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New Story Published: “Upon the Blood-Dark Sea” in Stupefying Stories!

Hey, gang!

Check it out!

I’ve got a new story released! You can find it in Stupefying Stories #22, currently available on Amazon!

The story is called “Upon the Blood-Dark Sea” and its a kind of in the vein of (and a response to) the Conan stories of Howard and other sword-and-sorcery stuff, but with a healthy dollop of dream magic and boiling oceans and weapon-symbiotes and stuff. Yeah, it’s bad-ass and I’m very glad it’s in print.

And also, when I get a chance, I really have to go back to Nyxos (the world in which this place is set) and do some more world-building and storytelling, because it’s just so damned cool.

Anyway, do go and check out the anthology. Editor Bruce Bethke always puts together a great collection and he’s been a good friend and ally over the course of my (still fairly new) writing career. Support his magazine!

Be back soon with more posts, I promise. The Thanksgiving week was crazy, with copy-edits and paper grading and hosting my family and so on, so I missed.

Which reminds me: the copy-edits for The Far Far Better Thing (Saga of the Redeemed #4) are in and everything is done. The grand conclusion of Tyvian’s epic journey will drop on March 5th, 2019. Pre-order now!

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Nyxos: The Things of the World

There are but three things in the lands of Nyxos:

The Sea Beneath,

Sky Above, Land Between.

There are but three creatures: Gods, Men, and Beasts.

Those who live are New Men, humans, born of

what was, inheritors of what is now.

19573_fantasy_knights_vs_monstersThe Birth of the New World

For ages long and in time now long lost,

When Gods dwelled in vaulted sky halls. Proudly

they stained the Earth with their bloody wars and

the Sea grew crimson and the Land barren.

Dusty bone fell upon the mountains black,

and fields howled empty.

 

She of the Earth wept bitter tears for

those children lost to the petty duels

among brother and sister, Gods and Men.

“This cannot stand, this warring state above!

Go forth, my Sons, seek aid for us in deep

places, where no god nor man hath tread.”

 

And so her son, the Lord of Secrets, found

a deep well, beneath Sea and Land alike.

Whispers into dark places set free

the wild forces of madness and chaos.

Gods and Men turned their arms to the new foes,

But She of Earth had loosed a fire too mighty.

The Gods burned.

 

The Citadel, beacon bright and high,

could not stand before the raging blaze.

The chaos would consume the world entire.

Mountains flowed like wax, the sea seethed,

The stars fell.

 

The Citadel was left as madness howled,

and the last God spoke a curse to avenge

his end and the ends of all of his kind.

“Let my tower burn for half of all time,

Let my gate stand empty the rest,

and so let the world know what it

once had and now has lost forever.”

With his spear, he clove through the Citadel,

and the Chaos was dismayed.

 

The treasures of the gods fell down to Earth,

into the well of fire Secrets had tapped.

Sealing the world, saving it, even as

it died away.

 

In time the Age of Men arose amid

the ruins of the Gods and Elder races.

The Tower still burns above every day,

The Gate glows empty each and every night,

And the peace of death descends upon all.

 

Save in dreams, where bloody battles old,

are fought in sleep by wretched mortals frail,

to caution Men of how they may yet fail.

 

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.

Ways of Magic: Now Available!

The cover art is inspired by my story.

The cover art is inspired by my story.

The next month is going to be full of great news for my writing career, so let’s kick it off with the release of a short fiction anthology featuring my story “Dreamflight of the Katatha.”

The Ways of Magic anthology, released by Deepwood Publishing, is now available via Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble and Kobo. I encourage you to check it out, as I’m proud of the story within it and have every confidence the whole thing is a good read. If story anthologies are your thing, then you’ve got a lot of good news coming your way, as I’ve got two more like this coming out in the next couple weeks (one of which has an advance copy sitting on my desk right now).

And then, of course, is my Big News, which is still under wraps, but never fear – you’ll find out soon enough!

Enough listening to me gab, though – go out and buy this book!

Writing Updates!

wizard_bookAs an addendum to my last post this week, which referred to a couple acceptances at various magazines, let me give you good folks a few specifics, more or less. Working under the assumption you care one way or another about my writing career, of course.

Update #1

My story “The Great Work of Meister VanHocht,” accepted by Stupefying Stories a couple months back, is nearing publication, potentially as early as September.

Update #2

My story “Dreamflight of the Katatha”, accepted in Deepwood Publishing’s Ways of Magic anthology, is slated to get edited sometime in September, as well. Hopefully the book will be out a month or two after that. This story deals with the world of Nyxos, which I am in the process of developing for a potential novel and more short stories in the future.

Update #3

I landed my short story “Partly Petrified” – a Tyvian Reldamar tale involving a heist gone wrong and a haywire wand of petrification – for publication by Sword and Laser in their upcoming anthology. Also good stuff.

Update #4

Now for the really big news: I landed my story “Mercy, Killer” with Analog Science Fiction and Fact just last week. For those of you who don’t know, Analog is one of the oldest and most prestigious short fiction markets for scifi in the business. Stared in the 1930s as Astounding SF, Analog has discovered folks like Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Anne McCaffrey, and Frank Herbert. They’ve won a mountain of Hugos over the years and the Campbell Award is named after their original editor. Getting a story in there is tough and I’m immensely pleased that I pulled it off. It means a lot. It means that, on some level, I do in fact know what I’m doing.

It may be a few months before any of this stuff actually makes print, but fear not – I will gladly be tooting my own horn about the whole thing when it happens.

On top of all that, I still have two novels (The Oldest Trick and The Rubric of All Things) under consideration by Harper Voyager, a host of short stories submitted to various markets, large and small, and I’m now about 2/3s of the way through a new novel, Lych, about a Russian lych hiding out in Boston’s South End and how a nosy medical student blows his cover and causes untold mayhem. Anyway, things proceed well, and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. There is, of course, nothing else I would rather do.

In Dreams Born

Like a lot of writers, I’m really good at doing lots of work on projects that have nothing to do with the project I’m supposed to be working on. It’s a kind of constructive procrastination, I guess, and it has its uses. Lately, while my short story projects are a bit stalled and the novel I’m working on plods along at a moderate pace, I’ve been spending entirely too much time fleshing out the land of Nyxos, a setting for future stories, novels, etc..

WG-2010-Birth-of-DreamsThe primary, operative element of information about Nyxos is that all the power in this world, all the sorcerous might and arcane ability, finds its genesis in dreams. Dreamstuff can be made into physical objects; dreams can be spied upon, invaded, and even taxed. Some species live more in dreams than they do in ‘reality’ and, indeed, the line between the two is often held into question. A lot of this is really rough, mind you, but that’s the gist of it.

The primary villain in the world is the Oneirarch, the Dream Tyrant, who ‘taxes’ the dreams of his subjects to both keep them in line and to build his own power. He is something out of a nightmare – not seen, but glimpsed in the corners of nightmares. He is a presence felt, but not known. His priests maintain a fleet of dreamships – powerful vessels of pure dreamstuff that sail the skies of Nyxos, imposing the Onierarch’s will through the terrifying violence of nightmares-made-real.

But as I develop these concepts, I’m left with the question: Of what shape should the dreamworld take? The closest analog in fantasy literature I know of is Tel’aran’rhiod, which is from Jordan’s Wheel of Time – a world of dreams that is unified into a coherent, if malleable, landscape that loosely mirrors the real world. This is a kind of ‘universalist’ approach to dreams (i.e. we all visit the same dreamworld while we dream, we just lack the skills to navigate it). On the other end of the spectrum we have the world of dreams as set out by Inception, wherein the dreamworld is not a universal landscape but rather an idiosyncratic construction of an individual’s subconscious. Each dreamer is unique, each dream has its own unique foibles, and each is a reflection of individual will rather than collective belief.

To some extent, this seems to find us floating between the poles of none other than Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. These two giants of psychoanalysis explored the importance of dreams in our psychological landscape, and while they share many of the same ideas, there are key differences. The most significant, perhaps, is the fact that Jung sees dreams as plugged into a kind of collective subconscious – an amalgam of myth and religious folklore that permeated the subconscious of all people and was shared between them. This, of course, is more in line with Tel’aran’rhiod than the dreamscapes of Inception. Freud, meanwhile, sees dreams as reflections of problems felt by the dreamer in the waking world (and these problems he saw as frequently sexual in nature). Jung agrees with his former teacher to a point (i.e. that dreams reflect waking problems), but takes it one step further to insist that the dream isn’t mere wish-fulfillment caused by some conscious issue in need of resolution, but is itself an entity worthy of independent consideration. To paraphrase this paper by Brlizg on the matter, whereas Freud might wonder what caused a dream and how to fix it, Jung wondered what the dream itself meant on its own terms.

This connection between dreams and the real world and the connection between one person’s dreams and another’s is something worthy of personal reflection as well as a direction for fantastic extrapolation. It’s something I’m going to need to study at greater length, at any rate, before Nyxos is ready to go.

Now, back to more pressing writing projects.

The Skie of Nyxos

 Dusk born and dawn dead,

Crown of Stars about their head.

Feast on flesh and blood and bone,imagesCARBBQBQ

Young as dewdrops, old as Stone.

Clad in Whispers, Speak in Silk,

Seek them not, nor all their ilk.

Wand’ring Kyklos, where no man tread,

With the shades and restless dead.

Dancing they on darkest moon

to ancient words and madman’s tune,

Carry silver, holly, purest lye

and Skie revels shall pass you by.

I’ve begun developing a new fantasy world, inspired by a story I wrote called “Dreamflight of the Katatha”, which will be published in Deepwood Publishing’s Ways of Magic Anthology. The place is called Nyxos, and it is inspired by a mixture of Ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Celtic cultures. Unlike Alandar, which is more gritty and realistic (and more ‘modern’), the idea of Nyxos is to be mythic, ancient, and dreamlike. It’s in the very early planning stages, but the above is a verse description of one of the ‘creatures’ roaming the lands beyond the ‘civilizing’ influence of the Oneirarch. Of note, most of what people know in Nyxos is based off verse and song – almost no one can read or write. Anyway, thought I’d share it, and I hope you like it.