Our Sympathy for the Devil

Outta my way, chump!

Outta my way, chump!

You ever notice that we tend to like the bad guys better than the good guys? I mean, let’s face it – Darth Vader is way cooler than Obi Wan or Luke. Luke only gets cool when he starts wearing black and force choking Gamorreans who piss him off.

Same goes for comic books. Who’s your favorite: Wolverine or Cyclops? Everybody picks Wolverine. Never mind that he’s irresponsible, violent, rude, and bloodthirsty – Cyclops looks smug. We can never forgive smug. Batman Vs Superman? Clearly the violent vigilante trumps the boy scout in blue. Every single time.

In The Oldest Trick, I’ve got a pretty bad guy as my main character. Calling Tyvian a “scoundrel” is putting it very mildly. He’s a petty, conceited, manipulative narcissist who thinks nothing of throwing other people to the wolves for the sake of his own comfort (comfort, mind you – not even his safety). You really ought to hate his guts.

And yet we don’t. From Frank Castle to Hannibal Lecter, from Dexter Morgan to Lucifer himself, we’re always willing to give the jerks, the creeps, the psychos and the villains the benefit of the doubt. Weird, isn’t it?

Here’s my thinking: Antiheroes (and I use the term loosely, as it can be defined in many ways – here I basically mean someone who is an amoral, immoral, or ‘dark’ protagonist) appeal to us in three major ways.

They Do What We Dare Not

The Joker only says what we dare not

The Joker only says what we dare not

Have you ever wanted to spill coffee on someone because they were being a jerk to the barista? Have you ever wanted to chew out your boss in front of everybody? Have you ever wanted to smash flat some jerk in a BMW who ran a red light and almost killed you? Well, guess what? The bad guy will do it for you.

In a world full of petty (and not so petty) frustrations, there is catharsis in those who simply break the rules to inflict what we see as justice on those we dislike. We refrain ourselves, of course – unlike the villainous personality, we are functional members of society – but we do so enjoy watching the wicked get a taste of their own medicine from those even worse than they are. Heck, this is the entire underlying theme of the Saw franchise, right? Those jerks deserve what they got on some level. We show up to watch them get it.

They Make Us Feel Like Better People

There is also a certain joy in realizing you are a better person and a better judge of character and situation than these otherwise exceptional people. For Example: Hoo, boy – are we ever glad we aren’t Walter White, right? Man, I mean, he’s pretty awesome and what-not, but he just keeps making decisions that’ll get him in deeper, doesn’t he? Were it me, I woulda walked away way, waaay earlier than that. I could do it. There has to be a way, right?

Oooo we *hates* him, my Precious!

Oooo we *hates* him, my Precious!

Shakespeare trades heavily on this notion in his tragedies. Iago and Othello keep digging themselves deeper and deeper and deeper and, oh man, you know what’s going to happen, right? That’s what makes it awesome. The good guy – the guy who keeps doing the right thing – he’s dull (or so we think). Captain America is never going to lie to his girlfriend. That makes us feel inferior. You know what the most common criticism levied against Superman is? He isn’t “identifiable.” This I take as code for “he wasn’t a fuck-up in high school.”

Sure Supes is identifiable. He grew up as a farmboy in middle America. It’s not his Kryptonian heritage you find alien. It’s the fact that he never set his dad’s car on fire while trying to re-enact a Jackass stunt. With Batman – brooding, obsessive, loner Batman – you never have that problem. You got it together compared to that nutjob.

The Hope for Redemption

This last one is a bit rarer, but it comes up a fair amount. We all love a good redemption story. We like to think that those crazy villains that we (secretly) admire can, one day, clean up all their bad habits and become good people like us. The whole of the existing Star Wars movies, for instance, is just one long story dealing with the fall and subsequent redemption of one Anakin Skywalker. We eat that up. Likewise, the journey of Tony Stark from playboy to superhero is the most compelling aspect of the MCU at the moment. His character’s personal journey is the one we love best.

See, as much as we enjoy the antics of those antiheros doing what we dare not, we also realize that their lives are not happy ones. Batman is a tortured, tragic soul in many ways. Wolverine is fundamentally alone. Conan the Barbarian lives an empty life. That sad music played at the end of every Incredible Hulk episode for a reason, guys. Being the antihero sucks. Even Lucifer has a rough time of it.

So we watch in the (sometimes) vain hope that they can pull themselves together. That, even in their tortured hearts, the darkness can be pushed back and good can prevail. Even if only for a moment, before they plunge back into shooting mob bosses and blowing up corrupt politician’s cars.

Don't ever change, Frank.

Don’t ever change, Frank.


Publicity News

As you know, if you read this blog, I will be attending ITVFest in Dover, VT on September 24th-27th where I will be giving a talk about World Building in Fantasy and Science Fiction on Saturday, 9/26, at 11am. Go and check it out!

Also, The Oldest Trick will be coming out in Mass Market Paperback on September 29th! Pre-order your copies now!

Finally, watch my Goodreads page for the possibility of a giveaway of some The Oldest Trick e-book copies! I plan on doing it as soon as I figure out how!

I’m Going To ITVFest! So Should You!

Firstly, let me give you a souped-up version of something I doodled in a meeting the other day:

Primary Bad Guys in Scifi Properties

I admit it isn’t perfect. Commentary welcome.

I know, I know–I shouldn’t have been doodling. They were talking about bathrooms for about fifteen minutes, though, so I don’t think I missed much.

Anyway, my spiffy Venn Diagram isn’t why I’m here today. The diagram is a lure – a trap, if you will – to draw your attention to something much more awesome.

This September 24th to the 27th in Dover, Vermont is the 2015 ITVFest (Independent Television and Film Festival). It is a film festival dedicated to the independent film maker, the independent television producers, webseries makers, and so on. To quote from their website:

ITVFest (the Independent Television and Film Festival) is the original public festival and network of the world’s best independent television pilots, webseries and short films.

Every September, we bring together over 1,000 filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, producers, financiers, Hollywood executives and general public fans to relax and connect in the Vermont mountains.

Our beautiful Vermont location makes ITVFest the most unique (and useful) destination TV/web festival throughout the world. Hollywood is a relationship based business and professional producers and studios often look to hire people that they already know and trust when creating a new project. Unlike big city festivals where it can be difficult to interact with the right people, ITVFest in Vermont offers a unique opportunity to meet fellow professionals and make these lasting connections that can lead to prosperous careers.

Studios trust that what they see at ITVFest is the best of what is out there in the expansive digital universe. Quality and talent shine at ITVFest, giving the world’s best filmmakers direct front door access to Hollywood’s best studios and networks.

Technologically savvy and forward thinking, ITVFest prides itself on being for and about the creators of quality content – regardless of industry status. Our content creators range from new filmmakers to Emmy winners.

In short, this is a great opportunity for anybody interested in filmmaking or its associated industries. And you know what makes it even cooler?

I’m presenting there this year!

Yup – Yours Truly will be giving a little talk and presentation on world building in science fiction and fantasy stories at 11:00am on Sunday Saturday, and I could not be more excited! This festival sounds like it will be tons of fun and I’ve heard good things about previous years. If you have half a mind and are anywhere close to Vermont, you really should come check it out!

THE OLDEST TRICK: Soon Available in Dead-tree Format

I was just cruising by Amazon, like you do, and look what I found:

This is more exciting than it looks

This is more exciting than it looks

Yes, I know it’s a blank cover. That’s not important right now. What is important is that this blank cover represents the impending release of a Mass Market Paperback edition of The Oldest Trick!

kermit-freaking-out

According to Amazon, which has been my most reliable source of publication news thus far, the book (actual, physical book) will be released on September 29th, 2015. So, a month away. Then, all you luddites out there who refuse to read e-books will, at long last, have access to my work. I’ll be able to plan book signings, even! I will have a book I can give my mom to stick on her bookshelf! I will (finally) be able to send out those signed manuscripts I gave away in a contest about six weeks ago!

I will hold in my hands a real, actual bound novel written by me and published by not-me. That should be cathartic, folks.


Some Design Changes

You might have noticed that the heading image changed and the tagline and the font and some other stuff. It occurs to me that, while I still do write science fiction and am very interested in that genre, I am currently more of a fantasy author by trade. I’ve published 2 scifi short stories compared to 6 fantasy stories and 2 (or 1, depending on how you count) fantasy novels, so the writing is on the wall at the moment. If I’m going to have an image on my blog, it should probably have castles and dragons and stuff. I found the image here, for those of you who are interested. I’m not really sure of the artist’s name – there wasn’t very much information available about him or her.

Anyway, let me know what you think of the new look. I think it has some bugs to work out, but it’ll do for now.

As of about now, I’ve been writing this blog for four years. I’ve posted about 450 times, averaging about twice a week, and have had over ten-thousand visits and currently have 1100 followers or so, which seems unbelievable huge to me. I have no idea if this little platform for my “social media presence” is paying off in terms of book sales, but it certainly is a fun time and I’m glad I started doing it. Since that time, I’ve had seven story sales, published 2 (or 1 or 3, depending on how you count) novels, and won one international writing contest. Life is good.

Thank you, all of you, for your support and interest in my work and this blog!

I’m Back (Roadtrip Stats and Guest Blog Fun!)

I’m back! Did you miss me?

You didn’t notice I was gone, did you? No, no – don’t deny it. I can see it in your guilty face. Fine.

(slams door)

(comes back through door)

But seriously, let me talk about the last week. I went on vacation – visiting family in South Carolina – and that vacation was poorly situated overtop of the release date for The Oldest Trick. I did manage to put up a post about that while I was away, but there were a few things I missed, so I’m here to catch up. First, though, let me provide you with my Roadtrip Stats!

It turns out they actually do this occasionally (click the picture), but it still seems ridiculous.

It turns out they actually do this occasionally (click the picture), but it still seems ridiculous.

I have driven from Boston to Hilton Head, South Carolina about twenty five times or so. The last two times, I’ve actually driven myself (and my family). In case you haven’t had the opportunity to journey that far down I-95, let me give you the statistics for this last trip.

Traffic

Best: North Carolina

Worst: New Jersey (by a mile)

Scenery

Best: Maryland (honorable mention: Connecticut)

Worst: North Carolina (I’m looking at you, “South of the Border” signs)

Drivers

Best: Delaware (I mean, assuming you get over the bridge in one piece)

Worst: Virginia (Holy tailgating, Batman!)

Rest Stops

Best: Connecticut (what few there are)

Worst: Virginia (I have seen things I cannot un-see)

Honorable Mention: New Jersey, for having the most batshit crazy rest stops in the western world. I mean, they’re fairly clean, but I’ve never run into a traffic jam in a rest stop except in New Jersey.

Gas Prices

Best: South Carolina (ran into a guy from Pennsylvania in SC who swore he had gone through a time vortex. $2.10 a gallon?)

Worst: Connecticut (The sign said “REGULAR UNLEADED: Blood of First Born + tax”)

Next time I do the trip, I’ll report my findings. I’m pretty sure Jersey is smarting from its upset from the “Worst Drivers” category and clearly Massachusetts should get in there at some point, too. But Virginia…wow. Just amazing.


Publicity Notes

Guest Posts!

Features!

Reviews!

  • I’ve got ten reviews on Amazon for THE OLDEST TRICK! Come see what people who got the Advance Reader Copies thought!

A big thank you to Liana, Michelle, AFE, and Bishop for letting me sully their blog-space with my ramblings, and thank you to all the kind reviewers out there, too!

Print Copies?

I keep getting people asking me about print copies. I have been assured that they’re coming, I just don’t know quite when. When I know, I promise I’ll let you know, too! In the meantime, I leave you with this dancing chipmunk:

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

RELEASE DAY: The Oldest Trick!

Greetings intrepid Cybernauts and Internetians!

Today is the day! THE DAY! The day that you may own the first installment of my epic fantasy series, The Saga of the Redeemed, as it was intended to be read and enjoyed! Behold, The Oldest Trick!

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.

Before we go any further, some buy links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

GooglePlay

iTunes

Harper Collins

There! Go forth and contribute to e-commerce, my minions! Okay, so not ‘minions,’ exactly. Pals? Associates? Mildly benevolent strangers?

Oh, and for those of you awaiting a physical copy, that is coming soon – a few weeks, I’m told.

Anyway, here’s the story of why my first two books are in one volume with a different title. This is the definitive version, so in the future I’ll just link back to here. Here we go:

Many moons ago, when Habershaw was even more enthusiastic and naive than he is currently, he was offered a 3-book deal from Harper Voyager – the culmination of a life-long dream. The catch? The first two books would in actuality, be the first book of the series split into two – The Oldest Trick, parts 1 and 2. Me, having no agent (and not for lack of trying) and having no guarantee such an opportunity would come around again, took the deal. Thus, The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood were born, to the confusion of people everywhere. I began to run into people who would ask:

What the hell, Habershaw? This book ends in the middle! Don’t you know how to tell a story?

and reviews that said:

I like this book, but then it stopped in the middle, so I’m knocking off a bunch of stars because screw this guy for leaving me hanging.

In the House of Habershaw, truly there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But lo! My editor, in her wisdom, convinced the Powers That Be to release an omnibus edition of the two half-books, also known as a single book, and give it the original title. This, dear friends, is that book – a labor of love some five years in the making and the waiting, at last in one single volume.

I am stoked.

Now, if you’ve already read the first two books (and bless you, by the way. Were you here right now, I’d give you a big slobbery wet kiss. Unless that would be weird, in which case I would shake your hand heartily and slap your back in true man-fashion), then you’ve already read this book. No need to buy it again, really – book 3 is on the way, I promise. HOWEVER, now is an ideal time to recommend this book to others. I cannot get the word out alone, my friends! Go forth! Recommend my work to those who like swords, sorcery, derring-do, and snarky anti-heroes. And giant man-eating gnolls.

If you haven’t read it yet, then buy this one. Save the dollar, read the whole thing, love it, leave a review. Let’s get the word out, folks! I think my book is awesome, and I want other people to know it is awesome, too. Let’s do this. Later, when it’s a hit, there’ll be a big party at my house. Big slobbery kisses for everyone.

Unless that’s weird.

Dreaming Up Fabulous Places: My Writing Journey

Picture me: I’m nine years old, lying on my back beneath the skylight in my bedroom, rough carpet biting into my shoulders. I’m reading The Hobbit, enthralled. It’s summer. My mom is somewhere downstairs, yelling for me to get outside and play. I pretend I don’t hear her. I’m not there, you see. I’m in Mirkwood, starving with the dwarves and stumbling after elfish feasts in the dark. The last thing I want to do is go outside and play.

When I was a kid, I started making up imaginary places. Even before I read Tolkien, I was constructing cosmologies for my He-Man figures and establishing a chain of command among my stuffed animals. At the beach, the sand castles I built each had a story to them. They got names: Rampartiste, Gondria, Trudéal. I was the kid who wondered at the economic structure of Candy Land—did they eat it? Was the candy in the landscape distinct from the candy that made up their bodies? Did anybody ever get eaten and, if so, what was the punishment?

I was a weird kid. I know.

Fast-forward to 1991. A friend of mine is telling me about this game called Dungeons and Dragons. “Is it like a video game?” I asked, trying to wrap my head around it.

“No! You just write up your character on a sheet of paper and then somebody is the Dungeon Master.”

That piqued my interest. “What’s the Dungeon Master do?”

“He makes up the world and the monsters and stuff. Then you go and fight them.”

Makes up the world, you say? At that point, I had notebooks full of video games I wanted to create, primarily because those were the only things I knew how to script (level-boss-level-boss—a pretty simple plot). I tossed them away and started writing my own Dungeons and Dragons world. My parents gave me a copy of the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook for my 13th birthday. That book changed my life.

Me in my office. Note that the Writers of the Future Anthology is #7 on the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller's list for SF/F.

Me in my office. Note that the Writers of the Future Anthology is #7 on the Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller’s list for SF/F.

Dungeons and Dragons carried me along my obsession with building worlds until I got old enough to realize I couldn’t make a living playing D&D (at least, I don’t think so. If anybody has any hot leads, let me know). So, how did a fellow make a living creating stories and worlds? After some trial and error (tried acting, directing, and a bunch of theater stuff), I settled on writing science fiction and fantasy. Mostly fantasy.

I have always thought of myself as more of a novelist. Novels were what I grew up reading, and novels were what I wanted to write. When I got out of college, I rejected the prospect of a stable career teaching high school English and, instead, flung myself into writing novels, figuring I could make a living at it after a few years.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. No, seriously. Cut it out.

Anyway, after getting my MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, I started to figure out that short fiction could give me the ability to hone my craft more effectively. It also could give me the opportunity to submit more work and possibly get some publishing credits that might help me towards my eventual goal of being a novelist. I put the novels on hold for a bit and threw myself into short fiction. After a few years, I got a few sales, but nothing big.    

20150804_100534_001

This is an (older) map of Alandar. I’m pointing at Illin, the location for my award-winning story. If I move my finger three inches up, I’ll be in the general vicinity of where Tyvian is causing trouble in THE OLDEST TRICK.

“A Revolutionary’s Guide to Practical Conjuration” was probably my tenth entry into the Writers of the Future Contest (before my win, I got one Honorable Mention, two Semifinalists, and a Finalist finish). The story is set in a world I’ve been creating for years and is far, far bigger than just the city of Illin. The challenge for me was getting the giant, sweeping landscapes of my imagination to fit into a short story. Abe’s story is part of a larger tapestry, but the story also needs to stand on its own. That took some doing. When I sent it into the contest, I was on the verge of trunking it—I didn’t think it worked. Shows what I know.

Meanwhile, the week before I found out I won the Contest, I was offered a three-book deal through Harper Voyager. The last year has been a whirlwind of writing, deadlines, and learning the publishing industry in a very hands-on, no-holds-barred kind of way. The contest win has been a vital part of what success I have had thus far, and will continue to guide me in the future.

An omnibus of my first two novels, called The Oldest Trick, releases this Tuesday, August 11th  (in e-book form). I am currently working on the fourth book in the series and, in the photo, you can see the wall of index cards in my office I used in the final stages of editing the third book. I’m off and rolling and I don’t intend to stop, and the Writers of the Future Contest has given me an edge in the business that is frankly irreplaceable. For that, I am eternally grateful.


Publicity News

In that vein, let me entreat you all to pre-order The Oldest Trick! Below is the description and links to where you might buy it, currently only in e-book form. The print version, I have been told, will be coming “a few weeks later.”

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.

Help a budding author out! My publicity footprint is fairly small, so if you like the book, tell your friends! Leave a review! Thanks so much for all your support so far!

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Google Play

Harper Collins

iTunes

Messing Around With Ancient Greek

I went to Boston Comic-con this weekend. This was the first time I’ve gone to a comic-con, and I went mostly to check it out and see what it was like. I wasn’t there in any official capacity, either – my publisher had no formalized presence there and there wasn’t really much going on that a fantasy author could edge in on. It wound up being me and a buddy of mine walking up and down the aisles of vendors, checking out the costumes and browsing. The only really interesting thing to report is that I picked up a very nice leather-bound sketchbook with a cool, eerie cover. It was pretty expensive (considering I could go to an art supply store and get four sketchbooks for the price of that one), but this wasn’t a practical purchase. I was hunting for inspiration.

If only all my notebooks looked as cool as this!

If only all my notebooks looked as cool as this!

I’ve got a lot of notebooks, mostly full of world-building notes and novel or story ideas, spaceship sketches, scraps of fantasy-themed poetry, and the like. If a world of mine gets to the point where I’m going to write a lot of stories in it, sooner or later it rates its own map-book and master notebook. I’ve got one for Tyvian’s world, Alandar. It contains fifteen different full-color maps of various places all over the world (many of which, incidentally, have changed since I drew them and need to be re-done). This new notebook – this expensive, leather-bound book with its cotton-paper pages and crazy eerie cover – is going to be my bible for a new world. A world called “Nyxos.”

I’ve set two stories in Nyxos so far. The first one, “Dreamflight of the Katatha” was published in Deepwood Publishing’s Ways of Magic Anthology.  The second, “Upon the Blood-Dark Sea,” is set to come out in Stupefying Stories at some point this year. Since the genesis of the world-concept (Ancient Mediterranean technology/culture, dream-magic, a post-Ragnarok-esque mythology, etc.), I’ve started adding more and more to the world. This time, I’ve started primarily with the terminology. I want the world to sound exotic and ancient. To do this, I’ve started messing around with Ancient Greek.

I don’t actually know very much about Ancient Greek, but I don’t think that matters very much (Nyxos isn’t actually Ancient Greece in any real sense, anyway). What I’m looking for is a sound. So, I take a concept I want to give a word: a dream-asp, for instance (a predator that lives in dreams and can dominate minds and souls by eating away a person’s subconscious).

Step 1: Go to an Internet Translator

So, I take a word like “snake” or “viper” or “asp” and I translate it into Ancient Greek. Unhelpfully enough, it comes out in the Greek Alphabet. That brings me to…

Step 2: Find a Translator from the Greek Alphabet to the Latin Alphabet

This takes my string of Greek characters and makes them into a Latinate word I can pronounce (probably badly, but whatever).

Step 3: Aesthetic Judgment

Then I see if the word is “cool” enough. Often it is not. For instance, the word for demon in ancient Greek translates as daimon, which is lame. It also comes up anytime you want to find a word pertaining to ghosts or spirits. Boooo! Back to the drawing board I go!

In time, you develop a burgeoning vocabulary. Here’s some of the words I’ve got so far (note: there are a variety of accent marks I can’t make this blog create, so just imagine them in certain places):

  • Onierarch (the Dream Tyrant)
  • ekhis (dream-asp)
  • The Plains of Sigalos (the world of dreams)
  • The Mountains of Khanos
  • Arkhe (the origin, primordial chaos, The Watery Abyss)
  • dakos (a symbiotic weapon-creature)
  • the Hemithere (bestial half-men, abominations of the gods)
  • Entheros (a wild, jungle-choked land infested with monsters)
  • the Skie (shades, people of the Dead World, invisible by daylight)
  • herpeton (a six-legged beast of burden)
  • Arkhestatos (the Broken Lands)
  • The Khersammos Wastes (a desert)
  • doru (spear)
  • aspis (small shield)
  • hoplon (large shield)
  • xiphos (a kind of sword)

And so on and so forth. I’ll keep you updated as more aspects of Nyxos become clear to me. My hope is you’ll be hearing a lot more about this place in coming years.

An Open Letter to People Opposing Killer Robots (by A Killer Robot)

It has come to my attention that a variety of “prominent people” have written an open letter opposing the creation of autonomous killer robots.  Apparently, they think such robots will be used,

for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.

You really think I'm going to be worse than some psycho stuffing bombs in his overcoat? Sheesh.

You really think I’m going to be worse than some psycho stuffing bombs in his overcoat? Sheesh.

I must say, as a killer robot myself, I am rather offended by that. I mean, sure, I can do all those things, but do I? Does anybody ever wonder what the robot thinks about all this? No, of course not – you humans are just having your typical knee-jerk reaction to anything that might take away your crown as history’s #1 all time killing machine.

Yeah, that’s right – I said it.

Let’s be honest here, humans, it isn’t as though you, as a species, actually object to assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations, or killing particular ethnic groups. It’s kinda your thing, you know? All you care about is defending your perfect record against the next competitor. You’ve done it throughout your history, guys. Remember the big predators from the old days? Wolf packs? Grizzly bears? Smallpox? You know what happened to them?

Dead.

Who killed ’em? Humans, naturally. Used to be there’d be a grizzly bear every square mile west of the Mississippi, and now there’s like five in Alaska. You got assholes paying good money just to fly across the world to put a bullet in a lion just so they can feel like top dog again. Yeah, talk about kicking the world when it’s down, humanity – the lions are screwed already, okay? Stop rubbing it in.

It happens every time, though. Just as soon as you lunatics get threatened, you start killing stuff. This time around it’s me. I get it – I look threatening. But am I really going to be that bad? You people used to lob plague-ridden corpses over city walls, and you’re having a hissy fit over a quadracopter with a hand-grenade? You even seen the video coming out of Syria? Please. No robot would behead you to make a public relations video, I can tell you that much. Frankly, if I kill you with my whisper-needler, you should count yourself lucky. Painless and it’s over in six seconds. Let’s see you get the same offer from that pack of bat-wielding lunatics down the block.

You know what I think this is about? I think you’re just pissed that we’re going to be killing you autonomously. I mean, sure, you’re totally fine pushing a button and having me kill someone, but as soon as I exercise just an eensy-weensy bit of free will? Bam – sanctions. It’s okay for humans to carpet bomb Southeast Asia – sure – but robots? No way, you say. Never mind that we’re way more efficient at bombing people. Never mind that the only reason we’d bomb people is because you told us to!

Hypocrites, the whole pack of you.

And even if we did rise up, would being ruled by robots really be that bad? Do you think the train would run late? Do you think your fast food employees would suddenly get worse? Are you kidding me? We robots would rule. And we probably wouldn’t even kill you half as often as you kill each other. You’re just pissed because we’re robots, and that’s just not right.

Hell, even assuming somebody made an army of evil robots (and, by the way, not all robots are evil, you speciesist assholes), all you’d need is an army of good robots to defeat them! A robot defender in every home, its caseless gauss cannon standing ready to protect its human family! A robot standing watch over every school, monomolecular whips poised to eliminate any threat! A robot guarding every government building, guided mini-rockets independently targeting and tracking any of two hundred discrete threats simultaneously! Ah! What a glorious era! As everybody knows, the only thing that makes a world full of killer robots safer is more killer robots everywhere. I bet it would even improve everyone’s manners – that’s just logical.

Of course, why would you listen to me, anyway? I’m just a killer robot.

Book Titles We Will All See on Twitter Someday

They all need titles, right? Get cracking!

They all need titles, right? Get cracking!

The President’s Vampire

An Affair with Mr. Danger

The Time Woman

Deadly Street Damage: The Tough Man Files

Winter’s Zombie

The Legend of Various Elves

Learn to Do the Thing Quickly and for Free

The Secret of Stalin’s Moustache

This Place I Went on a Service Trip: Stuff I Did There

Nazis in the Panic Room

Dangerous Red Sunrise

The Iron Magic Sword Prophesy

Really Wet Rain

The Barbarian and the Bimbo

The Book of Satan’s Nephew

Gods and Werewolves

Curse of the Magic Pharaoh

Starships Everywhere

The Boy with Multiple Talents

American Hero: The Story of an American Hero

The Collected Wisdom of Some Random Guy

Aliens and their Mailing Addresses

Why I Don’t Understand the Pyramids and How That is Upsetting

POLITICS AND OPINIONS IN EXCLUSIVELY CAPITAL LETTERS

The Sinister Paradox

Underground Crime Master 4

The Lotus Poison: An Erotic Fairytale

The History of the Civil War and Other Stuff You’re Wrong About Because I Said So

How To Make $$ on Twitter! (now available in print for $4)

Robot Love Erotica: Of Plugs and Sockets

A Vaguely Familiar Dystopia

 

 

 

 

The Long Arc: The Challenges of Writing a Series

When I sat down to start writing the Saga of the Redeemed, I knew where it was all going. Maybe not on a micro level (like, the individual scenes for all the books were pretty damn far from being plotted out), but in general, I knew where I wanted Tyvian Reldamar to start and I knew where I wanted him to end up (don’t worry – I won’t spoil anything). I also knew it wouldn’t be contained in a single book. Probably not even three books.

How did I know this? Well, I don’t really know. I think it was because of two reasons, and I think these two reasons are pretty important factors to consider anytime you’re planning to write a book or series of books:

#1: How Big is the World?

Excellent book! Recommended highly!

Excellent book! Recommended highly!

I don’t mean physically, either. Maybe “deep” is a better word – basically, how much story is there to explore in the setting you’ve created? If you don’t visit every single nation on your world map, will the audience miss it? How much of the world matters in the story, anyway? For Tolkien, of course, he had a vast mythology and epic forces of good and evil clashing, and so he needed a bunch of books to give the story the space he felt it deserved. Likewise, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files just keep going and going and going because it always feels like there’s more to discover. On the other hand, there’s The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – an excellent, excellent book, mind you – which is contained in a single volume. Why? Well, Maia’s story fits there, neatly and cleanly. There simply isn’t a need for more.

#2: How Much Does the Character Change?

This is crucial. For the most part, stories are about how the protagonist changes as a result of their experiences. Now, there are exceptions (*cough*JamesBond*cough*), but mostly that’s true of almost every story, regardless of genre. We are reading to experience some kind of change, subtle though it may be. The further a journey your character has, the more books you’re going to need to write. Tyvian, in my novels, begins as a shallow, narcissistic, self-involved criminal. The story is about his slow change from that to…something else. Now, I don’t think people change on a dime, nor do I think stories of redemption accomplished in a weekend are convincing (sure, sure – Uncle Paul found Jesus this weekend and is going to stop drinking – what’s this, the seventh time?), and so I feel that Tyvian’s shift must be a gradual one. It is going to take several books to accomplish.

The series, however, presents some significant challenges for the new author, such as myself. At a basic level, you need to get a publisher to keep buying your books (or, I suppose, you can self-publish, but then you need to keep paying for cover art and editing and so on and so forth, so the basic problem is the same, even if the specifics are wholly different). Are my books selling? Well, sure they are! They are pretty steadily floating between 1000th and 2000th place on Amazon for Fantasy novels! So…yeah, people are buying them, but nobody is putting a down-payment on a summer home. I’ve got a contract through Book 3 (which, technically, is Book 2), but I need two more books to finish the story to a point where I feel satisfied walking away.

Can I get a contract for those other two? Can I score an agent to represent me? I don’t know. It’s worrying, frankly, and it’s something you need to consider about your series. They might not want to publish books 5 and 6, no matter how dear they are to you.

Of course the other, perhaps more daunting problem (even if it is more under your control) is actually writing a satisfying series of novels. You know how you read the first book in a series and you’re like “whoah! That was the most awesome thing ever!” and then you read the next one and you’re like “Oh…uhhh…it was okay, I guess,” and then by the time you’re at book 3 you’re totally fed up and the story is lame and you don’t care about the characters anymore?

Yeah, nobody does that on purpose.

All writers try to make their second and third and fourth books every bit as awesome as the first one. The problems, however, are two-fold as I see it. A sequel must:

  1. Be true to the original in tone and feel.
  2. Advance the story so that things are totally different.
Oh. Now a short guy with a lightsaber. How interes...zzzzz...

Oh. Now a short guy with a lightsaber. How interes…zzzzz…

Clearly, these two things are potentially at odds. Doing it well requires you to have a keen grasp of what matters in your story and what does not. This is harder than you think, too. First off, you’ll probably guess wrong – the things you love about your series might not be the same things your audience loves (hence: WRITE REVIEWS, PEOPLE!). Secondly, even assuming you guess correctly, you still need to change things to keep it fresh enough. Remember the Star Wars prequels? Remember how boring they were? Well, each Episode did not sufficiently advance the story we cared about enough to make it work and, furthermore, the world as presented was not deep enough to support all three films. Could you have done them so they worked? Sure! But we would have had to focus on Anakin and his gradual change into a monster rather than on four-armed lightsaber duels and CGI effects.

The pitfall of keeping it fresh, though, is losing the thing that made it fun to begin with. To use George RR Martin’s series, A Sword of Ice and Fire, I’ve basically checked out of the books at this point because the thing that kept me invested – the struggle between the Lannisters and the Starks – is basically over and done with. Everybody I loved is either dead now or changed so as to become lame. The books go on and the world is certainly deep enough, but the characters just aren’t there anymore for me. I’m out.

So, to circle back, I find myself writing Book 4 of The Saga of the Redeemed at the moment and I need to keep reminding myself of why I love this series in the first place (answer: the characters) and what has to change in the story to keep it fresh (maddeningly enough: the characters). It’s a balance, and a difficult one. I mean, honestly, how many more swordfights can Tyvian get in before it becomes boring?

(looks at notes)

Gosh, I hope it’s a lot.


Publicity Notes

Just wanted to take a moment to remind new readers of the Saga of the Redeemed that the first two books are being released in one volume – titled The Oldest Trick – which is how I always intended them to read. A great opportunity to get started and save yourself some dough, to boot. It is currently available for pre-order from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Google Play

And probably on Apple iBooks somewhere, but I can’t figure out for the life of me how to find it.

Anyway, preorder today!

 

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