Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holiday Books

So, I have to confess, I'm not much of one for holiday books.  I certainly would struggle to pick a favorite.

Of course, I do have a deep fondness for A Christmas Carol.  It's a fantastic story, that's at the same time deceptively simple in structure, yet rich and complex in execution. And I kind of love that it went from concept to in-stores in six weeks as a "damn I need some fast money" ploy.  Which: mad respect.

On a simpler level, I love A Visit from St. Nicholas.  It's such a pure and delightful story of Christmas joy, and there was a time when I could recite it for memory.  Now I might stop and stumble a bit if I tried.  But as a story, as a piece of poetry, it's a deep favorite for me. 

I think both, for me, represent something fundamental and pure about my feelings of the season.  Like: hey, here's a little bit of the magic of Christmas, and maybe, just maybe, experiencing it will make you a slightly better person. 

That's how I like to think of it, at least.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

TITANSHADE: The Debut You Should Get Next Year

Happy Thanksgiving, all!  Today I am thankful for all the love and joy that I have received this year, and especially in the last week.  PhilCon was a lovely time, and the folks running it were all wonderful.  Plus I got to see some old friends that I hadn't seen for decades, which was lovely as well.  And now I want to pay that love forward, by talking about a new debut that you should put on your radar.

I am talking about TITANSHADE by Dan Stout.  This book looks like a heck of a lot of fun.  When I read the description I jokingly called it Scorcesepunk, but it is a secondary world fantasy of tough street-cops in a world of 8-tracks, disco and sorcery.  It looks like everything you wanted Bright to be if it had been made in 1976.  I am deeply excited for this sucker to come out, and it will on MARCH 12th, 2019.  So GO PRE-ORDER THIS BABY.

This noir fantasy thriller from a debut author introduces the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner.

Carter's a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It's also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city's future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure's never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter's investigation leads him into conflict with the city's elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Give thanks, read books.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Hey all!  I'm off to PhilCon this weekend, and if you're around, please come say hello.  Here's my full schedule.   And what's my Special Presentation?  It's a surprise!  (But it'll involve a selection of readings.  And almost no Rat Pack singing.) 

Fri 8:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)—Fantasy Without Fantasy? How much actual supernaturalism or other fantastic elements (dragons, magic, elves, etc.) does a fantasy story require? There are examples of books marketed as fantasy, set in imaginary places, that contain no fantastic elements- How do they function within the genre?
Jim Stratton (mod), Ken Altabef, Sally Wiener Grotta, Carl Paolino, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Anna Kashina

Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza IV (Four)—DCEU: A Light at the End of the Tunnel? We all know that Warner Brothers has had a bit of the problem with their DCEU movies. But the latest trailers for Aquaman & SHAZAM look like they’re finally turning the page to a Brand New Day...
Barna William Donovan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Andre Lieven, Orenthal Hawkins

Sat 12:00 PM in Executive Suite 623—Readings: Saturday Noon Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod), Sally Wiener Grotta

Sat 1:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A—Presentation by Special Guest Marshall Ryan Maresca Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod)

Sat 4:00 PM in Plaza II (Two)—The City As a theme and an image in science fiction. Think of Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, New York 2140, and Metropolis. How does the nature of a city inform the stories set within it?
Carl Paolino (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Tom Purdom, Kim Kindya, Eric Parmer, Ty Drago

Sat 5:00 PM in Autograph Table—Autographs: Saturday 5pm Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod), Chris Kreuter

Sat 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two—Shows We’re (Still) Not Over The Endings Of Whether it was because of a surprise cancellation that left us with a massive cliffhanger, or the intentional plotting of a Machiavellian team of writers, some series ended in ways that- even years later- make us want to shriek. What finale left you agape?
Tony Finan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alyce Wilson, Hildy Silverman, Tee Morris

Sun 11:00 AM in Plaza V (Five)—Writing A Film-Friendly Novel What elements should you keep in mind while writing a novel if you're hoping to eventually see it onscreen?
Richard Stout (mod), Elizabeth Crowens, Barna William Donovan, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Carl Paolino, Michael D'Ambrosio

Sun 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three—When Less Is MoreWe've talked a lot over the years about how to avoid infodumping, or at least, giving your readers information in a way that is entertaining and easy to parse. But sometimes the question you ought to ask is not how to insert all the facts about the world you've built, but "is it necessary?"
Vikki Ciaffone (mod), Steven Brust, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Bernie Mojzes, Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Embracing the Hostile Read

There's an old saying, "No text can survive a hostile read." 

I also like this exchange from the West Wing, when Sam Seaborn is told that a passage from a speech given by the First Lady has angered an activist group.
SAM: I don't see it.
CJ: You have to want it to see it.

Here's the thing about writing anything: everyone is going to come at it with their own biases, their own take.  Once you send it out into the world, you have no way to control how people are going to take it.  And, more specifically, if people are going to want to misread your text, bring their hostile read to you, you really have to just take it.

I'm not saying this to address any specific or recent review-- in fact I've been quite pleased with the recent reviews for THE WAY OF THE SHIELD-- but more as a sort of zen reminder that people will find the things that they connect to, that they can interpret with their own biases, and even though it doesn't match my intentions... that doesn't matter.

I'm kind of arguing for "the death of the author", I know, but the point is, all I can do is put it on the page.  If the reader finds something there I didn't intend, that's how it is.  In fact, I think it's great to embrace that, and see what I can learn.  Isn't that what it's about, after all?  Constantly trying to learn, grow and improve?

That's my goal, at least.
Hey, are you in the northeast?  What are you doing next weekend?  Me, I'm the Special Guest at PhilCon!  If you can, come on out, and come say hello!