Thursday, December 29, 2016

End of the year

It's the end of the year, and I've finished the rough draft of Lady's Henterman's Wardrobe, and I've just about gotten the rewrite of the Series Four novel done as well. So with the new year upon us, I leave you with this blessing that's always been a favorite:
May you live as long as you want, and never want for as long as you live.

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Christmas Gift to the Readers

Hello all! I'm off on a lovely "vacation"-- which I qualify only in that no matter where I go, I never really take a break from writing.  I have three scenes to finish before the end of the year-- two in Lady Henterman's Wardrobe, one in the unsold manuscript-- to finish both projects up.  But that's the only work that I'm doing right now.
So today's blog, is a bit of a gift: a map of the ENTIRE WORLD that the Maradaine novels are set in.  I had a reader approach me who loved An Import of Intrigue but wanted a better sense of the geography where all the other cultures come from.  So here you go.
I'll take any questions, if people want to throw them my way.  But for now: the ocean calls.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

STATE OF THE WRITER: Goal Completion for 2016

So, let's take a look at my stated goals for 2016:
COMING OUT IN 2016First, there will be the things I have coming out in 2016.  The Alchemy of Chaos, of course, comes out in a few weeks, and the second Maradaine Constabulary book, An Import of Intrigue, comes out in November.  So that right there are two big things.
Well, that was a goal I made, obviously.  Both books came out, and I finished all the things involved in getting them out.  (Of course, when I wrote the goal post last year, there was nothing left to do on Alchemy but wait.)  But the point is: I said two more books would come out in 2016, and I made good on that.  
Next part:
Here’s where I need to be vague.  Over the next twelve months I will need to:
Polish “Manuscript X” and turn it in.

Finish draft of “Manuscript Y”, edit it, and turn it in as well.
Finish draft of “Manuscript X2”.
Polish outline of “Manuscript Z” and get started on it.
So, at the time I couldn't talk about this stuff, but now, of course, I've been talking about it plenty.  Let's decode:
Polish "Manuscript X" and turn it in.This was The Holver Alley Crew, which was, of course, polished and turned in, followed by the copyedits and proof checks to hit your hot hands in March.   (Of course, if you're on NetGalley, you can read it now, and then tell the world your thoughts...)  So: Accomplished.
-Finish draft of “Manuscript Y”, edit it, and turn it in as well."Manuscript Y" was The Imposters of Aventil, which: finished, edited, turned in.  All that's left is the post-"final" draft work (copyedits, proofs, cover, etc.)-- but the creative work is done.  And that'll hit the world in October 2017.  Accomplished.
-Finish draft of “Manuscript X2”.
This is Lady Henterman's Wardrobe, and I haven't quite hit the goal on this.  As of this writing I'm just shy of 100K and have five more scenes to write (and three more to rewrite based on some beta comments), and then I'll send it to Sheila for her thoughts.  So, not fully accomplished, but close.
-Polish outline of “Manuscript Z” and get started on it.
So this is referring to A Parliament of Bodies, and I've gotten started on the re-outline process, but there's still a lot do to to fix the outline of this.  And therefore, I've not properly started the manuscript for it yet.  Partly because I've not finished Lady Henterman, and also because of the thing I've been doing that wasn't on this goal list:
-Rewrite "Manuscript W" Manuscript W?  What the heck is that?  Well, I've been less that circumspect that there is a fourth Maradaine series in the works, and that's exactly what this is-- the first novel of the Maradaine Elite series.  For various reasons, it was important for me to get it nailed down before finalizing the outline for Parliament.  Now that's nearly done as well.  (Minor rewrite notes on a couple chapters, rewrite notes on three scenes, and one completely new scene.)  I'll be submitting that and proposals for the other Maradaine Elite novels in the near future.  
On top of all that, various other things have been in the crockpot of creativity.  We'll see that stuff come into fruition, hopefully with more news in 2017.  
And speaking of... time to get back to work.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Give the gift of Maradaine this holiday season

The holidays and the end of the year are upon us, and you're saying, "What gift can I give to the reader in my life?"  Consider, if you will, giving the gift of Maradaine.  Four fantasy novels set in the fantasy port city of Maradaine-- a city where you only survive as long as you can fight with wit, will, and magic.  Three series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. This spellbinding port city, filled with tales of murder and magic, secrets and lies, policemen and vigilantes, misfits and criminals, professors and sidekicks, conspiracies and deadly danger.    
The_Thorn_of_Dentonhill"Maresca's debut is smart, fast and engaging fantasy crime in the mold of Brent Weeks and Harry Harrison. Just Perfect."   - Kat Richardson, national bestselling author of Revenant
Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.
With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere's clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle.  Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere's side.
Goodreads Page for THE THORN OF DENTONHILLAvailable at AmazonBarnes & NoblePowells and more!
“It takes a fun addictive book that I just outright enjoy for me to read it that fast, and this is that type of book.”  – The Speculative Herald
“Fantasy adventure readers, especially fans of spell-wielding students, will enjoy these lively characters and their high-energy story.” – Publisher’s Weekly
The saga of the streets of Maradaine that began in The Thorn of Dentonhill continues….
Veranix Calbert is The Thorn—the street vigilante who became a legend to the people of Maradaine, especially the gangs that run the neighborhood of Aventil. The Thorn continues to harass Willem Fenmere, the drug kingpin of the Dentonhill neighborhood. Veranix is still determined to stop Fenmere and the effitte drug trade, especially when he discovers that Fenmere is planning on using the Red Rabbits gang to bring the drug into Aventil.
But it’s also Exam Week at the University of Maradaine, where Veranix is a magic student. With his academic career—and future as a mage—riding on his performance, Veranix needs to devote himself entirely to studying and participating in a fellow student’s thesis experiments. There’s no time to go after Fenmere or the Red Rabbits.
Then a series of strange pranks begin to plague the campus, using a form of magic that Veranix doesn’t recognize. As the pranks grow increasingly deadly, it becomes clear that there’s someone with a vendetta against the university, and The Thorn may be the only one capable of stopping them. Between the prankster, the war brewing between the Aventil gangs, and the flamboyant assassins Fenmere has hired to kill him, Veranix may end up dead before the week is out. Which just might be preferable to taking his exams….
Goodreads Page for THE ALCHEMY OF CHAOSAvailable at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and more!

"A Murder of Mages was another hit for me, a fantastic read from a new talent whose star continues to be on the rise."  - Bibliosanctum
Satrine Rainey: Former street rat. Ex-spy. Wife and mother who needs to make twenty crowns a week to support her daughters and infirm husband.  To earn that, she forges credentials and fakes her way into a posting as a constabulary Inspector.
Minox Welling: Brilliant Inspector. Uncircled Mage. Outcast of the stationhouse.  Partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with “the jinx".
Their first case together—the ritualized murder of a Circled mage—brings Satrine back to the streets she grew up on, and forces Minox to confront the politics of mage circles he’s avoided.  As more mages are found dead, Satrine must solve the crime before her secrets catch up with her, and before her partner ends up a target.
Goodreads Page for A MURDER OF MAGESAvailable at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and more!
Maresca - An Import of IntriqueThe sequel to A Murder of Mages!
"Maresca offers something beyond the usual high fantasy fare, with a wealth of unique and well-rounded characters, a vivid setting, and complicatedly intertwined social issues that feel especially timely."  - Publishers Weekly
The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and uncircled mage Minox Welling.
With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the Little East, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And these few city blocks threaten to erupt into citywide war unless the constabulary solves the case.
Goodreads Page for AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE
Available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and more!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Great Books for 2016?

This is the time of year where one is supposed to talk about the great books of the past year, the things you read, the things you recommend for awards, and so on.
I have to confess, this year?  I got nothing for you.
This year I did a lot of starting-books-and-bouncing-off-them.  The things I did read to completion?  They were... fine.  Nothing that I'd be "You Must Read This Book!"  (Or, at least, none of it was from this year.  I don't exactly keep records of my reading, but I think I read The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and Rules for Werewolves by Kirk Lynn in 2016, but they were both 2015 books.)  
Other than that?  The best thing I read I actually can't recommend because it's an unsold, unpublished book that I read for blurb-giving purposes.  
But part of that is because, as I said-- start-and-bounce.  A lot.  That isn't something that should reflect on those authors, and I won't call out people whose books I didn't get into.  Because that's about me, not them.  Their books didn't click with me.  That is OK.  Not every book is for everyone.  Heck, if you start-and-bounce with my books?  That's fine.  Really.  I mean, don't go giving them one-star reviews or anything.  That's not cool.  
I know at least part of my bouncing on other people's books ties to what I'm doing, writing-wise.  I have a lot of stuff to keep track of, a lot of process and writing craft stuff going on in my head.  I can't read without going into diagnostic mode now.  Again-- this is on me, not the writer.  I can be all "Oh, that's a really well crafted thing they're doing", and I make no emotional connection to the story.
So I'll throw it out there: what should I have read?  What should I be reading, especially if I'm going to be doing any award nomination stuff?

Monday, December 12, 2016

HOLVER ALLEY CREW and other things

So, we've got a cover for the first Streets of Maradaine novel, The Holver Alley Crew, which is my fifth novel.  
The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax's service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life. Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.

With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land. Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti's crumbling sanity, the brothers and their crew of amateurs and washouts swear to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.

“Maresca bring the whole package, complete and well-constructed.” ―Bibliosanctum

“The blend of fantasy and noir works wonderfully…with thrills and spills within a unique and well imagined world.” ―Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviews
This past week was crazy busy.  In addition to just, you know, getting work done, I had two events-- one at Malvern Books, and one at Dragon's Lair.  Both were good events, books were sold and signed.  That's all you can ask for.  I also participated in Dive Into Worldbuilding.  There's video of the Malvern event, and like anyone watching themselves, I can figure out some of the things I need to work on in public presentation.  I speak a little too quickly, especially when reading.  This is a problem I know I have.*  I'm going to keep working on it.  
Because-- on every level in this business, there is room for improvement.  
Speaking of, I've got some writing to do.  Off to the word mines.
*-My poor mother-in-law, for whom English is a second language, never understands anything I say.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holver Alley Crew Cover Reveal!

Many things on my plate today, so no regular blog from me, but here's something exciting: Cover Reveal for The Holver Alley Crew!
Another beauty from Paul Young.  He's really done well by me.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Worldbuilding: The Spectre of the Familiar

Last month I did a Reddit AMA in which was asked the following:
When designing fantasy cultures, how do you create enough 'alien intricacy' to make them breathe? Every time I try, it seems like a core of some real world culture with a few nifty traditions and rituals tacked on...
Which is a damn good question.  My answer, in part, was the following:
I'll admit I still struggle with that. I mean, we are saturated with the familiar, and that's hard to escape from. Even when you think you've crafted something unique, you'll still have readers go, "Oh, this culture has element A, element B and C, and that means they are really the Prussians."
To expand on this: any time you're worldbuilding a new culture, you're going to be informed by your knowledge (and preconceptions) from our own world and history.  You can do your best to file off the serial numbers, but your own biases will be there.
But, more importantly, your readers biases will be there as well.  Most of the time, this will be something they use to ease their way into your new cultures.  They'll latch onto a familiar element and connect it to another and use that get their handholds to pull themselves to the stuff that's more out there.  Which is fine-- that's how you hook your readers in.
If you really created something truly alien, it would be almost impossible for your readers to wrap your head around.
Now, where you can get into trouble is if you do it lazily, and just make a culture an unmistakable "X with the serial numbers filed off".  Especially if you're touching on something with a marginalized culture.  You will get your lunch eaten over that, and you can't just say "Oh, but it's a fantasy world, it isn't really that".
However-- and this is a big however-- remember that the readers are bringing in their biases.  So someone saying, "Oh, this culture has element A, element B and C, and that means they are really the Prussians." or such-- it doesn't mean they're right.  They've connected dots and found their own picture.  And if that picture is something they're going to get angry about, well... you're probably going to have to take a few punches to the nose.
For example, let's say you have created a fantasy culture in a story and you've included, let's say twenty different cultural elements about them.  Now a reader takes elements 1, 2 and 3 and goes, "Oh, this is really X".  But elements 4-20 have nothing to do with X.  Many people will go, "I guess this culture is kind of like X but with these differences."  But a few will go, "This writer is doing X but has ALL THIS OTHER STUFF WRONG and CLEARLY didn't do the research!"
And what can you do about that?  Nothing.  You don't hit back-- rule one about criticism.  You take that and see what you can use to learn and change.  And part of what you may learn is there will always be a portion of readers you're not going to please. And that's OK.
I've done some updates in my Appearances page for 2017, and I've got two things in the Austin area this week.  On Thursday, December 8th at 7pm, I'll be part of the "Novel Night" presentation at Malvern Books with Amanda Downum and Yasser Bahjatt.  And on Saturday, December 10th at 2pm, I'll be part of the WRITER SIGNING EXTRAVAGANZA at Dragon's Lair Comics & Games.  If you're in the Austin area (or can easily come to it), come on over and say hello.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

That Moment in The Novel Writing

I'm not prone to the freak-out, especially while writing.  As I've said before, I'm pretty big on structure and outlining, but that doesn't mean I don't make discoveries and revelations along the way.
And sometimes, when you're about two-thirds through the novel, you hit this sudden epiphany, where you realize, "Oh, there's a thing happening here that needs to be this."  It could be a revelation about why someone is doing something, or why you've been using a certain storytelling device, or the next level of a character's plan, and all of a sudden, everything clicks.
Almost every time, that's when the story you're writing hits the top of the roller coaster, and then you drop down and it's off to the races.  You know the whole story, all the tweaks you need to put in earlier, each scene for later that you're going to need. 
It's a little scary, but it's also really fun, because a lot of the time, it's just a matter of how fast you can get the book out of your fingers.  
I say this, as I reach the point in the Lady Henterman's Wardrobe manuscript where I am almost-- almost-- about to go over that peak.  Almost.
In the meantime, look who was interviewed over at File770.  I give up a few secrets for the future.  Just a couple.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Who is the Protagonist?

So, this past week I went and saw Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, which was largely an "OK" movie with good performances.  But it's got some fundamental flaws, that largely tie to its storytelling structure, and that it doesn't actually have a protagonist.
Needless to say, Spoilers follow
Now, I imagine you must be saying to yourself, "But surely Eddie Redmayne's character is the protagonist.  He's on all the posters."  Well, here's the thing: the movie believes he's the protagonist, and all the filmic language throughout signals him as the protagonist.
Problem is, he's not.  He's the Mysterious Stranger.  
See, Newt Scamander arrives in New York City with a box of secrets and he acts secretively, and we spent much of the first half of the movie not knowing anything about who he is or what he wants.  We don't know anything, really, until he brings Jacob down inside his case to his transportable menagerie.  And that's when we finally know why he's in the United States (to release a creature in its native Arizona), and that his own goals involve the care and protection of magical creatures.  He's made a bit of a mess, which he cleans up, and then he helps clean up the larger mess that happens incidentally around him.  The movie constantly keeps Newt at arms length from the audience.  He doesn't give us viewpoint, nor are we invited to sympathize with him.
So, then, obviously, the protagonist is Jacob.  He, after all, is a clear viewpoint character with a clearly defined goal.  He wants to get out of the cannery job and start a bakery.  He's a no-maj, so through his eyes we see wonder and magic and experience everything new the story shows us.  He has almost the classic Campbellian journey where he gets the call to something fantastic, to then return to the normal world changed.
Except, he isn't changed.  He is forced to forget it all.  And, on top of that, he doesn't DO anything that requires active choice and affects the plot.  His most active moment is punching a goblin, but that doesn't have any impact on events-- things would have proceeded more or less the same without that goblin being punched.  He basically floats through the movie being awed, and ends with a reward, but he doesn't affect the story.
Who does make choices?  Tina.  Tina has all the markings of the protagonist-- she's got an arc of needing to redeem herself, she makes active choices, and she's the one whose life the Mysterious Stranger impacts.  But the movie doesn't want her to be the protagonist-- it wants her to be the (other) plucky sidekick to Newt, and thus consistently minimizes or sidelines her.  It places her in the position to be rescued from the execution*, it tries to establish her bond with Credence, but then does nothing with that in favor of having Newt connect to him.  
So this gives us a thing to look at in your own writing: figuring out who your protagonist is, and WHY they are the protagonist, and the key things are ACTIVE CHOICES and CLEAR MOTIVATIONS.  You need to know, and you need to show clearly to your reader, what the protagonist wants and what they are choosing to do to get it.
Don't do that, and you've got a muddled mess.
Speaking of, I've got a group of protagonists who need to pull their collective fat out of the fryer, so to work I go.  See you in the word mines.
*- I think nothing highlights how screwed up the wizarding world in this movie is more than the two scenes where Tina tries to talk to the authorities about Newt.  The first time, she's basically told "We don't want to hear anything you have to say" and the second time she's told "Why didn't you mention this sooner, you clearly need to be put to death."  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Biggest Early Influence, aka Navigating the Hurricane

This week's topic is talking about someone who was a good influence on you early in your writing career (aka, someone you're thankful for).  I'm going to cheat slightly here, and pull out a piece I wrote when I was asked to do a bio for one the guests of honor at ArmadilloCon, who coincidentally, is exactly that person in my life.  (Plus, it's the holidays, and I've got plenty on my plate, so I'm allowed a bit of a blog-cheat.)

I’m in a car in the middle of nowhere on a deep, deep back-country road. Flash floods and washed out roads have forced my journey home off the main highway, and then off the side road. I’m literally in a moment one plot-point away from being a horror movie cliché. But it’s cool, because I’m riding shotgun with Stina Leicht.
All right, here’s the sitch: We were both on panels at ComicPalooza in Houston, scheduled for a last-panel-of-the-con slot at 5pm on a Monday. My wife had to drive home early, so I asked Stina for a ride back to Austin, and she was happy to oblige. So we get into Locksley—her blue Miata—and hit the road. Problem: there’s been serious flooding in Austin, and the heavy storms are making their way to us. Our respective spouses are texting us, “You might want to stay in Houston” messages. But we’re both thinking A. the storm is coming to Houston, so that’s not a better choice and B. no, we want to get home. And this is Stina Leicht I’m with. She’s navigated the choppy waters of the publishing industry, including the implosion of her first publisher, and came through with two Campbell nods and brand new flintlock fantasy series hitting the shelves. Rain ain’t gonna stop her.
The first time I saw Stina was ten years ago at the ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop, my first time attending it. I was sitting in the room, surrounded by strangers and feeling a bit intimidated, especially with that panel of professional and experts at the front of the room. And then this woman walks—nay, strides—into the room like a gothic warrior intent on conquering. But, you know, cheerfully. She walked right up to that panel of experts and said hello. And I thought, “I don’t know who this woman is, but she’s clearly the champion of this workshop.” I was right about that—she finished up the con weekend getting a manuscript request from the Editor Guest of Honor. That’s not something that happens very often. Actually, having been involved in the workshop in varying capacities for the last decade, I don’t think it’s happened since.
Stina took over coordinating the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop shortly after that, which is how I got to know her. In running the workshop, she repeatedly showed her dedication and commitment to learning as much as she could about her craft, and then turning right around and sharing what she learned.
So, back to riding through that storm (spoiler: WE LIVED)—we just about made it to LaGrange when our phones lit up with TORNADO WARNING SEEK SHELTER. Stina pulls us into a gas station for a few minutes while we check the radar. The worst of it is just ahead of us, and past that? Clear sailing. If we just get through it.
Stina’s car, Stina’s call: “Let’s wait for the rain to be less… horizontal.”
Fifteen minutes later, gravity starts behaving again. We push through the downpour and past the other side. The sun is setting ahead of us, filtered through a heavy blanket of orange clouds and lightning across the sky. It’s a gorgeous alien horizon, and we talk about Ray Bradbury’s All Summer In A Day.
Then everything stops dead. The highway is flooded, and the troopers tell us to turn around. When asked for the best route to Austin, we get a shrug. I go into navigation mode and find us an alternate path that, near as I can tell, is clear. Rural country highway, but it’ll get us there. There’s already been hell and highwater, so we press on.
See, that’s the thing about Stina. She charges full-tilt. She’s not fearless, but rather looks the fear in the eye and beats it. She stood at the Gates of Mordor—or rather, the gates of traditional publishing— and proved her worth. But then she turned around to those behind her and said, “Hey, look, it can be done. Come on!” That’s what she did running the Workshop for seven years. And after a couple years of reading my stuff, she said, “You don’t need to be taking this workshop anymore. You should help me run it.”
She knows that the real secret—the honest to goodness this-is-how-you-do-it secret to succeeding in this business—has nothing to do with special clubs or handshakes or having the right cousin. It’s about doing the best damn work you can do.
Take her first two books—Of Blood and Honey and And Blue Skies from Pain. She didn’t just say, “I’m going to write about Ireland in the Troubles, so I’ll watch In The Name of the Father and get to it.” No way. She did the work. She read primary sources. She emailed people who lived through it. She took classes in the Irish language. She did everything in her power to make those books right. That’s how she works. They don’t give two Campbell nods to just anyone.
So, our country highway was also washed out. I figure out a new route to get us around that, but we are going deep into Nowheresville with this detour. Now it is totally dark, and the cell reception is spotty. We’re a breakdown and castle away from Rocky Horror territory, which we comment on. Then we miss a turn, leading us to a dead end where we see a sign that makes us both burst out laughing.
We turn back around at get back on track, eventually getting to a clear part of the main highway and back to Austin. Three hours later than we originally had hoped, but no worse for wear. We had gone through the gallows humor phase of our trip by that time.
“I mean,” I said once we were in the clear, “If we had died together, it would have boosted our careers. Well, at least mine. I’d have been the Ritchie Valens to your Buddy Holly.”
Fortunately, you’ll have Stina Leicht around for some time to come. Even still, you might want to pick up Cold Iron and pre-order Blackthorne now. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

HOLVER ALLEY CREW: The Streets of Maradaine

It's time for us to take good look at my third series-- The Streets of Maradaine-- launching in March with The Holver Alley Crew.  This is a new series with new characters, and can be your first book-- your entry into Maradaine-- without having read anything else. 
The Holver Alley Crew is a story of the desperate and impoverished of Maradaine, on the west side of the city, specifically the neighborhood of North Seleth.  North Seleth is a sort of non-neighborhood neighborhood-- and the folks that live there are an odd mix.  The sort that are "too Druth for the Little East, not Druth enough for the rest of the city".  
Asti and Verci Rynax are exactly that.  Born and raised in Maradaine, with a Kieran father and Kieran names, they've spent most their lives on the wrong side of the law.  Born into that thieving life, they know each other's plans, they know the people in the life, they know how to get jobs done.
But they tried to go straight.  Life continued to beat them down, but they pooled what little they had together to create a shop, be honest businessmen in an honest trade.
And then the fire came, and destroyed all that.
So they have to start again, with only what they know.
The Holver Alley Crew is available for pro-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and you can follow it at Goodreads.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What Fuels The Words

I've been talking the past few weeks about driving forward, about the endurance, doing the hard work. That's really the only way books get written.  So then when the next question comes and it's, "So what drives you to do it?", I have a hard time answering.  Because, to me, it's almost like "why are you breathing oxygen?"
In the latest episode of Westworld-- without giving serious spoilers, when confronted with why he's done the things he's done, he answers, "I just wanted to tell my stories".  I feel very much the same way.  I know the stories I want to tell, I'm never plagued by writers' block, at least on a macro level.  (On a micro level, I sometimes don't know how a scene is supposed to work, and that's frustrating.  Sometimes a project isn't quite coming together and gets put to the side... but there's always more projects in the works.)   
Of course, right now I'm in a position of privilege.  I'm writing books that are already under contract-- doing work that I know where it's going to go.  Back when I was writing books without an agent or a publisher?  There I was fueled just by the fire in my gut-- that I had to tell the stories of Maradaine, and get it out there in the world.  Someone once told me that writing novels was a thing you only did if you can't imagine not doing it. I think that's about right.  And I'm still not satisfied.  Each novel, I'm hungry for.  
And I bet you are as well.  So get down to those word mines, and get to work.  No one else is going to do it for you.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Keeping the Wheel Turning

While I don't get very political here, I've not made a secret that my lean is liberal.  So it's no surprise that I've been none too thrilled with things over the past few days.
But that doesn't change the fact that I've got work to do.  I can't let any sort of, "things are horrible" stop me.  Because, when you come down to it, writing novels is an act of endurance.  I'm not saying you have to do words every day or you're a failure (and I loathe that sort of purity test thinking) but the work doesn't get done unless you keep coming back to it.
And the work needs to get done.  If I'd ascribe any sort of "this is what makes you a writer" test, it's that for you, the work needs to get done.  That you feel it deep in your marrow.  You feel that you have to do it or you just won't live.
That doesn't mean you don't get stuck, that you don't let the work simmer and percolate.  That doesn't mean it doesn't take a long time. The work takes what it takes.  But you have to keep coming back to it.  You keep the wheel turning.
So, I feel like I've been rather heavy this whole entry, so some levity.  If you've read some of the interviews I've done for Import of Intrigue, you've probably seen that I answer the "how do you keep in all straight?" question with "spreadsheets and timelines".  Re-reading one of those made me think about the timing of events in my grander scheme, so I went to check it in the timeline, to see when it needed to happen.   And I realized it had to happen in the middle of Lady Henterman's Wardrobe.  So, I needed to integrate it into the plot of that book.  As I looked over how I needed to do that, I realized, "If I put it here, amid this major sequence, it actually makes that main plot aspect work better."
So I'm glad I double-checked that.
FB Banner ImportRight now the wheel turning means Import of Intrigue is out there and on top.  I've been pretty pleased with the reception it's gotten, especially this review from Bibliotropic, which I feel really nails what I was going for with this book.  
All right, all of you: back in the word mines.  You've got work to do.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Knocked Down and Back Up

It seems almost inappropriate to me to talk about things like process and business of writing and writing careers right now.  It feels... well, describing how I feel would probably devolve into a rant of inarticulate swearing.  So when I look at the topic of the week to be "what does success mean to you and how do you define it?", I'm not even sure what I could say about that right now.
But then I also think that art and craft matter.  Especially when things seem bleakest.  Fundamentally my job is to help you, the audience, slip your brain to somewhere else for a little while.  That I can make someone's day a bit brighter, a bit easier... that means so much to me.  I recently heard from a fan who had to spend all day in a hospital waiting room while their daughter had a battery of tests, and they were grateful to have one of my books with them to get through the day.
I take those little scraps of joy every chance that I can, because at the core, that's what it's all about.  This business-- just like everything else in this world-- can grind you down so hard.  It will crack you across the face and not even have the decency to watch you fall down. 
Succeeding, to me, is finding the strength to stand up again, bloody and battered, and giving the world a tiny smirk and asking, "That all you got?"  
And that's what I'm gonna keep doing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Four Books In, And I Am Still Learning

Folks, I'm not going to lie to you: I am far from figuring out this whole writers' life business.  Each book is a new mystery, and new experience, and each time you wonder, "Is this the book that I level up with?"  Do I even know what "leveling up" means in this context?  
The book comes out, and you make some of the various lists of "books to look for this month" (or words to that effect), and look: Lists!  Barnes & Noble!!  And you realize how just getting on those curated lists are a huge victory. 
It's never instant success, and that's fine.  On some level, I relish that it isn't, because it keeps me hungry.  It's part of why I'm creating this beast of four different series in Maradaine, where all the storylines build to a greater whole.  It's part of why I'm going at this pace.  I mean: I just had a book come out, and a year from now, I'll have two more out.  
We just released An Import of Intrigue, and The Holver Alley Crew is just a few months away.  I feel very conflicted, in that it seems too soon to really be talking about it, with Import barely out of the shipping boxes, but also that I need to be talking it up as well.  I mean, we're going to have the cover reveal pretty soon.  It's pretty cool, I think you'll like it.  It really captures the...
See, I'm already ready to talk about it.
I'm constantly feeling like I could do more. Do I need to do more?  I don't just mean more books, I mean keep pushing beyond the pace I've set.  I have an agenda, I can tell you that.  At my current pace, if I'm able and permitted to maintain it, I'll have what I consider "Phase I" of the Maradaine books out by 2020.  But I've also got other stuff stewing in the crockpot.  I've got a few novella-length works planned beyond the city of Maradaine, and a novel set in another city of that world is starting to germinate in my brain.  Plus there's a space opera novel that I keep coming back to.  And I think my short story Jump the Black could be the seed of a novel. And...
I'm saying I'm not lacking for ideas to keep me busy.  I just need to figure out how to increase my volume without sacrificing quality or burning myself out.  Because, honestly, I am so damn happy that I get to do this.
All right, one more thing: a teasing banner for The Holver Alley Crew.  Because we will be talking more about it soon.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Serving As A Warning

Happy November!  Some of you out there are doing NaNoWriMo things, and while I don't advocate it as a great way to write a novel, I do think it's an excellent way to learn about how you write a novel.  You learn your methods, and you make your mistakes.  
Here's the simple truth when it comes to a writing career: you're going to mess up.  You're going to point to the fences, swing with everything you've got, and knock yourself in the face.  And that's excellent.
 Make your mistakes.  Love them and learn from them.  And watch other people, because they will make mistakes you can learn from as well.
And that's a great thing.  It really is.  Mistakes are how we get better.  Mistakes come from taking chances.  
This includes the, "This might get me in trouble" or "This might upset some people" kind of mistakes.  Those are sometimes the best ones to make-- as long as when you look back you ask yourself, honestly, "Now, how can I do it better?"  Every book I've written is full of things I can do better, things my readers ping me with, and things I learn from.
This business WILL knock you down.  Get up, dust yourself off, and get back in it.  Hopefully smarter.
See you down in the word mines.

Monday, October 31, 2016


FB Banner ImportFolks, we're here.  An Import of Intrigue comes out tomorrow.  I'm so excited because this is a book I'm really proud of.  (Of course, I'm proud of all the books.  You don't pick amongst your children.)
Fortunately, I'm not alone in my love for this book:
An Import of Intrigue is a book worth reading, and part of a world worth exploring. It’s complex, intriguing, and spellbinding.  -- Kings River Life
One thing I can say with certainty is Maresca never disappoints and I can always expect a unique, fun and engaging fantasy adventure full of magic and mayhem! - Short and Sweet Reviews
So what can more can I say?  Great reviews, great cover, and a perfect time to jump onto the Maradaine books, since you now can get all four:
  • The Thorn of Dentonhill
  • A Murder of Mages
  • The Alchemy of Chaos
  • An Import of Intrigue
Also, this will mark the last time that "release order" and "in-world chronological order" will stay the same.  All the more reason to buy all four, if you haven't yet.
In all seriousness, I'm really overwhelmed and overjoyed.
And now... back to work.  More books to come.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Gearing Up To Start A Novel

Some of you out there might be planning to participate in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.  Good on you.  It isn't something for me, in part because the pace demanded doesn't match my ideal writing pace, and in part because, for me, every month is Novel Writing Month.  My current schedule, my current system... it really doesn't allow me much breathing room between projects.  
I've compared writing a novel to running a marathon, but that's not right.  It's going on an expedition.  You're going to trek out there and do some serious Lewis and Clark level stuff to get from staring at a blank page to "Hey, I wrote a book!"  And if you were to cross to the Pacific or climb Everest or reach the south pole, you wouldn't just strap your shoes on and start walking and find out what happens.
No, you're going to do some prep work.  You're going to get yourself supplied.  What does that look like for this expedition?
Here's my checklist:
  • MCI02 Map for Pub ColorWorldbuilding:  At this point, for all the Maradaine books, this is more or less done, but each book will probably have some additional element to investigate or deepen.  In An Import of Intrigue, that meant figuring out the street-level of The Little East in finer detail.  
  • Outlines, Spreadsheets and Timetables: With three (or four) interconnected series in the same city, there's a lot of moving parts, and a lot of keeping track of what happens when, and how that has repercussions elsewhere.  My outlines have a structure that have served me well, and in addition to writing on Scrivener, I've been playing with Scapple (from the fine people who made Scrivener) and Aeon Timeline.  Both fine programs I recommend for free-form thinking and laying out timelines, respectively.
  • Character Work: Every book, at the outset, has a Dramatis Personae, and this file gets updated over the course of the work, as new characters show up who weren't intended in the original outline.  Sometimes minor, and those minor characters blow up as the series progress.  Also part of my process is getting myself a visual reference for the character in my head.  So I create a facepage of the main characters, digging through actor headshots (here's a good source) to find people who look like the characters I imagine.
  • Playlist: I don't do too much of this, but I do try to find some music that fits the mood of the book I'm about to write.
All this reminds me, I've got to get moving on finalizing the prep work for A Parliament of Bodies in the near future.  And you've probably got some work to do, also.  Get on that.