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), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. 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. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Little Bragging

I've got three bits of bragging to do.

First, the Intergalactic Medicine Show signing was a solid success. We sold out the anthology over the course of the night. Alas, I only sold one copy of Bitterwood; that's all the store could get their hands on, apparently. I see that Amazon has switched from "in stock" to "usually ships in 2-3 weeks." I was told that Solaris was about to order another printing; I guess this print run has almost sold out. Anyway, I could write more about the signing, but fellow signers Ed Schubert and Scott Roberts have both written about it on their blogs, so click on their names if you'd like to see photos, etc.

Second: I'm finally in a Best of the Year anthology! Rich Horton has selected my story "Silent as Dust" published in January at IGMS for inclusion in the Fantasy: Best of the Year 2009 anthology. You can read the full table of contents here. Until now, I've never even got an honorable mention in any "Best of" collection. Now I wish I'd written more short stories this year.

Finally: Dragonforge is on the long-list of nominees for the David Gemmell Legend Award. After Christmas, visitors to the website can vote on books on the long-list to determine which books wind up on the short list. The short list will then be judged by a panel of pros, and the winner announced next summer. While voting hasn't started, if you go now and sign up as a member of the site, you have a shot at winning all the titles on the long list. That's about 70 books; an impressive collection by any standard. After you sign up, you can discuss books in the forum. So, if you had a favorite--say perhaps a book about a lovesick dragon, a woman who was raised as a dragon, and a world-weary dragon-hunter--you could use the forum to tell folks how swell the book is.

I have no clue if I stand a shot at this thing. There are best selling authors on the list who will probably shoot to the top of the voting fairly quickly. Still, it's an honor just to be on the list.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Signing in Greensboro, December 5

Just a reminder that I'll be in Greensboro on Friday, December 5, at the Barnes and Noble at 7pm. Orson Scott Card is the main attraction, with Ed Schubert, Scott Roberts, and yours truly participating in the signing of the Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology, as well as pimping our own books.

In other news, a podcast of part of my lecture to the Odyssey Fantasy Writer's Workshop this summer is now online. To quote from the site: James Maxey was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2008. During his visit, James shared the struggles and successes of his writing career and offered a lot of great advice to developing writers. In this podcast, James explains that editors don't judge a piece by a new writer the same way they judge a piece by a successful writer. Because a new writer has to prove his competence, a strong opening is critical. To create a strong opening, an author must engage multiple senses and provide vivid descriptions to bring the reader into the story. James reviews the many tasks that an opening must accomplish and explores some of the ways that the author can accomplish these tasks. He describes some of the traps that authors fall into when writing openings. He also reveals a simple and powerful technique to draw the reader in and reveal key information in an opening.

If you'd like to hear it for youself, click here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dragon Biology

Peggy at the science fiction in biology blog mentioned Bitterwood today in a post about biologically plausible dragons. Alas, the link she points readers to is broken. I suspect she was directing them to a post I wrote over a year ago called "Building a Better Dragon." This essay examines some of the underlying biological plausibility of my beasties, such as why I went with a four limbed dragon instead of a six limbed one, and why my dragons don't breathe fire.

Peggy's article mainly talks about an Animal Planet fake documentary about dragons that came out a few years ago. I saw it right around the time Bitterwood came out. It was interesting, but they really bent over backwards to explain the dragon fire-breathing. They are correct to point out that animals can produce methane and hydrogen in their digestive tracks, but, as Peggy's blog points out, what's going to ignite it when the dragon burps it up? Cow's burp out enough methane to be potential firebreathing menaces, but they have failed, alas, to develop teeth made from flint and steel.

However! Frat boys have for many years lit their farts with lighters. Suppose you had a vegetarian dinosaur that could belch out twenty times as much methane as a cow, and suppose that that dinosaur had evolved to tool-using intelligence. If it could learn to flick a zippo with it's tongue... hmm. Perhaps a mix of biological fuel and technological ignition could make a plausible fire-breather after all.

Damn. I might have to write another book to explore this possiblity. An alternate earth ruled by super-intelligent giant bovines who fight their former primate overlords with fiery belches. On that world, the most chilling sound any man can hear is "mooo-fwhooosh!"

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Mission Statement

I was invited by John Ottinger at "Grasping for the Wind" to write a guest blog about the themes in my writing. He's just posted the article, in which I reveal my mission statement.

The actual mission statement is this:

James Maxey is committed to delivering to readers aged fifteen and older fast-paced, adventure-driven fiction interwoven with subversive philosophies intended to overthrow the dominant social order and tear down ideas that many people consider sacred.

In the essay I break it down into its various elements. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bonus Chapbooks!

I had to wait for Robo-Bobo to get back from the polls. He created quite a fuss when he found out that imaginary cybernetic monkeys weren't allowed to vote in North Carolina. He's currently retreated to the attic with a large bottle of rum, a blender, and a whole crate of bananas.

But, before he slinked off, he drew two names from the hat, haikuists who will receive the two Final Flight of the Blue Bee chapbooks. The winners are:

Corey Redekop and Liz Tetley!

Liz had a poem in the Young Heroes in Love anthology and Corey, being an overachiever, has had at least one haiku in each of the other anthos.

Right now, I'm going to sign off and go sample a banana rum smoothie while I watch the election results. However, keep watching this space for news in the coming days. I've some Dragonseed related news coming up soon, and some superhero news in development as well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Legion of Superpoems!

This week's winner is:

Zach Welhouse!

Zach had a haiku in the Young Heroes in Love collection, so he'll be getting a signed copy of Nobody Gets the Girl as well as the Final Flight of the Blue Bee chapbook.

I had a basic flaw in the contest in that I made the chapbooks bonuses for the contest to encourage people to submit haiku, but didn't actually require the haiku to enter. I suppose I could have rigged the drawings, but I played it fair, leaving it up to luck. So, I still have two chapbooks left. I'll give these away next week, drawing from among the haiku writers who've submitted to date.

This week, it's time to throw themes and caution to the wind and post the largest superhero haiku anthology yet. Seriously, I've googled, and if anyone has yet assembled a bigger superhero haiku collection that the one I'm about to post, I've yet to find it. I wonder if I should contact the Guiness Book of World Records?

My all time favorite superteam is Legion of Superheroes. Thus, I'm excited to present this week's collection:

The Legion of Superpoems!

We start with a second poem by Zach:

I walk through time:
get rich, end war, do it right.
Where are my Time Boots?

Mingyun Jack was also in the first anthology, but that wasn't his only notable entry:

a superhero:
because who else can battle
psychic gorillas

Lex Luthor's stolen
forty cakes - ten times four cakes
and that's terrible

Fellow IGMS author Eric James Stone reaches back to one of the earliest superheroes for his haiku:

Superhero of the Greeks
Had Achilles' heel.

And I have just one thing to say about this poem from Bruce Press: Spooon!

A mighty big cheese
saving the day in blue tights
not Clark, it's the TICK!

Benjamin seems to be getting into the spirit of things:

All bad guys BEWARE!
I'm lurking in the shadows
And soon I will pounce!

Nuno Fonseca gives us this seasonally appropriate entry:

They say October
Is the superhero month
But leaves do still fall

Cheryl Morgan sums up the plot lines of about a zillion comics:

Evil genius meets
Mild mannered alter ego
On comic book page

Internationally acclaimed blogger Mr. Cavin offered several entries, including this dynamic duo:

Is Antidise-
ism Man abolished?

What the...?!? Dr. Kill--
He's naked! Oh wait--heat beams
Come from the left eye.

Krista Hoeppner Leahy offers this useful advise:

Superhero tip:
To conceal identity,
think of names as masks.

J.F. Lewis, author of Staked, writes about what we all know we'd do with x-ray vision:

X-ray vision rocks
fear my voyeuristic side
wear lead underpants.

SF author Rick Novy gives us this simple truth:

What Superman can
give like nobody else can
Atomic Wedgie.

Samir Malak has a wall-crawling entry:

spider bites peter parker
friendly neighbor, swings

And we'll give the last word to Corey Redekop:

I yearn to fight crime.
My power? Penis laser!
So misunderstood.

Because, really, after that, what else is there to say?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cherry Red Rocket Ship available as a bonus!

Gail Z. Martin, author of the popular Chronicles of the Necromancer series, has put together a digital bonus basket for people who preorder her books. She got a bunch of fellow authors to contribute chapters or stories from their worlds, and if you preorder her latest book, Dark Haven, you will get digital versions of all these bonus works.

It looks like everyone else chipped in works from their novels. I didn't. I instead am making my short story Cherry Red Rocket Ship available. This is a story I've never published anywhere before, though I have read it frequently at cons because it's short and funny. CRRS has absolutely no connection to my dragon books. There is a very short appearance by a blue dinosaur, but no dragons. I didn't want to put up a Dragonseed excerpt, because I don't have cover art yet, and I haven't finished the line edits, let alone the gallies. I could have contributed a chapter from Dragonforge, but, really, free chapters of that are already available at Solaris, plus the book also has a "search inside" feature at Amazon that lets you read any chapter inside, so it didn't feel like it was that much of a bonus, since it's something you can get for free already. However, right now, there really is no other way to get a copy of Cherry Red Rocket Ship other than to order this book. If you must read everything I've ever written (and, honestly, why shouldn't you?), then click on this link for more information about ordering Dark Haven.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Never Ending Battle

Robo Bobo clicks and whirrs and ... draws the name Shara Saunsaucie! Congrats! This is my second winner not to have entered a haiku, however. I may have a special drawing to give away the two left over chapbooks that resulted.

In last weeks mini-antho, I left out a haiku I had intended to print! It came from Corey Redekop, author of the novel Shelf Monkey:

Hey, Superman, dude!
How is it your costume there
doesn't get sweaty?

I missed it because Corey had sent in another one focused on the motivation of a hero, and I had put his printed email into that pile, which I'm diving into this week. This week, we take a look at some of the reasons men and women go into fighting crime. And, in a few cases, why the bad guys keep up their end of the never ending battle. Thus, this week's haiku anthology:

The Never Ending Battle

First, we start with the classic noble and tragic reasons to wear a mask and fight for justice:

Gwen Stacy's snapped neck
Great responsibility
Drives Peter Parker
--Bruce Press

Protecting the World
Using their mighty Powers.
They suffer alone.
--Michell Plested

Saving many lives,
A hero can never rest,
If he wants world peace.
--KisS oF PaRaDiSe

And, of course, there may be a hero or two who are in it just for the applause:

Red cape and blue tights
Symbol of might on my chest
The glory of all
--Gina Teh

Villians have their own motivations as well:

Superheroes won't go away
My evil plot guarantees today
I will rule them all.
--Jalen Jade

If I use my ray
And make Superman evil
He still won't like me.
--Jeremy Cavin

We'll give the last word to Corey, who seems to have a special insight into our caped crusaders:

I'm wealthy and bored
with a fetish for latex.
Guess I'll go fight crime.
--Corey Redekop

One week to go! Keep sending in haiku! Next week, it's the Legion of Superpoems! More haiku than even Hulk could smash!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Seven Secrets of the Well-Dressed Hero

I've had a rough time starting Robo-Bobo this morning. He's sluggish in cold weather, I fear. But, I eventually jolted him to life with coffee and jumper cables, and he reached into the hat and drew the name:

Ruth Ann Francis!

Ruth Ann wins both the novel and the chapbook by entering this rather zen haiku:

I'm no good at Haikus so
I'll just enter now.

It's not superhero themed, true, but it's clever. It made me smile, as did many of the entries I recieved on a specific subtopic of the superhero life. For many of you, the definining element of the superhero proves to be: It's all about the costume.

I wracked my brain trying to think of some superteam that had something to do with tailors, but I drew a blank. The best I could come up with was the Loom Patrol, but that's such a dreadful pun I dare not reveal it to anyone. Forget you ever read it. So, without further ado:

Seven Secrets of the Well-Dressed Hero

Masks, gloves, and coifed hair
Skin-tight suits and blowing capes
super fashion soars

Wanted: Hero togs
Tights, Tiara, Gloves, Cape, Mask
of Darkness and Stars
--Krista Heoppner Leahy

Just what we needed:
Another front page story
In red underwear
--Jeremy Cavin

A hole in the rain
Fists bunched in black leather
One man duels the night

Signal in the sky
Cape, cowl, now it's time to fly
Up, up, and away!

The spandex and tights
are difficult to explain
at the laundromat.
--Allie Jones

Clad in tights and boots
I challenge the crimelords and...
Why all the laughter?
--Corey Redekop

And, while the title of this mini-antho would seem to limit me to the seven haiku already posted, I feel I can't close the book on costumes without this one last thought:

Cries for help? I'm... damn!
Where have all the phonebooths gone?
Agh! Curse you, cellphones!
--Marc Gascoigne

If your haiku hasn't been printed yet, don't despair! More are coming next week. And, everyone who has entered is still eligible for the next two drawings. Good luck!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Well, this is a first....

Kim Raginski sent me an email saying that Bitterwood and Dragonforge had inspired her to try to recreate my dragons in the game Spore.

She sent me links to the following images

This is definitely a first for me!

Another first I'm going to announce now is that I'll be doing a shared signing at the Barnes and Noble in Greensboro at 7pm on December 5th to promote the IGMS anthology. I'll be there with fellow author Scott Roberts and editor Edmund Schubert and some guy named Orson Scott Card. Mark this one on your calendars. It should be good.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Young Heroes in Love!

Robo-Bobo got up bright and early this morning to draw a name from one of the many, many entries to the Nobody Gets the Girl give-away. Our first winner is...

Lynette Mejia!

A book is heading your way, Lynette!

Next... haiku. Back in May June, when this blog did dragon-haiku, I had a respectable turnout of twenty some poems. This time, after author Mur Lafferty, of Playing for Keeps fame, announced this contest on her blog, I got twenty haiku in a single day! I'm dividing them up thematically and will be presenting them in little mini anthologies throughout the month.

We'll launch with a handful of poems about the love lives of our masked avengers I'm calling:

Young Superheroes in Love

Hand in frozen hand,
you never saw me smile when
the freeze ray caught us
--Zach Wellhouse

He flies off again
Leaving the girl alone, sigh,
Always flies away.
--Liz Tetley

dating a hero:
not all it's cracked up to be
watch out for fridges
--Mingyun Jack

ebon darkness falls
on the girl nobody got
void only remains
--Stephen James

big man with tight shorts
born with speed and strength
he must mask his love
--Thom Allen

Finally, a plug for a the Ghost in the Machine podcast of fellow author Gail Z. Martin, author of the Summoner and the Blood King. Gail interviewed me for her podcast last spring and the episode just went live. You can find out what I sound like by clicking here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Somebody Gets the Girl... in October!

The five year anniversary of the publication of my debut novel, Nobody Gets the Girl, is near! Officially released October 28, 2003, Nobody Gets the Girl was a superhero novel that hit bookshelves when stand-alone superhero novels were a true rarity. The book immediately ran into marketing problems... bookstores didn't know where to store it. I'd find it sometimes in the graphic novel section of bookstores, which must have been a shock for people picking up the book and finding there were no pictures inside. I went to a used bookstore called Edward McKay's in Greensboro just last week and found a copy in the graphic novel section, so the confusion continues to this day.

Yet, five years later, people are still discovering the novel and I continue to get emails and people coming up to me at conventions telling me how much they enjoyed the book. It's slowly built up a loyal following among fans of superhero fiction who appreciate the tone of the book--it's more tribute than parody, taking a serious look at the possibility of superheroes tackling some of the world's biggest problems, yet maintaining the playful, anything-goes feeling of the comic books I loved when I was a kid (and, okay, still love).

Here's the premise: Richard Rogers, an average Joe with dreams of being a stand-up comic, wakes up one morning in a bed that isn't his own. Worse, he's in bed with two complete strangers who carry on with their morning as if they don't notice him, because, he soon discovers, he's become a ghost, invisible and intangible. As confusing as his situation is, things take a darker turn when he discovers what's really going on. A theoretical physicist named Dr. Knowbokov shows up and informs Richard that his life has been erased by a time machine accident. When Dr. Knowbokov made a voyage back in time, a chance interaction with a man he never even laid eyes on wound up altering the chain of events that led to Richard's conception. Richard is now trapped in a reality in which he was never born, a ghost who isn't even remembered by his own parents or his former wife. Dr. Knowbokov is the only man who can still see him... until it's discovered that the good Doctor's two daughters also possess the ability to see, hear, and touch Richard, due to the geneticly similar brain structures they share with their father. Oh, and the two daughters are also superheroes. The eldest is Rail Blade, who has the power of ferokenisis, the ability to control all iron, and even to create iron out of then air by manipulating the quantum froth of reality. Rail Blade is a deadly serious, grim and gritty soldier type superhero, aware that her great powers give her great responsibility and feeling as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders. The younger sister, the Thrill, has been born with the power to make anyone who obeys her feel intense waves of pleasure. It's not quite mind control, but few people ever have the willpower to say no to the Thrill. The Thrill is in many ways the opposite of her sister--sarcastic rather than serious, more concerned with fun than with duty, and not above using her powers for petty reasons.

Richard gets recruited by Dr. Knowbokov to join his odd little superhero clan, serving as the unseen, untouchable spy codenamed Nobody. Richard is soon swept up into a war against superpowered terrorists organized by the mysterious mastermind Rex Monday. The book is a fast paced thrill ride as Richard winds up making life and death decisions in which the stakes grow increasingly high; cities will fall and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

In the end, who can save us?


To celebrate the anniversary, I'm giving away copies of Nobody Gets the Girl every Tuesday in October. On the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th, I'll reactivate Robo-Bobo, the name-picking monkey to draw names out of the virtual hat. If you want to enter, just shoot an email to nobodynovelwriter@yahoo.com with the header "Nobody Giveaway." Also, to celebrate all things superheroic in October, I'm soliciting superhero haiku! Just as I published dragon themed haiku in June to celebrate the release of Dragonforge, I'm looking for a few good lines celebrating everyone's favorite men in tights. For those of you who need a refresher, haiku is a type of poetry that consists of three lines, five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. You don't have to send in a poem to enter the contest, but if you do, and your name is drawn, I'll not only send you a free copy of Nobody, I'll throw in a very rare, limited-edition, signed chapbook of my superhero tale Final Flight of the Blue Bee. How rare? I'm only printing 4 copies. How's that for rare?

To warm you up, here's a few superhero haiku of my own:

What makes felons flee?
Underwear worn over tights.
Batman's true power.


Sirens at midnight
the earth shakes as a man leaps
and catches a train


Skyscraper swinging
Spiderman's greatest joy
He hates the suburbs

I'm hoping you can do better! Bring it on!

Monday, September 22, 2008


My short story "Final Flight of the Blue Bee," which first appeared in Asimov's, has been reprinted online at Diakaijuzine. It's a superhero story, so if any of you are fans of Nobody Gets the Girl, you're likely to enjoy this story as well. It's also a story about emotionally screwed up people striving hard to live their lives in a way that makes sense to them even though it makes no sense to any sane person - in other words, it's a James Maxey story. Check it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm now a book reviewer at IGMS

I've agreed to write a bi-monthly book review column at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. I'm sharing the duties with my fellow Codexian Alethea Kontis, author of the best-selling books Alpha-Oops and the Dark Hunter Companion--two books that probably don't share a lot of audience overlap.

I launched my column this week with a review of Mur Lafferty's terrific new superhero novel, Playing for Keeps. I intend to focus my reviews on books that might slip under the reviewing radar for various reasons. I hope to include a lot of small press books, plus anthologies, maybe even the occasional original graphic novel.

In other writing news, I've finished my first short story in six months. I tend to get out of short-story mode when I'm working on novels. I'd say more about it, but I'm keeping the details secret because I'm entering it anonymously in the Codex Halloween Contest at the end of the month. The Codex contests have been fruitful for me. I've sold three stories I've written for these contests... Final Flight of the Blue Bee to Asimov's, Silent as Dust and To Know All Things that are In The Earth to IGMS. I have reason to be confident that this one will see print too. I'll keep y'all posted.

This weekend, I'm doing one more polish of Dragonseed based on the initial editor's feedback. Hopefully I'll get this sent off Monday. Then... it's time to concentrate on proposals for my next books! And, yes, these proposals will feature dragons.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How David Drake Led Me To Break One of the Ten Commandments

Jo Drake was kind enough to snap this photo of my shared signing this week with Mark van Name and Lisa Shearin. I'm the guy with the glasses; standing in the back with Lisa is best-selling author David Drake, who wasn't part of the signing but was there showing some support. David sells more books in the time it takes him to tie his shoes than I have in my life. One of the moments in my life when I realized just how badly I wanted to be a writer came about seven years ago when I went to his house as a guest of a guest to a barbeque he was holding. I was unpublished at the time; I had written Nobody Gets the Girl but hadn't yet shown it to the folks at Phobos. David has written scores of books and several of the walls of his house were decorated with framed covers of his novels. Seeing this made me want my own wall of book covers; I can honestly say I coveted those walls far more than I've ever coveted my neighbor's ass. But some time it's hard to separate envy from goal setting. I think until I was confronted with the wall of covers, I was focused on the idea of writing a single book and considering that a major accomplishment. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't know what that really meant. Afterwards, I began to think more of writing in the context of producing not only a series of books, but an entire body of work. Because you don't get to fill your walls just by dabbling, turning out a book every few years or so. If you want that book wall, you've got to plant your butt in your chair and write. I don't think I even met David Drake at that cookout. But, I walked away with a lesson in being a writer that was just as powerful as anything I took away from the Odyssey Fantasy Writer's Workshop.

Speaking of writing lessons, Lisa runs a terrific blog that she updates faithfully and discusses many of the aspects of the writing life. The same is true of Mark van Name. I highly recommend checking them out.

I recently had it pointed out that I don't have a link to my own personal blog here! I have a second blog, jawbone of an ass, where I rant about politics and religion and other topics that readers of my dragon books may or may not be interested in. I'm going to be doing some redesign of this site soon. Christian Dunn at Solaris has already got back to me with edits on Dragonseed, so getting it edited is my next goal. After that, I've got to write some sample chapters and an outline for my next project so that my agent can have an actual product to try to sell instead of mere rumors of said project. Then, blog updates. I promise!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Dragonseed Done! Signing in Cary!

Yesterday I turned in the third part of the Bitterwood trilogy, Dragonseed. I can't stand it that I have to wait ten more months before the world gets to read it. There's such a strange disconnect between writing a book and seeing it in print. By the time my books see print, I've already moved on to my next project. I'm wanting to jabber on about the book I've just written and can't because hardly anyone is read it yet. But, once the editors at Solaris have their way with the manuscript, I promise I'll start posting sample chapters here.

Dragonseed picks up only a few days after Dragonforge closes. The human rebels who've seized Dragon Forge quickly discover that winning a battle isn't the same as winning a war. Humans throughout the kingdom fall victim to reprisals. The land is in turmoil, full of refugees. In the middle of all this chaos, we follow Jandra's adventures as she attempts to regain her genie, the source of her seemingly magical abilities. Along as her bodyguard is Anza, the mute daughter of Burke the Machinist, trained from infancy as an unstoppable warrior. And, of course, Bitterwood is back... and Jandra has released him from his vow not to kill her former friend, the sun-dragon Hex. Bitterwood versus Hex. You know you want to see that fight. Order now! Oh, wait, you can't. Take heart: July 2009 will be here before you know it.

Speaking of being here before you know it, I have a book signing barely a week away! I'll be at the Barnes and Noble in Cary, NC, on Tuesday, September 9, at 7:00pm. This is a joint SF/Fantasy panel with authors Lisa Shearin, author of Armed and Magical and Mark van Name, author of the Jon and Lobo series. I'll be giving away Dragonforge buttons. Come on out; I promise a good time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Here's a take on the Goddess from Dragonforge by my friend Dona Nova. You can find more or her terrific work at www.donanova.com.

I finished the third draft of Dragonseed over the weekend. I'll write a longer article about it soon, I promise. I may even throw in a sample chapter or two to sweeten the deal. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I've edited my ten chapters for the week as of yesterday, and intend to push on today. My editing at this stage consists of reading out loud to try to catch sentences with missing words, or words that repeat too closely, or sentences that are just flat out clunkers. The story is all hammered out at this point, so I'm doing very little in the way of inserting new passages.

I've used a pottery metaphor before, and I'll expand that metaphor now:

My first draft is all about pulling the raw clay of the story out of my skull and slamming it down onto the wheel. My second draft is all about spinning that clay into something that resembles a vase--with a small base flaring into a large bulb then curving back down into a small mouth. The draft I'm working on now is the stage where I apply the glaze to the pot. Later, when the book goes to press, it's the equivalent of firing the pot in the kiln.

Since I'm not a potter, I imagine there are potters out there who are screaming about how badly I've gotten their process wrong. I invite them to compose metaphors of how throwing a pot is like writing a book.

In other news, a very thoughtful review of Bitterwood appeared this week at the blog Grasping for the Wind. John Ottinger addresses some of the religious elements of the book, and I'm going to use this as a launching point toward addressing a potential failing of my own writing that I'm hoping I can do a better job of in future works. The failing boils down to the fact that I tend to make my heroes all rationalists and atheists. It may at first seem as if rationalist and atheist are synonymous and therefore redundant, but there are actually subtle distinctions. Bitterwood is an atheist--he has lost all faith in a kind or even a vengeful God. But, he's not a rationalist. He believes in magic and demons and ghosts. He just no longer believes that there's a benevolent guiding force in the universe with some great master plan--and, as a result, he's inserted himself into the role of his lost God, and become a nearly supernatural force of vengeance.

Jandra, on the other hand, is a rationalist. Technically, she's also an atheist, but by default rather than through any process of soul-searching. Her isolated upbringing has simply never exposed her to much religious thought. Most atheists (including myself) are reactionary atheists. There is a specific predominant cultural god we have in mind when we say we are atheists. I suppose, technically, I'm denying the existance of Thor or Zeus or the Green Man when I proclaim myself an atheist, but in reality I arrived at my atheism after a long struggle with the the God of Abraham, Issaac and Jacob. Jandra has never been immersed in a culture of god, so atheism isn't really an element of her self identity. She's a passive atheist, not an active denier. She doesn't really know enough about gods to conciously choose not to believe in them.

Where I feel I am lacking is that I've yet to present a heroic character who is a person of faith. It really came home to me while I was writing Dragonseed that I was clearly on the side of Burke, the Machinint, in his ever growing conflict with Ragnar, the prophet. Ragnar's over-the-top old testament style leave him more as a menacing comic foil that a truly rounded out character. Alas, he is who he is at this point; he's a wild-eyed fanatic in Dragonforge, and it was a little too late to change him into a nuanced intellectual in Dragonseed. So, I've added a new character to Dragonseed who is a man of deep faith yet also not a wild-eyed fundamentalist parody. And, it's left me thinking about the characters who will populate further books, and left me wanting to work in a major protagonist who is an unapologetic theist.

Just a few musings on religion on a Sunday morning. Now, I'd best get back to work!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Art! Dragonseed! Next signing!

We have more art! Joseph Phillips read the article about me in the Roanoke Times and took a moment to draw his favorite character from the first book, Hezekiah:

The next bit of art I have isn't fan art, alas. Back in high school and college, I used to draw a lot. I probably spent more hours drawing than I did writing. Yet, after I graduated, I stopped drawing and kept writing, and haven't tried drawing something by hand in probably ten years. (The drawing I did last year was done entirely in photoshop using the polygon tools). But yesterday I saw a photo of an eagle on Pixdaus and thought it would make a cool pose for a dragon. So, I sketched out a drawing of Graxen and scanned it in, photoshopped in a background, and wound up with this:

It looks like I owe myself a free book!

My next big news is that Friday night, at midnight, I finally finished a complete draft of the third Bitterwood novel, Dragonseed. When I wrote the first draft, I got near the end and basically outlined the final chapters as "And then everybody fights and they all live happily ever after, except for the characters who die." So, in the latest draft, I had to flesh that out a little bit. The fleshing out added six new chapters to the book. These final chapters contain the most ambitious action sequences I've ever written. I've thrown in gods and goddesses, angels and prophets, wizards and Cherokee ninjas, long-wyrms and giants, naked people, characters you thought were dead but aren't, characters you thought I'd never kill but do, and, of course, Bitterwood. Poocher gets his moment of glory as well. Coming to bookstores soon! By soon, I mean eleven months! It will be here before you know it.

Next: More reviews! Kirk Shaw at Vagabond Voice turns in a meaty review of Bitterwood. IGMS editor Ed Schubert talks about Dragonforge over at Sideshow Freaks. Award-winning author Eric James Stone does short reviews of both Bitterwood and Dragonforge at his blog.

Finally, I want to mention the next signing I have lined up. I'll be at the Barnes and Noble in Cary, NC on September 9 at 7pm, doing a joint signing with authors Lisa Shearin and Mark van Name. Lisa writes action packed fantasy, Mark writes action packed science fiction, and my own books straddle both fantasy and SF, so I'm anticipating it will be a terrific reading and discussion. Hope I see you there!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Book Signing and Roanoke Times Article

I'm doing a book signing this Thursday, August 7, at the Barnes and Noble at the South Point Mall. I've been told there will be cake. I'll also do a brief reading, but don't let that discourage you.

In other news, my hometown paper the Roanoke Times published an article about me and the Dragon Age over the weekend. Luckily, it's on the web. It contains a rather amusing typo. See if you can spot it.

I've gotten another bit of fan art since last week's post, this time of the prophet Hezekiah. I'm holding onto it for the moment in hopes I'll get a few more pieces to make a good blog post by this weekend. If you're keeping score, this is fan art #6, so there's still 4 free copies of Dragonforge available.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More art!

Fan art continues to pour in! Well, maybe "pour" isn't the right word. But, two more sketches arrived this week. First Brian Waterhouse sends in this sketch illustrating the first scene of Chapter One of Bitterwood. (You can read this chapter as a free download, by the way.) I'm thrilled that he included the dragon tongue cooking on the fire, by the way.

Next we have a sketch of Shandrazel from Scott Mercer. I like the thoughtful expression of the eyes:
Last week, I mentioned that Giovanni Quniteros had sent in some photoshopped variants of his drawing. Since black and white art seems to be the theme for this week, I thought I'd show you this version. I think it would make a cool tee-shirt:

For those keeping count, I still have five books set aside to give away in exchange for art. The trees for the paper to print these copies of Dragonforge have already been cut down; it's just such a waste of their noble sacrifice not to have somebody reading these books.

In other news, more reviews! Eric James Stone earned a copy for sending in a hiaku back in June, and has just talked about the book on his blog. Orson Scott Card gives my books another shout out at SF Signal in an article where he's asked about good examples of world-building. The intriguingly named Anethema Device posts a short review of Bitterwood that says, "...it was a typical sword and sourcery novel and exactly as I expected it to be." On the plus side, she spelled my name right!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fan Art! Reviews! Typos!

It's been a busy few weeks for me. I've been immersed in the third book of the Bitterwood trilogy, Dragonseed. I'm racing the clock to finish my second draft in time to have a little wiggle room in writing my third draft before I'm slated to turn this in to Solaris. Things are going well, though one of my wise-readers, Laurel Amberdine, pointed out a typo in Chapter 17 that may be one of the funnier things I've ever written. The chapter ends with some of my characters running for thier lives after they escape the dragons hunting them by swimming a river in the dead of night in mid winter. They are in danger of freezing to death, so they have to keep moving. I summed up their plight with this sparkly jewel of wisdom:
"Stopping for even a minute to catch their deaths would be fatal."

I'm thinking of turning it into a tee-shirt...

On to business: I have reviews! Meg Stout in her live journal review notes, "There was a lot of slip-sliding on the viscous gore of various disemboweled dead individuals." I'm going to take it as a compliment. At the blog Book Thoughts, the unnamed reviewer notes, "it was refreshing to see a twist on a tired and true dragon story." Suanne Warr at Tales from the Raven says, "All in all a good read, and one I can highly recommend." (In the interest of full disclosure, Suanne is one of my wise-readers on Dragonseed. She had an insightful review of Bitterwood last year and shortly after I met her at a con. I'm delighted to now have her as part of Team Dragon.) Matt at Any Random Day reviews both Bitterwood and Dragonforge and says: "James Maxey kicks ass and you need to go buy both of his Fantasy Novels. You will not regret it." I swear, no money was paid for this testimonial.

One last review that's worth noting. In this week's Rhino Times in Greensboro, the reviewer reads Dragonforge, (which I sent him free) then immediately orders Bitterwood off of Amazon and reviews it as well: "It's a book that feels like fantasy but is, at core, smart science fiction. It feels like -- and is -- a magnificent hero story in the tradition of David Farland (The Golden Queen) or Mike Resnick (Santiago). But it is also deeply personal character fiction that explores complicated relationships amid corrupt societies.

There is certainly room for more books in the series -- but each volume so far gives a satisfying closure. There's no need to wait for the series to be complete.
You still have time to read these books before the summer ends. So why are you still reading this column?"

The name of this reviewer? Orson Scott Card.

It's so difficult to type that name without three or four exclamation marks behind it.

Oh, what the heck. Orson Scott Card!!!! Yeah, four feels about right. You can read his full review at his website.

Now, on to the pictures: So far, I've had three people take me up on the free books for fan art offer. I'm pleased to say I have some talented artists among my readers. We'll start with Giovanni Quinteros, who sent in a drawing of Graxen (as well as a few variants I may post eventually). Since it's obvious he's read Dragonforge, Giovanni will get a copy of the Dragonseed manuscript once I finish it. (There may be a signed copy of Dragonforge in the package as well.)

Next, we have a very Batmanish/manga Bitterwood from Lee Dixon, who'll recieve a copy of Dragonforge for his effort:

We'll wrap up with the most unusual medium so far--an inkpen tattoo of a rather buff Jandra by Chris Coe. No word as to what body part the art was drawn on, or whose skin provided the canvas. They probably deserve a book too!

Hopefully this fan art will inspire further contributions. Don't be shy! Grab your mouse, your notebooks, and/or your loved ones and make some art!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tornado of Sparks

Solaris has just made available for free a download of my short story "Tornado of Sparks." This tale is a prequel to both Bitterwood and Dragonforge. It tells the story of how the dragon Vendevorex came to adopt the human infant Jandra. The story is perhaps a mild spoiler for a major plot point in Bitterwood, when Jandra learns the truth of her origins after having the truth concealed for fifteen years. On the other hand, knowing the secret in advance I think can add to the tension of the book, since you'll know something about the character of Jandra that she doesn't. The story also reveals which on-going member of the human cast is secretly related to her--again, I think that knowing this when she doesn't only adds to your ability to empathise with her longing to find her true family.

As a reminder, the fan art exchange is still open! Send me a drawing or sketch of a character from Bitterwood, and I'll send you a free copy of Dragonforge. This offer is good for the first ten peices of art I recieve, and will remain open until I give away those ten books. After a week, I've recieved only one drawing; hopefully the rest of you are still sharpening your pencils.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dragon Art... and a new giveaway!

During the Dragonforge give-away contest, the vast majority of the submission were poems, but I did get some art as well. The first is from Nancy Fulda, a work she calls "Heatwave."

I really like the dragon's mouth in Nancy's drawing. The lips look like the dragon is either preparing to blow smoke rings, or as if it's in the middle of saying a particularly clever pun.

Tysha Dawson sent me a link to her webpage full of dragon art. She said I could use any art I found there as long as I acknowledged her copyright. I was particularly drawn to the following image (copyright 2008 Tysha Dawson).

The reason I like this image is that it really has some strong similarities to the way I imagine the character of Graxen the Gray in Dragonforge. A mutant sky-dragon borne gray instead of blue, Graxen is an outcast, ostricized by other members of his race, fated by orders of the Matriarch never to mate. One of the major threads of Dragonforge is a tale of forbidden love as Graxen's heart is captured by a beautiful valkryie (a female warrior dragon) who shows him unexpected kindness when they first meet. There are differences between the dragon depicted and the Bitterwood/Dragonforge dragons. My dragons don't have horns, and their ears are just flat disks a few inches past the back of their jaws. They have three fingers at the upper joint of their wings. Other details match perfectly, however. I do imagine the wing scales of my dragons strongly resembling feathers, and I do imagine that they have manes of these feathery scales running along their necks and spine. For a more detailed drawings of how I imagine my dragons, so my post at my old Bitterwood blog, Building a Better Dragon.

Which leads me to announce a new Dragonforge Giveaway. I've set aside ten free copies of Dragonforge for anyone who will send me fan art of their favorite character (or characters) from Bitterwood. Any characters are fine, but I'd love to see how you imagine the human characters of Bitterwood, Jandra, Pet, or Zeeky, or dragon characters like the wizard dragon Vendevorex or the hunter dragon Zanzeroth. Even a sketch of Poocher, the pig, will earn a book. This isn't a contest: If you send me artwork and I use it, I'll be paying you with a free copy of the book. Unlike my giveaway of review copies, I'll mail you a copy wherever you live, even if you're in Antartica for the next six months stuck at some research facility. By sending me the art, you'll be agreeing that I can post them to my blog, or other internet forums like the Solaris chat boards or the Amazon customer images area. This offer is good until I give away ten copies, whether that takes a month or a year. I'll also give away a copy if it's a character from Dragonforge, though I understand that if you have a copy of the book already, the prospect of a freebie of Dragonforge isn't as enticing. So, I have a special reward if you send in artwork of a Dragonforge character like Burke or Graxen and don't want another copy of the book: Once I finish the third book of the series, Dragonseed, I'll print out a copy and mail it to you. Since it costs more to mail a manuscript than a paperback, I'll limit this offer to three readers, but, again, I'll mail these to you anywhere.

Just email your jpegs or gifs to nobodynovelwriter@yahoo.com. There are no size restrictions on the artwork--I can size them down in Photoshop if need be. They can be color or black and white. Now... start drawing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A fan letter, and a blatant appeal

In the comments to my last post, I received this very kind response from a reader named Imara:

"James I just finished Dragonforge and I didn't think there was any way I would like it as much as I liked Bitterwood - boy was I wrong. Your books are awesome I love the character development, the way you weave the plots, the underlying cutural/societal/enviromental references, the way you mixed fantasy (my beloved) and sci fi (yuk) and made it work!!! I mean I could go on and on. Thank you so much for writing these books and I am sooo looking forward to then next. And if you still need more reviewers I would love to volunteer. I am currently reviewing my cousin's work who is an up and comming fantasy author."

Imara, by all means, I'd love for you to post a review of the book on Amazon (or, if you blog, on your blog). Obviously, you already have a copy of the book, but if you want to email me at the above address, I'll be glad to send you a free Dragonforge button if you review the book.

Once I turn in the third book of the trilogy, Dragonseed, I'm not under contract to write any further books. But, this will quite possibly change, and one sure fire way to see more books based in the Dragon Age is if my publisher, Solaris, sees a strong fan reaction to these books. Every review posted on Amazon, no matter whether it's positive or negative, shows my publisher that the books are finding an audience and getting a reaction. And, if shoppers browsing on Amazon see a book has a lot of reviews, it's likely to make them all the more interested in reading the book themselves. Even if people don't sit and read through dozens of reviews, the mere fact that readers care enough to post comments about it sends a signal that the book has substance to it.

The great thing about the age we live in is that readers have more power than ever to let publishers know what they think of various books. Amazon reviews, Barnes and Noble reviews, blogging, podcasts, and probably outlets I'm not even thinking off all add up to buzz, and buzz sells books. As an author, let me state that each and every mention of the book online is appreciated. If anyone bothered to try to leaf through the rather chunky acknowledgements at the end of Dragonforge, you'll find I tried to acknowledge as many bloggers and online reviewers of Bitterwood as possible. I'll be repeating this in Dragonseed. So, go forth and review, Imara, and any other fans of the series. The future of the Dragon Age is in your hands!

And the winner of the last drawing is....

I've dragged Robo-Bobo out of bed early this morning to make the final drawing. And the winner is:

Ann Perry!

Woohoo! Congrats, Ann!

A big thank you to everyone who sent in entries. I had entries coming in as late as yesterday, about 50 total entries. I still have some art I intend to post soon, and a reader recipe for how to cook your dragon after you've slain it.

I still have plenty of promotional copies, so I plan to be giving away more books in the coming weeks. In fact, you can get a free book right now if you meet a few conditions... see the blurb at the top of the page.

Even though the contest has ended, I still have plenty of buttons as well, so if you want to keep sending in your original dragon poetry, I'll still send you a button if I use it!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dragon Sightings!

This weekend, I walked into my local Barnes and Noble and discovered this:

It's my first sighting of Dragonforge in its natural environment on a bookstore shelf. I'm also pleased by the healthy number of quanties in stock, and by the fact they carry copies of my first novel, Nobody Gets the Girl. (In a strange coincidence, a review of Nobody just appeared yesterday on the blog of Loren Eaton. His blog is called I Saw Lightning Fall, a very cool title, yes?) I've done signings at this Barnes and Nobles in the past, at the Southpoint Mall in Durham, NC, and will be holding my official book launch signing there on August 7. Admittedly, this is six weeks after the book hit the shelves, so calling it a "launch" might be a stretch. But it will be my first official public signing for Dragonforge.

The official release date of the book according to the dates stamped on the boxes from the warehouse is today, June 24th. I've just had an email from Oliver Dale saying he found the book at his local store as well. Give me a shout out here and let me know if your store is carrying it. And, if you'd like to get a free Dragonforge button, snap me a picture of the book on the shelf and email it to me at nobodynovelwriter@yahoo.com. Give me your address and I'll send you a Dragonforge button while supplies last!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Here There Be Dragons

Here there be dragons... dragon poetry, that is. This week brings us eight little ditties, including the only lymerick sent in so far:

Misplaced Dragon

Prize-winning egg owner Mack
Was amazed when he saw the first crack.
He felt his heart quicken
Cried, "That ain't a chicken!"
And became a quick mid-morning snack.
--David Walton

We also have a little poem that looks as if it should be set to music--a good song to sing to keep your spirits up when you're hunting the vile beasties. I can just imagine Bitterwood himself humming it, if he were the sort of person that hummed:

Dragon Hunters

Too-loo, too-lay,
I killed a wyrm today
Too-lay, too-loo
I killed his babies, too.

With my brave horse Slim
And my best friend Jim
We rode to the mountains
To free a bunch of maidens.
The maidens weren't quite willing
To be freed by us two villains.
We had a good time killing,
We'll go again tomorrow, God-willing.

Too-loo, too-lay,
I killed a wyrm today
Too-lay, too-loo
I killed his babies, too.
--Scott Roberts

The last poem is the only poem I think I recieved where, in an encounter between dragon and men, the men win. A more typical outcome is captured in the following rhymed couplet:

Dragon wings smote the sky
Carnage remains from whence she rose
None left to watch her fly
Nor to tell what occurred below.
--Shawn Crawford

The dragons also win in the following haiku:

Beating leathery wings
A lord of the sky looks down
You're a tasty snack
--Christina Crooks

Scores of claw-scored trees
The town sighs tendrils of smoke
Here there be dragons
--Danielle Friedman

For some poets, the dragon is more than just a machine of carnage, however:

Under the mountain
Scales gleam with gemstone colours:
The dragon, sleeping.
--Brian Dolton

Gaze up in wonder
See the noble dragon soar
Truly Majestic
--Jeanette Jackson

Jeanette, you may recall, was last week's winner of the drawing.

Finally, we close with this haiku that seems like it would resonate especially well with one of the protagonists of Bitterwood and Dragonforge, Jandra. (She's the woman shown on the cover of the new book, a human raised by a dragon.)

We are all dragons.
The human heart, hot-blooded
breathes hidden fire.
--Krista Hoeppner Leahy

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The big prize!

This week, Robo-Bobo's cyborg fingers have produced the name:

Jeanette Jackson!

And, what's more, Jeanette has sent in a haiku, which means she's won the complete Dragon Age collection... Dragonforge, Bitterwood, and the Solaris Book of New Fantasy, plus a nifty Dragonforge button.

I'll be publishing Jeanette's haiku soon, along with other poems I've received. Watch this space! And, remember, there's still one more drawing this month. It's not too late to enter. And, keep those poems coming, because I'll keep giving buttons away until their gone.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And the winner is....

Robo-bobo, the name-drawing cyborg monkey, has once again reached deep into the hat and produced the name:

James Haley!

James, I'll be mailing off a signed copy of Dragonforge to you this Friday.

There are still two more drawings to go, but if you're impatient for a copy, I noticed yesterday that Amazon has changed the status of Dragonforge to "in stock." I don't know if it's actually shipping yet, but it can't be more than a matter of weeks now. I believe it was the third week of June last year when I first spotted a copy of Bitterwood, so Dragonforge should start hitting the shelves any day now.

In a strange twist of fate, I just learned this week that a book entitled Dragon Forge by James Wyatt was just released this month. Last year, when I chose Dragonforge as a title, it was after a great deal of googling and searching on Amazon to make certain that there wasn't another book by that name. I am disappointed that google hasn't yet perfected the art of returning hits from the future. Wyatt's book is also the second book in a series, and his overarching title for the series is "The Draconic Prophecies," while my books feature both dragons and prophets (as the name of my blog implies). In another coincidence, it looks like one of his main protagonists is a storm dragon named Gaven, while one of my lead protagonists is a sky-dragon named Graxen.

I haven't read his book, but it looks like his Dragon Forge is a thing, while my Dragon Forge is a town. The plots don't seem all that similar from the synopisis. Still, what a small world.

Finally, Angela, the SciFi chick, has just published a review of Dragonforge (the one by me!) on her blog. She writes: "Maxey’s sequel has exceeded my expectations, leaving me eagerly awaiting the next installment. And Dragonforge has definitely topped my list of favorites for 2008 so far." Read the full review here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seven Serpent Scales

Seven Serpent Scales
a concise anthology
of dragon haiku

A child cries at night
Scale-rounded eyes pulse thinner
A new native tongue
--Michael Livingston

Hidden eyes like coal
Too late to warn, branches snap
Sharp teeth loose caged fire
--Danielle Friedman

Took my dragon to
school today. Nobody picked
on me. Wonder why.
--Rebecca Roland

itching hide is so
hard to scratch at with talons
I writhe, agonized
--Meg Stout

Green fields bring fat sheep,
Fat sheep catch the dragon's eye.
Fat dragon sleeps well.
-- Shaun Duke
Silver armor suits:
are molded well by dragon
hands into toothpicks.
-- Shaun Duke

Dragon-slayer's Hell:
Where he hunts without end, but
The wyrm dieth not.
--Eric James Stone
Thanks to everyone who contributed it a poem so far. I still have a few more poems I'll be posting next week. I'll be announcing the latest drawing winner Wednesday night, as well as an exciting development! And, don't forget, the drawing is going on all June. There's still time for you to enter if you haven't.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Review Round Up, and Thoughts on Characters

The last few days have been good for me in the review arena. The first review of Dragonforge appeared at Aliette de Bodard's blog, followed the next day by a short but sweet review of the book at Cat Rambo's blog.

Aliette says of the book: Maxey successfully uses this setting to explore a number of questions: he tackles the problem of dominant species (should there be one? Does it have the right to exterminate everything in its path? Can humanity reclaim the world it once destroyed without polluting it once more?), of faith and false gods (is blind belief enough? are the gods one believes in worth worshipping?), and of the uses of technology (can it make people's lives better, or is it doomed to lead to an arms race?). This might make you think this is going to be a dry, boring book about important ethical questions. But the joy of Dragonforge is that Maxey manages to raise all those issues while keeping a tight grip on a fast-paced narrative, filled with suspense, reversals and suitable hazards for every character involved.

Cat sez: There's been a lot of interesting dragon books, but Dragonforge is right up there with the best of them, I think. It's the characters more than anything that stand out, but glimmering behind them are a vivid, imaginative world and tons of nifty little ideas and touches.

If that wasn't enough, two reviews of the upcoming Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology popped up yesterday, and both single out my story "To Know All Things That Are in the Earth" as a strong point of the anthology. Read the Publisher's Weekly review here. And, read the "Ain't It Cool News" review here. I suspect that the IGMS anthology will prove to be the best selling book I've ever had words in, by virtue of OSC's name on the cover in great big letters. "To Know All Things" is a very strange story for me in some ways. It takes place in a decidedly supernatural universe, and has been interpretted by many people as a defense of creationism or intelligent design. My true feelings on this issue can be found in this essay at my other blog, Jawbone of an Ass. But, "To Know All Things" is one of those stories where the world and the characters took on their own life as I was writing it, and what started as a potential parody of the rapture instead grew into a heartfelt story about a man who has lost his faith. Losing my own faith in the Christian world view was one of the most traumatic and defining periods of my life. The protagonist of the short story takes the opposite journey... he's a biology teacher and a professed atheist, who witnesses his Christian girlfriend get carried away by angels during the rapture. He's forced to confront the fact that all the truths he's embraced have, in fact, been wrong. I was able to tap into my own experience and emotions to guide him through his journey, producing a story that I count among my best, even though many people who read the story will no doubt come away thinking I am some sort of Creationist.

Which leads me to this thought on characters: I think that all my best characters are people who, in some profound way, I disagree with. Bitterwood's embrace of hate and grudges is the exact opposite of my own rather forgiving personality. Jandra's heroic optimism and belief that she can change the world for the better is 180 degrees from my own cynical pessimism. Blaspet is joyfully sadistic, while I personally can lay awake worrying about something I said years ago that might have hurt someone's feelings. Hex's anarchist views are my own libertarian views pushed to the point of breaking--the faith that people (and dragons) would treat each other fairly in the absence of laws has been disproven time and time again. All these characters wear their world views like armor as they plunge into the battlefield of life. And I get my kicks in trying to crack that armor, putting them in situations designed to test everything they believe, and see how they respond and grow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Buttons are here!

I just got the shipment of Dragonforge buttons! I'll be giving these away at signings and cons, but also to anyone who sends me an original dragon-themed poem, drawing, or other artistic endevor that I wind up posting on my blog (see Kimberly Bea's poem in the previous post for an example). Here's a picture of the button to whet your appetite. Kudo's to Michael Komarck for his terrific artwork!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Our first winner, and a terrific poem

I have employed the services of Robo-Bobo, a monkey with a robot arms, to serve as my name drawer. And, digging deep into the had, Robo-Bobo has produced the name.... (drumroll, please)....
Mike Barker!
I'll be emailing Mike to let him know he's won, and sending him a copy of Dragonforge once I find out his address.

Mike didn't submit a poem or drawing, but many of you did. Keep them coming! I've gotten poems, drawings, and at least one recipe, and will be displaying the best of these over the coming weeks. If I use your poem or drawing, I'll send you a Dragonforge button, whether or not your name comes up as a winner.

To kick things off, here's a fine poem by Kimberly Bea. Not surprisingly, Kimberly has seen her poetry published before, in the book Nothing But Red. All sales of this book support the charity Equality Now.

Breathing Smoke

When I was five years old
And waiting for the bus one day,
The weather very cold,
I saw steam rising from my lips
With every breath I took.
To my youthful mind
The reason was quite clear:
Dragons breathe fire
And I was breathing smoke;
I must be half a dragon.
It made a lot of sense:
Dragons don't play catch too well,
With such enormous claws,
Or win at hide and seek.
(At least, that's my excuse!)
So I waited for my scales to show
And kept checking my shoulders for wings.
Much later I was told
That steam, not smoke, poured from my lips
Because the air was cold
(And humid: something about dew points
And other scientific stuff).
It happens to everyone
Caught outside on chilly days.
So now I knew the truth. . . .
(There are half dragons all around!)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Contest update and Bitterwood Review

I've had several poems, one recipe, and one drawing submitted so far, along side the name only entries to the contest. I'll announce the first winner this Wednesday night, and maybe post a poem or two. There's still time to get in on this drawing, and the three that will follow. And, don't forget, if you send in a poem or drawing and I use it, whether you win or not, I'll send you a nifty Dragonforge pin, just as soon as they come back from the printer.

In other news, 11 months after its release, Fantasy Book Spot has reviewed Bitterwood! Better late than never, yes? Especially when it's a meaty, well thought out review. You can see what they have to say here.

A sample from the review: "As more twists are parceled out, Bitterwood becomes more of a fantasy/science fiction story. ... While these more science fiction elements were intriguing to me and added to the story in the way that they were incorporated they didn’t affect the overall world, nor have any bearing on the war that was brewing between dragons and humans. ... It was these elements that added the unpredictable into a story that was predicable on the larger scale. The story gave us unexpected alliances, secret plans, betrayal, daring escapes, and heroic victory against overwhelming odds. There’s our basic scoop of chocolate ice cream. It’s good. The science fiction that James Maxey sprinkles into his recipe are the fudge chunks. They make it better."

I'm guessing the reviewer will be pleased by the plot of Dragonforge, since I delve even deeper into the secrets of my world, and really take a stab at filling it with fantastic elements of the fantasy stories I love--things like underground kingdoms, giants, angels, devils, fire-spewing dragons, rainbow bridges, talking animals, and magic weapons--and work hard to ground them in a plausible reality. I'm trying to imagine a fantasy world that could actually exist. I'm biting my nails as the next months pass, waiting to discover if readers think I've pulled it off...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bitterwood's Dragon Tongue Chili

In the novel Bitterwood, when we first meet the eponymous dragon hunter, he's roasting a dragon tongue over some coals. In Dragonforge, Bitterwood explains how he's come to develop an appreciation for dragon-tongues--they're big chunks of almost pure meat--no bones to worry about, no scaly hide to peel off, and you can cut one out of a dragon's mouth in under a minute if you're needing to make a swift exit before the dragon's relatives show up. Roasting the dragon tongues can leave them a bit chewy; when he has the time, he'd rather boil one up and make chili from it.
As the official recorder of Bitterwood's adventures, and purveyor of all his dark secrets, I'll take this opportunity to share the dark secret of his chili recipe.

Bitterwood's Dragon Tongue Chili - The Dragon Age Version:

1 dragon tongue
1 big red onion
4 or 5 fresh chili pods
Salt and pepper to taste
Bitterwood cuts the tongue into chunks, tosses it in a pot, covers it with water, then brings it to a boil. He'll skim off the scum that rises after the initial boil, then hack up his onion and toss it in, and chop off the stems of the chilis and toss them in. (Since Bitterwood lives his life on the run, he can't be too choosy about the chilis he uses. Whatever is growing in a garden he can steal from is fine, but he likes his chili hot, so if habaneros are available, that's his first choice.) Once all the ingredients are in, he positions the pot over the coals so that it simmers for about 4 hours, after which the meat becomes very tender, falling apart into strings. Then, it's time to chow down.

This is, obviously, a very simple recipe, made simple by the rather gritty reality of Bitterwood's life as a fugitive. But, if you're interesting in cooking chili yourself, here's a recipe that will result in a kick-ass pot of chili:

First, take one dragon tongue. Next.... What? The meat case at your supermarket doesn't carry these? And the local butcher gives you the evil eye if you ask for one? Okay. We may need to adapt:

Bitterwood's Dragon Tongue Chili - The Human Age Version:

1 beef tongue, or, if you're squeamish about tongue, 3 pounds of stew beef.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage
1 28oz can of tomatoes
1 40oz can of beans
1 big red onion
Salt and pepper
Various chili peppers.

Sorry to be so vague on the last ingredient. I frequently jump straight for habeneros when I make chili, but I'm one of those mutants who has a stomach lined with asbestos. So, feel free to choose your level of heat by choosing your peppers. For a mild chili with just a little kick, use two or three fresh jalepenos. For a scream-for-Jesus heat, go for five fresh habeneros. If you'd like a complex, smoky heat, canned chipoltle peppers are a good approach. Always keep some powdered cayenne around for last second adjustments if you've gone too mild.

Stage one: Cube your tongue, or your stew beef. Brown it in a skillet with a little oil. Sprinkle on some salt to taste. You aren't actually cooking the beef at this stage, just adding little extra flavor and texture by giving it a bit of a crust. Once you've browned it, transfer it into a large pot and add enough water to cover the meat, plus another inch or two, then bring to a boil The second it reaches a boil, turn it down to a simmer. Some scum may have risen during the boil. Skim it off. Cook the meat for about an hour on low heat, skim it again, then add the big red onion, cut in quarters. Also add the hot peppers of your choice at this stage. For fresh peppers, I just pull of the stem and toss the whole pepper in. Add about a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Then, put the lid back on, make sure every thing is at a low simmer, and walk away.
How long you let it cook depends on several elements. Tongue can be kind of tough. If you cook it a few hours at a simmer, it will soften up, as will stew beef. I would say the absolute minimum you should cook it would be 4 hours. I often cook it over night, and some times I'll go almost 24 hours. I'll start it one evening, and finish it the next. The longer you cook, the softer the meat becomes, and the more permeated with the pepper flavor. What you're achieving, aside from tenderness, is a heat that is actually inside the meat itself. The stage one chili is ready once the meat is pulling apart into fibers.

This is where Bitterwood's dragon-tongue chili recipe ends. It's pretty good, but also pretty simple. Not bland, just lacking complexity. Since we have access to supermarket goodies Bitterwood can't even imagine, we'll add to the chili in stage two.

Stage two: Brown the ground beef and hot pork sausage in a skillet, then drain all the fat. I usually season the ground beef with a different type of pepper to compliment my base pepper from stage one. A whole bottle of Texas Pete is a good approach. If you want a mild heat, just use a few teaspoons of cayenne powder. The pork sausage may at first seem like an odd ingredient, but it gives the chili an extra layer of meat and yet a third source of heat. Once I have this fully cooked, I add it to my stage one chili, stir it all together, then move on to stage 3.

Stage three: The tomatoes and beans. Now, some people, true chili purists, argue you can stop at stage two. Chili is made of meat, and doesn't need any vegetables, except as seasoning. When I posted an early version of this recipe on my other blog, I got emails questioning my manhood for daring to introduce beans into the equation. If you are one of these die-hard chili fundamentalists, just take a few deep breaths, search for the happy place inside, and move on. Moving on: Just open the cans, drain the beans and tomatoes, then dump them in the pot. It ain't brain surgery. Stir everything. Simmer. Taste frequently. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, Texas Pete, etc. until you're happy with it. You can serve it at this stage, or, let it cool overnight in the fridge to let the flavors mingle, then heat it up again the next day.

This recipe serves a LOT of people. A dozen people might just finish off a pot in one sitting. If not, the leftovers freeze well.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Coming Soon!

Hi. I'm James Maxey, a science fiction and fantasy author. I have two novels in print at the moment, the superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl, and the dragon fantasy Bitterwood. Bitterwood stands alone as a complete story, but it's also an introduction to a larger world of prophets, angels, and dragons that will be explored in a series of novels set in the Dragon Age. The next book set in this world, Dragonforge, will be released in July 2008, with the third book, with the working title Dragonseed, coming in July 2009.

This blog will focus on all my fiction, as well as a few odds and ends like fantasy based recipes. Be on the lookout for Dragon Tongue Chili and Buffalo Angel Wings. I won't be making many posts immediately, alas. I'm currently closing in on a deadline for completing the first draft of Dragonseed, but as the Dragonforge release date approaches, the available content will rise dramatically.

Finally, I'm still doing my more rambling, general interest blog at jamesmaxey.blogspot.com. There I talk about pretty much anything that polite people aren't supposed to talk about, from politics to religion to circus freaks.