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!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hush wise-readers needed; also, BiblioBuffet interview is live!

First, I was recently part of a globe spanning interview with Rowena Cory Daniells (Australia) and Juliet McKenna (Britain). We live on three different continents but all share the same publisher (Solaris) and write in the same genre (fantasy). Gillian Polack did the interview for BiblioBuffet. It can be found via this link. I think the interview provides some interesting insights into different creative processes.

Second: The first draft of HUSH, the sequel to GREATSHADOW, is complete! Wooo! This was either my ninth or tenth novel. The count is complicated because I wrote my fifth/sixth novel twice. I did a complete first draft of Empire of Angels but knew it had gone terribly off the rails. Still, I slogged through, figuring I could tweak it in the second draft. But, when I got to the end, I realized the book was about a completely different protagonist who had appeared in the first draft. So, I threw out the almost the whole first draft and started again. (I did keep a subplot from one of the minor POV characters intact.)

Anyway, Hush: Whatever number it is, it is a book now. It has a beginning, middle, and end. It's too ugly to show anyone at the moment, but give me a few weeks and I'll start making it pretty.

For the second draft, I'm looking for wise-readers. The traits I'm looking for in wise-readers are: 1. Speed. I send out two or three chapters every week, and while I don't have a time limit for critiques, most of my best wise-readers get the chapters back to me in about a week so that they are staying on pace with me. 2. Superhuman patience with typos and missing words. The second draft is not a polished draft to be turned in to a publisher. In the second draft, I'm mainly concerned with making sure all my characters come across as real people and that all my plot events flow in a logical sequence. I start worrying about line editing in the third draft, and what I miss, Solaris pays someone to catch, so I don't want a "critique" that consists of a long list of every time I've used an apostrophe in the wrong place. Instead, I want reactions to events and characters. I want to know if the story is making sense.

The pitch for the book: A pregnant warrior named Infidel has to journey to the land of ice-ogres to return a sacred harpoon that had belonged to a friend lost in battle. The harpoon has the power to kill primal dragons, which means that Infidel must defend the weapon from an army of evil cultists who want to use the harpoon to kill Glorious, the primal dragon of the sun, and plunge the world into permanent winter. This provides an action-packed backdrop for a book that deals with deeper themes such as how love is changed by death, the differences between justice and revenge, and what traits one needs to be a good parent.

If you'd like to be a wise-reader, I'll start sending out chapters of the second draft starting the second weekend of June. I should be done with the full second draft by the end of August. Hush is a sequel to Greatshadow, but I think it stands alone relatively well, so if you haven't read the first book, you should be able to jump in and catch up fairly swiftly. Or, if you'd like to read Greatshadow before Hush flows your way, I'd be happy to email a copy of that book in advance. Just drop me a line at nobodynovelwriter@yahoo.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

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And... I think the first draft is done. I'm in the middle of chapter 21 and there are a few loose ends to wrap up, but chapter 20 delivered the big climatic solution to the central problem of the novel. A lot of what lies before me now in the last chapter is just finding some nice poetic things for the characters to say to one another as they set off on new adventures. I also have to do some fine-tuning of the big climatic solution, but the current plan I have for dealing with this may not be the final way I go. Basically, at this point I think my best approach to ending this book is to put the last words on the back burner and start work on the second draft. I now know all the major plot twists and turns and have a good inventory of all the characters who turned up to take part in the book.

Later this week (perhaps as soon as tomorrow night) I'll start soliciting wise-readers for the second draft. My current plan is to set the book aside for about a week, then start rewriting. I should start sending out chapters the second weekend of June. If you're interested in being a wise-reader, stay tuned. Details of how to participate will follow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Return to Radio!

The big news I hinted at yesterday is that I'm going to again be a guest on the State of Things! I'll be on during the first two segments of this Wednesday's show, along with James Daily from the blog Law and the Multiverse. We are discussing the recent news that Superman has renounced his US citizenship in the most recent issue of Action Comics. The show broadcasts live at noon on WUNC, and is repeated at 9pm that night. Also, podcasts of the show may be downloaded at the State of Things website.

For a preview of my feelings on the matter, check out my essay Superman was Never an American on my Jawbone of an Ass blog.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

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The slog continued this week. I'm now firmly in the middle of chapter 19, and the end of the book is definitely in sight. I suspect I'll be wrapping up in Chapter 21 based on the number of big events remaining. There is a real possibility that this coming week will be the end of the first draft process, somewhere around the 90k mark. I don't have to write every last scene in the book at this stage, so some of the final scenes might hit the page just as summaries of what has to happen. Then, I can go back to the beginning and have two or three months to daydream about the climatic scene before I actually dive into writing it. The important thing is, now that the end is nigh, I'm discovering all the things I need to do early in the book to make the ending I've arrive at make sense. In fact, I'm discovering things I need to go back and put into Greatshadow to lay the groundwork for some of the plot twists I've decided on. Luckily, that book hasn't yet had it's final edits and it's still pretty easy to work in small bits of information that will have big payoffs later.

And, I hope to be blogging again tomorrow evening with some big news about the superhero aspect of my writing career. Tune in tomorrow!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

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Very tough week. I spent the neccessary hours with butt-in-chair, and my energy levels have definitely improved now that I've started treatment for my thyroid condition. My low word count this week was mostly due to the sloggy nature of the chapters I'm working on. Both Greatshadow and Hush have a single point of view narrator. There are advantages to this in terms of voice and pacing, but massive drawbacks when you are plotting a book with multiple actors in different places. My challenge is that I'm now having to approach certain material from an oblique angle. My narrator doesn't know about or understand certain events that are unfolding, and the trick of having him pass on information the reader needs to know without having my character understand and act on this information is tricky stuff. I can't just bang it out like a fight scene, I have to carefully hide information in plain sight without it being to invisible to remember, but also not so obvious that I tip my hand to coming revelations.

Oh well. I'll try not to beat myself up over the 5000 words I didn't write, and try to be happy about the 5000 words that I did pull out of me. The end creepeth closer.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hush 70100

I managed to drag myself across the 70k word mark last night.

I've been having trouble producing high word counts since I started this project. My brain just feels like it's gotten stuck in a lower gear... and, this week, I discovered this to be true.

I had several clues something bad was happening to my health:

Clue one: Constant drowsiness. Basically, since mid January, I've been having a severe energy crash every afternoon, and pretty much have to take a nap around 4pm, or I'm useless in the evening. Now, naps for me are nothing unusual... for ages I've fought insomnia, and I would frequently only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night, then catch up with naps once or twice a week. However, since January, the insomia has vanished. When I lay down, I'm asleep, and can sleep 8, 9, or 10 hours straight without a problem.

Clue two: In addition to severe energy crashes, I've been having almost litteral vehicle crashes. I've never in my life fallen asleep behind the wheel, even when pulling all night long distance treks. But, lately, I've felt half drunk just driving home from work in mid-afternoon, and require Mountain Dew and loud music just to make it through the 25 minute drive. Then, when I should be wired from caffiene and mountain goats, I stagger into the house and fall asleep instantly.

Clue three: My damn word counts. I kept records of my progress on my last three books. I'm definitely writing slower than I used to. The word gears just aren't turning as fast.

So, I finally wised up and went to a doctor. It didn't take him long to suspect that my self-diagnosis based on googling my symptoms was worth looking into. He ordered some blood tests and discovered I had a rather severe case of hypothyroidism. Basically, my thyroid gland has shut down (we don't know why). No thyroid hormones equals no energy.

Fortunately, I started medication to replace the missing thyroid hormone this week. The medication has to be ramped up slowly, so it may be a few weeks before I'm back up to speed. But, I did manage to drive home today without a hint of drowsiness, which is a good sign, since yesterday I fell asleep in the car at 2 in the afternoon while Cheryl was driving us across town to a shoe store.

It will be interesting to see if my word counts increase moving forward. The biggest stumbling block is that the last chapters of a book always take me the longest time to craft, because they typically involve matching up the most difficult bits of the plot puzzle. Usually, I can blast through beginnings because every thing is a blank slate. If stuff doesn't make sense, I can just move on and figure it out later. But, with the end of the book, later is now. All the plot threads I've been pushing forward, not quite sure where they are going... I've got to start tying them all together.

Luckily, even if my brain remains slow for a week or two, there are some advantages to the fact that this is the 10th novel I've written, and experience does matter. I just got a better feel for pacing and revelations than I did when I first started learning this craft. I feel confident I can steer this great ship of words in to a safe landing.