A.F.E. Smith’s Release Party for Darkhaven completed on Saturday, and along with it my little contest to give away some signed copies of THE OLDEST TRICK. And now, for the results of that contest:
And the winners are:
Diana So/ Diana Southammavong
Penny Mmarks/ Penny Burns Marks
falicesidoma/ Felicia Sidoma
Neil Jacob David
But…but…there’s SIX of them?!
Yes. Everybody will have to share. (Kidding, kidding).
Well, I had six people enter in total, so I figured the difference between signing and mailing six books and signing and mailing three was inconsequential enough that I would have felt pretty stingy if I didn’t give everyone a prize. Yes, yes – I’m a softy.
What To Do Now?
The book won’t be released in paperback for a few weeks. In order to know where to send it, I’m going to need the winners to contact me (via e-mail or PM on my Facebook page–see the Contact Me tab at the top of this page) so I can get addresses and such. Feel free to do so anytime, but I’d recommend doing it soon before I get distracted with other things. Strike while the iron is hot, I say!
Congratulations, all, and thanks for playing!
As for the rest of you, who missed the party and so on, please check out The Oldest Trick in e-book on July 14th (or pre-order now!) or in paperback form a few weeks later. Come watch scoundrel and villain Tyvian Reldamar attempt to gain revenge against his traitorous business partner despite being cursed with a magic ring that forbids him to do evil! Swashbucking fantasy adventure in the style of Scott Lynch and Brandon Sanderson! Don’t miss it!
Today is a very special day. My friend, A.F.E. Smith, has a book out today. It’s called DARKHAVEN, and it sounds really cool, and you should all buy it. To celebrate, AFE is throwing a release party, at which you can win many prizes and much wealth. Well, prizes. Mostly in the form of books or artwork from your favorite authors. Which, now that I think of it, is very much the same thing as wealth.
But I digress.
I, the intrepid author of this, your fourth or fifth favorite blog, am participating in this party in two very important ways.
Way the First
Ms. Smith will be interviewing me on her release party page at 3pm EST (or 8pm UK time). You can ask questions, too! Stop on by and join in the fun!
Way the Second
To support AFE’s release, I’m putting up some of my own books for a prize. I will be giving away 3 signed copies of THE OLDEST TRICK, my latest fantasy novel (see sidebar). Here’s how to win:
- AMUSE ME! The challenge is as follows: tell me a fantasy (or Dungeons and Dragons) related joke in the comments or, if you’d prefer, post an amusing fantasy-related picture or meme (or link to it). The funniest three win the prize!
- To make it easier for me to contact you (and for you to know that you won), please follow this blog (I’ll post the winners tomorrow). Then I can coordinate where to send your book with you via e-mail.
That’s it! Get posting, and I hope to talk to you at the interview!
(Note: The paperback release of THE OLDEST TRICK probably isn’t until August 11th, so it might be a few weeks before I can mail your book to you. Sorry for the delay, but I’ll do the best I can. Thanks so much for playing!)
Dear Chronomenator Supreme,
Thank you for your interest in Financial Operations and Underwriting Limited (FOUL) and our time travel loan service. If you are here from the future, I’m certain you will have found our terms generous. We would also like to take this opportunity to make you aware of our Henchman Recruiting Service, our Insurance offerings (please note: time travel is not covered as of this point in the timeline – please visit our agents in 2132), our catalog, and this basic overview of our operations and dossier of our more successful clients.
Please understand that, as we take client confidentiality very seriously, we must ask you to make certain to return to just before you received this message and eat it before you can read it, thus keeping any evidence of our existence a secret from those pesky Time Cops. Failure to do so will have resulted in a killer robot from the future having gone back in time to eliminate your Uncle Freddy just before he would have surprised you as Santa Claus on your fifth birthday, thereby giving you a debilitating nervous condition which will render you useless for villainous enterprise forever. You have been warned.
- All interest compiles based upon your current timeline, relative to the moment you sign the papers. Any attempt to tamper with the timeline to alter this term will result in immediate payment being made in full by whatever version of yourself we happen to track down first. Barring that, we will garnish the wages of your ancestors (see #6).
- If you are visiting from the past, please remember that all payments must be made in parcels of land or gold bullion. Bags of spices from the exotic Orient are no longer acceptable, especially given the coriander-synthesizing technology available on the 2065 Home Shopping Network.
- All payments are due on the same day at the exact same time: January 1st, 1929, Brooklyn, New York. Feel free to visit that time as many times as you wish to make as many individual payments as you deem necessary, but try to avoid meeting yourself if at all possible. Ask for Stu at the bar. Wear something snappy, but try not to look German. Dames should expect to smoke cigarettes and look mysterious. No, we do not know what that means – it’s Stu’s operation, so it’s his stupid rules.
- Failure to pay your loan on time will result in the dispatch of Time Loan Sharks to be dispatched to your location to collect. Yes, they are actual sharks from the future genetically spliced with humans and augmented with cybernetic weapon systems. No, they have never gone rogue. Well, not in this timeline.
- By signing the loan agreement, you are forgoing any indemnity on the part of any alternate self in any alternate timeline. Yes, we will repossess your alternate universe casino. Yes, we will break the kneecaps of your pacifist hippie self in the timeline where the Age of Aquarius actually came to pass. Pay up.
- Traveling back in time to warn your past self to not take out a loan with us on account of you not being able to pay it off in a post-apocalyptic future constitutes a violation of your loan agreement and entitles us to garnish the wages of your ancestors to make ends meet. If you want your Great Uncle Joe to starve on account of your delinquency, be our guest.
- As of this time, we do not offer loans to robots, AIs, or aliens. Sorry, but it’s an insurance matter.
Delivery of Payment
- For your convenience, we will convey your loan in the full amount at any point in time. Though we prefer electronic transfer, we can also stage “inheritance from strange old man” (i.e. you) or any number of crazed lunatics shoving old Wal-Mart receipts with account numbers scribbled on them.
- For our ancient-world customers, we will provide a treasure map to a secret vault filled with death traps to prevent grave robbers. The map will have information on how to avoid the traps, but the ink is prone to smudging, so don’t squeeze too tightly.
- You will be required to fill out a questionnaire about your life and family in order for us to verify we are delivering payment to the right you in the right timeline. Those who perform the survey will be shot by their past selves after they have verified your identity in the future. No, this has never caused a problem. Why do you ask?
Let Us Help You Help Us
As we already know if you are going to take out a loan and whether or not you are going to default on that loan, please listen to your loan officer’s advice. If he says don’t eat Chinese tonight, listen to him. That Triad hit squad is a real bitch and no, your ancient kung fu secrets won’t cut it this time. Trust us. Some general rules:
- Do not date your grandmother, no matter how hot she is.
- Please acquire or construct a time machine that any idiot cannot stumble into and utilize. Being stranded in time helps no one.
- Bring your food with you. Futuristic fast food is a horror show.
- Do not teach the Romans how to use gunpowder.
- Do not kill Hitler. No, not even that way. No, not that way either. Cut it out.
- Even though time is not linear, it is helpful to pretend like it is. Insane people are terrible at paying back their loans.
- While we encourage bringing henchmen forwards and backwards in time to support your evil aims, we caution you against any time paradoxes caused by said henchmen returning to their own timeline. Better to strand them in time when they are through.
- It is possible to build a time machine that can transport you with your clothes on. Try a little harder, you exhibitionist pervert.
Good luck, and welcome to the FOUL family!
(remember: go back in time and eat this message. It is peppermint flavored – your favorite. Don’t ask us how we know – we already shot that guy)
Today we’ve got a special treat. Here is fellow author A.F.E. Smith, author of Darkhaven, to talk about fights and protagonists in fantasy novels, something fans of the Saga of the Redeemed are no doubt used to. Enjoy!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the hero of a fantasy novel must be outnumbered at least three to one before the reader even begins to worry that he’s in danger.
Most fantasy fans enjoy a good battle, whether between individuals, groups or armies. And we also like seeing our heroes overcome the odds. But by now, most of us have read enough gratuitously unequal fights that overcoming the odds has become an expectation. In real life, a duel between two people of roughly equal skill and experience – or a war between two evenly matched armies – would be loaded with tension for all concerned, because there’d be no way to predict the outcome. Instead, it would be clear that the battle ahead was going to be long, drawn-out and take a significant toll on all involved, quite possibly without ever resulting in an outright winner. But in fiction, where narrative conventions dictate that the protagonist is going to punch above his weight, evenly matched isn’t enough. Evenly matched means an obvious win for the protagonist. And obvious is boring.
Fantasy novels therefore face the challenge of loading the odds against the protagonist in order to make him the underdog – because everyone loves an underdog – while still making it plausible that he should win. Taken too far, it becomes ridiculous: hey, my mortally wounded and exhausted hero just fought off an entire army with a rusty spoon, isn’t he awesome? Yet not far enough, and it’s just dull: some guy dueled a slightly more skilled guy and beat him. Yay. There’s no tension in the second option, no edge. But the first option can be equally tedious, particularly if it keeps on happening – because someone who can defeat that many people under those conditions is clearly invincible. Every time David successfully overcomes Goliath, there has to be a believable reason for it. And because the plot requires it is not a believable reason.
Tolkien (of course) does this very well in The Lord of the Rings. In every battle, the tide is turned by the fulfillment of a slender hope – and those hopes keep on getting more slender as the book progresses. It wouldn’t have been at all the same if the mighty hordes of Gondor had been facing Sauron’s tiny ragtag army. But nor would it have been the same if Aragorn had single-handedly slaughtered the hordes of Mordor with his kingliness. The plot walks the fine line between too easy and too implausible without setting a foot wrong. Every challenge is overcome, but only just. And that’s what keeps us on the edge of our seats.
Of course, many books since Tolkien have subverted the expectations that we have of our protagonists. Most of us probably got near the end of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and thought, Aha! This is a classic unequal fight situation! Ned’s in a pretty tricky position now, but I just bet he’s going to overcome the odds at the last minute. After all, he is the protagonist!
And we all know how that turned out.
Still, I love an unequal fight, and I didn’t hesitate to put one into my own novel. Here’s a tiny snippet from Darkhaven in which my stubborn sort-of hero, Tomas Caraway, is faced with the prospect of getting past a whole group of warriors just when the stakes are at their highest …
‘Just give it up, Caraway,’ one of the women said. ‘Go home.’
He shook his head. ‘I can’t.’
‘Fine.’ Her face showed no hint of sympathy. ‘Then you accept what’s coming to you.’ She glanced around the circle. ‘Weapons away, lads.’
The sound of steel being sheathed rang through the air. Caraway scanned their grim faces and understood what was about to happen. They wouldn’t afford him the dignity of swordplay, with its attendant rules and courtesies. How could they? He had no blade to speak of; it wouldn’t be fair.
So instead, they would maintain their code of practice by beating him up with their bare hands. The fact that there were twenty of them and just one of him had no bearing on the matter.
It’s probably fair to say that he doesn’t stand much chance of triumphing in this encounter. Yet for all that, I think the outcome is realistic. See what you think.
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.
What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.
If you don’t read Texts From Superheroes, you should – they’re hilarious. Nothing quite like reading Thor trying to text Tony Stark about Halloween. Anyway, their most recent gem is this one:
With the advent of yet another Spider-Man reboot, it seems likely we are going to watch dorky Peter Parker get bitten by yet another radioactive/genetically engineered/alien super-spider and become our friendly neighborhood web-slinger. We’ll probably watch Uncle Ben get gunned down again, too, and hear that lecture about power and responsibility, and everything else. The thing is this: Iron Man is right, nobody cares.
Why does every single superhero movie need to waste a half-hour of our time on an origin story? I mean, sure, if this were the first time we’d ever laid eyes on Superman, we might want to know this guy’s deal, but Supes has been around since 1938 – 1938! We’ve been shown his origin story over and over and over again. If you don’t know he is an orphan of Krypton by now, where have you been?
And even beyond that, do we really need the origin story? Haven’t we come to accept the trope of the superpowered hero enough that, if a guy shows up and starts flying around shooting laser beams from his eyes, we are pretty much okay with it? Surely the origin story isn’t the only dramatic moment of the character’s life and, if it is, what does that really say about this character?
This is one of the reasons, among others, that I love, love, love Pixar’s The Incredibles. We meet Mr. Incredible and Wonder Girl in their prime. We never learn why or how they have powers (it’s implied they were just born with them) and the action of the story is not focused on why or whether they are heroes but, instead, the problems inherent in being heroic and dealing with all the problems related to it. It still ranks, for me, as one of the best superhero films of all time.
Also on that list? The Dark Knight, which also doesn’t waste time with origin stories. In fact, it deliberately thwarts us in our desire to know the Joker’s origin by having him make up stories about it every time he gets a chance. The weakest part of the film, in fact, is the whole Two-Face origin, which seems rushed and poorly explored. We don’t really care that much about that, frankly – we want to see Batman and the Joker, the embodiments of Order and Chaos, fight over the soul of Gotham. What don’t we want to see? Mrs. Wayne’s pearls hitting the sidewalk for the umpteenth time. WE GET IT – BATMAN IS CRAY-CRAY BECAUSE HIS PARENTS DIED! CAN WE MOVE ON NOW?
Now, this doesn’t mean origin stories can’t be done well (they very often have) or that they are bad stories (they very often aren’t), but simply that it seems to be the only thing these movies do. It’s formulaic, predictable, and unnecessary. At the very least they could shake up the formula, you know? Maybe have the origin not be revealed until the very end. Maybe spend the whole movie getting us to think the origin was A when, all along, it was secretly B. Maybe not reveal the origin story until the second movie. I don’t know – just spitballing here.
Why do we focus so much on origins? Well, I think that’s a fairly simple question to answer. Tales of urban fantasy, such as superhero stories, are as much wish-fulfillment as anything. We, the audience, secretly wish for powers we do not possess. The hero, therefore, fulfills some basic need we crave. As teenagers, didn’t we all wish we could go anywhere we wanted, have the power to defeat bullies, know how to avoid danger, and get perfect physiques without the need to exercise constantly? Hell yes! Hence, Spider-man’s origin story strikes a note with the viewer – his transformation is our own. You can apply this to pretty much any superhero ever. Iron Man? Well, we want to be rich and cool and famous but we don’t want to be jerks, too, so we have a guy who is a rich jerk and learns how to help people. Hulk? Who hasn’t wanted to be able to vent their wrath on the world without repercussions and without anybody knowing it was us? Superman? Hell, do I need to explain that one for you? The man can see through walls and fly at hypersonic speeds!
All that said, though, can’t we get away from that little corner of the superhero world for a while? Can’t we get to the middle or end-phases of our hero’s lives more often? There is more to life than just the beginning, and I feel that we often forget that, thanks in large part to the youth-centric aspects of our culture. We are always being told about the new kid at school, the first day on the job, the wedding day, the rookie on the force, and so on and so forth. Let’s grow up a bit, folks. Let’s explore the “after” part of “happily ever after.” As we all know, it isn’t all that happy, after all.
So, by now you’ve heard me jawing about my two novels (The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood) which, together, really comprise a single novel. That single novel was the one I originally submitted to Harper Voyager and now, after being apart for so very long, they are together again at last! This is my vision as I originally intended it – the director’s cut, if you will (though, really, it isn’t any different than the other two books, just presented back-to-back in one volume).
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my book has been reunited with itself and now you can read the entirety of The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood in one volume under its original title, THE OLDEST TRICK!
(pause here for applause.)
(c’mon – just one golf-clap! humor me!)
Okay, anyway, here’s the blub:
Compiled for the first time, The Oldest Trick comprises The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood in the Saga of the Redeemed
Tyvian Reldamar gets betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.
Revenge just got complicated.
On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless wizard Banric Sahand. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he learns to work with—and rely on—his motley crew of accomplices, including an adolescent pickpocket, an obese secret-monger, and a fearsome gnoll.
The extra good news is this: those of you tired of shelling out $5 for the two separate books can now purchase this single volume for a mere $4! That’s a 20% savings, folks!
And everywhere else fine e-books are sold!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Why yes, there is! I have been told by my editor that this, sleek, attractive compendium of derring-do and things fantastic will be available in paperback! Yes, no more fuddling with those bizarre, complicated e-reading mechanisms! No, actual trees will be slaughtered and mashed down into paper just so you may flip about the pages of Tyvian’s world to your heart’s content!
(note: all paper will very likely be recycled. No actual trees were harmed during the production of this message)
Now, I don’t know just when the paperback version will be out – “a few weeks after the 14th” is what I was told – but it is coming, and it will be glorious.
Did you see how I’m now listed as an AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR? Do you wonder why that is? Why, because I won an award, of course! The Writers of the Future Award to be precise. Read my award winning story (and many other such stories) here, in this year’s anthology!
It’s been almost exactly 30 years since the Goonies released in theatres. Now, I would have re-blogged this post then (June 7th), but I forgot to do so until now. Nevertheless, as we enter into summer, I think it still apropos I post one of my favorite pieces I’ve done on my little blog here. I hope you enjoy it, and happy summer, everybody!
Originally posted on Auston Habershaw:
The common image of the famed pirate Wilfredo Guzman, or “One-Eyed Willie”, is that of a ruthless and cunning buccaneer, defying the English fleet and amassing a grand fortune only to be discovered centuries later in the caves near Astoria, Oregon. What history tells us about the man, however, paints a significantly different picture. As Willy’s ship, Inferno, flees up the California coast in 1632, pursued by a Spanish (not English) fleet sent to capture him, we come to understand that this fearsome pirate was a desperate man on the run and just barely in control of his crew. The acts that resulted in his death, made so famous by their sheer perversity, merely underscore this fact.
To understand Wilfredo Guzman, one also has to understand the Spain of the early 17th century. Despite the wealth of silver and gold crossing the Atlantic into royal coffers, Spain was a nation in significant debt…
View original 1,391 more words
Been down on myself about my writing lately. Can’t explain it except to say the novel I’m starting won’t start. Can’t call it writer’s block, exactly (I am writing things, just slowly and badly), but it does have me navel gazing and getting frustrated with my pace and lamenting the hours I lose to the vagaries of life and the hours I waste with pointless things (note: this category usually contains just about everything besides “writing” and “my wife and kids”).
So, I’m going to post here a couple songs that have always been good kicks in the pants for me. Some are new, some are old, some are from Disney movies. I hope you like them! If you don’t, well, then feel free to list your favorites in the comments. Maybe I missed one.
That one there has been my mantra for the past five years. It still is. I am not “there” yet.
Hell yes, AC/DC. Hell yes it is.
Used to play this song a lot back when I bailed on my Secondary Education minor at college in favor of becoming a writer. Still a good song.
This one is a bit cheesy and somewhat overwrought, but it still gets me.
Okay, enough time-wasting from me. I’m off to climb Word Mountain. Hopefully today I’ll make it out of base camp.
Hi everybody! I’m going to be on the (online) radio! Listen in live as I talk with the hosts of Citywide Blackout about writing, Writers of the Future, and my own fantasy series, the Saga of the Redeemed!
Listen live here: http://wemfradio.com/LIVE/
Can I Ask You Questions on the air?
Yes! Post questions to the show’s Facebook page at facebook.com/citywideblackout and twitter.com/citywidemax, which are both monitored throughout the show. You can also call-in at 617-500-7100 on your regular, old-fashioned telephone!
What If I Miss It?
WHAT? Shame on you! That said, I think you can check out excerpts of the show on Citywide Blackout’s website: http://citywideblackout.blogspot.com/
See you all on the radio waves in about four hours!
Ever been on Twitter? I have. I bring from it a piece of somewhat depressing news:
Every single human being on Earth is trying to sell a book.
Yes. All of them.
And they want you to know about it. Yes, all of them. They tell you all the time: buy my book! Buy my book! I wrote a book, do you want to buy it? Observe this banner – it has my picture and is asking you to buy my book! Will you buy it? Have you bought it yet?
What about now? Have you bought it now? It’s been five minutes since the last time I asked you – plenty of time to buy the book. Did I mention it’s on Amazon? B&N? iTunes? Kobo? No? It is. All of them. Other places, too. I’ve been sticking them on seats at my local McDonalds. Want my business card? It *also* tells you to buy my book.
HEY! Look at the sidebar of this here blog! See those book covers? You can CLICK ON THEM! They will take you a place where you can buy my book, which is something everybody should do. Preferably now.
Hey, Habershaw – Lay Off! How Else Can You Do It?
See, that’s just it – I have no idea. I, also, have books to sell. I’m trying to sell them. However, joining the shout-out party over on Twitter doesn’t seem to get me much of anywhere. Or maybe it does. It’s hard to tell, honestly. I’m just one more voice in the roaring crowd of authors, all pushing the same product to, it seems, an audience made up of largely other authors pushing their own books. Facebook? That’s just a giant collection of friends of mine – marketing there doesn’t get me much further than my home town, family, and old coworkers.
It’s a daunting prospect, really. How can you tell the difference between a good book and a bad one, anyway? Who even has time to read even a tenth of the books that people are writing? Nobody, that’s who. I have trouble keeping up with the books my friends are writing, let alone everybody else’s.
So, I plug along. I’ve got this little blog here, which shoots out to about a thousand people (apparently), which ain’t bad. I try to be interesting, rather than just a bullhorn of “BUY MY BOOK”-isms over and over again. Does it work? Hell if I know. I’m selling books, yes, but not exactly at a blistering pace. I think maybe I need to shake-up my strategy. Maybe I ought to be more aggressive and in-your-face about buying my books. Maybe I should plug them like crazy and see if that helps.
I will tell you this, though: if you do read my book (any of my books), REVIEW THEM. I will never, ever get noticed if that doesn’t happen. Reviews = visibility on Amazon (and everywhere else), and Amazon visibility = sales. If an author you like wrote a book you enjoy, review it, dammit. It doesn’t need to be much, but it needs to be something. Five words. One sentence and a couple stars – that’s it. It helps a LOT (seriously).
In the vein of this article, I’ve got a few announcements:
1) Iron and Blood, the sequel to THE IRON RING, is currently available wherever fine e-books are sold. It just received its first review and it was five stars. FIVE STARS, PEOPLE. Get reading, dammit.
2) This week represents a final push to make Writers of the Future Volume 31 a bestseller. We’re really close, actually – we just need to sell a few thousand more copies this week. Do your part to make history! Buy it now! My story and all the other stories contained in this anthology are GREAT! I promise. Buy you a cookie if I’m wrong, pinky-swear.
3) Tomorrow (Thursday), I will be on the Citywide Blackout radio program on WEMF. I will be interviewed from 8:00pm to 8:30pm EST and, as this radio station streams online, you can listen in from anywhere in the world. I recommend that you do, as I am a fascinating person with a silky smooth voice. Well, probably. I hope. Anyway, I’ll be talking about Writers of the Future, my own fantasy novel series (The Saga of the Redeemed), and probably writing in general. It should be tons of fun!