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, April 28, 2019

Week 17: 8944 words

A decent week. Another chapter of Nobody Nowhere, plus a guest blog post (I'll let you know when it appears), plus two text interviews. Also some writing advice bits added to the growing pile of words that will one day be edited into my writing book The Stuff. 

When I first got the idea to do a writing book, I thought, hey, this is going to be easy. Back when I was Piedmont Laureate, I was teaching a lot of writing classes and writing a lot of articles about writing. So, I easily had a book length mass of words that could just be collected, or so I thought. My real challenge is trying to find my own unique twist on the genre of writing books.

One thing that drives me to write the fiction that I write is that I'm often writing in reaction to elements I don't like about the genres I'm writing in. When I started writing Bitterwood, I was in sort of an anti-magic mindset. I had grown up liking fantasy literature, but when I started writing Bitterwood I was at the peak of my atheist activism, and really wondered if the casual inclusion of magic in popular culture didn't prep people to accept the supernatural. Skeptics in most pop culture are always proven wrong. Ghosts are real, or angels do exist, or there really is a vampire next door. So, Bitterwood was my attempt to write the fantasy fiction I still pined for, but to do so without any supernatural or magical elements. Fantasy without the fantasy. How's that for a pitch to a publisher? But... it worked.

When I moved on to the Dragon Apocalypse, I was kind of reacting to my own attempts to de-magic fantasy, and decided to go over the top with the magical and mythical elements. But, even more, the books are a rebellion against a trend in fantasy that annoyed me, which was that so much fantasy was centered around royalty, and/or built around the notion of a "chosen one." So, while there is a princess hidden in in the Dragon Apocalypse, she embodies none of the usual traits of royalty. 99% of the time, a rebellious princess will find that duty calls, and she must reconcile her desire to be herself with her responsibilities as royalty. Dragon Apocalypse has none of that. Aside from the princess, you get through four books without meeting another member of a royal family. (Not counting the so called Queen of Witches, who is ruling over an empty kingdom of bones.) None of my heroes are "chosen ones," except, of course, for the actual chosen one, Numinous Pilgrim, and he's a dick.

Of course, readers probably never notice what my novels aren't about. But, for me, creativity is something of a rebellion. I'm not trying to write books that imitate books I've liked. I'm trying more to write books in genres that I once loved, but where I eventually came to see that the genre wasn't really giving me what I needed or wanted. I start to spot weaknesses, gaps, and blind spots in books I've already read. Then I think, you know, this could be done better, so I try to do it better.

Right now, with The Stuff, I'm trying to figure out what I'm rebelling against. I've got some low hanging fruit, bits of common advice on how to write well that I think actually cause people to write dreadfully. Like, show, don't tell. This is great advice for screen plays, but not as great for prose. There are lots of situations in writing novels and short stories where directly telling the reader important information is absolutely the most effective approach, while page after page of body language and facial expressions and cryptic conversations leave the reader more annoyed than intrigued.

But, even as I say this, I create my own rule, and that rule is almost certainly wrong. Some times showing instead of telling is the only thing that works, and it's magic.

Do what works. There! That's what all my writing advice comes down to. Which seems like, I dunno, kind of a skinny book.

I do think I've got some useful stuff to say about writing, but I'm still rooting around for the big, driving theme that's going to unify it all. When I finally have that, I suspect I'll be able to put the book together relatively swiftly. I easily have 80K words about writing already written. I just need the theme to tell me what goes in and what stays out.

This coming week should be a good one for writing fiction. This last week I was tied up with a lot of Library stuff. This week I've got a lot more time blocked off for butt in chair, focused on Nobody.

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