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, October 26, 2009

Seeking Wise Readers for Greatshadow

I'm about to launch into the second draft of Greatshadow, and I'm looking for people who'd like to read this novel while it's still in this early stage and offer me feedback on the work. On previous novels, I've limited my early readers to four or five; this time, I'm willing to send chapters to anyone who'd like to read them.

Here's what would be expected:

My second draft is a structural draft. I don't spend much time polishing individual sentences. Typos, missing words, and semi-random punctuation will be fairly common in this draft, and I'm looking for readers who have a high tolerance for these simple mistakes. I'm not looking for line editors to mark up small mistakes; I'll polish the prose in the third draft. The feedback I'm seeking in the second draft is purely on the story level. I want to make sure all the characters come to life, that the reader knows who they are, what they want, and why they want it. I also welcome feedback on my world-building, making sure that my various religious and magical systems seem plausible and not too derivative of stuff you've read before. Perhaps most importantly, I'll be seeking feedback on the plot. Are things flowing logically? Am I surprising you in pleasant ways, or just jerking you around? Am I throwing in stuff that makes no sense at all? And, finally, while this draft isn't one where I focus on polishing the prose, I do welcome feedback should you come across something that you think is particularly well written, funny, or else a real clunker.

My intention is for the final draft to clock in around 100k words. My goal is to send out chapters in clusters of three or four at a time. I intend to start sending out chapters the first week of November, and plan to finish the second draft before December 31. I'd like feedback along the way: if you sign up as a reader, I'd expect a turnaround on the chapters I send out within a week or so. I'll be working in Microsoft Word; my preference is that comments be made using the comment feature in Word, but it's also acceptable just to type up your comments at the end of each chapter.

The downside to signing up is: 1: You'll be reading unpolished prose that hasn't undergone any sort of professional proofing. 2: You'll be reading in chunks that come on a more or less random schedule. 3: You'll be reading a novel that currently has no publisher. It's possible that all your work will be going to a novel that never sees print.

The upside to signing up is: 1: Even though my prose at this stage won't be polished, I think you'll be getting a satisfying story full of quirky, loveable characters. 2: If you are interested in becoming a writer on your own, this will be a good opportunity to see a professional writer working in a draft stage to bring a world and characters to life. 3: When the novel is eventually published (which I feel very likely), I promise to acknowledge all wise-readers who worked with me on the project.

If you'd like to sign up, please send me an email to nobodynovelwriter (at) yahoo (dot) com with the header, "Wise reader sign up." I'll collect all the addresses into a mailing list, and start sending out chapters next week!

If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to ask in the comments section.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Capclave, WSFA award, Codex Halloween

Capclave finished up today. It was a lot of fun; any weekend where I can have serious conversations about Darwin, Spiderman, and how the Abbott and Costello "Who's on first?" routine get's translated into Klingon is a good weekend. And, I got to cap it off tonight with dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Bonus!

I mentioned here a few weeks back that I was a nominee for the WSFA Small Press Short Fiction Award. I am pleased to report that the winner of the story was: "The Absence of Stars: Part 1" by Greg Siewert, published in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert, Hatrack Publishing. Intergalactic Medicine Show and Ed Schubert have been very good to me in recent years; if I have to lose an award, I'm glad I lost it another IGMS author; it sort of keeps things all in the family.

Any way, I got a consolation prize on Friday before I left for the con, when the latest Codex Halloween Contest results were announced. I won again, with a story currently titled, "Return to Sender. But, this was my closest squeaker ever. I had amazing competition; the top four stories were virtually a four way tie; I finished only a single point ahead of Second Place: “Stan Musial, Therapeutic Mathematics, and the Physics of Curve Balls” by Gray Rinehart. Third Place was tied, only one point behind Gray: “Counterclockwise” by Alethea Kontis and “Clockwork Fairies” by Cat Rambo. If I'd come in behind any of these, I would have regarded it as a fair result. Expect to see all of these stories soon in magazines.

A note about Return to Sender: Back in August, I asked readers to chip in names for a magic weapon that I could use in my new novel. Cindy from Fantasy Book Critic offered a couple of suggestions including Crystal Lance. I made a joke at the time that this sounded like the protagonist of an urban fantasy novel; she could be the first ever female Knight Templar. When the Halloween contest rolled aroud, I got a prompt from Christine Amsden to write a story about "The Order of the Golden Dawn." As I sat around trying to figure out what my story might be about, I suddenly realized that the perfect protagonist would Crystal Lance, Knight Templar. The story is kind of a fish out of water tale, as Crystal, who has been raised in strict isolation by the secret order of monks who train the knights, must undertake a mission in the modern world in which she navigates the unknown dangers of snark, snake handlers, and Elvis. It's a fun story; I'll make an announcement once I place it.

Coming soon: More news about Greatshadow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

CapClave schedule

This weekend I'll be at Capclave near Washington, DC. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with friends from the con circuit and to meeting new folks in the DC area. Here is my schedule:

Fri 8pm Randolph - Comics and Graphic Novels
Participants: Michael Pederson (m), James Maxey, Steve Stiles, Lawrence Watt-Evans
Comics and graphic novels frequently feature SF/Fantasy elements. Which ones are the best and why? What comics should sf readers be reading and why? Can comics ever overcome the prejudice against them?

Fri 10pm Montrose - Did Fandom Lose By Winning?
Participants: David Bartell (m), Elaine Stiles, Christopher M. Cevasco, Doug Fratz, James Maxey
The top movies are almost all sf/fantasy, most videogames are sf/fantasy and many television shows mix in sf/fantasy elements like Lost or Ghost Whisperer. But fandom as a separate culture seems to be dwindling. Are we being absorbed into the mainstream?

Saturday 3pm – Book Signing - Alan Smale, Eric Choi, and James Maxey

Sat 4pm Montrose - Even Hard SF Uses FTL
Participants: David Louis Edelman (m), Eric Choi, Michael Flynn, Ed Lerner, James Maxey
What science is taken for granted in SF and can it really happen? What new scientific discoveries are more likely than others? What science is underused in SF? How much of the science is real and how much handwaving?

Sat 9pm Plaza - Small Press Award
Participants: WSFA and the nominees
Who will win the annual WSFA small press award? Come and see. Celebrate with cake.

Sun 10:30am Twinbrook - Reading: James Maxey

Sun 1pm Plaza - Darwin Bicentennial
Participants: Sam Scheiner (m), Brenda Clough, Mike Flynn, James Morrow, James Maxey
Darwin was born 200 years ago. Why are his ideas still controversial? Is the voyage of the Beagle the prototype for sf missions of scientific discovery? Why aren't there more books about Darwinism?

Sun 2pm Montrose - Post Consumer Economy
Participants: James Maxey (m), Lenny Bailes, David Louis Edelman, Tom King, Kathy Morrow
Is it possible to have a post consumer economy? What will it look like? - What happens when we decide we all have enough Stuff? The Stuff industries won't go away, any more than the auto and appliance industries went away when their reliability went away.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Greatshadow Draft One Basically Done

My word count is now roughly 80k, but it's a mostly meaningless number since some of my last chapters aren't so much written as outlined. For instance, I have a scene in chapter eighteen where I have a character who is more or less a wizard cast a big spell to open a gate to the spirit world. In the final book, this scene will be a big production, lots of mumbo jumbo; I'll think of a little rhyme to chant or some weird dance and fill it with symbolic value. But, for now, in that chapter, I hit that scene, didn't want to get hung up on making up the specifics of the spell, and so wrote "Deceiver casts his spell." I then just moved on and wrote about the things that happened after that. I know know that the book is 22 chapters long; the final draft will clock in around 110,000 words. But, the chapters I've written for 19 to 22 are mostly outline, as I hammered out the big picture choreography of how all the subplots have to tie up in a series that makes sense and keeps the tension building up through the end of chapter 21.

This is how I finished up both Dragonseed and Dragonforge. Now that I've got the big choreography mapped out, I'll spend the next couple of months figuring out the fine details. The important thing is, I now know who my characters have to be at the end of the story in order to do the things that need to be done. This is the main information I need to go back to the beginning and start my rewrites. The first draft is about exploring who these characters are... every action they take deepens my understanding of them. My first draft starts with me writing about skeletons of characters, stick-men on a bare stage. As the chapters unfold, the characters gain substance and flesh and their personality emerges. They world they move around in slowly reveals itself as well. My second draft, I'm writing about fully fleshed out characters in a world where I know what people eat; I know about smells and temperatures and shades or light. Second drafts are where the story starts to resemble an actual published book.

I'll post here once I start rewrites. At some point this week, I'll also post an update on Capclave. I've got my schedule for it now. I know I get to talk about comic books on one panel, and Darwin on another. Woohoo!