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!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tornado of Sparks... Free on Kindle!

Fans of the Bitterwood trilogy may not be aware that a short story featuring characters from the novels appeared in 2007 in the Solaris Book of New Fantasy. That anthology sold out and was never reprinted, nor was an ebook edition of the anthology ever released, meaning that the story, "Tornado of Sparks," has been stranded in limbo for years.

I'm happy to report that Tornado of Sparks is now available as a Kindle Select download for a mere 99 cents. What's more, the story will be available FREE on Amazon from October 1-3.

"Tornado of Sparks" is set fifteen years before war erupts between dragons and humans. The wizard dragon Vendevorex seeks a position in the court of the dragon-king Albekizan. In the course of demonstrating his powers to the king, Vendevorex discovers that the humans he just killed had an infant daughter, Jandra. Vendevorex is determined to deliver the baby to her only remaining relative, but his plans are complicated when the child winds up in the grasp of Zanzeroth, a dragon who hunts humans for sport.

This story is a perfect starting point for readers new to the Bitterwood trilogy. For readers who've already read the series, the story sheds new light on the early lives of many of the members of the core cast. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upcoming events!

This Saturday, 9-15, I'll be doing a signing from Noon until 2 with fellow authors John Hartness and Stuarte Jaffe at Market City Comics and Games, 1110 W Green Drive, High Point, NC.

In October, I have three events:

Capclave, October 12-14 in Gaithersburg, MD

On October 20, I'll be doing a meet and greet with other Hillsborough authors at the Eno River Gallery in Hillsborough, NC from 10:00am to 11:00am.

Then, the following weekend, I'll be teaching a class at the main branch of the Orange County Library in Hillsborough from 10:30 to noon. The class is called, "How to Write Fast: Tips and Tricks for Blasting through Writer's Block and Jamming Out 10,000+ Words a Week."

Also, I currently plan to be selling books in front of Purple Crow during Last Fridays in Hillsborough on September 29, though I made those plans all the way back in June and should probably check back in with the owner to confirm this.

Whew! Busy days ahead!

Advice for young writers

I'm currently mentoring a high school student on writing, and one of his questions was what advice I might have for him on how to develop his writing over the next five years. I thought my answer might be of use to more than just him, so here's my advice to young writers: 
First, write a lot. Then write some more. Keep track of your word counts. When I'm working on a book, I try to produce 10K new words a week. Of course, this is followed by a lot of revision time, so my average word count for the year is far less than 10k a week. Still, I would consider any year where I haven't produced at least 100k of new writing to be a year of wasted opportunities. Writing fiction is a lot like trying to make a living buying lottery tickets. Odds are, most of the things you write won't pay much. But, the more you write, the greater the odds that something you produce going to bring a big payoff. The odds that you can write one book and make any substantial income from it are poor. Write ten books, and you really pull out from the pack.

Second, read what's being published today. One problem with formal English Literature studies is that classes tend to focus on books written decades or even centuries ago. Go to bookstores and study the new releases. Find out what magazines are actually in stores. Make note of who is publishing what. Various publishing houses have specific tastes; the line of books released by Baen is very different than the line of books released by Tor or Pyr. The short stories published in Analog would never see print in Realms of Fantasy, and vice versa. (Especially since Realms of Fantasy folded last year.) You'll need to look at http://www.ralan.com/ for current market information and search for webzines and anthologies that want this type of story. The markets change every month, so if you don't see an obvious market at first glance, don't despair. Sooner or later, a new market will come along.

Third, learn everything. Map out the boundaries of your ignorance and make a concerted effort to explore new intellectual frontiers. I have days when I wake up and think, wow, I really don't know anything about sailing a tall ship, or how salt winds up on my kitchen table, or the history of the Mayans. So I go and learn about all these esoteric and seemingly unrelated things. Sometimes, the information winds up in my writing. Most of the time, it doesn't. But I never know what obscure bit of trivia I might need to create a satisfying story. To write Greatshadow, I had to know about volcanoes and tidal waves, jungle flora and fauna, archeology, medieval fighting equipment, aboriginal cuisines, various religious traditions, political concepts like anarchy and theocracies, circuses, superheroes, fabrics, how books were made in the premodern era, mosaics, varieties of alcholic beverages, lots of things about different animals (since I have a character who's a shapeshifter), caves, the economy of fishing, Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology, palindromes, and psychology. And that's really not an exhaustive list. Facts are the most important fuel for imagination. The more you know, the more you can make up.

Finally, if you want to play the blues, then you gotta pay your dues. You've got to get out and experience the messier parts of life. Get your heart broken a time or two, and break a few of your own if you have the courage. Put yourself in situations where you don't feel safe or comfortable. If you find yourself in a position where all your friends thing the same way you do and share your values, then go out and find some different friends. Writing is a kind of craziness where you have to have a hundred different people in your head, and they can't all be nice people. And even nice people have dark secrets. Learn them. Earn your own. At the risk of being morbid, all good fiction is about pain and loss and alienation (which often lead to joy, wealth, and comraderie). You don't have to go out and intentionally create these feelings in yourself; they will seek you out. As a writer, your duty is to experience these things honestly and openly. As a writer, your duty is to gain empathy and insight into all of mankind.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Spent the weekend at what might be my last Dragon*con in Atlanta. If you're a geek and you've never been to this convention, you really don't understand what you're missing. This is 50,000 SF and Fantasy fans crammed into central Atlanta for a four day orgy of nerdiness. In fact, judging from the fact that many of the costumes consist of nothing but tape and body paint, it looks like many people are showing up for an orgy, period.
It's worth going just to look at the costumes, but there are excellent programming tracks as well, and dealer rooms that offer everything a fanboy heart might desire, rare comics, obscure games, black tee-shirts with clever captions, and steam-punk paraphenalia of all flavors.
This was my fourth or fifth visit to the con, but also possibly my last. The con is about as well organized as I can imagine, but there are just certain realities to packing so many people into a limited space. Walking from one side of the lobby to another can be an insane challenge, because everyone's stopping randomly to take pictures of costumed individuals who come to a halt in the middle of walkways because people ask to take their picture. At one point, I was trying to meet Cheryl in time for a panel, and it took me a half hour to travel from one hotel to the adjacent one. Again, I think the organizers do all they can, and there are lots of signs up saying not to stop in walkways for photos, but some of these people obviously spend all year working on thier costumes, and, by god, all their work pays off when people ask for their photos. I'm in no way being critical; I completely understand, and have even engaged in a bit of costuming myself. Still, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Moving through the dealer's rooms on Saturday is a bit like getting pushed along a cattle chute. I found myself thinking about how different things were from my early days of collecting comic books. Back in the late seventies and early eighties, I had to dig through boxes at a dozen flea markets if I wanted to put together a collection of some out of print series. Collecting was a challenge because comics weren't very popular, and old comics were generally left to rot in basements if they weren't outright used to line bird cages. There was a shortage of product because these things were only valuable to a few wierdos like myself. Now, rare comics are pretty much manufactured via limited print runs and treated like they are objects of solid gold. But, if you want one, the only real barrier is how much you are willing to pay. There are hundreds of people eager to sell you anything you desire. It's removed the thrill of the hunt from the game.
But, I'm probably just worn out. Dragon*con takes a lot out of me. Give me a few months and I'll forget the crowds and once again remember the sheer energy that comes from being surrounded by so many creative, smart people. Perhaps the lure will prove to be too strong in the end.
Scene from the tenth floor of the Marriot, looking down at lobby on Sunday afternoon during a lull in the crowds.

Lot's of Venture Bros costumes this year. From an obscure cult classic, it seems ready to really break out into the mainstream of geekdom. I predict a big budget VB movie before the end of the decade.

Hands down my favorite costumes. The little peanut shaped cutouts they stood on really sold this.