I’m embarrassed that it has been so long since this blog updated. Really? Over four months, and THAT was a reblog? That’s just sad.
Although this year has, in many senses, been a triumph in the worlds of my writing — one novel released, one major (for me at least) award, and two anthology invites — it has also, by other measures, been a very hard year. There have been losses in my family. I’ve been on the same pandemic ride with the rest of you. Conventions have cancelled, plans didn’t work because someone got sick, might have gotten sick, or just decided differently, and recently, a major writing hope… went away.
However, if there is one piece of wisdom I have gathered over this “career” of mine, it is this: it will always be harder than you think. It will take more work than it “should,” and it won’t be “fair,” however that useless term is defined. So, we go on. We just go on.
And, we find new things to do, too. We go back to old things and remember the joy they gave us. So here, I leave you something new: I’m not an artist, not really, but this is the closest I can give you to a visual of what Responsibility, the Princess Azriyqam looks like in my head. Hope you like it:
I am honored to be part of a wonderful five-book giveaway sponsored by David (D.J. Butler), the author of WITCHY EYE (which is a wonderful read, BTW, set in an incredibly unique alternate reality America of the early 1800s). We are each giving away five signed copies of our work in five packages. You can enter multiple times, and I hope you will. Simply click here to be taken to the entry platform.
Take Responsibility. And Sarah Calhoun, St. Tommy, and Joaquin Serrano! Happy Reading!
Okay, this is late for an AAR from FantaSci. I know, it was two whole weeks ago, but let’s just say that the two worst times for any writer whose day job is teaching are the end of May and the beginning of September. Now that the feverish activity surrounding the last two weeks of school are out of the way, I can pretend I have a blog again.
The people at FantaSci were awesome, and I’d like to especially thank my editor, Rob Howell, who shoehorned me onto panels and shared his reading time, because up until we knew that my novel was releasing here, I wasn’t really officially part of the con.
I’m so honored to be part of Chris Kennedy Publishing and New Mythology Press; these guys really made me feel at home. And for the first time in my life, I had fans — like, actual, honest-to-God FANS — stop me in the hall and ask me to sign copies of a book. MY book. With, like, my actual name on the cover! And they bought copies! Of my book!
So, I got to hang out with Larry Correia, who was nice enough to blurb this novel, and he is one of the most helpful senior authors I have ever met. Friday was my reading, and while it was understandably not well-attended, neither was anyone else’s, let’s be honest.
The highlight of my con was undoubtedly the Baen Roadshow, because 1) my picture was up there TWICE as the only mortal to have yet achieved the honor of winning both Baen Awards, and 2) Toni Weisskopf, the publisher of Baen, used the opportunity to mock the difference between Fantasy Scott and Science-Fiction Scott pictures. Hey, what can I say: those Jim Baen Memorial pictures of previous winners were intimidating. They were wearing ties and I lost my cool.
But people kept coming up to me and congratulating me on my wins. Like it meant something! See, the thing is, if you tell your “normal” friends or co-workers, “I won a SFF writing award,” they’ll go, “Oh. That’s nice. Congratulations.” But, really, it’s not part of their world, and it’s kind of like telling them that your club curling team won the state championship. Okay. That is a thing that some people — odd people — do. But at FantaSci, people are INTO club curling! I mean, SFF. And they GOT why it was a big deal!
Also on Saturday, I was on a panel with Rob Howell and Barbara Evers discussing what made magic and magic users work. Probably do another blog entry on that. And then I also got to hang out with Robert “Speaker” Hampson, who kindly gave my kids little stuffed Wroguls (NOT octopuses) and whose book about these awesome aliens DO NO HARM I heartily recommend!
So, I’m giving away a signed copy of my new novel, and all you have to do to have a chance to win it is reblog and like the post. Chances of winning are dropping all the time, but there’s still one day before it releases tomorrow!
I’ll be at FantaSci in Raleigh, NC in just a few hours, and will be reading from the novel in the Oak Room at 3 pm CDT tomorrow!
I have a whole box of fresh, book-scented copies of my new, first-in-the-series novel, RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CROWN. Would you like a signed copy? Here’s what you do:
LIKE AND REBLOG this post between now and the LAUNCH DATE, MAY 21st! That’s all. And then, I will draw ONE NAME, and send you a copy of the book. Winners will be posted on May 29th, and books sent out on June 7th!
And it is with great pleasure that I present this excerpt, in which our protagonists assault an enemy airship:
Elazar turned to Azriyqam and Merav. Azriyqam felt as though she were trapped in a soap-bubble that might pop and take this whole unreal situation with it. At the same time, his voice took on an eerie clarity. “Stay on my wing. Azriyqam left, Merav right. We’re going to skim the trees and then climb from darkward. We attack out of the dark. I’ll be in front. You land behind our target. If you’re hurt, get back down as fast as you can. Now, fly!”
With that, he ran for the beach. Azriyqam followed, with Merav a half-second behind. They spread their wings, climbing in the gentle breeze. The great airship was very close now, but Azriyqam could not look back at it. Trying to look around while flying was an invitation to losing control.
The flat leaves of the palm trees formed a surface of dark waves beneath her, undulating in the wind. Ahead of her, Elazar’s deep bronze and Merav’s pale mauve skins glinted in the silver light, and her own pale green flesh doubtless did the same. How visible are we? She shuddered, remembering the terrible, tearing drumbeat of the Consortium’s guns—was it only yesterday?—and the far worse, sickening sensation of sliding her airswords through flesh that had followed.
Azriyqam strained against the air, putting everything into climbing. Elazar accelerated upward and she slid below him. Sure enough, a column of warm night air filled her wings and she rode the thermal after him. They flew higher in a wide spiral.
Now Azriyqam could risk a look back. The Consortium’s airship gleamed at the edges like a stretched egg, but dark at the center. Then, a beam of brilliant white light stabbed out from beneath it, probing down at the beach.
Ice settled in Azriyqam’s gut. Now they would find Senaatha for sure. Elazar said nothing, but continued his climb, and she and Merav followed for interminable seconds. The balloon hung below them, motionless now, just above the level of the trees. Elazar stopped climbing and arrowed back along their path in a shallow dive, and Azriyqam followed, wings aching with effort.
Elazar folded his wings, grabbed something from his harness, dropping sharply. The other two followed.
Now the earth rushed at her, the ovoid of the airship getting big. Bigger. Unbelievably big, becoming a curved surface. Against the moonlight, for just an instant, Azriyqam saw a black protrusion become a man standing within a small, circular railing. Clamped to the railing was a long, deadly shape. Suddenly, he rose, fumbling for the machine gun.
Elazar’s wings swept forward. Two silvery darts shot from between his fingers. The man staggered back, clutching at his chest, and Elazar was down, running across the canvas surface of the envelope. The throwing darts were light weapons, meant more to distract than to kill, but propelled by the momentum of his dive, they had struck their victim at over a hundred miles an hour. His scream had been ripped away by the wind, and as he levered himself painfully off the railing of his station, Elazar buried his airswords in the man’s chest. He fell with a soft moan.
Azriyqam’s own momentum carried her past him and she staggered, going to one knee on the taut but yielding surface. She staggered to her feet.
Hi, friends, i know it’s been an incredibly long time. The short and brutal reality is that being a high-school teacher in COVID times is a lot more work than normal, so in the belief that most of you would rather have me producing fiction than blogging/newslettering, I have been forced to give it up, mostly.
HOWEVER, there is good news on the publicity front. RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CROWN, the first book of the ACROSS THE ENDLESS OCEAN series, is coming out MAY 21st! I will be appearing along with it at FantaSci in Durham, North Carolina.
It is going to be AWESOME! There will be panels, and a READING, and fun! Please come down if you can!
This is the announcement I have been waiting a lifetime to make: New Mythologies Press, an imprint of Chris Kennedy, Publishing has accepted my novel, Across The Endless Ocean. I am honored to be their new editor, Rob Howell’s, first accepted author since he took over the press. We both hope and intend that this will be but the first of a series of adventures featuring Responsibility, the halfdragon heroine of the series.
While we are still hard at work hammering out the edits, we intend to get the novel ready to publish as soon as possible, and I can hardly wait to present it to you all. If you are interested in a foretaste, though, the story that started it all, “Abandoned Responsibility,” (and which comprises the first two chapters of the book) can be reached on Podcastle through the link.
Why is this novel so special to me? There are several reasons. Mostly, it is because it is the first time I have ever sent out a whole novel to a publisher, cold, and had it accepted. And while I will always be grateful to Jason Rennie and Superversive Press for giving All Things Huge And Hideous the green light, it was something that took shape over several stories. In some ways, it still IS a collection of short stories. It was funny and delightful to write, but it is also farce.
Across The Endless Ocean is not farce. It’s about courage, and honor, and what it means to become an adult in a hostile world. It comes from somewhere deeper inside, if that makes any sense. I hope you will enjoy it.
Been thinking about this rather excellent observation for a bit. And it’s been awhile since I did a good, old-fashioned listicle here on the blog. Okay, it’s been awhile since I really did much of ANYTHING here on the blog, but I’m a high-school teacher at the end of the Second Semester Of COVIDS and a Dad planning Christmas with 3 school-age kids, so give me a break).
There are always players — and, I think, writers — who confuse characters that are fun to play and write with characters that are fun to play WITH and fun to read. I’ll also admit that I haven’t always been innocent of these. So with that in mind, I’m going to dive right in to Characters That Are Dickishness In Disguise.
The Character That Can’t Be Told What To Do aka Contrarius: Most of these characters are power fantasies (which there’s nothing wrong with as such: that’s kind of what RPGs are for.), and this one is no exception. You kind of get the impression that the player is someone who is never allowed to say “no” to anyone in real life and he’s by all the gods gonna make up for it now. Often comes right out and says, “My character doesn’t like being told what to do,” and every experienced player cringes. It doesn’t matter how good a suggestion that your character makes, or some other character makes, or the NPC giving advice to your party makes, or how good an idea is. If it wasn’t Contrarius’s suggestion, that’s reason enough to fight it tooth and nail. Often, Contrarius gets his way because of Don’t Split The Party.
The Character Who Deliberately Annoys NPCs aka Impertinens: Impertinens doesn’t like it when the party has friends. To Impertinens, the rest of the world consists solely of people who aren’t good enough for the party. Gods help the king or duke or wizard who has the temerity to summon the party, pay the party, or warn the party. They are in for a heaping helping of mockery and abuse simply because Impertinens’s player finally gets a chance to say what’s on his mind. Impertinens can’t really be shut out, because he’s at his most annoying at the safest parts of the game, i.e. when the DM is desperately trying to actually establish a plot, and doesn’t really want to, for example, have Denethor tell the Guards of the Tower to throw Pippin off the Citadel for being an ass.
The Character Who Is Deliberately The Opposite Alignment Of Everyone Else In The Party aka Spoilerus: Spoilerus loves being the party pooper. Everyone else is a champion of law and good? Spoilerus is going to be the chaotic evil sorceror that’s hanging back to eviscerate and torture the fallen. Everyone wants to do a thieving dungeon run? Spoilerus will be the worst example of the stick-up-the-ass paladin, looking for ways to give away the party gold. Spoilerus is basically Gollum, except that he’s not trying desperately to keep the rest of the party safe so he won’t lose his shot at the Precious.
The Character Who Can’t Be Told The Odds aka Kamikaze: DM: “Okay, you’re squatting outside the Black Gate of Mordor, honeycombed with caves full of thousands of orcs, bolstered by flying Nazgul. The Orc patrol gets closer and closer to your hiding place…” Kamikaze: “I CAST FIREBALL!!!” Kamikaze doesn’t believe that anything worthwhile happens in D&D that doesn’t involve attack and damage rolls, and believes that combat is the first, last and only option for dealing with anything. And Kamikaze always has an excuse for fighting literally everyone. They’re too strong? Well, they need to be taken down a peg. Too weak? Easy kill. You’d think that Kamikaze would get his throat cut in short order, but the problem is that he’ll take the rest of the party down with him.
The Character Surrounded By Theme Music aka Energizer Bunny: The Energizer Bunny NEVER STOPS. Is he a rogue? Well, he will steal things all the time. From other party members if nothing else is around. Is he a necromancer? He will animate everything that is dead, up to and including dead squirrels the party runs across. Is he a warrior? He will challenge shopkeepers to duels for haggling with him. The dead giveaway for this character is that he asks the same question in every room in the dungeon: “Is there a <object my character is obsessed with>?” Then he pouts when people get tired of him.
The Character That Hates Another Member Of The Party aka Nemecyst: Nemecyst is as much fun as a huge boil you can’t get rid of. He hates orcs. Or paladins. Or just YOU, because you know more about D&D, or you had an idea the party liked better than his idea, or because Fuck You, that’s why. Nemecyst my plot your death, but is more likely to simply argue with you at every turn and/or degrade your character gratuitously. Essentially, the character is a bully, and often a racist bully at that. Not that there aren’t sometimes moments where being a “racist” in D&D can’t be realistic (being racist against, say, vampires, can be a survival trait), but it sure as hell isn’t a fun thing to hang around.
Of course, confronting the players with these things tends to get a defensive response featuring the chorus, “I’m just roleplaying,” or, “Well, that’s what my character would do!” If you’re having to say these things more than once a campaign? Yeah, you might want to examine why that is, and whether one of these “characters” applies to your play style.
So, the launch of ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is truly well begun. Over 100 copies were purchased this week. 11 reviews. Exactly how many, I don’t know, because the print books haven’t shipped yet. I know that’s pretty small potatoes for some authors, but it’s a big helping for me.
I truly want to thank some people by name. Please know that if I did not name you, I still very much appreciate your purchase and your word-of-mouth spread of the book’s title. If I tried to mention everyone, I would inevitably leave people out.
Thanks to fellow authors Larry Correia and Jim Hines for using their HUGE platforms to spread the word. Thanks to fellow authors Chris Ruocchio and Dave Butler for blurbing the book. Thanks to superfans Ralph Seibel and Kat Adams for giving copies of the book to people. Thanks to my good friend Jon Miles and most of all my wife, Katie for encouragement, and in the case of Katie, a LOT of veterinary information so I wasn’t TOO much of an idiot.
The launch is going extremely well, thanks to awesome fellow authors like Larry Correia, Jim C. Hines, Brad Torgersen, D. J. Butler and Chris Ruocchio, who have graciously blurbed and/or spread the word about the relaunch, sales are beyond my expectations! And thanks are EVEN MORE due to my awesome fans who have also shared the news about my book! Thank you all!