and started making their own choices and I just typed what they told me too.

Also, possibly, I have gone insane.

Too tired to judge.

Done type now.

Sleep.

Sle...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Accidental Gods Day Two: 15561 words

Just finished my second 15k+ day of the week. The novel is possibly half done. Tonight I found myself facing the prospect that the first draft might require more than the 60k words I had planned. But, maybe not. Today's 15k didn't take me to the end of this section of Cut-Up Girl's life, but this was always the section I had the most content for. I'm not sure the 15k will come as easily for the last two segments, so it's good that I still have plenty to write on this phase of the story. When I start back Friday, I feel pretty sure the first 5k words will flow pretty fast.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Accidental Gods Day one: 15686 words

In my previous post, I said I'd be posting the material I wrote to my blog in an effort to keep myself honest. I've changed my mind about that for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I still believe that readers are precious beings who shouldn't be abused by making them read through a first draft, typos and all. Second, the whole "keeping myself honest" reason is a little stupid. What the hell do I have to gain by lying about my word count?

There's also the fact that I'm writing the first draft in a mostly linear form, but plan for the final book to have a non-linear structure. So, yesterday, I wrote all of Cut-Up Girl's life story from her early childhood to age 17. Tomorrow, I'll be writing about her years as Chopper's partner; Friday, I plan to tackle her celebrity years after her secret identity is revealed. Next week, I'll be writing her end game, where she unravels the lingering mysteries of her past and goes through the important confrontations that will allow her to put her past behind her.

In the final draft, my goal is to interweave all the four major plot lines so that the narratives are unfolding simultaneously, or at least as simultaneously as is possible in prose. So, a scene from when she's twelve might transition to a scene from her twenties then lead back into a scene from when she was seventeen as key events trigger memories and connections for Cut-Up Girl as she narrates her own story.

I've never tried producing a book with a non-linear structure before, but welcome the challenge. I'm doing a lot of things differently with this book, trying to break away from the standard ways I normally construct my chapters and plots. This is a risky move... I feel like I've gotten pretty good at writing novels built around conventional plot structures. But, you can't grow as a writer if you don't try new things. Most important, the structure is really growing out of Cut-Up Girl herself, whose personality is somewhat fragmented. She's someone who has trouble explaining herself to the rest of the world, with everything she reveals about how she made her life choices only raising more questions. You won't be able to see her by studying a single thread; her threads have to be woven into a complete tapestry for us to see the whole picture.

I feel good about tomorrow, confident I can do 15k again. The next section of her life is the one I feel I most understand, though it's also the trickiest content since its the part of the book that focuses on the least likable character in the book. Chopper is just a creep; a sadistic vigilante with a racist streak and a pervert to boot. But, he's also the man Cut-Up Girl falls in love with during this part of her life. I've got less than 24 hours to fall in love with Chopper myself, so that I can show him as something deeper than a stereotype. A tough task... but that's what makes it interesting.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Novel in Four Days: The Cut-Up Girl Game Plan

This post is one I've agonized over. I frequently post goals on my blogs as a way of giving myself a little extra accountability. A goal you keep secret isn't as motivational. If you don't hit it, who will know? Some of my goals work out well. I announced I would write Burn Baby Burn in a week, and I did. On my other blog, I announced I would lose 20 pounds in three months, and wound up losing 37. But, later, I announced I'd get to a target weight of 220 by the end of June. Today, I'm at 225, a pound heavier than when I announced that goal.

This morning, I'm announcing my most aggressive writing goal yet: I plan to write a novel in four days. Not four consecutive days, mind you. But, I know from experience that, if I duct tape myself to a chair and make myself write, I can get north of 10k words in a day. I've made it over 13k words a day before. So, my goal for writing my new superhero novel is to write 15k words a day. Four days of this will give me my 60k word novel.

I also know that intense writing days always drain me. If I write 10k words plus one day, my chances of putting out that many words the next day are seriously compromised. So, I'll be building in rest periods and writing every other day. I plan to write on July 1, 3, 5, and 8. I'll post the raw first draft to this blog each night. This goes against my rule that writers shouldn't show people their first drafts. Honestly, I'm not posting it in hopes that people will read it. I'm posting it to keep myself honest.

I'm not under contract on this book, so I have no real deadlines. So, why choose such a crazy approach? First, I still like the results of writing fast for Burn Baby Burn. Yeah, I can point to flaws in the book that likely came from the speed I wrote it, but I can also point to passages that are some of the most honest and emotional moments I've ever allowed myself to write. Writing fast helps me get past my internal filters and write more from the heart than from the head. Second, I feel like artists should always push themselves to try new things. I know I can write a book if I give myself four months to crank it out. But four days? Can it be done?

In the end, there's only one way to find out....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Burn Baby Burn 99 cent sale!

The Nobody Gets the Girl 99 cent sale was a huge success. I sold more copies in a single week than I had for the year to date, far exceeding my expectations. As a follow up, the sequel, Burn Baby Burn is on sale for 99 cents today through Sunday!

Burn Baby Burn follows the adventures of the last two supervillains standing at the end of Nobody, Sundancer and Pit Geek. Now that Rex Monday isn't calling the shots, they decide to ditch their plans for world domination and just rob some banks. It's a mad romp across America as they chase down the mysteries of Pit Geek's forgotten past while trying to stay one step ahead of the superheroes now chasing them. It's got murder, mayhem, and monkeys, plus a heartbreaking love story to boot. Not bad for a buck!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Superhero Summer

First, for fans of the Dragon Apocalypse series left hanging on the cliff at the end of Witchbreaker, don't despair. The full plot of the next book is coming together in my head, and you won't have to wait years and years to see how Sorrow, Slate, Infidel and Stagger team up in the final installment. One year, tops.

Second, for fans of my superhero fiction, I'm devoting this summer to you. 10 years ago this summer, Nobody Gets the Girl first saw publication. It vanished for several years, but since coming out as an ebook a few years ago it's gone on to become my top selling title. To celebrate the tenth year of publication, I've several events planned for this summer.

First, I've spent the last few weeks updating the ebook. The original publisher for Nobody is defunct, and I didn't have digital copies of the final edit, so to create the ebook I scanned in a printed copy. Alas, this introduced subtle errors that have been pointed out to me over the years. Most of it was trivial stuff. A word like "incoherent" might have been translated by the scan as "in coherent," which didn't trigger any warnings in a spell check. There were maybe two dozen of these little word errors. I also found a handful of places where paragraph breaks didn't translate. Not a huge problem, though once it blended two different speakers into the same paragraph, which probably confused some people. Finally, I while I left most of my original prose intact, I did allow myself a few tiny tweaks. I had too many sentences that started with "and," for instance.

I'm embarrassed that I had a less than perfect product on the market for so long. Anyone who has previously purchased the book has my sincere apology if these mistakes distracted you. I'll happily provided a free copy of the updated file to anyone who asks.

Next, right now I'm running a promotion through June 19 where I'm selling Nobody Gets the Girl for a mere 99 cents on Amazon. If you've never read the book, now's the chance to grab a copy. If you have read the book, now's a chance to tell a friend.

Next up: An audio version of Nobody Gets the Girl is in the works! Also, a new deluxe print edition with additional stories set in the world of Nobody. Both should be out before the end of August.

The biggest news of all, however, is that, after half a decade devoted to epic fantasy, I'm finally returning to superheroes with a brand new series of adventures set in a fresh new world. I've mentioned a book I'm working on called The Confessions of Cut-Up Girl. This is actually part of a larger series called Accidental Gods that will look at the lives of an eclectic collection of misfit superheroes trying to make sense of thier lives in a world where better superheroes have already eliminated all the supervillains. What's a superpowered girl to do with her life if all the bad guys are in jail?

As with Burn Baby Burn, I intend to post chapters of Accidental Gods to this blog once writing is underway. Break out your mask and cape and get ready for a fun summer!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Classics update

Since March, I've gone on to read and/or listen to Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Great Gatsby, the Old Man and the Sea, and the Tempest in their entirety, plus started and abandoned Walden and Beyond Good and Evil.

Dracula was amazing, for the first four chapters. Then the book suffers from a distinct dearth of Dracula. The hunt for Dracula feels more like a series of board meetings. Do we really need scenes where the characters transcribe notes from one medium to another for easier reference? There's staking to do, and we're yammering on about shorthand.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea had a similar imbalance. Interesting start, but the end just circles the drain, literally. I admit, it's pretty ballsy to end a novel with "I escaped the whirlpool, but don't remember how." Sheesh.

The Tempest: Meh. The problem was that Prospero is essentially omnipotent. Every other character in the book is essentially a puppet doing what he's manipulating them into doing. I really wound up feeling sorry for Kaliban.

Walden: I gave up four chapters in. For a book about living in harmony with nature, there sure are a lot of words devoted to accounting. Instead of being a celebration of living simply, it turned into a lot of boasting about how cheaply he can build a house and scolding the rest of mankind as being suckers for wanting frivolous stuff like a second pair of pants.

Beyond Good and Evil: Possibly over my head. The first chapters was mainly devoted to refuting other philosophies, and I wasn't sure where it was going, so I gave up.

The Great Gatsby: Believe it or not, I decided to listen to this completely unaware there was a movie in the works. I had a free credit on Audible and the book came up as a suggestion, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Very glad I gave it a shot. Beautiful language, complex characters, a plot that unfolds at just the right pace to keep me interested.

The Old Man and the Sea: Another audible suggestion. I'd read this book ages ago, either in High School or early in college. What a waste to read this book when you're young! It was my favorite of the most recent batch, the one that most resonated with me. The way you fight and fight for a what you think will be a big prize only to have sharks nibble it away to skeletons... yep. That's life, exactly.

Next up: I have no idea. Still contemplating War and Peace. But, I kind of enjoyed some of the shorter novels and plays, so I'm hesitant to make such a big commitment to one book when I might squeeze in three or four. Hopefully I'll decide by next week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Writing Class: The Rewrite: May 18, 10am, Orange County Library

On May 18, I'll be teaching my latest writing class at the Orange County Library in Hillsborough. This time my topic is rewriting. It's the toughest subject I've yet tackled, because every rewrite is going be different for every author. Still, I want to tackle it, because rewriting is where the real craft of writing comes into play. I think I've identified three at least three major areas that most rewrites should focus on, Flow, Focus, and Filters.

From the flier:

The Rewrite: Behind every great book is a great rewrite. The first draft throws raw clay upon the wheel, but later drafts spin this clay into a pot, coat it with glaze, and fire it, producing art. While every writer faces unique challenges in rewrites, in the course of bringing 10 novels to publication James Maxey has learned a thing or two about second, third, and even sixth drafts. He'll share tips, tricks, and excercises on how to take your original manuscript and turn it into a product ready to show readers.

If you're interested in joining this free class, call 919-245-3536 or register online at www.bt.ly/may18revise

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Oz Novel Update

Last week, I completed the second draft of my Oz novel, currently titled "Bad Wizard." It's 40 chapters long, 100,000 words, and, for the most part, I feel pretty good about it. I still need to tweak Dorothy's personality--she's kind of a blank slate in the original book, and for such a central character I feel bad that I don't have a firm grasp of her personal voice. She has a biography, she has politics and philosophies and goals, but what I don't have for her is any distinctive personality tick that would let you pick out her dialogue even if it wasn't attributed. (For an example of what I mean, if you read Greatshadow with all the dialogue tags removed, you could easily tell if the speaker was Stagger or Infidel or Zetetic. They have different attitudes and vocabularies.)

I think my problem is that I don't want her to be sassy and sarcastic, which would be the easy personality to place on her given her current role. But, when I play her as serious and driven, she comes across as flat given the insanity of events around her. Oh well. I'll figure it out.

Except for Dorothy being tough to pin down, the rest of the book crackles. I was worried about writing in a genuine historical setting, but think I manage to blend just enough historical fact in to make the fiction plausible without overloading the reader with boring details.

But, enough talking about it. There's another draft needing my attention. Onward!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dawn of Dragons First Chapter




CHAPTER ONE
DANGEROUS ANIMALS

THE DRAGON SLITHERED SILENTLY among the trees branches as the knight on horseback drew closer. A practiced hunter, the beast positioned himself downwind, with the setting sun at his back.
Not spooking the horse was the dragon’s top priority. The knight himself would be no threat, but experience had taught the beast the benefit of slaying the mount along with the rider. Horsemeat as a rule was more savory than the flesh of men. No doubt the diets of men spoiled their taste; most humans spent the better parts of their lives slowly poisoning themselves.

This knight looked to be no exception. Despite the gleaming, polished armor that glimmered ruby beneath the dimming sky, despite the sword and mace and crossbow that all hung within easy reach, it was obvious from his smell that this man posed no danger. He was sweating from the simple effort of wearing the armor and riding the horse. No doubt his sword arm was slow, his aim unsteady. This was just another deluded fool in a growing string of fools who had set out in pursuit of the dragon.

The knight grew ever closer to the dragon’s hiding place. The man’s eyes stayed on the path before him, oblivious to the danger above. As the knight passed below, the dragon was close enough that he could have dangled his tail and touched the rider’s helm.

With feline anticipation, the dragon tensed, his mouth opening slightly to reveal dagger-like teeth. His strike would be lightning-swift; the horse and rider would die before they ever understood their fate. The dragon’s claws sunk deeper into the branch as he shifted his body to pounce.

The knight’s phone rang.

“Goddammit,” grumbled the knight, pulling the reigns of his horse as he twisted in his saddle to better reach his saddlebag. He continued to curse softly as he rooted around the contents of the bag, only halting his obscenities when he shifted his helmet back and raised the phone to his ear.

“O’Brien here,” he said.

The dragon leaned closer, curious at this new development. His keen hearing allowed him to hear the voice on the other end of the line. A female voice. The knight’s mate, perhaps?

“Dammit, Martha,” said O’Brien. “You know not to call me when I’m working. You know I—what? What do you mean you know I’m not working? Jackson told you what? What?”

The woman’s voice on the other line told the knight what Jackson had revealed: O’Brien was spending several million dollars to pay for a vacation at the most exclusive hunt club on the planet. He’d explained his absence to his wife by claiming he was attending a business conference.

O’Brian sighed, and rubbed his temple.

“Fine,” he said. “So I’m hunting. Yes, you’re right, this is a goddamned mid-life crisis. Yes, I lied to you. Yes, I frivolously blew a huge wad of dough. But it’s my money, Martha. I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am and it’s time I started eating the fruit of my labor.”

The woman’s voice grew louder and angrier as the dragon lowered his long snaky neck to listen better. He was now close enough to see his toothy reflection in the knight’s polished helmet.

“Don’t take that tone with me,” snapped O’Brien. “I don’t need to explain myself. Tell Jackson I’d better not see his face when I come back to the office. I—”

Martha asked something the dragon strained to hear. Her mood had shifted. Her voice cracked with sorrow. Didn’t O’Brien trust her anymore?

“This isn’t the time to discuss this,” said O’Brien. “I’m hunting! There are dangerous animals here and it’s getting dark. I’m going to hang up. Don’t call me again. I mean it. Yes. Yes, consider that a threat. The prenuptial agreement is rock solid, Martha. You’ll do as I say and you’ll like it.”

The dragon had enough. Tensed muscles uncoiled as it leapt, spreading its wings at an angle that flipped it into the path of the knight, opening its jaws and emitting a hiss that caused the horse to rear.
O’Brien cursed as he fell from the saddle to the stony path. He curled into a fetal position to avoid the hooves as his horse turned and leapt over him. Martha was shouting from the fallen phone, her voice panicked. With a start, O’Brien unfolded himself and drew the sword from his scabbard, struggling to reach his feet as the dragon looked on with impatience.

“Good sir knight,” said the dragon, with a hissing British accent that was half Monty Python, half actual python. “Sheath your sword and heed my words.”

O’Brien’s mouth fell open.

“Your mate has called because she fears for your safety and you treat her with scorn,” said the dragon. “True knights were chivalrous, but your behavior is loutish in the extreme.”

“You talk,” said O’Brien.

“Or you’ve hit your head rather hard on the path,” said the dragon. “No, I jest. I am, indeed, speaking your native tongue. The monsters who designed me thought it a nice touch, as dragons in speculative literature are somewhat loquacious. But, sir, don’t allow your amazement over my vocalizations to distract you. Your behavior toward your wife is shameful. As one who dreams of knowing the love and affection of a devoted mate, I ask you to lift up that phone and apologize. Leave this place, and I shall not injure you. My offer of safe passage does not extend to your horse.”

“Ha!” said O’Brien, brandishing his sword. “Well, goddamn! A talking lizard.”

“You assume a martial position,” said the dragon. “I ask you to reconsider. Don’t act rashly. I’ve killed seventeen of your ilk. You haven’t a chance if you continue on this course of action.”

“Hee!” said O’Brien, licking his lips, shifting his grip on the sword. “You breathe fire, too? You making this hunt worth the money, lizard? Huh, lizard?”

“My name,” said the dragon, “is Morningstar.”

O’Brien screamed like he was auditioning for a kung fu movie as he lunged forward, swinging his razor sharp sword like a baseball bat.

Morningstar pushed backwards with a flap of his wings, raising up on his tail for balance as the sword cut the air where he’d stood. His hind claws lashed out, slicing through O’Brien’s steel breastplate like the world’s fastest can-opener.

O’Brien dropped the sword, falling to his knees as Morningstar swayed above him. The wanna-be knight dipped his gauntleted fingers into the jagged gash in his breastplate. He pulled them out to study them in the dying light. They dripped with red. His face grew pale.

Morningstar snaked his head forward, jaws wide open, and sank his teeth into O’Brien’s cheeks. With a snap and a crack, his jaws closed, and Morningstar’s mouth was filled with teeth and a tongue not his own. O’Brien fell to the stony path with a clatter.

Morningstar spit the foul taste of businessman from his mouth and silently moved toward the fallen phone. He lifted it, listening to Martha’s panicked voice. It nearly broke the dragon’s heart. How terrible it must be to lose a mate, even a rude and foolish one.

“Madam,” Morningstar said with all the softness his serpent voice could muster. “I regret to inform you of a tragic event.”

Enjoyed the preview? The book is now available on Kindle and Nook!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dawn of Dragons


Dawn of Dragons is now available as a solo ebook! It just went live today on Amazon, and should be available tomorrow on Barnes & Noble. This is a prequel to Bitterwood, set 1000 years before the event of that trilogy. Despite happening before the trilogy, it's best read as a postscript to those novels, as it sheds light on many of the secret underpinnings of the Bitterwood universe. Later this week, I'll be posting the first chapter here as a free preview, though, of course, there's no need to wait, since you can preview the first few chapters for free on Amazon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Interview with Dave Thompson, narrator of Bitterwood

Bitterwood has recently been released in audio format through Audible, Amazon, and ITunes. The narrator and producer was Dave Thompson, an editor at PodCastle and narrator of the audio books Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout and Briarpatch by Tim Pratt. Bitterwood is my first audio book, so I was glad to be partnered with someone who knew what he was doing. Translating a book into an audio performance is definitely an art form of its own, leaving me with several questions as to how Dave had pulled it off so masterfully. Fortunately, Dave was generous enough with his time to answer some of my questions:

JM: How did you get started in audiobook narration?

DT: I love the idea of reading stories to people of all ages. But adults - well, we don't get story time like we used to when we were children, and that's a shame, because a lot of us still love it. After my first kid was born, I discovered Escape Pod (a Science Fiction podcast), and loved listening to short stories on my commute. I had written a MG book, and decided to do a podcast of it, and loved the experience. Then I had the good fortune to start hosting and co-editing at PodCastle - Escape Pod's fantasy sister podcast. And I've loved reading stories there. Eventually, some of the authors I'd worked with published books, and those books never came out in audio, which really bummed me out. So when ACX arrived, I knew it was a big opportunity for me, and thought about those authors and those books, and asked if they were interested. Luckily, they were!

 

JM: Digging back even further, do you remember the first audio book you ever listened to? How did you feel about the whole notion of audiobooks then?

DT: Ha. The first audiobook I ever listened to was an abridged Dean Koontz novel that I absolutely despised (to this day I shudder when I read ABRIDGED in parenthesis)! That did me in for a while. But I got to see Neil Gaiman read a couple of times from his books, and that changed everything. Initially, I started listening to books I had read previously, and the first ones I remember were Gaiman's Anansi Boys and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. I liked both those books when I read them the first time, but I was FLOORED by listening to them. Lenny Henry's reading of Anansi Boys is one of the funniest things I've ever heard - he's hysterical. And I Am Legend is just absolutely brutal and chilling. Robertson Dean read that one, and it was a very flat and minimal read, which just added to the sheer horror of that story. It was just great. 

When I started getting really into audiobooks, I started off mainly listening to books I'd already read. But pretty quickly, I branched out, and now I find myself doing the primary portion of my reading through listening to books. 

 

JM: For me, the most amazing thing about your narration is the way you give all the characters unique voices, then stay in character through the whole book. This book has a couple of dozen characters with speaking parts. How did you decide what they sounded like? And how on earth did you keep track of them?

DT: Aw, man. Thanks so much for saying that! I generally consider myself a relatively minimalistic narrator, and I knew when I read Bitterwood, with the large cast of characters - a lot of them dragons - they'd need very distinct voices, and it would be a particular challenge I hadn't had a chance at yet. So I went through the book, and sounded out the characters, and tried to give them their own voices. Most of them came pretty naturally, really, which I put down to the writing! 

I had been reading the old Hobbit book - the picture book of the old animated movie - to my son over and over again, and I tried out some of the characters there. In the end, Vendevorex sounded an awful lot like Gandalf when I was reading my son the Hobbit. *laughs*

After I figured out what everyone should sound like, I created a separate file, and recorded sound bites of the major characters so I could refer to them whenever I needed. Some characters I didn't really need to refer to - like Bant, Metron, and Albekizahn - there were certain lines from the story that really just anchored their voice. But even so, I used that character index file a lot!


JM: It's interesting that you talk about minimalism, since that was one of the things that really attracted me to your audition. The book opens in a rather emotionally charged scene but you read it without slipping into melodrama, managing to be both subdued and energetic while letting the words do the real work of conveying the drama. Even though you use different voices for the characters, they're very subtle. Can you give me an example of a line you came across when you first went through the book that revealed a voice to you?

DT: Thank you! Well, the letter Bant started writing to Recanna was incredible. Reading that - I'm pretty sure right from the get go - I knew exactly how Bant should sound, and felt like that was a really strong anchor for him. Whenever I worried he was sounding too gravelly or something, I'd just take a breath, say "Dear Recanna," and slip right back into it.  

JM: What's your work process like? How many hours of work does it take to record a 13 hour audiobook?

DT: *LAUGHS* I don't know if I want to answer that question! It took me several full weekends to record. That's not straight recording, of course, it's preparation and practice and all that too. The editing is the difficult, time consuming part for me. If a chapter ended up being an hour of a raw, unedited recording, it takes me about 3-4 hours to edit it down. I'd guess editing was about 60 hours of work. 

JM: Amazon has recently introduced a feature called Whispersynch for audio that lets Kindle users switch back and forth between audio editions and ebooks without losing their place. This was an innovation I'd never even thought of until it arrived. What kind of changes do you see coming in the world of audiobooks?

DT: Whispersynch is a really cool technology that I have to admit completely baffles me. I have a hard time imagining jumping between text and audio, to be honest. I love reading and I love listening to books, but I haven't yet been tempted to stop listening and read one, or vice versa. 

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about DRM free eBooks, which is great. But whenever I read about a publisher or author proudly announcing that they're eBook is DRM free, my first thought is always "Great, but what about the audiobook?" It would make me incredibly happy if Audible (and the book publishers) dropped DRM from audiobooks. There are currently other, lesser known audiobook sites - Downpour being the biggest one I'm familiar with.

I'm also really curious about Kickstarter. I see a lot of authors Kickstarting their books, which is very exciting for me as a fan. I wonder if there's some kind of way for audiobook to do that too. It's a bit weird with audiobooks, because there's more than just the author involved, but I think it would be a really interesting concept. Right now the biggest drawback is that I don't believe Audible would agree to sell the audiobook afterward, the way an eBook can easily be sold in the Kindle/B&N/Apple stores after the Kickstarter. So it feels like a less accessible item than an eBook might. Unless audiobook stores open the doors.


JM: I know you've just had a new addition to your household. Congratulations! Not many people have a new book and a new baby launched on the same day. I'm sure you're taking a little time off from recording, but when will you be back in the microphone and have you decided what your next project will be?

DT: Ha! It was really a surprise that it happened like that! I didn't expect Audible to release the book for another week or so, so here I was checking into the hospital with my wife and my phone starts buzzing with notifications from my fellow AudioBookaneer Sam congratulating me on the release of Bitterwood. And I'm thinking - wow, this is an experience - a baby and a book in one day. That'll never happen to me again! 

But yeah, I've taken a little time off since then. I actually talked with my co-editor at PodCastle several months back to see if I could take some recording time off there. I'm still helping select stories and getting readers, but not recording anything myself for a little while. 

That'll only last so long, though! I'm hoping to do Middle Grade reader by my friend Greg van Eekhout, whose book Norse Code I read. It would be great to have recorded a book my kids can listen to! After that...well, I think I read somewhere there might be a sequel or two to Bitterwood? So fingers crossed!


If you'd like to hear a sample of Dave's reading, you can listen to an excerpt on Audible. Just click the "sample" button beneath the cover.


 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bitterwood: The Complete Collection



Bitterwood: The Complete Collection just went live today on Amazon. (Sorry Nook users. I submitted the files to B&N at the same time but am still waiting on their approval. Maybe tomorrow.)

This omnibus edition contains all three novels of the Bitterwood Trilogy, plus:

"Tornado of Sparks," the prequel short story that first appeared in the Solaris Book of New Fantasy

Dawn of Dragons, a novel set 1000 years before the Dragon Age, following the adventures of the first dragon, a partially dead veterinarian, and a shotgun toting nun.

"Building a Better Dragon," an essay I wrote several years ago explaining the scientific underpinnings of my fantasy creations.

All this for a mere $7.99, the price of one of the original solo paperbacks. If you're one of the thousands of readers who've downloaded Bitterwood for free as an ebook, the $7.99 is still less than the $9.96 you'd pay for the other three novels plus the short story. 

If you've already purchased the Bitterwood trilogy and don't want to shell out for the collection just to read Dawn of Dragons, don't despair. My editor is making a revision to the front matter of a solo edition, but I anticipate it will be live in a day or two.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Classics update

I mentioned in a previous post that I was devoting this year to reading classics I've somehow skipped over in my literary education. I started with Pride and Predjudice, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moraeu, and Tarzan of the Apes.

The most recent books I've read are The Jungle, Wuthering Heights, and Frankenstein.

Frankenstein was the most tedious to the projects. The only interesting part of the book is the monster waxing poetic from time to time. To much of the plot relies on Victor just being a dolt.

Wuthering Heights was also something of a slog, but it did contain sufficient levels of emotional drama to keep me going. Heathcliff is a pretty interesting character, and the scenery described in the book is a character itself.

The Jungle was the best of the three, and also the worst. The first half of the book was amazing. But, after a while, the deck feels stacked. The characters experience so many tragedies that they stopped being real people to me and just started being object lessons, puppets being manipulated to make the authors larger argument. It was very similar to Atlas Shrugged in that aspect. The last few chapters fo the novel are just dreadful. Does anyone actually read all the socialist lectures at the end? My eyes just glazed over. The protagonist, Jurgis, just absolutely disappears as a distinct character. He's just a cog in the machinery of socialism. Of course, in the early parts of the book, he was just a cog in the machinery of capitalism, but at least in those chapters he had dreams and ambitions of his own. At the end, he's just a brainwashed, broken, and ghostly as Winston at the end of 1984. The book makes a convincing case that unrestrained capitalism is a cruel system for the poor, but it unintentially makes the case that socialism strips men of their identities and individuality. It's a pity; it really was the most readable and interesting of the books I've read this year, if only I'd stopped midway through the book.

Coming soon: Dracula and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. After that, I'm contemplating something really big, like War and Peace. But, I don't know if I want to devote myself to one big book, or choose a couple of small ones. We'll see what mood in in come April.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bitterwood now available on Audible!


I'm excited to announce that Bitterwood is now available on Audible! It's also coming soon to I-tunes. Narrator Dave Thompson does an impressive job of bringing to life the large cast of characters. You can buy the book for a mere $24.95, or, if you join Audible for the bargain price of $7.49, you can make the book your free download for the month. The book is 14 hours long, so that's barely a penny a minute for top notch audio entertainment. How can you not afford to buy this book right now?

The surest way to ensure that Dragonforge and Dragonseed will follow Bitterwood into audio is for the first book to do well, so, if you're a fan, help spread the word! Reviews will be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Calvacade of Covers!

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to release Dawn of Dragons, the novel set 1000 years before Bitterwood, as it's own title. Today, I'm giving you a sneak peak at the cover:

 
Of course, this is also going to be part of the Complete Bitterwood Collection, which will include 4 novels, a short story, and an essay. For that, I've purchased the rights to use the original Bitterwood cover artwork. Currently, that cover looks like this:

 
 
Alas, I can't afford the rights to the cover for other editions of the book. My wife hates my current Bitterwood ebook covers, so I've been trying out some new designs and this is one she approves of:


Thoughts? Comments?

Wise readers needed

I'm currently on the second draft of my Oz novel,  Title To Be Determined. Snappy title, no? I was calling it War Upon the Heavens, but that seems pretentious. Currently my top candidate is Bad Wizard but I'm not completely thrilled with that. There's something flippant about it to my ear. A Very Bad Wizard, perhaps? But that seems heavyhanded. Sigh. I have faith the name will eventually come to me. The last novel I really struggled to give a title to was Nobody Gets the Girl, and that worked out okay.

This story is set ten years after the original novel. I skip all the Oz sequels; in my book, Dorothy and the Wizard (Oscar Diggs is his real name) have both returned to earth. Diggs has become a charismatic politician who has swiftly risen to become Secretary of War under Teddy Roosevelt. Dorothy is a muck-raking reporter bent on exposing Diggs as a fraud and a humbug, having learned of his true nature when she asked him for help as an eleven year old and he sent her off to die rather than revealing his secret. In his position as Secretary of War, Diggs is overseeing the construction of a fleet of airships. Roosevelt thinks they will be used to project American power overseas; Diggs' true intentions are to use the airships to return to Oz and take back the throne of the Emerald City. Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow all have major roles. The original Toto has passed away, but there's now a Toto Two. And Dorothy shares her protagonist duties with a hairy carnival aeronaut known as the Flying Monkey. Lot's of in-jokes, though the story isn't as overtly humorous as Greatshadow. The emphasis is on action and exploring how their pasts have changed all the characters.

If you'd like to read this second draft, I'll be sending out 6-10 chapters a week starting late next week. I'd like feedback on all the chapters I send out within two weeks. I'm not looking for any type of line editing. All I need at this stage is reaction to the overall stories. Do you understand the characters? Do you care about them? Does the plot flow naturally? Are there things that confuse you? What expectations am I creating as the story rolls along? At this drafting stage, there will be lots of typos and ugly sentences, but there's no point in suggesting line level changes since I could chop just about any given page on the way to the third draft.

If you're interested in reading, drop me a line at nobodynovelwriter(at)yahoo.com. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bitterwood Audio Update


Over the last two weeks, I've been listening to Dave Thompson's amazing reading of Bitterwood. This wasn't an easy book to bring to audio. I have a cast with a couple of dozen named characters with speaking parts, ranging from a 10 year old human girl to a 100 year old sun dragon to a 1000 year old Biblical prophet. Dave floored me with his ability to create subtle differences between all the various characters. He really captures the bluster of Albekizan, the ghostly growl of Bitterwood, and the intellectualism of Vendevorex. And wait until you hear his Blasphet! Holy cow! Exactly the right touch of creepy, over-the-top villainy without losing Blasphet's underlying dark humor.

We've uploaded the files to ACX and now have to wait out their approval process, which can take a few weeks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed they approve it quickly.

I've posted the cover above. I paid award-winning artist Michael Komark for the rights to use the original cover artwork. I altered the type to make it fit the required square format. I'm pretty pleased with the final result, and really hope that the cover will make it stand out among the new releases when it's available.

I've also shelled out the dough to use the same cover art for the Bitterwood omnibus edition. Tomorrow, I'll post an update on that. I finished editing Dawn of Dragons, over the weekend (it was a busy weekend). Dawn of Dragons is the new title of the Bitterwood prequel formerly known as Empire of Angels. I had originally planned to include the book only as part of the omnibus edition, but I felt like that would be a little unfair to all the readers who've already paid for the first three books, so I've decided to go ahead and release the novel as a standalone as well. I also plan to eventually release a print edition, though that might have to wait until I finish my Oz novel and my next superhero novel.

Tomorrow, I'll post the covers for Dawn of Dragons and the omnibus edition.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dungeon Crawlers Radio

This week, I was a guest on Dungeon Crawlers Radio. This is a weekly hour long show featuring SF and Fantasy games, movies, comic, books, and other geeky interests. It was a lot of fun talking about my days playing AD&D and my comic book addiction, plus a curious little diversion to discuss Pride and Prejudice. I may have also mentioned my own books a time or two as well. If you'd like to listen to the interview, you can find the episode by following this link.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A return to classics

Being a writer as changed the way I read. When I was young, I devoured books visually. I would scan my eyes along a page of text and the meaning would flow into my mind. I didn't really have an intervening step where I would "hear" the words represented on the page. As a result, I was a very efficient reader, easily going through five to ten books in a week. 

But when I actually started writing, my style of reading actually held me back. As the written word to me was merely a visual code, my writing has no music to it, no real flow or rhythm. It wasn't until I started reading my work out loud during my editing process that I reconnected the audible portion of writing in my own work. Now, it's second nature for me to hear the words I'm writing. A side effect of this is that I now also hear books I'm reading, and this is a much slower process of going through a book than my old habits. A book that I might have devoured in an afternoon now takes me a week or two to get through. There are advantages to this... I've discovered some of the beauty of good writing that had previously been lost to me. The downside is, I can't fit as many books into a year as I'd like. 

This year, I've made a decision to devote the whole year to reading old classics that I've somehow missed reading up until now. So far, I've read Pride and Prejudice, The Time Machine, and the Island of Dr. Moreau. Now, I've started in on Tarzan of the Apes. If the book isn't at least a century old, it probably won't make it onto my list for the year. 

I kind of feel guilty that I'm ignoring novels coming out this year. After all, many of them are by other writers who are my friends. And, there's something to be said for the importance of a writer understanding what work is being published currently. But, I turn 49 this year. Do I really want to turn 50 and say I've never read  Frankenstein? Or Wuthering Heights? It's not as if I have no foundation among classics. I could list a hundred important books I have read. But, the number of important books I haven't read far outnumbers those I have. Of course, this will still be true even if I somehow recovered my old five novel a week speed. Still, it's a worthwhile project. I'll post my progress as the year proceeds. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

February Events-Signed Books Available.

I've got a couple of appearances coming up in February. First, next Monday, Feb 4, at 6pm Mountain Time I'll be a guest on Dungeon Crawlers Radio. You can find out more about the show and stream old episodes here. I've been listening to some of their archived episodes and can assure you they are full of geeky goodness.

My next convention appearance will be Mysticon in Roanoke, VA, the weekend of Feb 22-24. I don't have my final schedule yet, but this is going to be a pretty crazy con with big guests like Orson Scott Card and Peter Davidson. Read more about this here.

Finally, I just recorded a reading for Gail Z. Martin's Ghost in the Machine podcast. I'm not certain yet of the date this will be scheduled, but I'll let you know as soon as I know. You can find out more about Gail's podcast here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

War Upon the Heavens! First draft finished!

After racing through the first 50,000 words in November, December was distraction central, between car problems and multiple plumbing issues at our rental house, not to mention that every third night we were supposed to go to some holiday party or event. I kind of stopped counting, but I think I came in well shy of 20,000 words for the month. Things were more normal in January, but the last few weeks I've been trying to figure out the closing chapters. You know the expression "painting yourself into a corner?" The last chapters of a novel feel very much like this. In the opening chapters, it's easy to put words on the page because everything is new and fresh and the possibilities are endless. But, by the last four or five chapters, the possibilities shrink. You might think that having fewer options about what you need to be writing would increase productivity, but for me, this is the point in the process where writing stops feeling like creation and starts feeling like work. On every page, I confront choices I made earlier in the novel and have to decide if I'm going to write as if what's already written is canon, or whether it's time to go with a new idea. If I make choose the latter, that means big chunks of what I already have on paper are going to have to be tossed out in the next draft. I sometimes feel like the more I write, the more I'm unwriting.

Enough whining. I'm done! The first draft is 99028 words long, spread out over 21 chapters. I'm currently calling the novel "War Upon the Heavens," since that's a newspaper headline that Dorothy writes when she's breaking the story that the US is building a fleet of airships. But, it may be a bit melodramatic even for me. Fortunately, I have time to hunt for more inspiration.

The biggest challenges I anticipate in the next draft is that the balance of scenes set in Kansas versus scenes set in Oz feel off to me. Right now, it takes a full third of the book before the characters make it to Oz, and it's the middle of the novel before they actually arrive anyplace a person with only casual familiarity to Oz might recognize. Trying to figure out what to cut from the opening is going to be tough, though. I'll probably have to solve it by beefing up the second half, so that the Kansas chapters are only a quarter of the novel.

My other big, big, big challenge is giving Dorothy a more satisfying emotional story arc. Right now, a major driver of her actions is a thirst for revenge, a functional but not terribly complex motivation. She doesn't really grow emotionally over the course of the book. I have a little "moral of the story" wrap up at the end where she finds a little happiness, but it feels tacked on at the moment. I know what I'm going to aim for in the next draft, but weaving it into the plot in a way that doesn't hurt the momentum of the story or muddy the clarity of her motivations is going to be tricky.

I'm going to take a little time away from this project before I start the second draft. My next project is to do a final edit on "Empire of Angels," the Bitterwood prequel novel. My goal is to really hit that hard in the coming week. It's vaguely possible I can actually finish it in a week. All I'm doing is reading it out loud and making sentence level changes, but it's been years since I've touched the book, and it's difficult to know how much I'll be able to resist additional tinkering.

Once that's done, I'm still deciding what my next priority will be. Tackling the next draft of the Oz novel is something I'd like to do sooner rather than later. But, I also have another superhero novel, The Adventures of Cut-Up Girl, that I'm really, really eager to get to. So, I might go ahead and write the first draft of that, then return to Oz after a few months. It's possible that the intervening time will help me approach the next draft feeling fresher. But, it's also possible that I might lose momentum. It's a tough choice. I guess I'll do an update here when I figure it out.