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!

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!


Unknown said...


I agree with you about the lack of a solidly religious hero, but honestly, I don't feel that it is necessary. In the real world, there are fanatics of all color, creed, and religious belief, many of which are not heroes. It makes the story more real, in my opinion. Honestly, I find the more deeply "religous" a people, the "crazier" their ideals and behaviors. "The Will of God" would never be to destroy a fellow human being. Yet, all over the world, we see these fantastical views of "Gods Will" and the destruction of people for someones OPINION of their personal religion. Isn't all of that quite interesting?
Don't get me wrong, the battle between good and evil, angels, and demons, and the unknown is more than appealing to myself, and though I may not attend church on Sundays, I have my faith, my word, and the choices I make each day decide whether or not I'm a "good" man. If you haven't seen KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, you should go rent it RIGHT NOW!
Keep up the good work!

James Maxey said...

Thanks, Matt. Now that I've been through the book a third time, I feel a bit better about the balance of the book in regards to its religion bashing than I did after the second draft. Ragnar may be unlikable, but I've given a larger roll to one of his body guards, a 7 foot tall hulk named Stonewall who I think winds up walking the fine line I was looking for of having faith, even fanatical faith, while still being sympathetic and likable.

As for your point that "the will of God" would never be to destroy a fellow human being... I have to assume you aren't talking about the God of Abraham, Issaac, and Jacob. The big YHWH was very much pro-man destruction. He was forever telling the Isrealites to go off and smite some people or another. Ragnar is loosely based on the Biblical prophet Samuel, who selected the first king of Isreal, Saul. God told Samuel to go fight the Amelkites or some other equally forgetable desert rabble and Saul put together an army and went and smote them good, but rather than killing their king Saul kidnapped him to hold him for ransom. Samuel flipped when he heard this, went to the captive king and hacked him into tiny pieces. God didn't say nothing about kidnapping and ransom, he said to kill the freaking Amelwhatzits, and kill means kill. You kill the men, you kill the women, you kill the children and the oxen and salt the earth so nothing else would grow. So, most definitely, any God based on Biblical texts is a God who sometimes wants people faithful to him to put a hurting on their neighbors.

By the way, I kind of like this version of God. He's mean, but he's really not wishy-washy in telling people what the rules are. He writes them down in stone, for heaven's sake. You know where you stand with him, and he chooses prophets to talk to personally so that they can help explain his will to the rest of flock. I can seriously see myself writing a novel about Samuel and Saul one day. Now if only I could work in a dragon somehow...

Unknown said...

I completely agree with you on the vengeful God of the Old Testament. There are passages about war, murder, rape, sex, alcohol, and pretty much anything else you can think of in the Bible. I should have clarified better that I was speaking more of the New Testament's teachings of forgiveness and compassion.
It is interesting how much the Bible contradicts itself. Just as you mentioned, the Isrealites were told to go destroy many different people, as well as the bloody story of Samuel and Saul. It is after Jesus enters the picture, that God changes his mind. In that after the flood, he vows never to do such a thing again. He brings into the picture an ideal of forgiveness, and instead of bringing down upon us plague and death, he allows people to make a choice. Whether to accept him as their Lord and Savior, and being saved, or not, and being condemned to Hell.
Now that I think about it, what ever happened to that vengeful God?
Perhaps when he sent Jesus to live as one of his creations(humans), God realized just how much harder it was to live a life without sin(impossible), and all the temptations that surround us daily? Who knows? Then you can ask, when did Satan begin to work his evil magic throughout the realm of man?
So much to think about. What a story! What a book!