Good morning everyone! My foiled blog post about Rothfuss’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things will have to wait because today is the official cover reveal for Goldenfire, the second book in the Darkhaven series by my friend AFE Smith. It will be released by Harper Voyager on 14 January, but if you want to read it sooner, you can enter the giveaway below for your chance to win an advance ebook copy!
In Darkhaven, peace doesn’t last long.
Ayla Nightshade has ruled Darkhaven for three years. With the help of Tomas Caraway, her Captain of the Helm, she has overcome her father’s legacy to find new confidence in herself and her unusual shapeshifting abilities.
Yet three years ago, a discovery was made that could have profound consequences for the Nightshade line: a weapon exists that can harm even the powerful creatures they turn into. And now, that knowledge has fallen into the wrong hands.
An assassin is coming for Ayla, and will stop at nothing to see her dead.
Enter the giveaway:
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.
(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!
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.
Best: North Carolina
Worst: New Jersey (by a mile)
Best: Maryland (honorable mention: Connecticut)
Worst: North Carolina (I’m looking at you, “South of the Border” signs)
Best: Delaware (I mean, assuming you get over the bridge in one piece)
Worst: Virginia (Holy tailgating, Batman!)
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.
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.
- Michelle Hauck’s blog hosted me, wherein I write about sequels.
- AFE Smith hosted me, too, so I discussed conflict.
- Another shout-out to Bishop O’Connell, who let me talk about Guilty Pleasures on his blog.
- Liana Brooks put me up on her Impulse Buys of the Week blog, too!
- 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!
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:
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!)
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.