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!

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...