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, October 29, 2013

Joe's Spider Farm--The most important story I ever wrote, finally in print.

The new horror anthology Soon: Four Chilling Tales, has just gone live on Kindle. It contains horror stories by Abby Goldsmith, Rebecca Roland, Sarah Kelderman, and myself. At .99 cents, it's a perfect way to get yourself into a Halloween mood.

My contribution to the collection is "Joe's Spider Farm." This is kind of an ancient story for me, one I wrote all the way back in the year 2000. It's a horror story about a trailer park of retired carnival freaks who get a visit from a former carnival geek. The fire king, Pete Pyro, is none to happy about the new arrival and conspires to chase him off. Things go down hill after that.

So, it's a 14 year old story that I wasn't able to sell when I wrote it. I think the reason I couldn't sell it was that there weren't a lot of paying markets for non-supernatural horror when I wrote the story. I shelved it and mostly forgot about it, despite feeling like it was a really solid tale.

So, why do I call it the most important story I ever wrote in the title of this post? Because my earliest big sales have their roots in this novel. First, one of the highlights of my short fiction career was my first sale to Asimov's, "To the East a Bright Star." In it, Tony, the former circus tightrope walker, makes mention of his old friends... Pete Pyro and the Wolfman, both of whom are featured in "Joe's Spider Farm." The existence of JSF gave Tony a rich back story that helped make him a fully realized character. It's a story behind the story, a larger universe not seen in the Asimov's tale, but the foundation that the visible story rests upon.

If Spider Farm had just got me my first pro magazine sale, that would be noteworthy. But, it did a whole lot more than that. Shortly after I wrote "Joe's Spider Farm," I wrote my superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl. I wrote Nobody very quickly, making up stuff as I went along, and at one point I hit the scene where I knew I needed to introduce some low-level villains for my heroes to face off against. I still had the villainous geek from "Joe's Spider Farm" kicking around in my head, so I decided to make him one of the villain gang. Instead of having him bite the head of chickens, I decided to give him the power to bite through anything, and also implied that he could survive any injury. If you've read Nobody Gets the Girl, then read "Joe's Spider Farm," you'll instantly see what I'm talking about: Except for the superpowers, it's the same character in both stories. So, I got an important supporting cast member for my first published novel from my little unpublished story.

Of course, that led to Burn Baby Burn, a novel where Pit Geek graduates from supporting cast to protagonist for the entire novel. He's fleshed out considerably in the novel, of course, but there are still elements of his character that originated in the short story. For instance, in the short story, the geek has suffered enough brain damage that he doesn't remember his own name any more, just as Pit in Burn Baby Burn is unable to remember who he used to be.

If there's a larger lesson to be drawn here, it's that nothing a writer puts on paper is ever a waste of time. "Joe's Spider Farm" took a lot of time and energy to write and polish, and back in 2000, it probably seemed like the time and energy I'd put into it weren't going to be repaid with publication. But... without it, I might never have sold anything to Asimov's, and I might never have sold my first novel, let alone wrote a sequel to it.

So, now's your chance to discover the short story that did more to shape my later career than anything else I wrote from that period. Even if you haven't read Nobody or Burn Baby, check it out. It's a pretty kick ass tale on it's own merit, and I'm thrilled to finally see it in print.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Classics Update

In the past few months, I've had a pretty great run of enjoying the classic novels I've read. First, I reread Catch 22, a book I read in high school and still remembered fairly well. The book was even better than I remembered it.

I also read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Wow! I can't believe I hadn't read this before. Definitely one of the best books I've ever read. The voice was perfect, the characters were rich and complex, and the humor was spot on. The only drawback was the outright misogyny of the book, since all the female characters are either evil castrating control freaks or saintly whores who sleep with men and expect nothing from them but a good time.

One of the worst books I've read, hands down, has to be Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. It's told at such a distance, from the POV of a not particularly close friend, that anything interesting in the novel is kept from actually happening before the reader's eyes.

So, it was with some delight that I moved on to Treasure Island by the same author and discovered that it was fairly awesome. Fast paced, lots of immediacy, interesting characters, an actual plot, and the writing felt crisp and sharp, something that could be published today. The flaw of the book is that Long John Silver is kind of an incompetent dud. He loses his ship, loses his treasure, and basically escapes by being a sniveling boot licker.

Another old book that surprised me way Jane Eyre. Wow! I was indifferent to Pride and Prejudice, mostly disliked Wuthering Heights, but Jane Eyre really drew me in. I liked that she was working class for most of the book. While the book ends, of course, with her marrying the rich man of her dreams, I thought he journey to the happy ending was really interesting and that the characters paid a big price for their final happiness. The only thing I didn't like was Jane inheriting a fortune from a long lost uncle. I always wondered where that cliche came from! But, the book would have worked if she hadn't come into a fortune. And, Jane did nothing to earn her fortune, it was pure luck that she wound up with the money. These gripes aside, it's definitely my favorite romance novel to date.

War of the Worlds: Just finished this and was impressed by how plausible every thing seemed even given how much we now know he was wrong about Mars. Not quite as gripping as Island of Dr. Moreau, but much better than the Time Machine.

Finally, I also read Murder on the Orient Express. Meh. I know all mysteries are contrived to some degree, but this was kind of ridiculous. Still, I did appreciate the pacing and the handling of the various characters.

I'm probably forgetting something... I shouldn't wait two months to update next time! Coming up: The Invisible Man, Kidnapped, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nobody Gets the Girl giveaway on Goodreads!

I'm giving away 4 free copies of the new Nobody Gets the Girl Tenth Anniversary paperback on Goodreads. You have until October 31 to enter the drawing. Just follow the link below. (Note, when I preview the link code I cut and pasted from Goodreads, I get a lot of big gaps for some reason. However, the bottom link that says Enter to Win still works.)


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey



          Nobody Gets the Girl

          by James Maxey


            Giveaway ends October 31, 2013.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nobody Gets the Girl: Tenth Anniversary Edition!

Ten years ago in October, my debut novel Nobody Gets the Girl officially hit bookstores. Not a lot of bookstores as it turned out, but enough to officially mark the beginning of my career as a novelist.

To celebrate the anniversary, I've written a new story, Girl's Night Out, that tells the story of the first appearance of Baby Gun and Rail Blade, and explains why Sarah (the Thrill) first decided to go along with being a superhero despite her underlying cynicism about her father's mission. For now, this new story is only available in the new paperback, not in the e-book. I won't say I'll never include the story in the e-book, but for now I want there to be at least a little bonus available to people who still like to read books on paper.

In addition to the bonus story, I think the new cover is a vast improvement over the cover of the first edition. Can you see Nobody?

Odds are low you'll discover copies of this edition at your local bookstore, though they can always order a copy. And, of course, the book's available at Amazon, currently at the bargain price of $8.99! That's a full buck off the cover price? How can you afford to say no? Honestly, not ordering a copy is like burning money.