Thursday, May 24, 2018

My current WIP: The Shield of the People

Talking about my current WIP is a bit odd, because it's the sequel to a book that you all haven't read yet.  I mean, I could talk about my favorite bits in THE SHIELD OF THE PEOPLEbut it's lacking context for you. 

One thing I am enjoying in this one-- and to a lesser degree this applies to THE WAY OF THE SHIELD as well-- is a different kind of antagonist.  At least one of them. Namely, I have an antagonist whose goal is something that is a complete anathema to Dayne, but methods that are completely in sync with him.  So Dayne doesn't respect what the antagonist wants to do, but deeply respects the way he's trying to go about it, and therefore the person doing it.

One of the things I like about this series is a lot of the characters are fundamentally good people who are trying to do good things-- but they each have a very different idea of what that means.  That leads to, for me, fascinating situations of the lines between rebellion, revolution and lawlessness, and where those lines fall when, fundamentally, you believe in the system.

A lot of that is what The Maradaine Elite series is about.
That, and cool fight scenes.  Always cool fight scenes.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bonus Material: Maradaine Calendar

Hello, Readers: The end of May is turning into a busy time, both in terms of writing and with various things on the homefront.  (My son is graduating from high school, for one, and that brings with it a lot of stuff.) 

So, here's a bit of bonus material I can share-- the sort of thing that's in the Saga Bible.  Here's the calendar for Maradaine and Druthal for the year 1215-- the year the various Maradaine series are set in.  This gives you a sense of the bigger picture in terms of when each story is happening. (With some redactions for the future, because, hey, there's a contest going on.)

As for me, back to it.  Plenty of work to do.  See you later.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Choosing Titles

Titles are a strange beast in this business.  On some level, they're immaterial to the book, in and of itself.  The title is there for marketing purposes, a quick and easy way to set the tone of your book.  The shortest version of your elevator pitch.

But on the other hand, I think about them for a long time.

Almost every one of my books had some working title that didn't survive contact with reality. The Thorn of Dentonhill was just "Tools of the Trade" in draft.  The Holver Alley Crew was "The Fire Gig".  An Import of Intrigue was "The Little East".  And many times that working title is definitively and only a working title, one that I knew even then was not for public consumption.  Imposters of Aventil was merely "Wingclipper", as the original one-paragraph concept focused more on one of the antagonists. 

About the only one that lasted all the way through: Lady Henterman's Wardrobe.  For some reason I always knew that was the title of the second Asti & Verci story.

I've mentioned that the books up to People of the City (original working title... is a spoiler) marks the end of Phase I of Maradaine things, and if you know me, you know I'm a planner, and yes, I do have a plan for Phase II and Phase III.

And those Phase II books have tentative titles.  They still may change between now and when they are written and released, but that's the plan for now.

So, how about a little contest?  Below I'm going to put eight hints for eight prospective Phase II Maradaine Novels. And so we're on the same page, these titles each would represent Book Four and Five of the four respective series, but I've mixed up the order so it's not completely obvious what's what.

Email your guesses to me before AUGUST 1st, 2018.  The entry that is the most correct (or, barring that, most entertaining in incorrectness) will win an ARC of THE WAY OF THE SHIELD, limited to mailing in US and Canada.  Sound good?  Here goes:

The Q_____ G_____
The A_____ of C_____
The S_____ of the C_____
An U_____ of U_____ M_____
The C_____ of the C_____
A P_____ of P_____
The N_____ K_____ of R_____ S_____
A_____ and D_____

Happy guessing!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day!


It was just Mother's Day, so what better way to celebrate than to remember my favorite fictional mother, Satrine Rainey, heroine of the Maradaine Constabulary books.  

It was just Mother’s Day, so what better way to celebrate than to remember my favorite fictional mother, Satrine Rainey, heroine of the Maradaine Constabulary books.

Especially since German Satrine has a bad-ass coat.  Look at what she's rocking.

So the Germans have to wait a couple more months to meet Satrine, but between A Murder of Mages and An Import of Intrigue AND her guest-starring in The Imposters of Aventilyou've got three books of her to enjoy before A Parliament of Bodies comes out next year.

So if you haven't checked out A Murder of Mages yet, get on that.  Here’s a few more review highlights:
First, over at Mutt Cafe:
I love a well done classic fantasy, particularly when it’s combined with my other love, mystery. A Murder of Mages, Maresca’s debut Maradaine Constabulary novel, does just that.
Next, over at Books and Ladders:
I quite enjoyed Satrine. She was a badass and did what she had to in order to survive and provide for her family. I am looking forward to seeing more of her quick wit in action because she was a treat to read about.
Chris from SFandF Reviews:
“The presence of the city, a dark, grimy, lively place, invades the reader by degrees. It’s not a place that leaps off of every page – but rather, one that seeps into your fingers as you turn those pages.”
From Bibliotropic:
“Maresca’s novels are certainly getting attention from fantasy readers, and I’d say it’s well-deserved. Quick reads, good action, and just generally very fun books to have around. I’m already a fan of both branches of Maradaine novels, and I’m looking forward to what new fun stories he’ll tell in that world in the future.”
From Bookaneer:
“Interesting characters, intricate worldbuilding, and a mystery that kept me hooked? Count me in for the sequel. It can’t come soon enough.”
From Powder and Page:
“Without hesitations, I would say that A Murder of Mages deserves 5 out of 5 stars!”
And, of course, if you want to read an excerpt, there’s one here.

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.

READ AN EXCERPTGoodreads Page for A MURDER OF MAGESAvailable at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound and more!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Maradaine On My Mind

The question put forward this week at SFFSeven is the open-ended "What's on your mind?" (i.e., there's no real topic this week), and frankly any given week, the big thing on my mind is Maradaine.  Because, frankly, you can't write four intertwining series set in the same magical city without it occupying a fairly sizable portion of your brainspace.How that's manifesting right now is two-fold.  One is drafting The Shield of the Peoplewhich I will confess I was having some challenges with, but-- thanks to the other part of the manifestation (see below)-- I've figured out a large chunk of what my problem was and have hacked through that to see the problems in my initial outline.

It's been good stuff.

The other part has been a massive reorganization and re-examination of the material and notes.  I talk about spreadsheets upon spreadsheets, and that's key, but a good part of what I need to do is have a Saga Bible for the whole Maradaine project.  And every year or so I need to just plain STOP and clean it up, maintain it, and get it up to date.  Especially when little changes to the larger picture have created a butterfly effect.  For example, I don't have accurate summaries of THE IMPOSTERS OF AVENTIL or A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES-- I have summaries of the outline as they existed before writing the actual books. 

SPOILERS
SPOILERS
So I'm rebuilding a lot of the material in the Saga Bible from the bottom up right now.  Which is something of an undertaking, but a valuable one, because it helps keep the material fresh in my mind, and helps me see the bigger picture.  Which I needed to get through the wall I was having with SHIELD OF THE PEOPLEas well as getting me in the needed headspace for writing THE FENMERE JOB and PEOPLE OF THE CITY.  

So that's how I'm keeping my head on now.  Hope I can keep it there.

Monday, May 7, 2018

First Look at THE WAY OF THE SHIELD

This year is going by quickly-- it's already May! Since we're only a few months away from THE WAY OF THE SHIELD coming into the world.  I thought it would be a good time to give you all a little excerpt so you had a taste of Dayne and his world.  I'm excited for you to meet him, and get as engrossed in the fourth facet of the Maradaine Saga as I am. 

The Way of the Shield releases on October 9th.


The museum was on Fenyon Street, on the stretch between the Parliament House and the Royal College campus—the triangle of city blocks that wasn’t quite in any neighborhood. Upon approach, it looked like a large noble house, with wide marble stairs from the street to the giant, open doors.
Jerinne stopped on the front steps. “Who lived here?” she asked absently.
“I don’t think anyone,” Dayne said. “Most of this block is owned jointly by the College and Parliament. These houses are used as guest lodgings for scholars and other important visitors to Maradaine.”
“So the museum usurped one?” Jerinne asked.
“I’m sure that wasn’t the language used. The museum, in all likelihood, is a joint project of the Royal College and the Parliament. Not to mention some nobleman holding the purse.”
They reached the main doors, where two King’s Marshals had guard duty, in their crisp blue and white coats, matching felt caps and tasseled rapiers.
“A pair of Tarians!” one of them said, with more than a little contempt in his voice.
“What brings you two out here all dandied up?” the other asked. Dayne thought this was particularly ironic, given their standard uniform.
“We’re here for the opening of the museum,” Dayne said. “I was informed it was a public event.”
“Public event,” the first one said, with a strange nod that was half neck-crack. “But we’ve got two members of Parliament, quite a few nobility rubbing elbows in there. Care must be taken.”
“Meaning you’ve got to check your swords and shields here, with us,” the second said.
Jerinne stepped forward, “Why would we have to—”
“Because we’ve got to keep people safe,” the first marshal said. “You Tarians know about that.”
“Exactly, we are members of the Tarian Order and as such we should be given—”
“You’re not members,” the second marshal said. “You’re a Candidate and Initiate. I know blasted well what those marks on your collars mean. Now you can either turn in your arms and enjoy the museum, or you can dust your feet on the walkway.” Dayne knew pips and ranks as well, and this marshal was a marshal chief—equivalent to captain in the Constabulary. Regine Toscan, by his brass nameplate. Not worth picking an argument with over no matter what. Surprising that someone of that rank would be working the door at this event.
“It’s fine,” Dayne said, unhooking his sword. “We’re here for culture, Jerinne. Not a fight.” He passed it and his shield to the first marshal, and Jerinne did the same.
“Thank you, friends,” Chief Toscan said. “You can collect your belongings upon your exit.”
As the walked away Jerinne whispered in his ear, “That was complete posturing. They think—”
“That security of this event is their responsibility,” Dayne said. “We’re not here to use our weapons. It’s fine.”
Dayne looked around the entry hall, which truly was a grand and impressive lobby. A lot of work had to have been done to transform this building into the museum. Portraits of every king of Druthal for the past twelve centuries filled the walls. Maradaine the First hung just to the left of the door, with a brass plaque identifying him and his reign. It circled the room chronologically, with gaps at the entryways to other exhibits. Intricately woven ropes barred off entry to the other exhibits.
Along the back wall, in front of the disastrous kings of the seventh century, a small stage had been assembled. Several well-dressed people milled about up there, as well as other men in scholastic robes. Dayne didn’t recognize anyone up on the stage, but the two men in dark suits with silk cravats were clearly members of Parliament. Flanking the stage were two sweeping stairways, leading to a balcony rounding the entire room, and presumably containing additional exhibits.
Dayne searched through the crowd, looking to see if his new friends from The Nimble Rabbit were around. The crowd was diverse, though it mostly consisted of minor nobility, mixed with several students from the Royal College. But he was thrilled to see how many people were here, and the attention to detail that was being paid, both to the museum itself and the spectacle of the event.
What thrilled Dayne the most was the servers. Someone had spared no expense on this event, as a dozen servers weaved their way among the crowd with trays of culinary delights and cups of wine. The servers were dressed in authentic eleventh-century outfits, including the red neckerchiefs covering their faces. They looked exactly like the classic depictions of the ad-hoc army that filled the streets in 1009 to help reclaim the city and the throne for Maradaine XI.
Someone put a lot of money and care into making this happen.
“Dayne!” A woman’s voice called through the crowd. Warm, refined, and so very familiar. Dayne turned to its source, his heart quickening just at the thought of who it might be.
There she was, the very picture of Druth elegance, her richly embroidered peach dress complimenting her fair skin, though with her white gloves and the lace veil on her hat, very little of her skin was to be seen. Her delicate blond curls spilled down her back, and her dark blue eyes hinted at wisdom beyond her age. She cut her way across the hallway, one handmaiden at her side.
“Lady Mirianne,” he said with a bow. Jerinne, he noticed out the corner of his eye, followed his lead.
“No bowing,” Lady Mirianne said. Her gloved hand touched the side of his face, leading him back to standing. “How is it you are here?”
“I’ve only just come back to Maradaine, my lady,” Dayne said. “If I may, this is Jerinne Fendall, second-year Initiate to the Order.”
“Your servant, my lady,” Jerinne said, offering her hand.
“I have no need of more, Miss Fendall.” Mirianne took her hand gently. “Lady Mirianne Henson, daughter to the Earl of Jaconvale.”
“How is your father?” Dayne asked.
She gave a playful slap to his arm. “I’ve not seen your beautiful face for nearly three years and you ask after my father.”
“I’m sorry, my lady,” Dayne said. “I only thought it—”
“Proper, as always. Dear, sweet, proper Dayne. He’s quite well, happy at the estate in Jaconvale. He’s not a fan of traveling to the city anymore, so the household here is effectively mine.” She turned to her handmaiden. “Is he not adorable?” Her smile was a treasure, Dayne had almost forgotten how lovely she was.
“I should have asked after you first, my lady.”
“No,” Lady Mirianne said. “How are you back in Maradaine?”
Dayne glanced over to Jerinne, and at the handmaiden. “It is an involved tale, lady, and not one for public telling.”
She nodded. “Of course. I will hold you to a private counsel later.” She gave a light trill of a laugh, and a knowing wink to her handmaiden. Turning back to Dayne, she added, “I know why you are here, of course. A history museum must have been like honey to a fly.”
Dayne grinned, despite himself, taking another look around the wide entry hall. “I have to admit, this is incredible. I’m amazed at what they’ve done.”
“Thank you,” Lady Mirianne said. “It was quite the undertaking.”
“You had a hand in all this?” Dayne asked. Of course, he should have guessed it. If anyone had both the means and the desire to make a monument to Druth history, it would be the Earl of Jaconvale and his daughter. It was through them he had developed his own love for the subject, as well as the sponsorship that led him to the Tarian Order.
“Mostly organizing the funding. Professor Teal and his team were the real champions.” She pointed over to the stage, where Teal and other scholars now sat patiently behind the Parliamentarians.
“Will he be speaking?” Dayne asked. During his Initiacy he had had the privilege to sit in on a handful of lectures at the RCM. Professor Teal was a living treasure of Druth history, possibly the most knowledgeable and dynamic speakers on the subject.
“Not until the fools from the Parliament have their chance to babble,” Lady Mirianne said. She took his hand. “Let me show you something.”
“What?” Dayne asked, surprised at her soft gloved hand staying curled around his.
“There’s an exhibit you should see. Please.”
“But . . .” They hadn’t actually opened the exhibits yet. “The speeches.” He said it halfheartedly. He knew the Parliament speeches would be less than thrilling.
“It won’t take long,” she said. She turned to her handmaiden, “Jessel, keep company with Miss Fendall.”
“As you say, Lady.” Jessel curtsied.
Lady Mirianne pulled Dayne to the side as he gave one last look over to Jerinne. The Initiate merely smirked at Dayne, and then gave her attention to Jessel.
Dayne followed along after Lady Mirianne, and they slipped under one of the ropes, with Lady Mirianne nodding to one of the servants as they went. They entered a back stairwell, Lady Mirianne giving Dayne the same impish smile she would use back at her father’s manor when she snuck into the stables. As they ascended, he wondered if her intentions had anything to do with an exhibit.
“Don’t even look at this room,” she said when she pulled him off the stairs on the next level.
“But I thought—”
“You’re just going to get angry.” She went to the opposite end of the gallery.
“Why would I get angry?” Dayne asked, but then he saw the large portrait filling one entire wall. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the monstrosity. “The blazes?”
“I knew you’d hate this,” she said, coming back to his side.
The portrait was of ten eleventh-century figures, recognizable to even a casual student of history. “The Grand Ten? In a portrait together?”
“I know what you’re going to say,” Lady Mirianne said.
“They were never all in the same room together!” Dayne said. “Most of them never even met!” And yet, here, in the museum curated and blessed by the Druth Historic Society, the Grand Ten sat and stood together, in one enormous portrait. Of course, each one of the Grand Ten were instrumental in the Reunification of 1009, key figures in history. Dayne wouldn’t deny that. But the tendency to rewrite history, to pretend that they had been some sort of united club that organized the Reunification—that set his teeth on edge.
“I know,” Lady Mirianne said. “It was the Honorable Mister Barton’s idea. His one adamant insistence.”
“Mister Barton? Who is that?”
“He’s in the Parliament. Traditionalist from our archduchy.”
“Why did he insist on this?” Dayne asked.
“He’s very passionate about the Grand Ten. He even commissioned the portrait from his own purse.”
“Waste of money,” Dayne said. “It’s just bad history.”
“I’m well aware,” Lady Mirianne said. “Though if you look at it as an ten individual portraits put together, it is well done.”
Dayne nodded. “Individually, yes. All classically done.” They all were at their most iconic. Geophry Haltom, The Parliamentarian, with his red neckerchief, like the servers were wearing downstairs. Baron Kege, The Lord, with broken manacles on his wrists and his head held high. Oberon Micarum, The Warrior, in the full uniform of a Spathian Master. “I was just talking to the Grandmaster about how Oberon is the main reason why the Spathians still stand.”
“And Xandra Romaine?” she asked.
“And Xandra Romaine, yes.” It hurt his heart that the Order was not only considered a relic, maintained just out of gratitude to two historical figures, but that this narrative was so ingrained that they didn’t even have to explain it to each other.
Then he looked over to The Mage—Xaveem Ak’alassa—an Imach whose magical skills were instrumental in defeating the leader of the Incursion and restoring Maradaine XI to the Druth throne. The depiction of Xaveem was ridiculous: Druth clothing, and a skin tone only slightly darker than the rest of the group. Save the curved blade on his hip, there was nothing in his appearance to identify him as Imach.
“Classically done, indeed,” Dayne said. “This sort of history is troubling. It inflates the importance of some people for the sake of narrative, ignoring the important work of people like Lief Frannel or Hanshon Alenick, or—”
“Please don’t get too upset,” Lady Mirianne said, cutting him off from his rant. That was probably wise, and she knew him well enough to not let him get worked out over these things. “This isn’t what I wanted to show you.”
“Of course,” Dayne said, turning away from the aggravating painting. “Lead on, my lady.”
She took his hand. “Enough with the ‘my lady’, Dayne Heldrin. Especially when we’re alone.”
“That’s asking quite a lot,” Dayne said.
“I have the privilege of asking a lot,” she said, flashing another mischievous smile. “I am a Lady, after all. This is it.”
The new room opened up into a wide oval, with twelve mannequins on small platforms, forming a semicircle. Each mannequin was faceless, dressed with uniforms, armor, and weapons, some of which were centuries out of style. Only two had modern design, in the center of the semicircle. The one on the left wore the same gray coat and tunic that Dayne was wearing, save the coat bore the epaulets and insignia of a Master. That mannequin stood in classic Position Three, round shield high and short sword held low.
The brass plaque at its feet read “Master of the Tarian Order”.
The other mannequins each represented a different Order, almost all of which had long been inactive or disbanded—all but the Tarians and the Spathians, represented by the other central mannequin. The Vanidian—forest guardian with axe and bow. The blue uniformed Hanalian, the antecedent of the King’s Marshals downstairs. The fully armored Grennian. The healing master Ascepian. Pike-wielding Braighian. All these mighty and honored Elite Orders that had been abandoned or folded into the army or other new organizations.
“This is . . . incredible,” he said, his voice cracking just a bit in his attempt to hold back the tear in his eye.
“I knew you would appreciate it.” She came up behind him, placing her arm in the crook of his elbow. “Mister Barton insisted on the Grand Ten. This . . . this is what I insisted on.”
A smile found its way to Dayne’s lips. “You really were listening to me.”
She stepped around and faced him. “Always.”
Dayne couldn’t resist her any longer, and had no reason to. He bent down to kiss her.
Before he could, screams cut through the air.

Dayne Heldrin always dreamed of being a member of the Tarian Order. In centuries past, the Elite Orders of Druthal were warriors that stood for order, justice, and the common people. But now, with constables, King’s Marshals, and a standing army, there is little need for such organizations, and the Tarian Order is one of the last remnants of this ancient legacy. Nevertheless, Dayne trained his body and mind, learned the arts of defense and fighting, to become a candidate for the Tarian Order.

When a failed rescue puts Dayne at fault for injuring the child of a powerful family, his future with the Tarians is in jeopardy. The Parliament controls the purse strings for the Order, and Dayne has angered the wrong members of Parliament. He returns to the capital city of Maradaine in shame, ready to be cast out of the Order when the period of his candidacy ends.

Dayne finds Maradaine in turmoil, as revolutions and dark conspiracies brew around him, threatening members of Parliament and common people alike. Dayne is drawn into the uproar, desperate not to have one more death or injury on his conscience, but the Order wants him to stay out of the situation. The city threatens to tear itself apart, and Dayne must decide between his own future and his vow to always stand between the helpless and harm.
Goodreads Page for THE WAY OF THE SHIELDAvailable at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound and more!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop: A Resource for Leveling Up


It's time again for me to talk about the ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop.  Registration is now open for the workshop, until June 15th, and if you're looking for a resource to up your writing game, this is a great one.

There are a lot of great workshop programs out there, but most of those require a couple weeks and a few thousand dollars, and not everyone can afford that kind of commitment.  This workshop is a lot more affordable, both in time and money.

I give it a lot of credit toward putting me on the right path as a writer.  And there are quite a few other notable alumni: Stina Leicht, Nicky Drayden, Patrice Sarath, Vivien Jackson, just to name a handful. So should you sign up this year?  Heck yeah.  Look at this line-up:
  • Rebecca Schwarz (Workshop Director)
  • Holly Black
  • David Bowles
  • Christopher Brown
  • Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • Nicky Drayden
  • William Ledbetter
  • Stina Leicht
  • Marshall Ryan Maresca
  • Jessica Reisman
  • Patrice Sarath
  • Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
  • Martha Wells
  • D. L. Young
(See, powerhouse alumni come back to teach, because we believe in it.)

So if you're in or near Austin, or just needed the excuse to come, what more do you need?  More details here.