June 10, 2013
Today’s post can be found at
, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, Mindy Klasky, John Hartness, Kalayna Price, and James Tuck, among others. The post is called “Special Guest: Will McIntosh, On Choosing a Title for Your Novel” It is written by my friend, Hugo Award-winning author Will McIntosh, who has a new book out tomorrow. I hope you enjoy it.
May 20, 2013
Today’s post can be found at
, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, Mindy Klasky, John Hartness, Kalayna Price, and James Tuck, among others. The post is called “On Creativity: Narrative, Fiction, and Life” It is a special post, written on a very special day in my life. I hope you enjoy it.
May 6, 2013
Tomorrow, May 7, my good friend Stephen Leigh is coming out with a new book. All right, actually he is coming out with an old book, but chances are it’s new to you. Stephen has been writing professionally since 1975 — I think he sold his first story when he was, like eight years old. And he has been producing thoughtful, elegant fiction ever since.
In 1981, he published the first book of his ‘Neweden’ Trilogy, SLOW FALL TO DAWN. It was followed by DANCE OF THE HAG (1983) and A QUIET OF STONE (1984). These three books are now being reissued by DAW in an omnibus called ASSASSINS’ DAWN. Briefly, the series is about a guild of “ethical assassins” on a world called Neweden, where assassinations and violence are tolerated. One of the assassins wishes to expand the guild’s reach to other worlds where its peculiar practices might not be so welcome. For more, please check out Steve’s site.
I should add that Steve is not only a marvelous writer, but is also one of the finest people I have ever met. I hope that you’ll check out his “new” old books. And while you’re at it, you might want to check out some of his more recent work as well. Thanks.
March 26, 2013
Stephanie Burgis is a fellow fantasy author and also a member of SFNovelists, an online group of over one hundred published speculative fiction writers, of which I am also a part. Stephanie writes middle grade novels for Simon & Schuster, and right now her publisher is locked in an unpleasant and highly destructive battle with Barnes and Noble over pricing and marketing issues. And like any war, there is a good deal of collateral damage. Stephanie writes about the situation here, far more eloquently than I could. Please read her post and then, if you’re interested in her books, find a way to buy them.
Mostly, though, please remember the next time you’re angry about the relative lack of availability of a book you’re looking for, or about the pricing of an ebook, or about a series that is only partially in print, or any of the hundreds of other things that readers find annoying, that we authors — at least most of us — have precious little power in this business. We are artists. We write our books, we revise and polish them. When we can, we try to promote them. And yes, a few of us publish them ourselves. But most of us are subject to the vagaries of the marketplace, and are powerless when the huge corporations for whom we work, in effect, decide to fight their battles publicly.
Again, here is that URL:
October 24, 2012
Today’s post is up at the blogsite of Lucienne Diver, my wonderful agent, who is also a terrific writer in her own right. This post is a little different than others I’ve written recently. It’s a fictional vignette in which Ethan Kaille, the hero of the Thieftaker books, visits his rival and nemesis, the lovely and deadly Sephira Pryce. She wants something from Ethan — of course — and he is not willing to give it to her. Check out what happens here.
October 23, 2012
Today I have a post up at the SFNovelists blogsite, a site I maintain in cooperation with approximately 100 other published authors of fantasy and science fiction. The post (written under David B. Coe) is called “Six Non-Writing Things That Might Improve Your Writing,” and it is about the things I do to keep my creative juices flowing and my life balanced and healthy. I hope you enjoy it.
October 2, 2012
Today, I welcome a very special guest: author Max Gladstone, whose first novel, Three Parts Dead, is out today from Tor Books. What makes Max so special? Well, in addition to be incredibly talented, thoughtful, and intelligent (read the post) Max is also my very first fan. Yep. He showed up with his Mom at my first book signing fifteen years ago. He was shy and quiet, but so excited to have read my book and to have a chance to meet me in person. He came to subsequent signings and mentioned to me on more than one occasion that he wanted to be an author some day. Well, here he is, and the reading world is in for a treat. Welcome, Max. So good to see you here.
“Love, Silence, and Pacing” by Max Gladstone
Musicians make love with silence. Melodies and harmonies excite the active mind, but there’s no feeling for a chorister quite like the moment when the choir stops singing and the hall air holds first the note, then the hole left as the note fades.
Silence relaxes tension, yes, but it can also build. John Cage made an entire piece out of the tension of silence. Sure, 4:43 feels like a joke when described, but when performed it can fill an attentive (and unfamiliar) audience with expectation. Until the audience gets the joke, that is, after which point they shift in their seats and glance at their watches (though maybe the seat-shifting and watch-glancing is part of the piece, too).
There’s a dangerous tendency when writing fiction where stuff happens—people get stabbed, chase one another through rain-slick alleys, betray, discover, make love, throw rings into Mount Doom—to fill the story with stuff that happens. Our hero just outran the cops and took shelter in a tenement, but now the tenement’s burning down, but when she escapes the fire she’s held up in an alleyway by a gangster to whom she owes money. One crisis gives way to another without pause and without fail. Endless arpeggios trill along.
There’s nothing wrong with such a sequence, or with stepping up tension, or ‘raising the stakes’ in workshopese. Raymond Chandler was once asked what he did when he felt his story was lagging, and he said: “I bring in a man with a gun.” (There’s a wonderful egregious example of this in The Big Sleep.) But lag isn’t the only pacing problem. A story can also be so swift the reader cannot find her feet, so swift that characters do not grow or reflect: they stagger from emergency to emergency, flailing in all directions like they’re under attack from a swarm of bees. Chandler brought in his men with guns, but he also had a fine instinct for scenes where Marlowe wanders the streets of Los Angeles, ponders chess problems in his apartment, stops into a bar for a drink: for scenes when characters breathe, and appreciate the chaos growing around them.
These rests, these pauses, are not moments of recovery. They are an opportunity for reader and character to take stock of the pain they’ve crawled through, and the pain yet to come—or to build anticipation of a victory, or a love affair, or a brutal betrayal. Events become real in reflection upon them.
Silence is the gateway to consequence. Newlyweds feel their transformation not on the wedding night, but the next morning, when they sit at breakfast alone and feel the world settle around them. After the One Ring falls into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo sees a vision of Sauron’s empire collapsing, followed by a scene break (that purist silence of white space and uncreated words), followed by a tender moment of Frodo and Sam talking, alone at the end of the world, the rest after the ultimate crescendo. Once Ben and Elaine flee the wedding in The Graduate, they sit on a bus bound to anywhere, and do not talk, and the smiles slip from their faces: the consequences of their actions coalesce, and they become afraid.
Working on my books Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise, an editor or friend would occasionally tell me they felt a scene wasn’t consequential enough, that it felt anticlimactic. At first such comments stepped me back: the points they called out felt like serious confrontations, battles and revelations an entire book in the making. How could I make them more consequential?
But when I re-read the scenes in question, took their pulse and compared them to the rest of the book, I realized that often, caught up in the passion of finishing a book, I’d drive too hard toward the end, leaving out the fractional beats for characters to react, or to appreciate the new dangers they faced. The emotional universe of the book broke, and tension drained from the scene. Returning to the page, I drew out those moments, gave the moments space to breathe. The revised scenes felt better, and readers agreed: if anything, the new chapters felt faster, though I’d added material.
Writing’s intensely personal, and your mileage may vary. Perhaps you’re a natural with silence; perhaps you never push too hard, and risk overstimulating yourself or your reader. But if you feel your greatest pyrotechnics fail to impress, maybe the problem isn’t that your writing isn’t strong enough, or fast enough. Try working like a musician: make love with silence, and space, and see how that changes the feeling of the scene.
August 29, 2012
Today we welcome my good friend Morgan Keyes, who has just published a brand new middle grade fantasy, Darkbeast (Simon & Schuster). Morgan also writes as Mindy Klasky, and in that guise she is not only a colleague of mine over at SFNovelists, she is also a regular contributor to the Magical Words blog site. She is witty, incredibly knowledgeable about our genre and the publishing business in general, and a wonderful writer.
As an added bonus, Morgan, with the generous support of the folks at Simon & Schuster, is giving away a free copy of Darkbeast. Leave a comment before 11:59 p.m. EDT Sunday night, September 2, and you could win. (Please keep in mind that this post is up at several blogs, so the winner might or might not be chosen from people who comment here. Only one entry per person across ALL the blogs, please. Commenting at each blog will not increase your chances of winning.)
Without further ado, here’s Morgan!!
Many thanks to David, for allowing me to visit here and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been bound to magically all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
Some authors have it easy. They set their stories in real cities, taking advantage of real maps and readers’ familiarity with real landmarks. Think, for example, of the wildly successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A reader could navigate from the titular girl’s apartment to virtually any other setting in the book, simply by following Stieg Larsson’s detailed prose.
Some authors have it hard. They set their stories in real cities, but in times past. (Yes, D.B. Jackson, I’m looking at you, and at Thieftaker!) These authors need to learn the actual map, as it existed in the time of their tale. That alone can be a struggle – tracking down appropriate resources, reconciling conflicting data. And woe to the author who has his characters walk streets that have changed their courses, or travel to landmarks that have burned and been rebuilt elsewhere. Readers will helpfully offer endless “corrections” despite the actual accuracy of the story as written.
And then there are authors, like me, who can draw on actual history, but take liberties. In writing Darkbeast, I created a secondary world, one that is not directly identical to anything in our actual historical past. Nevertheless, I populated my world with people who were similar – in some ways – to actual people who lived in actual historical cultures.
Here’s an example: Keara and her family are very religious; their lives are controlled in large part by the twelve gods they worship. The architecture associated with those deities is distinctive, and it guides not only the design of the actual godhouses but their placement within villages and towns. (For example, the goddess Pondera offers shelter to travelers, and her godhouse, however rudimentary, is always situated at the southern edge of settlements because people traditionally traveled from the south to the north on the Great Road.)
Alas, I don’t have any experience as a city planner. For tiny villages, my ignorance was immaterial. For larger towns, though, I needed help. I needed maps of similar towns, located in similar geographic settings.
And so I came to study maps of Venice (with its waterways and bridges). I also studied Rome (with its hills and multiple temples). I tossed in a couple of surveys of Avignon, (with its massive Palace of the Popes, dominating an otherwise rather unremarkable medieval town).
My goal was not to create a factually correct map; no one is going to travel to Duodecia and use Darkbeast as a guidebook. My goal was not even the more challenging one of presenting historical fact for modern readers, similar to Thieftaker. Rather, my goal was to create a world that feels right, that seems accurate, even if no one can ever set foot there. To that end, I could trace the path from the Doge’s Palace to the Bridge of Sighs, bulking up the palace into a “papal” bulwark, turning the bridge itself into a godhouse with specific attributes.
In the end, my readers will likely never know the specific paths I’ve traced. But I know them, and they help me to keep the story straight in my head. They help to make the world more real.
What are the most realistic secondary worlds you’ve encountered in fantasy fiction? And what makes them feel “real” to you?
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.
August 28, 2012
I’m heading to Atlanta the day after tomorrow for Dragon*Con, and frankly I am totally psyched. Can’t wait. I’ll be catching up with tons of old friends, and hopefully making some new connections. I will also be appearing (as D.B. Jackson) on several panels and doing a reading of something from the THIEFTAKER universe — don’t know what yet. My revised schedule is below. My 11:30 panel is a late addition, and so I might not be on the list of panelists in your programs or on the D*Con app. But I’ll be there. Promise.
When I’m not on panels, I will be signing and selling books and t-shirts in the Marriott Marquis Dealer’s Room, booth 100-102 (Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair). So, I hope that you’ll come and find me at one venue or another.
Title: The Abundant World of Alternate History: An Overview
Description: Not just “Steampunk 101″ this panel will survey it all: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Post-Apocalypse, and much more!
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: International BC – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Gods and Goddesses
Description: How to develop a plausible religious/spiritual system for your fiction. Who worships whom and why?
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Meet the Authors of Alternate History
Description: Join a wide array of Steampunk authors as they discuss their various Steampunk worlds and what to consider when writing your own.
Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Urban Fantasy – What exactly is it?
Description: What makes urban fantasy different than other kinds of fantasy?
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Centennial I – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: The Steam Horizon
Description: Editors and writers will give sneak peaks into what’s coming in the near retro-future. Come and be the first to know what lies ahead.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: International A – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Reading: D.B. Jackson / David B. Coe
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Roswell – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: The Perfect Blend – Genre Mixing In Urban Fantasy
Description: Urban Fantasy has been romantic, mysterious, magical. What makes the perfect blend?
Time: Mon 11:30 pm Location: Fairlie – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: How Do You Take Your Steampunk — Light or Dark?
Description: Steampunk can be light “fun adventure” or dark “something sinister.” Do you enjoy Steampunk light as aether, dark as night or a bit of both?
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: International A – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
July 25, 2012
This will come as no surprise to any of you, but I have now been doing THIEFTAKER promo stuff for nearly two solid months. Thank you all for putting up with my posts, my excitement about reviews, my announcements of signings and talks and online events. I appreciate your patience and your support. The good news is that eleven days after the book’s release, my publisher was already hearing from the warehouse that inventory was low and they needed to print more copies. They have been waiting for a few more orders before actually going back to press, but we’re close, and that’s a Really Good Thing. If you’ve bought a copy already, thank you so much. If you haven’t yet but are considering it, this would be a great time. I would love to get a second printing done before the month is out!