Thursday, November 30, 2017

Green Sky: Three Books from my Youth

So, often I'm asked "who are your influences", and a name I immediately go to is Zlipha Keatly Snyder.  And that's largely because of the three books of her Green-Sky trilogy: Below the RootAnd All Between, and Until the Celebration.  

This trilogy was significant to me for so many reasons.  For one, it was very much the fantasy series that I consider my entry into the genre.  Nothing had previously captured my attention as a fantasy world like Green Sky did.  It was a glorious, ardent world of a city in the treetops, where the people could fly and glide from branch to branch.  And it was a world with a dark secret.

The first book focuses on Raamo, a young man who begins his training as part of the elite priest caste, the Ol-zhaan.  He's been sought out to join because he's especially gifted in the Spirit powers, which the Ol-zhaan are supposed to be masters of, but it turns out most of them have little-to-no ability in them.  With two of his plucky youthful companions, he starts looking deeper into the dark secrets of the forbidden ground, which is supposedly populated by monsters.  But when Raamo and his friends discover a girl on the ground, they learn it's not monsters at all, but people, trapped underground.

The second book shifts perspectives to Teera, the young girl, starting with her inadvertent escape from the underground prison her people live in.  They're held in by the magically powerful Roots that are impossible to burn or cut.  The Root was created by the Spirit powers, because those people had been banished by the Ol-zhaan to protect the true secret of Green Sky.  You see, the people of Green Sky came from Earth, which had been destroyed in horrible wars.  (See, it's sci-fi embedded in a fantasy.)  Two factions formed, one who wanted to tell the people the truth of their origins, and the other who wanted to keep it a secret forever, hoping that ignorance of their violent past would help them stay peaceful forever. The tell-the-truth faction lost, and they were banished.  But now the truth is out and public, and there's no hiding it... especially since the reuniting of these two peoples has reawakened the Spirit powers.

The third book does something unexpected. It's all about the messy fall-out of trying to unite these people, and how it does bring about the very violence that had been unknown all this time.  It then goes on to, well, kind of a downer ending, mostly about how saviors and messiahs aren't always going to be able to patch everything up and lead the people into a golden age.

But this series taught be about how fantasy can be anything.  Which is such an important lesson.  If you can find them (which is apparently challenging to do), go check them out.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Crossovers and Revisiting THORN & ALCHEMY

If one thing should be clear from IMPOSTERS OF AVENTIL, it's that I love a good crossover.  That should give you a sense about some of my future plans for Maradaine.  But for the time being, I'm so excited about what's happening this week on our televisions:

I mean, I may have watched this trailer, like, 12 times already.  Or more.  I'm pumped.

As far as my own crossover is concerned, it's brought some people back around to checking out The Thorn of Dentonhill and The Alchemy of Chaos, which means everything is going to plan.

But, for example, Gizmo's Reviews just looked at Thorn, saying "a strong start to the series... a high fantasy academy adventure that's rarely been seen before."  And Short & Sweet Reviews reviewed Alchemy: "If you’re looking for a fun, lighter side of fantasy story then I recommend checking out this series."

In the meantime, it's time to get back to work after the holiday.  Plenty more things to write for you all.  See you down in the word mines.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


This will be quick, because I have plenty on my plate but:
  • If you've ever bought one or all of my books...
  • If you've read and loved the stories of Maradaine...
  • If you've been looking forward to the books to come...
  • If you've told a friend to try out my books...
  • If you've left a review on Amazon or Goodreads...
  • If you consider yourself a fan...
Then, thank you, thank you, thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, it means the world to me. 
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Coming up in The Streets of Maradaine

Folks, I had a lovely time at OryCon, and Portland is a wonderful city— wish I had a chance to do more while I was there, but my schedule for the Con meant I had to keep my focus on that.  Maybe another time.  I was fortunate that some old friends played hosts-in-absentia, letting me stay at their home even though they were away, and that made the whole experience far more personal.  (I don’t sleep all that well in hotels, and I slept great in their home.)

And now, it’s time to really start taking a look at Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe, which comes out on March 6th.  This is, of course, the second Streets of Maradaine novel, following up on the first one, The Holver Alley Crew.  Let’s take a look at our team:

The Planner:  Asti Rynax, former intelligence officer, forcibly retired.  The one who can figure out all the angles and put together a plan so crazy that no one will see coming.  Deadlier with an apple and a lockpick than most people are with a pair of knives.
The Burglar: Verci Rynax, Asti’s brother.  Gadget-maker, window-cracker, and the only one who can keep Asti grounded.
The Sharpshooter: Helene Kesser, best crossbow shot in all West Maradaine, with a mouth as sharp as her aim.
The Muscle: Julien Kesser, Helene’s cousin.  Strong as an ox, but not allowed to fight, or you’ll answer to Helene.  Loves cheese.
The Driver: Kennith Rill, carriage driver, master builder.
The Eyes on the Ground: Mila Kentish.  Teenage beggar girl that no one notices until after their purse is already gone.
The Old Lady: Josie Holt, the fallen boss of North Seleth, who may only have this crew left as the people she can trust.

It was an absolute joy to write this team again, especially to put them through a whole new set of wringers after the events of Holver Alley
You have read Holver Alley Crew, yes?  If not, I’ll let Powder and Page convince you:
The final verdict: You’ve GOT to read this book! You can jump into the world of Maradaine starting with this book or with A Murder of Mages or The Thorn of Dentonhill without feeling lost or that you’re missing out on anything. This book is my favorite to date, though not by much, as everything by MRM is of the highest caliber and I would recommend them without reservation.
So go get your hands on that, and then pre-order Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe.  And get yourself ready, because some further Maradaine announcements are coming up.

Blending high fantasy, crime fiction and daring heists, the Streets of Maradaine features Asti and Verci Rynax, two former thieves who tried to go straight, but dragged through the ashes of tragedy back into their old life.

“While Maresca has been building the Maradaine universe across multiple books and connected series, The Holver Alley Crew marks a new chapter in the city’s story, and a great entry point for new readers.” – Barnes & Noble Fantasy Blog

Forthcoming March 2018

Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, the second novel of the Streets of Maradaine series follows the Rynax brothers’ crew of outlaws as they attempt their biggest heist yet and restore justice to the common people.

The neighborhood of North Seleth has suffered–and not just the Holver Alley Fire. Poverty and marginalization are forcing people out of the neighborhood, and violence on the streets is getting worse. Only the Rynax brothers–Asti and Verci–and their Holver Alley Crew are fighting for the common people. They’ve taken care of the people who actually burned down Holver Alley, but they’re still looking for the moneyed interests behind the fire.

The trail of breadcrumbs leads the crew to Lord Henterman, and they plan to infiltrate the noble’s house on the other side of the city. While the crew tries to penetrate the heart of the house, the worst elements of North Seleth seem to be uniting under a mysterious new leader. With the crew’s attention divided, Asti discovers that the secrets behind the fire, including ones from his past, might be found in Lady Henterman’s wardrobe.

Available at Amazon and more!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Worldbuilding: Research for Invented Cultures

I've had one challenge that comes up in my worldbuilding process:  How do you research for a culture that doesn't have a real-world parallel?  Or borrows elements from several different ones in a way that makes it its own thing?  And how do you make it work on the page?
Part of the challenge is that, no matter what you do, some readers will bring their own biases to it.  What does that mean?  It means that readers will seek the familiar, and that includes trying to slap on some serial numbers on things that you didn't even scrub them off of.  What does this mean?  It means your readers will sometimes find parallels to real-world cultures that you never intended.
And then ping you for doing it wrong.
Can this be avoided completely?  No, of course not.  But there's things you can do to minimize it.
  • Don't make your racial distinctions stereotypical or offensive. Make your secondary words racially diverse, but try to be aware of how you depict that.  I've found Writing With Color to be a great resource to help with that.
  • Learn where your culture is coming from, from the ground up.  I'm not saying you have to build it entirely from the bottom. But if you understand some underlying basics-- what they grow, how they use that, what they eat, what they build-- that gives you the tools to guide them in their own unique way.
  • Steer their language away from the obvious.  If you're looking at your new culture and think to yourself, "this sounds like Eastern Europe", consider making the language base (and thus how you name places and people) something that is nothing like Eastern Europe.  Vulgar is a great resource for that.
All right, I'm getting on a plane early tomorrow, and plenty to do to get ready, so I'll see you all later.  Or perhaps in Portland!

Monday, November 13, 2017

OryCon 2017

Hey all--

I feel like I haven't quite recovered from World Fantasy, and this past weekend was taken up by a big project with the non-writing job, and now this coming weekend I'll be going to OryCon.  After that, I will probably fall down.  Hard.

Here's my schedule. If this is your town or your con, come say hi.  I don't have a signing time, but I will happily sign books at any reasonable time. 

Friday, November 17 • 6:00pm - 7:00pmThe Quest for the Ultimate SuperheroWhat makes a super hero a superhero? What would make a superhero the ultimate example of his or her kind? Power, talent, heart, courage, or self-sacrifice? And could an ultimate super hero connect to the average human, as Superman seems to or, like Doctor Manhattan, end up estranged from the rest of us?
Barry Deutsch, Eva L. Elasigue, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Robert B McMonigal, Tom Whitmore

Friday, November 17 • 7:00pm - 8:00pmI am GrootHow complicated is it to give nonhuman comic book characters human elements?
Louisa Ark, Benjamin Hsu, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Brandon Seifert

Friday, November 17 • 9:00pm - 10:00pmFantasy as Political AllegoryWe live in "interesting times" for sure. How does the Fantasy genre speak to current events? The Vorkosigan series, The Others series by Anne Bishop, and the Discworld books of course. What else?
K.G. (Karen) Anderson, Craig English, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Shawna Reppert

Saturday, November 18 • 10:00am - 11:00amSuperheroes!Beyond the big and little screen. They're in print media and novels as well. Who's writing them? How does one create a written superhero with no special effects other than the use of written language? Without pictures?!
David Boop, Lee French, Marshall Ryan Maresca, S. B. Sebrick

Saturday, November 18 • 11:30am - 12:00pmREADING: Marshall Ryan Maresca

Saturday, November 18 • 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Star Trek: Discovery
Whoo hoo! Another Star Trek series! It's been far too long. What do you think? The political messages should be epic...
Curtis C. Chen, John C. Bunnell, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Jennifer Willis, Rob Wynne

Saturday, November 18 • 5:00pm - 6:00pmEscape With Us!While film is often used to explore complex social themes and situations, the movie theatre also functions as a refuge from reality. The nature of the escape changes depending on the larger social landscape. Does the current proliferation of films about super heroes and live-action fairy tales reflect a cultural desire to be rescued, or is it something else?
Erica L. Satifka, Judith R. Conly, John M Lovett, Marshall Ryan Maresca

Saturday, November 18 • 8:00pm - 9:00pmCrime and FantasyFrom vampire assassins to wizard private eyes to undead thugs, crime has been mixing it up with fantasy for years. What is it about crime, noir, and the paranormal that's so appealing? Also - what are some really good titles?
Diana Pharaoh Francis, Fonda Lee, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Rory Miller, Erica L. Satifka

Sunday, November 19 • 12:00pm - 1:00pmSuperheroes in Times of CrisisDo superhero comics reflect times of crisis?
Marshall Ryan Maresca, John C. Bunnell, Eva L. Elasigue, Blaze Ward

Thursday, November 9, 2017

When stories grind to a halt

As is inevitable when a bunch of writers get together (such as a gathering like World Fantasy Convention), there is a natural tendency to talk about process and craft, including the things that stop us up.

Now, I'm not immune to getting blocked or stopped up.  Even though I'm known as being efficient in getting books out, part of that is because I build a certain amount of "things might get stuck" into my schedule.  As much as I would want the writing of every novel to just be a powerhouse, "writing X words a day, every day", that's rarely been the case.*  Most of the time, even with my outline, there will be some point where the connective tissue from A to B just isn't apparent, and it's going to take me a bit of time to let my subconscious hack through it to figure out how it'll work.

So, what to do in the meantime?

I've got three go-to tactics.  (All of which were rejected by one friend who was stuck in her novel.)
  1. Write a scene further ahead.  I've not written a single novel in order. Not one.  There's always some point where I jump ahead and write some red-meat bit down the line and then go find the connective tissue later.  It's a simple solution to the Point A To B problem: just go directly to Point B and often the writing of it gives the answer of how to go back and fill in the details.
  2. Play with maps.  I do love messing with maps, and it's a good process to use a different set of brain muscles so the subconscious can grind away at the problem.  It lets me also do some worldbuilding work for other things down the line.  I've often said I really only have the illusion of being a fast writer, because I've spent a long time at planning things far in the future.
  3. Write something else.  There's always a "secondary" project in the works.  If not two.  Usually things that don't have a contract or deadline involved, so if and when I need to stop and get to the "real" project, it's not a big deal.  I've got a few things cooking along those lines right now.  
So, what are your techniques to break through the wall?

*- The one exception is The Alchemy of Chaos, which I did the draft of in a little under five months.  There were a couple weeks that dragged, in that I "only" wrote the minimum for that week.

Monday, November 6, 2017

World Fantasy Debrief

Friends, World Fantasy was excellent.  And now I need to fall down and recover.  (Not as much as some people, as there was A Thing going around and some people got quite ill, which is quite a shame.  I hope all of them are doing better.)

But many wonderful things happened, including dinner with the wonderful DAW editors and authors.
I also signed many copies of many books, including copies of Rayguns Over Texas, which some brilliant person made one of the free swag-bag books.  There's a lot of good stories in there that deserve to be read.

Also, over the weekend, several great reviews of The Imposters of Aventil showed up.  Kings River Life says, "I’ve been waiting for this.  I’ve hoped it would happen for a long time.".  Gizmo's Reviews says, "If you are a reader who loves epic fantasy, then you will love these series. You will love the world building. You will love the characters of all three series. You will love the danger & action & adventure."  And Powder & Page says, "Every single one of the Maradaine books have been adventurous, fun reads that leave me with a sunnier disposition by the end. Can’t wait for the next one!"

Now, fall down, and then: back to the word mines.  Many things afoot.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Housekeeping before World Fantasy

Rushing around before heading down to San Antonio for World Fantasy this weekend, but a couple things:

Publishers Weekly on The Imposters of Aventil: "As always, Maresca’s busy city of Maradaine and its multicultural denizens reveal his skill at creating lively, believable settings. Readers unfamiliar with the series will need to get up to speed with all the characters and subplots, but the effort is repaid by this fun, pulpy fantasy adventure."

Powder and Page on An Import of Intrigue: "His skill at both character and world building do him tremendous credit as a writer, planner, and creative mind. I am yet again justified in saying he is one of my favorite authors and I think he’s grossly underappreciated (or unknown) by fantasy consumers."

German language editions of The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages are coming out next year!  If you want to order either of DIE CHRONIKEN VON MARADAINE, you can do that here.

In the near future I'm going to be telling you all more about Lady Henterman's Wardrobe (that comes out in March!), A Parliament of Bodies and what's to come beyond!  Until then, down in the word mines.