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!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Covenant is here! Rejoice!

At long last, Covenant is here! This is the third and likely final book in the rather loose trilogy of superhero novels that began with Nobody Gets the Girl. All three books really stand alone, though if you have read the earlier books then the political background of Covenant will make more sense. In the first book, in a battle between superheroes and supervillains, a major world city gets ground to dust by one of the heroes who loses control of her powers. Or, more precisely, loses control of her temper.

This leads to all superheroes being outlawed, not that there were hundreds or even dozens of them running around to start with. Three were active at the time of the destruction of the city, and by the time the law is passed one is dead and the other two are missing.

Things changed when two supervillains came out of hiding seven years later in Burn Baby Burn. These two villains are far too powerful for ordinary police to fight, so a team of superheroes presents themselves to the government volunteering to help. Unlike the previous superheroes, these heroes who claimed to work for the good of mankind but did so outside the law, the heroes seek to be authorized by the state to work as special deputies of law enforcement. They present themselves as a new type of superteam, taking the name Covenant to remind the world that they've make a promise to serve them.

Also reinforcing this is the fact that the most powerful member of the team operates under the code name of Servant. Servant is a devout Christian who thinks of his powers as a gift from the Lord and feels he has a moral obligation to use his powers to help anyone in need. But, he wouldn't be a protagonist in a James Maxey novel if he didn't have a least on dark secret. In this case, before he found the Lord, Servant was a notorious supervillain known as Ogre. If he reveals his past, he'll likely go to prison, and if he goes to prison, how can he use his powers as the Lord intended? His struggle to reconcile his past and his present provide most of his ongoing personal drama.

The most famous member of the team is App. He's the world's first open source superhero, able to download superpowers on demand into a teleportation belt that can take him apart and put him back together in new configurations. He's a social media superstar, young, funny, and having the time of his life as a superhero. Unfortunately, since he's not bulletproof, he does have a habit of getting killed on a lot of his missions. Which is no big deal, since the servers that house his data can just reboot him if they see he's been killed again. By the time the novel starts, he's been killed and rebooted ten times, and is starting to question whether he's even himself any more, or just a copy of a copy of a copy.

The newest member of the team is Steam-Dragon. She's an army vet who lost her legs in the middle-east, and to get past the VA wait list for new legs, she and her boyfriend used a 3d printer to just make new ones. Her talent for design and her access to advanced 3d printers capable of printing in carbon composites harder than steel lead to her designing a steam-punk inspired weaponized suit that looks like a dragon. She uses this suit to avenge her murdered boyfriend, then has to choose between joining the Covenant or going to prison for her vigilante actions. So, she's part of the team, but not necessarily joining with the best attitude.

Also new to the team is Chimpion. As her name implies, she's a chimpanzee, one of the super-intelligent Pangeans introduced in Burn Baby Burn. She's a martial arts expert who has joined the team to show the world that Pangeans can be trusted. Of course, she has a dark secret as well, but if you want to learn that you'll need to read the book, since it's kind of a major plot point.

Finally, there's Skyrider. She's living under the name Sarah Buchanan, but she used to be Sarah Knowbokov, the Thrill from Nobody Gets the Girl. She's one of the superheroes outlawed following the destruction of the city, and still public enemy number one, even though she really had nothing to do with the destruction. She came back under the new identity of Skyrider to help capture Sundancer in the second book, but she really wants nothing to do with being a superhero. She's happily married, living a quiet life in a small town where she's married to the deputy sheriff. Unfortunately, when she met him, she was living under an assumed name in was certain she'd put her old life behind her, so she never got around to mentioning to her husband that she could fly, and he still doesn't know that while he's at work she's suiting up and going out to fight crime with the Covenant. Now, she's finding it increasingly difficult to turn her back on her responsibilities as a superhero and having a harder and harder time coming up with excuses for why she sometimes goes missing at odd hours and often shows up covered in bruises. If she doesn't tell him the truth, it will likely destroy her marriage. Of course, if she tells him the truth, it will also destroy her marriage, she it will show how it was all built on a foundation of lies. Is there any way she can reconcile her two lives?

This is the first time in my superhero novels I really tackle the trope of the secret identity. In Sarah's case, I think I give her an excellent reason for wanting to have one, which gives me a real excuse to dig into the consequences of trying to live a double life that I don't think most comic books tackle any more. (Classic Spider-Man comics probably did the best job of exploring these themes, but these days superheroes seem to blurt out their secret identities to everyone they meet.)

Mike MEZ Phillips once again provided artwork for the new cover. It's not yet showing up on Amazon in the print edition but it should pop up there and at other retailers soon, and is now available as an ebook on Kindle here. I don't yet have the epub edition uploaded to other retailers, but I'll tackle that next week and it should be available almost everywhere by next weekend.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Covenant is Coming! New Cover Reveal: Burn Baby Burn

When I'm selling books at conventions, I get asked a lot what my favorite is of the books I've written. It's a little bit like being asked my favorite child, and there are days when I answer, "Greatshadow." But, there are even more days when I answer, "Burn Baby Burn."

Burn Baby Burn is a book that took me a long time to write and a short time to write. A long time, because I started thinking of it as soon as Nobody Gets the Girl saw print back in 2003. I plotted it out in my head, but when Phobos Books folded after the release of Nobody, it didn't make sense to write a sequel to a book that hadn't done well. So, I pushed it to the back of my mind, but I always kept thinking about it because there were stories I could tell about two supervillains that I couldn't really tackle with more traditional protagonists. Years later, ebooks became a thing thanks to Amazon, and I published an ebook edition of Nobody Gets the Girl. It sold really well, and suddenly I wished I'd gone ahead and written that sequel. So I did, banging out the first draft in the span of a week. To this day, it's the book that has changed the least from first draft to final draft. The story had gestated so long in my imagination it came out right the first time.

As for the story I wanted to tell that I couldn't tell with heroes, I wanted to write a love story. But the problem with most love stories is that they are about lovable people. The protagonists are usually witty, charming, good looking, and good-natured. So the underlying theme of most love stories is that love is a wonderful thing... if you're lovable. But what if you're not so lovable? What if you aren't even likable, kind of downright terrible, in fact? Does love have any power to change the lives of such people? Is it possible to find redemption in love no matter your past sins?

This is also the book where I deal most with the emotional turmoil of having a partner die slowly, knowing death is coming, and knowing there's nothing you can do to stop it. Which sounds like a pretty bleak theme, but if I have any words of wisdom at all to say on this subject, they wound up in this book. And despite the dark theme, this is a book that takes place in part on an island populated by talking chimpanzees. It's got a lot of humor and weirdness to sustain the reader through the darker moments. If you haven't read Burn Baby Burn, don't feel like you need to read Nobody Gets the Girl to understand it. The book stands alone despite being a sequel to the first book and a prequel to the third book. Grab your copy here!

And now, without further build up, the new cover by Mike MEZ Phillips!

Next up: Covenant!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Covenant is coming! New cover #1, Nobody Gets the Girl!

ebook cover

print covers
Next weekend at Supercon in Raleigh, I'll be launching my newest book Covenant. This is the third book in the superhero universe of my first published novel, Nobody Gets the Girl. I had never planned to write a third book in this world. I really thought that, after I wrote the sequel Burn Baby Burn, I was done with those characters. But, inspiration can come from the strangest places. This time, I was just listening to the radio and a Ben Harper song came on. It contains these lyrics:

my choice is what I choose to do
and if I'm causing no harm
it shouldn't bother you
your choice is who you choose to be
and if you're causin' no harm
then you're alright with me

This is a pretty good summation of a libertarian mindset, and for the most part my politics lean libertarian. Nobody Gets the Girl has a somewhat skeptical view of benevolent authoritarianism, the driving philosophy behind most politics that it's okay to wield power over others as long as you are doing it for a greater good. But for some reason, when I heard these lyrics the counterargument came into my mind. The problem with the "causing no harm" libertarian philosophy is that there are, in fact, billions of people who do harm either intentionally or unintentionally. There are outright criminals, people who will murder and steal, and there are people who cause harm while they are trying to do some good; coal miners, for example, have provided the power source that has enabled modern life. Their goal wasn't to tear down mountains, poison streams, and alter the atmosphere for the fun of it. So if you're doing no harm, you're alright by me is a convenient but ultimately useless moral position. Because what do you do if someone is causing harm? Is it enough to say, well, that's not my fault, I'm blameless? Or do you have an obligation to try to do something?

As it happens, I'd introduced a team of superheroes, the Covenant, while writing Burn Baby Burn, and Sarah Knowbokov, the Thrill from the first novel, was a team member. She'd ended the first book content to live a life that did no harm. Now, she was back in costume and fighting for good again. Why? Pondering the answer to this led me to the plot of Covenant.

When I thought the book was a duology, I commissioned covers from artist Jeremy Cavin that had Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn blend together into a single image. I hated letting those go, since they look great side by side when I'm selling them at conventions. Alas, now that I was going to put out a third book, I needed new covers for all three. Over the last few months, I've been posting different rough designs on Amazon, tweaking color, text, and layout. Once I finally found a design that people seemed to be clicking on, I worked with a local artist I met at NCComicon Oak City named Mike MEZ Phillips to produce the final, more polished cover. Later this week, I'll unveil the new Burn Baby Burn cover, then finally show off the Covenant! Stay tuned!