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.