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, December 12, 2010

News Nuggets

My big news of the last week is that I finished my latest draft of Empire of Angels. This is a short novel I wrote years ago that serves as a prequel to Bitterwood. It's near future SF in which a group of environmental activists rescue a genetically engineered dragon from a game park, who then must navigate through a world turned upside down by the arrival of an alien intelligence, the hyper-altruistic city of Atlantis. Jazz, Hezekiah, Gabriel, and Cassie are characters in the book who go on to play roles in the Bitterwood series a thousand years later.

My next step is to show this to the editors at Solaris. My suspicion is they won't be interested in publishing it for two reasons: 1. In style and tone, it's nothing like the later novels 2. It's short as heck for a book these days. I wound up chopping and cutting more than I put in, so the book is barely squeaking in at 65k words. This is less than half the size of Dragonforge or Dragonseed.

Assuming they pass, I will probably release the novel as an ebook, and include the two short stories set in the same mythos to help make it worth the reader's money. Some of you may know that the short story "Tornado of Sparks," which appeared in the Solaris Book of New Fantasy is set in the Bitterwood universe. (If you didn't read it in the anthology, you're in luck, since it's being reprinted in the very next issue of BullSpec. Details will follow.) What's the second story? My very first piece of professionally published fiction, "Empire of Dreams and Miracles," which appeared in 2002 in the Phobos anthology by the same name. The anthology has been out of print for years and I sort of let the story slip from my mind. But, I took a look at it recently to see how well it meshed up with the Atlantis mythos I used in the Bitterwood books and was surprised to find out how well it worked. I could try to reprint it, but I figure that, with the limited number of short stories I've put out this year, I'd just skip the middle man and make the story available for free. So, if you're interested in reading about life in Atlantis during the era of Bitterwood, follow this link.

In other news, I was invited to do a guest blog at Magical Words this weekend. I've written about sales data in the publishing industry. Dry stuff if you're not a writer, but if you have any interest in the business side of publishing, follow this link to a little essay I call "Dungeons and Data."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Exploration of Dangerous Places

The Exploration of Dangerous Places
by Jonah Knight

At Capclave a few weeks ago, I attended a late night ghost story gathering. A few people told stories, some read, but one guy pulled out a guitar and sang about a haunted house. This was Jonah Knight, performing “Empty House,” and instantly I knew I had to hear more from him. “Empty House” fit right into my typical daily playlist of songs by the Mountain Goats, the Decemberists, and the Pogues. The chorus from “Empty House” is:

But this empty house isn’t empty after all
Late at night you can hear things in the walls
Your shallow grave isn’t deep enough at all
To keep your ghost under ground.

“Empty House” turned out to be from Knight’s new album, The Exploration of Dangerous Places. Now that I’ve listened to it a dozen times or so, I can say that it wasn’t pure chance that I first heard Knight at a science fiction convention. His website describes his music as “paranormal modern folk,” which is pretty much on target. I think any reader of SF or fantasy would find a lot to appreciate in his songs. Speculative themes run through the lyrics, from interplanetary travel and terraforming on “The Places You Will Go” to cloning an army of duplicates on “King of Nebraska.” I detect traces of Ray Bradbury and HP Lovecraft within the lyrics, such as in “Sleepy Little Creepy Little Town” with the verse:

There’s a nameless faceless thing crawling down from out of the hills
There’s a prehistoric prophecy on the verge of being fulfilled
Everybody in the village likes to gather at the general store
Talk about the screams coming from the mansion
and compare our mysterious open sores

Like Ray Bradbury, Knight is diverse, mixing introspective songs of ghosts and nameless evils with more amusing fare. “Pirate Song” is a jaunty sea shanty, and “King of Nebraska” provokes uncomfortable laughs with its rather disturbing tale of a man who’s cloning an army of followers, especially when we arrive at the heart of the narrator’s motives:

I keep your photograph buried in a book
I have a reference when I forget how you look
I down loaded more DNA
My lawyer friend says it's okay
There’s no expectation of privacy online
I rented a place and bought the stuff
Two more weeks should be enough
to finish off another you
that does whatever I tell it to

Musically, Knight fits in the singer songwriter mold, with guitar playing reminiscent of Nick Drake. Vocally, I’m reminded more of Atom and His Package mixed with early Mountain Goats. Knight’s voice probably wouldn’t get him through an audition for American Idol, but there’s a reason I don’t watch American Idol. What Knight’s voice lacks in range it makes up for in honesty and urgency. Ultimately, you understand from this album that the dangerous place that Knight has been exploring is his own soul, and the songs succeed because he’s had the courage to report back on the monsters he found there.

The album should be released any day now; visit Jonah’s website at www.jonahofthesea.com for when and where you can buy it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speculative fiction event, Bitterwood at Smashwords

This Thursday, 11-11, I'll be at the Barnes and Noble at New Hope Commons in Durham, NC for a science fiction discussion scheduled for 7pm. A ton of other writers will be there; I'm a bit unclear on the format, exactly, but come on out if you're in the area.

Now that I've got the Bitterwood novels all converted over for Kindle, I'm tackling converting them on Smashwords. This is a site that makes books available for nearly all reading devices and books listed in the premium catalog are available on the Barnes and Noble website, which is my real target. Alas, my battle to convert to the epub format is hitting some snags. I'm following the Smashwords style guidelines, but still getting unpredictable results. Still, right now I've got a version of Bitterwood up that is actually very readable on my Android, so I'll go ahead and plug it though I may tweak it further. My understanding is that, if you buy a book on Smashwords, you can download any revised versions, which I don't think is true on the Kindle. But, I may be speaking in ignorance; I'm still figuring out all this out. If you want to take a peek at the book on Smashwords, here's the link. In theory, just about every reading device on the market should have a format on this site that it can use.

Once I've got the formatting figured out completely, I'll try to get the book listed in the premium catalog. I'll post my progress here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dragonseed is live on Kindle!

Dragonseed is now live on kindle! At least in the US; still hasn't shown up in the UK, but I assume it will pop up soon.

The next phase of my ebublishing journey will be to make the books available on other platforms like Nook. Then, I have some decisions to make. There's an unpublished prequel to Bitterwood already written called Empire of Angels. The previous Solaris editors passed on it because it's nakedly science fiction instead of fantasy that's secretly science fiction. It's never been professionally edited and it was written before I wrote the trilogy, so it's going to take a bit of work to get it polished. On the plus side, it would be the fastest path possible to get additional material for the Bitterwood universe into the hands of my readers, and I'm curious to discover whether a book that has never been available before will sell more copies on Kindle, or less.

Then, of course, there's Nobody Gets the Girl. The challenge with Nobody is that I had to OCR scan the physical book, and now face the truly icky task of fixing all the errors that OCR scanning introduces into text.

Eventually, of course, both projects will come to fruition. One will happen before the other. Figuring out which one is the choice before me.

Finally, while I have no actual news about when I'll have another "real" book coming out, I have just spent three days at the World Fantasy Convention talking with agents and editors, including some excellent conversations with the new Solaris editor Jonathan Oliver. So... stay tuned!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

French Dragon Forge, update on Kindle Dragonseed

The French version of Dragon Forge will be released next month. Above is the cover art. My feelings are best described as mixed. I think this is a very nice cover for a fantasy novel, it just doesn't have very much to do with my particular book. Assuming that's Jandra, she doesn't carry a staff at any point in the book, and her outfit doesn't resemble anything I describe her as wearing (and the skin showing contradicts my description in the book of her dressing modestly). And, of course, the dragon in the background doesn't match my dragon design at all.
On the plus side, even though you can't see it in this image, the title of the book will be Dragon Forge rather than Dragonforge. Dragon Forge was my title for the book, but Solaris overruled me and named the book Dragonforge because, and I swear this was the actual logic, the first book had a one word title, so the second book needed a one word title. Since Dragon Forge was the name of a town, I wanted it to follow the naming convention of actual American towns like Valley Forge, Clifton Forge, Pidgeon Forge, etc. You can't see the title in the image because it will be imprinted in gold, which will be a different printing plate than the artwork. I was sent a PDF of the gold text, but when I try to rasterize it in photoshop and overlay it so you can see the whole image, I'm getting rendering errors. No big deal.
I also owe people an update on the progress toward releasing Dragonseed on Kindle. I blew my September goal because I spent most of the month working on my first short story in almost a year. I used to write a dozen new stories a year, but for the last two years my output has fallen to one or two a year. There are several reasons for this. Reason one, of course, is that novels just pay better than short stories, or at least have that potential. Last year and this year I wrote 115,000 words through three different drafts to produce Greatshadow. If an average short story is 5000 words, in theory this was the same effort as writing 23 short stories. But, the reality is, writing 23 short stories would be a gargantuan effort compared to writing one novel. Coming up with 23 main characters, 23 distinctly different plots, and 23 settings in a one year period would require superhuman effort. Of course, I say this aware that there are superhumans among us. Harlan Ellison at his peak could probably have cranked out 23 short stories in a day if he'd tried. But, I'm setting a more modest goal of writing 6 short stories over the next 12 months.
Back to Dragonseed: I promise it will be out in the next few weeks. I'm still not happy with my attempts at portraying Burke on the cover, and I'm determined this time to make my chapter headings consistent throughout the book, which means I can't rely on style sheets, which failed me on my Dragonforge conversion. Still, there's a very real possibility I'll have this ready by the end of next week, and then it will just be the matter of waiting for Amazon to post it.
I have a strong financial incentive to get this stuff ready quickly, by the way. My Amazon US kindle sales are okay, but my Amazon UK kindle sales are flat out amazing. Last week at one point the kindle version of Bitterwood was #4 in the Epic Fantasy category on Amazon UK. Today it's down to #14, but Dragonforge is at #6. I suspect that this may be a question of availability. There may be rights issues keeping more famous fantasy authors out of the Amazon UK store, so I have less competition. Whatever the reason, I've earned more from my ebook sales in the first two weeks of October than I did from my print sales for the last six months. Kindle rocks!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Kindle Journey part whatever, and a winner, maybe...

I thought I had this kindle thing licked. The key was to convert the file to text first, then consitently apply styles in Word to ensure the conversion didn't encounter any gliches, like I'd encountered in my initial attempts at posting Bitterwood. Dragonforge was much more successful... except, for some reason, my chapter titles aren't consistent. The style I applied was 14 point, centered, bold, all caps text for my chapter heads. But, it seems like Kindle can only translate three attributes from a style sheet. All my headings are bold, and all are centered, but some are a mix of uppercase and lowercase letter, but larger than the chapter text, and some are all caps, but the same size as the chapter text. I'm sure there must be some emoticon for throwing one's hands up in the air and shaking one's head in utter bewilderment.

My other frustration this time was that it was a much longer wait for this title to go live than Bitterwood. Maybe they have a lot of people on vacation at Amazon, but this time it took well over a week from my initial upload to the title becoming available. I've decided not to change the file to fix the chapter titles because I don't want to take the book down for another week to fix what's really a issue that I suspect most readers won't notice.

So... Dragonforge is live on Kindle! Next up, Dragonseed, then I'll switch gears and get all three books ready for the Nook.

Finally, some of you may be wondering whatever became of the superpowers context. I had about 20 different superpowers sent in and did my drawing for a winner Thursday morning. I drew an email from someone who signed his submission Korallieam. I emailed to let him know he'd won, but I haven't heard back from him yet with a full name or a mailing address. Hopefully he's just on a Labor Day vacation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

News! Reviews! Links!

First, Loren Eaton at the blog "I Saw Lightning Fall" has just posted a review of Dragonseed. He writes: Dragonseed maintains Maxey's typical mix of SF and fantasy, as well as addressing familiar themes such as naturalism and faith, the limits of political interventionism, and the danger of demagogy. Also, the novel serves up pleasingly complex battles as snarled as a catnip-spiked ball of yarn tossed into a box full of kittens. It's consistently entertaining stuff. Read the full review here.

Second, Joseph Mallozzi, executive producer of the various Stargate series and a fellow contributor in the Masked anthology invited me to drop by his blog and discuss the secret origins of my short story "Where Their Worm Dieth Not." The entry is live as of this morning. Check it out here.

One last note: I've gotten about a dozen superpowers suggested so far for Ap. (See the previous post if you don't know what I'm talking about.) I know it's tough to think of a superpower that hasn't already been used before. Yesterday I was brainstorming with some friends and every odd power they could think of I could point to a character that had already used that power. Someone suggested the power to bring inanimate objects to life, so that you could, for instance, animate an army of kitchen chairs to rise and do your bidding. I had to point out that this was exactly the superpower of Life Lass, a character who made occasional appearances in Legion of Superheroes. Legion sort of raised the bar for thinking of a new power--once you get to Matter-Eater Lad and Arm-Fall-Off-Boy, you know you're hitting the limits of useful powers. But, even if you know a power isn't original, and just want to enter the contest for the giveaway, feel free to send it in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Giveaway for Masked Anthology and Nobody Gets the Girl

When I got my copy of Masked, I mentioned on Facebook that I was going to hold a giveaway and suggested I might as folks to send in suggestions for new superheroes as part of the deal. Instead, I've decided that to enter the giveaway, I'd like for people to email me ideas about new superpowers. No power is too weird, useless, or dumb to earn a spot in the giveaway. What am I going to do with all these superpower suggestions? Well, I've got a project in mind for a new series of interweaving prose superhero adventures, and one of the heroes at the heart of it will have the superpower of being able to download new superpowers.

The premise: In 1985, runaway teenager Tommy Appleton was kidnapped by a supervillain and used as a human guinea pig to test a teleportation belt. The test did not go well. Tommy was disintegrated, his subatomic particles trapped in a state of quantum flux for twenty-five years until a team of government scientists investigating the villain’s inventions managed to hack the programming of the belt to allow Tommy to solidify once more. However, the belt arranged his body in an unstable state, and he discovers that his altered atomic structure grants him certain superpowers depending on how the belt’s programming is tweaked. Feeling he has no secrets to keep after being forgotten by the world for so long and wanting to use his powers for good, Tommy publishes the code for the belt on the internet and invites hackers to write programs to grant him superpowers he hasn’t even thought of yet. Live-casting all of his adventures, Tommy becomes gains celebrity as Ap, the world’s first open-source superhero.

I plan to be writing stories starring Ap and his fellow heroes starting this fall, and would like to solicit ideas for odd superpowers. If I have Ap use a power you suggest, I’ll acknowledge you within the body of the story. And, anyone who emails me a superpower suggestion by September 1 will qualify for a drawing in which I’ll give away a signed copy of my superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl as well as the Masked anthology edited by Lou Anders. The Masked anthology is hands down the best collection of short prose superhero fiction assembled to date, and I’d say that even if I didn’t have a story in it.

To enter the drawing, send an email to nobodynovelwriter@yahoo.com with the subject line “superpower.” You can suggest more than one superpower, but your name will only be placed in the drawing once. The way I envision Ap’s powers working is that his costume has a high speed connection to the internet, and he can browse the programs people upload and download them as needed. Using a power requires dematerializing and rematerializing parts of his body—and sometimes parts of his brain—so it’s not something he does on a whim. Also, the power he gains only lasts until he switches to a new power. Finally, he often has to choose an ability to download in the heat of battle, so the power should have some short, concise name. To use a non-original idea, the power to stimulate the molecules of materials that Ap gazes upon until they burst into flame would be a program called Heat Vision. The ability to locate socks lost in the laundry would be Sock Radar. So, when you send me the superpower, I’d like the catchy name along with a short summary of what it does. The drawing for the books will be held in early September, but if you’d like to send along superpower ideas for Ap after that, I intend to be writing the character’s adventures for the next few years.

A few other things about Ap and the world he occupies: Ap will operate in the universe of my superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl. Superheroes are reviled in this world after the destruction of a major city, but Ap goes public as part of a team known as the Covenant. These heroes have taken a pledge to only use their powers in cooperation with lawful authorities. They operate without secret identities, and go out of their way to remain connected with the general public through social media. They are financed by the wealthy widow Katrina Knowbokov, and refuse any compensation for their deeds.

Despite being from an earlier era, Ap is quick to embrace social media. But, there’s a reason he was a runaway twenty-five years earlier, and for all his public embrace of openness he’s determined that the world will never learn the dark secrets of his past.

Of course, everything I’m saying about Ap could change between now and the time I actually write the first story about him. My characters tend to morph the longer they remain in my head, and change further once the typing begins. Still, all projects must begin somewhere, and this is enough to build on for now.

So... power up, and good luck!

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Kindle Journey: Part 5. It's Alive!

At last, Bitterwood is live in the Kindle store! I've downloaded the complete copy and the formatting looks beautiful on my Droid. It includes free a sample chapter of Dragonforge, "Judgment by Swine." Download a free sample of the project (or purchase the whole thing for a very modest $2.99) by clicking here.

I feel very much in control of my own destiny as a writer at this moment. I've loved working with traditional publishers, and very much want to do so in the future. There's something satisfying about working with professional editors and seeing the work produced by professional cover artists. But, on the flip side, the rewards are nearly outweighed by an endless string of frustations. For instance, there have been multiple times when the paperback edition of Bitterwood has sold out, and simply not been available in bookstores or Amazon. To me, it's difficult to imagine how this happens; it seems as if publishers might have some system to collect data on how many books are selling and be able to anticipate when to order a new print run? Of course, the whole data collection is an entirely different complaint. Almost all authors I know complain about getting any kind of sales data out of their publishers on a timely basis. In theory, I'm supposed to be updated every six months. In practice, I'm updated at random every 7 or 8 months with data that is several months old. In May, for instance, I recieved information on how many copies of my dragon books had been sold through November of last year. By putting my own work up on kindle, I can get updates on a daily, even hourly basis. And, I don't have to wait until some random time for payment... I can just have the money from the sales transfered to me at the time of my choosing. What a concept!

I still have my doubts about just how much of the market ebooks are actually going to win. But, my royalty rates on Kindle sales are 1000% higher than my royalty rates on paperbacks. That wasn't a typo, by the way. My royalty on a paperback is 7%; Kindle offers 70% royalties. If my e-books ever reach even 10% of paperback sales, I'll be very happy. And, with the proliferation of smartphones, and the Kindle heading even lower in price, the future looks positive indeed.

Republishing my already published work is a no-brainer. The big question remains, will the Kindle prove such a strong outlet that I start writing books purely for release on that platform?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Kindle Journey Part 4: Gaining Wisdom

Based on feedback from Bullspec publisher Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, I revised the cover art to make certain the book looks like a fantasy novel instead of possibly historic fiction. When I first started Bitterwood, I was 30. My 45 year old protagonist seemed like he'd be pretty old. Now, I'm 46, and I'll be living the rest of my life with a book where I repeatedly label a character younger than myself an "old man." However, it saved me the trouble of having to find a model to pose as Bitterwood. All I needed to pose as my title character was a scowl, a towel, and photoshop. If any readers think you could pass as one of the main characters in Dragonforge or Dragonseed, let me know.
I uploaded Bitterwood to Kindle on Monday. The preview feature showed the font switching from times to courier in a couple of chapters. But, when I searched the html, I couldn't find any reference to courier, and it showed up as Times in both explorer and firefox. Reading the amazon forums, many people reported problems with the preview tool, so I just assumed it was a glitch. Wrong! When I downloaded the actual file, sure enough, it showed the font problem. This forced me to go back to my files and search for any differences between the changed areas. It turned out, I had two different word "styles" assigned to my ordinary paragraph text. One style was "normal" and one style was "plain." This was no doubt introduced by the fact that a I wrote Bitterwood over several years on multiple computers and multiple world processing packages (I may have started it in WordPro, to give you an idea of how ancient this project is). Anyway, even though I had selected all text and changed it to Times, the base font for the "plain" style was courier. I edited the style sheet and reuploaded this morning, and it now previews fine. Alas, the novel was available for sale on the Kindle store for over a day before I could alter the file, and I actually sold a copy. I apologize to whoever bought it, and hope the font problem isn't too distracting.
So, at this stage of my Kindle journey, I have two bits to wisdom to share:
First, trust the preview tool. If it shows a formatting error, take however long you need to fix it, since there's a lag between the time you publish a file and the time Amazon allows you to go back and edit that file.
Second, if you're working in Word, the very first step I'd recommend before you start editing the file for kindle is to select all the text and use the "clear formatting" command in the style bar. Then, just to be safe, save it as plain text, to make certain you've got rid of all the styles that Microsoft Word so helpfully auto generates. However, once you do have a completely clean copy of the text, styles can save a lot of time if you're applying them to scene starts and chapter titles.
It may take a few days for the revised file I uploaded this morning to go live, so if you want Bitterwood on your Kindle, I'd advise waiting a week. I'll update again once I feel certain that that product that can be downloaded is a product I'm proud of.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Kindle Journey Part 3: Cover!

So, here's my non-artist attempt at making my own cover for Bitterwood. I used to do a lot of typesetting when I ran the old computer services department at Kinko's, so I may have gone a little overboard on the fonts--the "Bitterwood" uses three different fonts: Bart heavy for the B, Freedom 9 thin for the W, Dragon for the rest. The background, meant to resemble dragon hide, was a happy accident: The pattern I overlaid in photoshop was really muddy, with the red and black lines blurred, but when I exported it to a jpeg the lines got sharper, which is the exact opposite of what normally happens with a jpeg. Anyway, I liked it, though it may be a little busy.

The arrow is purely digital. My art skills are limited to drawing straight lines, but, hey, that's what an arrow is, pretty much. The stone was photographed at a graveyard in Georgetown, SC, and the blood is ketchup poured onto a white sink.

My biggest concern is the text at the bottom. I was going to use a quote from a review, but changed my mind and went with the quote I use to open the book, since I think it sums up the theme of the novel better than anything else. I'm not often influenced by quotes from other authors when I select my books, and actually like brief excerpts from the work on the cover material. But, maybe I'm in a minority here.

Does anyone have any thoughts or comments? I finished my kindle draft of Bitterwood earlier this morning. I now have some fiddling to do with the HTML, but I may be putting it up on Amazon as early as Monday. I'm probably going to include a chapter or two from Dragonforge at the end of the book as bonus material, and maybe the short story "Tornado of Sparks." If it weren't for needing to work on that, I'd probably upload it today.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Kindle Journey Part 2

So, at some point, this project turned into actual, you know, work. I spent much of last week reading through my last good file for Bitterwood. I've been reformatting as I go along, trying to put in some professional touches to the type so that it will look good on the kindle. I've also been revising the text to erase continuity errors with the later books. I really haven't had any of readers complain about the things I changed my mind on between book one and book two, and part of me feels like I shouldn't be tampering with a work that's already in print. But, on the other hand, another part of me feels like I owe the public the best book I can produce. Anyway, since I'm revising more than I had planned, I'm only half way through the manuscript, when I'd planned on being done by now.

I've also been trying to figure out what to do about the cover. I can't reuse the Solaris covers. Part of me is tempted to go with a very minimalist approach, nothing but text. After all, the people who will be buying it on Amazon are still going to see the Solaris covers on the main page for the book. The image just isn't going to be included in the file. But, I've also been playing around with a theme of using a bloodied arrow on the cover of Bitterwood, a tomahawk on the cover of Dragonforge, and a blunderbuss on the cover of Dragonseed. I'm thinking of doing actual photos of these weapons; the only drawback being I don't know where to get my hands on a real blunderbuss.

The funny thing is that the more work I put into this project, the more ambitious my plans become. I think I'm going to release the three novels one by one, but then collect them all as one file next year, along with short stories I've written in the Bitterwood universe, plus selected essays from my blogs about writing the series. We'll see. If I have Bitterwood up for a year and it only sells a dozen copies, my enthusiasm for the project may wane. And, there's something unsettling about spending so much time working on stuff I've already written. I'm eager to write some new material. My short story inventory has become especially low.

But, one nice thing about looking back at Bitterwood is, this is the first time since it's been published that I've actually read the book. I never read it when it came out; I was too busy plowing ahead with Dragonforge, and too nervous about the book having continuity errors. Fortunately, now that I'm in the thick of the book, I'm pleased to discover it's holding up pretty well. Three years is just the right amount of distance for me to see the book I wrote, rather than the book I remember. I can see mistakes I made, sure, but I'm also able to enjoy the book as a reader, since I no longer remember every twist and turn. And I'm discovering that it's not bad. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Kindle Journey, Part 1

Getting my novels available in various e-book formats is one of my top goals of the summer. My former agent had the wisdom to retain the digital rights. I've since had an offer for the rights, but felt like the royalties offered were rather slim when compared to the direct slice I could earn if I published the books myself. I don't think self-publishing books that have already been professionally published carries the stigma of vanity publishing. The only thing that has held me back to date has been ignorance and sloth. This is true of very many areas of my life, but, specifically, I didn't know how to go about converting my books to digital format and I didn't know if the money that could be earned would be worth the effort. I did know it wouldn't be a trivial investment of time. All of the dragon age books and Nobody went through final edits in PDF format. This means I don't have the final edited word files on any of them, and will need to revise and edit from the last Word files I have available. In the case of Nobody, I may actually have to scan in the book and deal with cleaning up the OCR scan, an extremely tedious task.

Fortunately, years of working as a professional writer have toughened me for the task of working insanely long hours on projects for which I may see only meager rewards. I don't expect any of my ebook offerings to make me rich, but I do think I'll benefit from the "long tail" effect. It may be I only sell a few dozen digital copies each year of any given title, but, since there's no cost for storing the stock, those sales can persist year after year and, in the long run, amount to something. And, I never have to worry about the book selling out a print run, the way Bitterwood has twice now, leaving gaps where it's unavailable to those interested in reading it.

Which leaves me mainly with a knowledge gap of learning how to format and upload files to the various formats and outlets. My first target is to get my books available on Kindle, which seems to be the market leader, both in the stand alone readers and in the free software on various platforms, including Android phones. I tried reading some other authors advice on publishing on the Kindle, but wasn't happy with any resource I found. Some were too technical, talking about XML tags, whiles other were too vague and general.

So, I decided that the best way to figure out the process was just to plunge ahead and do it. I decided to start with a short story, "Final Flight of the Blue Bee," and make it available for just 99 cents. This is the minimum price you can charge on the Kindle. FFBB is a story that originally was published in Asimov's and has since been reprinted twice. It's a superhero story, so it should appeal to readers who enjoyed Nobody Gets the Girl. And, since it was under 8,000 words long, the editing task of converting it to HTML didn't seem to great a task.

And, it wasn't! I just saved as HTML from the file menu in word. Well, duh. I was still worried that when I uploaded the file, I'd get strange formatting errors. Nope! It converted over just fine. Now, admittedly, I didn't do anything fancy. There's no table of contents, like I plan to put in my novels, hyperlinking to the chapters. Still, I was worried about really basic stuff, like whether paragraphs, quotations, and em-dashes would convert well, and they did.

So, as of today, I have my very first Kindle offering available. Click here if you'd like to see the amazon page. Cool, eh?

Now that I've learned that the technical side is relatively easy, I'm ready to tackle the novels. No small task; all the dragon books are in the 120,000 word range, so the sheer mass of reading through them again is going to take some time. But, I'll keep readers here posted on my progress. My first target will be Bitterwood. Hopefully by the time I've got all four novels available, I'll have some further news on Greatshadow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Greatshadow Lives. Also, Writing as a Method of Mapping Ignorance.

Last Friday, I passed an important milestone for my latest novel, Greatshadow. It will seem trivial perhaps, but that was the day when I finally put together a single word file with the title "Greatshadow.complete.doc." I now have an actual novel 113k words long. I began this project last July, but due to various false starts, I'll used August 1, 2009 as my official starting point. Since then, I've been writing and rewriting chapters. The first draft had about 20 chapters. I didn't show these chapters to anyone. This was the draft where the book was still raw and half formed. I had characters who had showed up to take part in the story who were still strangers to me, and I was fuzzy on details in setting, plotting, etc. But, the whole point of my first draft is to educate myself on the broadest extent of my ignorance. I start writing the book knowing there are certain things I don't know, but am blissfully unaware of many more things I don't know. By the time I get to the end of my first draft, I have a really good map of the deficiencies in my knowledge and imagination. For instance, in my first draft, I have a minor character named Aurora. She's an ice-ogress with a broad range of ice-related powers. She started as an enforcer for another character, the Black Swan, but beyond this, I didn't know much about her other than she was a tough guy with some cold-themed magic tricks. I thought she might be in one or two scenes, and that would be that.

But, a funny thing happened as I wrote the book. I had to introduce a magical weapon that could be a genuine threat to the dragon, and since he's a dragon of fire, it made sense that the weapon would also have a cold theme. How do I introduce the back story of the weapon? Suddenly, it's obvious: Aurora has a back story that links her to the weapon. So, now Aurora is along for the quest, an actual member of the team rather than just a passing cast member. But, I hadn't really developed her much in my imagination. She wasn't even a she when I started writing; she had started out as a tough male ogre, and I had only flipped her to female because I wanted a little gender diversity in a heavily male cast.

The more I used Aurora, the more questions I had about her. Had she ever been in love? How had an ice-ogre gotten to the tropics? Why was she putting up with some of the abuse certain other characters were heaping on her for not being human? The more I wrote her, the more I knew how much more I needed to write about her in the next draft.

So, draft two. This time, I've figured out what didn't know the first time and have to put it onto the page, often wiping out whole scenes and chapters built during my initial ignorance. This draft, I do show to readers, a special circle of critiquers who provide me with feedback and reaction as they read. As I read their reactions, I begin to build a map of a whole knew level of ignorance: My readers begin asking me questions that I don't know the answers to, and they are questions I would never have thought of myself. For instance, I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on a character known as Father Ver, but it turned out that my understanding was actually pretty two-dimensional, and I needed the reader reaction to prod me into thinking deeper about the character. And, I also discover that some stuff I put in just didn't work. There was a fight near the end of the book with a character named Wonowon. Wonowon fought by reflecting back each characters worst fears. I intended the name to be a reference to room 101 from 1984, where Big Brother took you to be confronted with the worst thing in the world. No one got it. Part of the confusion was that Wonowon only speaks in palindromes. "Murder for a jar of red rum," is an offer Wonowon makes to my narrator Stagger, an alcoholic who does worry that he would stoop to killing if he was thirsty enough for booze. I thought the mirror language was a nice touch, but it made the name all the more confusing, since the name was almost a palindrome, but not quite. So, after draft 3, the name has changed to Nowowon.

When I write the third draft, I now have a long list of reader questions that I have to answer. The result should be a book that answers every important questions. The questions I choose not to answer are framed as hints of future events, or else explicitly addressed as questions that no one in the book knows the answer to. The finished product is something very much like a novel.

But, of course, it's not. It's just a string of chapters. It doesn't truly feel like a book to me until I combine everything into one file. This is an important step for mainly psychological reasons. If someone wants to read the book, I can now just mail them a single file. But, there are some practical advantages to having everything put together. Some of my characters underwent name changes, since one of the things I'm ignorant on when I start a book is what my characters will actually be called. This time, I decided very late in the game to change a character name from "Stranger" to "Relic." Stranger was too generic, and, even worse, looked to much like Stagger, my narrator. Relic better captured the tone of the character, and provides a nice ironic twist at the end of the book when details of his true identity are unveiled. But, since "stranger" was a work I had used in non-naming contexts, I had to do a search and replace on the whole book where I examined every single usage of the word, rather than just trusting a universal search and replace. This was much easier to do with the novel assembled than it was chapter by chapter.

Now that I have a whole book, what next? I've already got the novel submitted to one publisher. I could just put it aside and wait for a response, but I still have more work to do. I'm going to set it aside for a week or so, then I'm going to read the whole book out loud in order to smooth out the prose and hunt for typos. Then, I'll send it to more friends for feedback and opinions, in case there's still something I'm missing that could make it a better book. And then, I'll probably start working on a sequel.

Before I do the sequel, however, I plan to make my dragon novels and Nobody Gets the Girl available on the Kindle platform. This will be be my first foray into e-publishing. I intend to document my adventures in converting and uploading the files here, so that others might benefit from my mistakes. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ConCarolina's Wrap Up

Avast! Little by little, I'm building a pirate costume to enhance my con-attending experience. When I first started going to cons, I was sort of mystified by the costumed attendees. My enthusiasm for dressing up in costumes had vanished pretty much around the time I stopped trick or treating, and I just wasn't sure what to make of all these grown men in storm trooper suits. I mean, I'm geeky, even nerdy, but it just seemed like there was some sort of danger line you crossed over once you started dressing up as your favorite film characters.

But, I've been going to cons for about five years now, and I'm pleased to report that I have managed to loosen up. No longer to I look upon the costumed hordes as wierdos who've had trouble growing up. Or rather, I've finally had the courage to admit that I may well be a wierdo who's had trouble growing up, and what's wrong with that?

My pirate costume has fairly organic origins. Basically, about two years ago I decided to let my hair grow and gave up on shaving, for the most part. Last year, I took a road trip with Cheryl along the inner banks of NC, where about every third village claims to have been the home of Blackbeard. And, looking at drawings of Blackbeard, I thought: You know, all I really need is the hat, and that could be me.

But, there's sort of a slippery slope. Once you buy the hat, you start thinking you need a pirate shirt. And the pirate shirt doesn't look right without a pirate coat and sash. And, of course, I also need the boots. And a cutlass. I could have dumped out $500 all at once on these things, except, you know, I don't often have a spare $500 sitting around. So, I've been building it a piece at a time. I figure that five years from now, I should be up to the eye-patch and parrot. If I get to the point that I start decorating my car to look like a ship, please stage an intervention.

Anyway, I didn't set out to blog about my costume. I meant to blog about ConCarolina's. This year, I've heard rumors that the over 1000 people attended, and that seems plausible. The programming track was very rich this year, with tracks on science and the paranormal in addition to the writing, anime, and media tracks. I think the richness of the content makes ConCarolina's really stand out.

Highlights of the con for me included the "Year in Science" panel with Stephen Euin Cobb. We've been paired together on panels before, and play off each other well. We talk about the latest advances in robotics with the same high energy enthusiasm other guys have when they talk about football. Hopefully the audience has as much fun as we do! I also did a "Where's the Proof?" panel about ghosts. I was the only skeptic on a panel with three ghost hunters, including two professed pyschics. I anticipated hostility, but the hour actually went by as a rather genial discussion, and, even as a person who doesn't believe in ghosts, I had to agree that ghost stories give a little extra spice to life, and I wouldn't want to live in a world without them. Finally, there was a panel about creating protagonists that was led by Ed Schubert and I thought this was one of the best writing panels I've ever taken part in. A lot of writing panels at cons tend to focus on fairly vague generalities, but I thought Ed did a nice job at drilling down to get at the heart of why some protagonists resonate while others are just duds.

I was on eleven panels in total; the fact that I'm not mentioning one here doesn't mean it wasn't good, just that, after what amounts to 11 public speaking events in a span of roughly 44 hours, I arrived home with a brain full of mush, a big grin on my face, and partial amnesia. If anyone out there has a photo of a bespectacled pirate behaving erratically in a hotel lobby, please don't try to blackmail me. I'm currently saving my money for a good pair of boots! Yaarrr!

The Evolution of a Cover

This summer I have a story coming out in an anthology called Masked, edited by Lou Anders. The cover design is by Richard Yoo, and he's just posted an essay showing the various drafts of the cover, which I thought was an interesting glimpse into the publishing process. I'll be talking more about Masked as the publication date draws closer. I'm really excited about being in this anthology. A lot of previous superhero anthologies have missed the mark, coming off as ironic critiques of superheroes rather than enthusiastic celebrations of them. This time, Lou took the trouble to solicit stories from people who actually liked superheroes, and I think the quality and tone of the whole anthology are going to produce a lot of five star reviews on Amazon (and, hopefully, a lot of sales). More news soon!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Signing, June 15, Cary Barnes and Noble

A quick note to announce that a week from today, I'll be at the Cary Barnes and Noble at 7pm for a fantasy and science fiction panel featuring Lisa Shearin, Kelly Gay, Mark Van Name, David Drake, and me. These signings are starting to turn into a regular annual event. Last year, the signing occurred about a week before Dragonseed was released, meaning I wasn't able to sell my entire trilogy. This year, it's taking place when Bitterwood is once again sold out at the warehouse, so I still won't have all my books available. One day, maybe I'll do a signing where my entire trilogy is available at once....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ConCarolinas June 4-6

I'll be at ConCarolina's this weekend and just got my schedule. I love this particular science fiction convention because they always have a lot of panels discussing the science half of the equation, while many cons focus solely on the fiction. And, the con has been surging in size in recent years, no doubt due to the enthusiasm and talent of the organizers. So, if you're near Charlotte this weekend and want a chance to geek out, there's really no better place you could want to be.

I'll have a table in the hall to sell copies of my books where I'll hang out between panels. Not that there's much "between" for me. I'm on eleven of them! Here's my scedule:

Friday 03:00 pm to 04:00 pm
Event Name: Why Science is Necessary
Location: Keynes - Programming 5
Is the US falling behind in science? What can be done to get more kids involved in science?

PanelistsDebra Killeen, Stephen Euin Cobb, James J McGee, James Maxey

Friday 06:00 pm to 07:00 pm
Event Name: A Character`s Best Friend
Location: University Ballroom A - Programming 3
Creating familiars and other animal sidekicks.

PanelistsA.J. Hartley, Dahlia Rose, J. F. Lewis, Kalayna Price, Misty Massey, James Maxey

Friday 07:00 pm to 08:00 pm
Event Name: Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?
Location: Keynes - Programming 5
Are humans affecting the Earth`s climate and what can we do aobut it if we are?

PanelistsChris Berman, Debra Killeen, Mike Pederson, James Maxey

Saturday 09:00 am to 10:00 am
Event Name: Where`s the Proof?
Location: Walden - Programming 4
What constitutes hard evidence in the field of paranormal study? What would it take to convince the skeptics?

PanelistsJames Maxey, K.G. McAbee, Lisa Phillips, Mike Pederson, Tally Johnson, Sarah Sherman, Todd Lacey, Nathan Levan

Saturday 11:00 am to 12:00 pm
Event Name: I Need a Hero!
Location: University Ballroom A - Programming 3
Creating the perfect protagonist.

PanelistsAllen Wold, Bobby Nash, Dahlia Rose, Faith Hunter, James Maxey, Robert V Aldrich, Edmund R. Schubert

Saturday 01:00 pm to 02:00 pm
Event Name: The Future of NASA
Location: Keynes - Programming 5
The shuttle program is at an end. What`s next for our space program?

PanelistsChris Berman, James Maxey

Saturday 04:00 pm to 05:00 pm
Event Name: The Year in Science
Location: Keynes - Programming 5
What`s new in the scientific works and what to expect in 2011.

PanelistsJames Maxey, Stephen Euin Cobb

Saturday 05:00 pm to 06:00 pm
Event Name: Taking Leave
Location: University Ballroom A - Programming 3
Many writers imagine a future where euthanasia is commonplace. Is this a better future - or worse?

PanelistsJ. F. Lewis, James Maxey

Saturday 06:00 pm to 07:00 pm
Event Name: Cryptozoology
Location: Walden - Programming 4
Bigfoot? Nessie? Chubacabra? Studying legendary beasties.

PanelistsCheralyn Lambeth, James Maxey, K.G. McAbee, Mike Pederson, Bill Mulligan

Sunday 11:00 am to 12:00 pm
Event Name: Censorship
Location: Keynes - Programming 5
How to deal with people who want to silence your voice.

PanelistsA.J. Hartley, James Maxey, J. F. Lewis, Karen Diaz, Misty Massey, DJ Torch, On Mark
Productions , Stephen Mark Rainey, Allen Wold

Sunday, May 9, 2010

No wonder I write dragon novels. Look what I discovered in my bedroom right before I was going to sleep. No doubt this shadow dragon has been whispering to me in my dreams.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dragons in Paris! (Berlin, too.)

Last month saw the publication of the French and German editions of Bitterwood. The french translator, Clémentine Curie, contacted me a few months back and I took the opportunity to ask if she'd agree to an interview about the translation process. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions. So, I've you've ever wondered what goes into translating a novel, read on:

JM: A few years back, my short story "Final Flight of the Blue Bee" was published in a Russian magazine. I ran some of the Russian manuscript through an online translation service and what I got back bordered on gibberish. Do you think human translators have anything to fear from computer translators?

CC: As your experience well shows, computer translators are unlikely to ever be a threat, for the simple reason that translation isn't about matching one word with another, but about rendering in another language the concepts and ideas that are behind the words. This requires autonomous thinking, which only a human brain is capable of. Computers are just pre-programmed machines, after all, and thus very limited. Translation isn't an exact science which you can codify. For one given text, there will be as many different translations as there are translators. Depending on the way you understand the text, with your subjectivity and personal background, you'll word your translation differently.

JM: Do you think translating science fiction and fantasy poses any additional challenges that you might not encounter in translating, say, a murder mystery?

CC: I wouldn’t say there's any major difference in that particular case. When translating literature, the main challenge is to recreate the author's style in your own language. It’s also important to gather as much knowledge as possible on the subject of the book, but this applies to pretty much any type of translation. One difference I can think about though is when it comes to made-up words in fantasy. It's a whole lot of fun coming up with translations for those. It allows the translator to be creative, and I really like that.

The difference is much greater between a literary text and a scientific one, for instance. The translating process isn't the same because when it comes to technical translating, every single domain you can think of has its own specific vocabulary and way of phrasing concepts which you can’t avoid using – what you call ‘jargon’. What I like with literary translation is that you're much freer, in a sense.

JM: Does fantasy literature have a big following in France?

Not really to be honest, unfortunately. It's still limited to a specific audience of – thankfully – faithful readers. The success of books such as Harry Potter has helped of course, but there's still a long way to go. France has always disregarded fantasy and stigmatized it as a second-rate genre essentially targeted at children and young adults. I'm confident this will change in the long run though, thanks to publishing houses such as Le Pré aux Clercs. And it certainly won't keep me from translating what I like!

CC: How did you get involved in the translation end of the book industry? And how did you get selected for the Bitterwood translation?

Ever since high-school, I’ve been set on becoming a translator. Admittedly, my living five years in the United States helped a lot; I basically always had an easy time with English at school so it was only natural to take advantage of that. Nearly two years ago I started attending ESIT, a renowned school for translation. The course focuses mainly on technical translating, and since I've always been more of a literary person, I decided to try my luck and find an internship at a publishing house. That's how I ended working for three months at Le Pré aux Clercs, and how editor Carola Strang offered me to have a go at translating Bitterwood. I was thrilled to have the opportunity of translating a novel, and fantasy too! After that, everything went very fast, and before I knew it the contract was signed. I feel very grateful.

JM: Did you come away from Bitterwood with any favorite characters?

CC: After those many hours spent in their company, I've become quite acquainted with the characters and can say I love them almost as much as if they were my own! I'm rather fond of Blasphet, he's the kind of character you just love to hate. I also like that Bitterwood isn't your typical hero, and the fact that you gave equal share to male and female characters in the story.

JM: If you liked Blasphet, you’ll be happy to know he continues to play a major role in Dragonforge. Are you going to be translating this as well?

CC: Yes I'm translating Dragonforge right now actually. I do enjoy the way your characters are evolving and am curious to see how they will do in the last book. I hope I will get to translate that one too!

JM: Great! I'm happy to hear it. The book's in good hands.

Friday, April 16, 2010


And (drumroll please) the winners of the giveaway for the two copies of Blood and Devotion are Larry Hodges and Chandon Harris! If you two will email me at nobodynovelwriter (at) yahoo.com with your mailing address, I'll get the books out to you next Monday.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blood and Devotion giveaway!

Blood and Devotion is the latest anthology from Fantasist Enterprises, edited by William Horner and Illustrated by Nicole Cardiff. The theme of the anthology is summed up on the FE website: "Brave warriors and devotees to the gods follow the paths their faiths have put before them, and when religious fervor meets skill of arms and magic, kings will fall, armies will collide, and men and women will perish for their beliefs."

The stories within are:
Foreword by David B. Coe
“The Daughters of Desire” by Jay Lake
“Hammer Song” by K. L. Van der Veer
“The Treachery of Stone” by William Jones
“In the Light of Dying Fires” by Gerard Houarner
“The Perils of Twilight” by Peter Andrew Smith
“The Gifts of Avalae” by Ian McHugh
“Eye of the Destroyer” by Aliette de Bodard
“Greatshadow” by James Maxey
“Magic’s Choice” by R. W. Day

The title "Greatshadow" may be familiar to readers of this blog as the name of my current novel project. The short story in this anthology is the inspiration for the novel, containing the same basic plot: The church has launched an expedition of its finest warriors to wipe out Greatshadow, the world's most feared dragon. A band of local mercenaries has been hired to help guide the heroes to the dragon's lair, but the mercenaries plot to kill the heroes once the dragon is slain and keep the treasure for themselves.

I recently acquired some extra copies of the anthology to reward wise-readers of the Greatshadow novel, and still have a couple left over. So, let there be a drawing! I've got two copies to give away. But, you've got to do a little work if you want a copy: I'd like to see jokes about dragons. How many dragons does it take to screw in a light bulb? Why did the dragon cross the road? A wizard, a knight and a dragon walk into a bar.... you get the idea. Either post your jokes in the comment thread or email them to me at nobodynovelwriter@yahoo.com. I'll draw two winners from the entries on April 16. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Congrats Jeff!

Robo-Bobo has drawn a winner of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, 2009 edition and that winner is Jeff Domer Jr. To enter the drawing, I asked that people submit a haiku on my facebook page themed around my writing. The entries were:

It could go no worse,
when Nobody gets the girl.
We'll just move to Mars.
--Jeff Domer Jr.

Brilliant star sparks dreams
of space flight in lizard brains?
Sorry, perhaps not.
--Eric James Stone

Bitterwood falls down
Dragonforge tempers Bant out
Dragaonseed quenches
--Jack Tackett Jr.

Bant stands, weapon drawn
As everything turns to ash.
Even sweet revenge.
--Danielle Friedman

If you didn't take part in that drawing, stay tuned! I just got another anthology in the mail today, Blood and Devotion from Fantasist Enterprises, which contains the short story "Greatshadow" that I based my recent novel on. I'll be thinking of some way to structure the giveaway soon. In the meantime, here's the cover to whet your appetite:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Years Best Giveaway

Got my contributor's copies of "Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2009 Edition" today. Contains "Silent as Dust." It's inspired my first ever facebook giveaway! If you'd like to enter a drawing for a free copy of the antho, post a haiku on my facebook wall that relates in some way to one of my books or stories. Robo-Bobo, my name-picking cybermonkey, will choose a winner on March 2, as a reverse birthday present.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Amazon/Publisher Wars Hit Close to Home

Some of you may have heard that a major publisher, McMillian, put their foot down and insisted that their e-books sell for higher than $9.99, the standard price on Kindle. Amazon played hardball, and removed all "buy" buttons for books from the publisher. Amazon has since backed down, but some friends of mine who are with imprints under the McMillian umbrella got hit by this corporate warfare. In particular, David B. Coe had the bad luck of having a book released while this was going on, and the "buy" button still hasn't been restored for the book!

For more details about David's book battles, check out his livejournal post.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Return to Return to Sender

An essay by your's truly has just gone live on the Sideshow Freaks blog. I was asked to write the "story behind the story," explaining what motivated me to write "Return to Sender." I was going to write "So IGMS would send me another check," but that didn't really get to the heart of it. So, for a slightly meatier bit of literary introspection, click here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Return to Sender

Return to Sender is now live at IGMS! It features absolutely gorgeous art by Julie Dillon, who has completely captured the spirit of the tale.
It's the tale of young Crystal Lance, the world's last Knight Templar. Raised in remote monastary since birth, her first journey out into modern America in an undercover mission to bust up an evil cult has her struggling with a fair amount of culture shock along with hell-spawned monsters. She's been trained since childhood to fight dragons, but can her spiritual faith survive sexual attraction, rock and roll, and coffee?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Greatshadow update, Best of the Year 2009

My new novel, Greatshadow, has reached the final chapters of the second draft. I'd hoped to be done by now, but the death of my father in November and my best friend in December understandably threw me off kilter. On one hand, it feels creepy to be writing a book that has a dead narrator when the two most important men in my life have passed on. My narrator spends a fair amount of time opining on how being dead sucks, and part of me feels like I'm trivializing death by writing a book where the deceased narrator carries on in a state of pseudo-life, making observations about an afterlife that only exists in a fictional universe, while saying nothing actually very profound about death in the real world. On the other hand, I feel the grieving of my main protagonist (who was in love with the narrator) perhaps a bit more personally, and the flow of actual emotion onto the page only improves fiction.

The main protagonist is a woman known as Infidel. This isn't her birth name, of course. She's earned the nickname because from time to time priests in black robes will attack her without warning, shouting "Infidel" before they attempt to stab her. There is, of course, a story behind that, though you'll have to wait until the book hits print to discover how she earned the name.

Unless, of course, you're one of my wise readers. My readers have been plugging away chapter by chapter, and last week wise reader Jenney Callaghan sent me the perfect gift for this moment in my life, a coffee cup with the word "Infidel" in both english and arabic. I had a very good laugh when I opened the box, and I suspect it will come in handy in helping me load up on the dangerous amounts of caffeine required for me to bring this story in over the finish line.

Speaking of finish lines, long ago I mentioned I had a story in Rich Horton's The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2009 Edition. The book was originally slated for late spring, then October, and not long ago Amazon was showing a publication date of February of next year. But, on December 31, at about 4:30, a UPS man approached me and handed me a box and LO! The book! It exists, and is shipping now from Amazon. The fact that it made it into print in time to be in my hands on the last day of 2009 pleases me. And, this book should please you, if you are a lover of big, fat books full of SF and Fantasy short fiction from the best writers in the field today. Available now, by clicking here.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy New Year, dragon fans. I had two giveaways going on for today. Robo-Bobo, my name-picking cyber-monkey was tough to start today. I think he overdid it at the New Year's Eve party last night. It took several bottles of banana oil and three solid hours of cursing before he finally sputtered to life and produced some results.

First, there were three winners in the drawing for John Brown's "Servant of a Dark God" contest that I had announced in my book review column over at IGMS. The three winners are:
Danielle Friedman
Jesse Whitehead

Next, Robo-Bobo returned to the digital hat to produce two winners of the Shimmer Clockwork Jungle Book. The two copies will go to:
Ann Perry
L Chetsko

Congrats to all the winners! I'll be notifying you via email later tonight/early tomorrow.