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, February 23, 2009

Galley Slave

In my journey to becoming a professional author, I've talked with dozens of other writers about both the creative aspect and the business aspect of writing. It's fun and illuminating to discuss the nuances of plotting, world-building, character development, and style. It's also deeply interesting to find out the details of other people's contracts, and both depressing and encouraging to discover the wide range of incomes that writing generates.

Yet, in all my years of discussing the writing craft, I've never sat down with another author and talked about the act of editing galleys. Galleys are the last step in the editing process of a book. In my case, my publisher, Solaris, has typeset the book. They email me a PDF of the typeset pages. This is the book as it will appear in print--except, I have one last shot at making changes.

In theory, all the typos and mistakes have been fixed in earlier editing passes. It's also far too late to make any changes to the plot or characters. Solaris would probably have a fit if I decided to chop three chapters and replace them with all new text. Every major decision is locked in at this point.

Editing the galleys isn't about the big picture. It's a long, sometimes tedious, step by step analysis of every word and punctuation mark. While some of the things I correct are actual mistakes, a lot of things I'm changing are simple judgement calls. For instance, on page 109 of the galleys, I found this sentence, spoken by the Slavecatcher General, Vulpine: "Instead of allowing this news to spread hope of rebellion among the humans, it's important that humans shiver with horror when they hear the words Dragon Forge." This sentence says what I mean it to say, but on this reading it sounded odd to my inner ear to use the word "human" twice in the sentence. So, I crossed out the second "human" and wrote the word "men" at the edge of the page.

While there are tools that would allow me to make notes electronically on a PDF, I do all my galley editing on paper. Up to this point, I've only seen the book as a Microsoft Word file. Before, if I wanted to change a word, I could just select it and type over it. But, I think there's a value in printing out the book and reading it close to its final form. Experiencing my words on paper is somewhat different than seeing them on a screen. Also, it's nice not being tethered to my laptop. I can read my galleys while I'm eating at a restaurant.

I'm usually given two to three weeks to review my galleys. At the end of it, I type up all my changes in Microsoft Word, noting the page # and paragraph # of the sentence I want to alter. It's rare that I do more than change a word or two per page. I'm currently up to chapter ten, and I'm actually striking a whole sentence of dialogue and replacing it with something new in that chapter--I make changes this ambitious probably only once every fifty pages. On the other hand, if I go more than two pages without making any changes, I worry that I'm not paying enough attention, or perhaps I'm paying attention to the wrong things. At this point, I've been away from the novel for several months... it's easy for me to get swept up in the storyline. As nice as it would be to read the whole book in a weekend, I have to stop every two or three chapters and do something else for a while so I can keep a little distance from the story, and return to it with fresh eyes.

Here's a link to the uncorrected galleys of the first three chapters of Dragonseed. The first change I make is at the bottom of the first page of chapter 0ne: I've crossed out the word "practice" and replaced it with the word "actuality." At the top of the next page, second paragraph, I've crossed out the words "not to stop" and replaced them with the words "to keep moving." It sounds more active and more in keeping with Turpin's speech patterns.

And so on. I won't bore you with every change I'm making in these first three chapters. It's all subtle, picky stuff. I strive to make my writing style simple and clean; I value clarity and flow. My goal is to keep the reader focused on the events on the page rather than the words on the page. My writing style looks like it would be easy to achieve, and perhaps for some people it would come naturally. For me, however, it involves pass after pass, constantly polishing. Hopefully, the results are worth it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dragonseed Cover Preview

This isn't the final artwork, but I see that Simon and Schuster now has it posted on their website, so I don't see any reason to keep it under wraps any longer. The new cover features Burke the Machinist reflected in the eye of a black-hided sun-dragon. Hmmm... who could it be?

And, yeah, that's a blunderbuss style shotgun he's get resting on his shoulder. The balance of power is about to shift in the human/dragon war... unless the dragons somehow manage to kill the first human to point a gun at them, steal the weapon, and have a clever biologian reverse engineer the technology. But what are the odds of THAT happening?

I'm a little surprised that Burke is looking up at the sky instead of at the dragon standing right in front of him. Then again, I do describe him as being nearsighted and needing glasses, and he's not wearing his glasses in this picture. Perhaps his eyes are even worse than I had imagined. (Just to be clear, I'm not griping about the missing glasses or the skyward peering pose. I think Burke looks terrific in this shot. Artist Michael Komarck has really captured the essense of Burke, who I regard as the true hope of mankind in the Dragon Age.)

Tomorrow: Galleys!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Updates! Updates! Updates!

Things have been quiet here lately, but suddenly I am awash with news to share about Dragonseed and writing in general. Too much news for one update, in fact, so I'll be making posts today, tomorrow, and Monday to share it all. I've finally got a preview of the cover to share, and I've also got the galleys that I'm currently correcting, and I plan to post a chapter or two from these galleys and discuss my process for proofing them.

Today, I have three tidbits I want to focus on:

1: SheVaCon! I'll be a guest at SheVaCon in Roanoke, Virginia next weekend. Given that Larry Niven is the writer guest of honor, and Jeremy Bulloch is the media guest of honor, I expect there will be a really excellent turnout. (Bulloch, for those of you not fully immersed in geekdom, is the actor who played Bobba Fett.) Roanoke is my home town, and the local paper ran an article on me last summer, so I'm looking forward to the chance to meet some of the readers who wrote me letters last year when the article appeared.

2: My first audiobook! I've achieved another milestone in my writing career thanks to Orson Scott Card. For the first time ever, one of my works of fiction is available in an audiobook format. Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show is available now from Audible.com. Included is a recording of my rapture story, "To Know All Things That Are In The Earth." The book is also available on Kindle, another first for me.

3: Bitterwood has a theme song! A google alert pointed me to a LiveJournal posting this week by axisdragon discussing the parallels between the Eagles' song Desperado and my character of Bitterwood. I must admit, the song is a pretty good mesh with the character, especially the verse:

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

That's it for this morning. I have galleys to correct. Tune in again tomorrow for even more news.