Monday, June 30, 2014

Talent and Riyria

I'm always grateful for the emails and posts I see that thank me for writing Riyria...I'm often referred to as "talented" which is a huge compliment...especially since I'm just trying to write books I enjoy. But my writing also, apparently, inspires other talented people to express themselves.

Recently I received an email from Natalie (online handle "The Lucky One") who shared this really excellent depiction of Royce and Hadrian.

You can see more of Natalie's art here. I think after seeing her work she might have to change her online presences from "The Lucky One" to "The Talented One." 

Thanks Natalie, for sharing your work for me and allowing me to post about it on my web.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

More Summer Deals

My editor informed me of a deal that Barnes and Noble is doing right now.  They have 63 trade paperbacks on sale at the low price of 2 for $20...including all five of my books (normally retails for $16.00 - $17.00 each). My guess is Barnes and Noble is discounting these books to entice purchasers away from Amazon who is purposefully not stocking Hachette titles as they normally would because of an ongoing contract dispute between the retailer and this publisher.  Here is a list of all the science fiction and fantasy books you can get on this sale:

Michael J. Sullivan
 • Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations Series #1 & #2)
 • Rise of Empire (Riyria Revelations Series #3 & #4)
 • Heir of Novron (Riyria Revelations Series #5 & #6)
 • The Crown Tower (Riyria Chronicles Series #1)
 • The Rose and the Thorn (Riyria Chronicles Series #2)

Brent Weeks
 • The Black Prism (Lightbringer Series #1)
 • The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer Series #2)

Joe Abercrombie
 • Best Served Cold
 • Red Country
 • The Heroes

Daniel Abraham
 • The Dragon's Path (Dagger and Coin Series #1)
 • The King's Blood ((Dagger and Coin Series #2)
 • The Tyrant's Law (Dagger and Coin Series #3)

Brian McClellan
 • Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Trilogy #1)

David Dalglish
 • A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance Series #1)
 • A Dance of Blades (Shadowdance Series #2)
 • A Dance of Mirrors (Shadowdance Series #3)
 • A Dance of Shadows (Shadowdance Series #4)

Miles Cameron
 • The Red Knight (The Traitor Son Cycle Series #1)
 • The Fell Sword (The Traitor Son Cycle Series #2)

John Gwynne
 • Malice (Faithful and the Fallen Series #1)

Gail Z. Martin
 • Ice Forged (Ascendant Kingdoms Series #1)
 • Reign of Ash (Ascendant Kingdoms Series #2)  

Rachel Aaron
 • The Legend of Eli Monpress

Markus Heitz
 • The Dwarves (Dwarves Series #1)
 • The War of the Dwarves (Dwarves Series #2)
 • The Revenge of the Dwarves (Dwarves Series #3)

Stan Nicholls
 • Orcs

John R. Fultz 
 • Seven Sorcerers (Books of the Shaper Series #3)

Robert Jackson Bennett
 • The Troupe
 • American Elsewhere

Peter F. Hamilton
 • The Neutronium Alchemist (Night's Dawn Series #2)

Lauren Beukes 
 • The Shining Girls: A Novel

K. J. Parker
 • Devices and Desires

Stephenie Meyer
 • The Host
 • The Host with Bonus Chapter

Daniel O'Malley
 • The Rook

Pamela Freeman
 • The Castings Trilogy

Rachel Neumeier
 • The Griffin Mage

Gail Carriger 
 • Blameless (Parasol Protectorate Series #3)

Peter Higgins 
 • Wolfhound Century

Francis Knight
 • Fade to Black (Rojan Dizon Series #1)
 • Before the Fall (Rojan Dizon Series #2)

James S. A. Corey
 • Leviathan Wakes (Expanse Series #1)
 • Caliban's War (Expanse Series #2)
 • Abaddon's Gate (Expanse Series #3)

Iain M. Banks
 • Consider Phlebas (Culture Series #1)
 • The Player of Games (Culture Series #2)
 • Use of Weapons (Culture Series #3)
 • Matter (Culture Series #7)    
 • Surface Detail (Culture Series #8)
 • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture Series #9)
 • Transition

Mark Leyner 
 • The Sugar Frosted Nutsack: A Novel

C. J. Cherryh
 • Cyteen

James Patterson
 • Daniel X: Alien Hunter (Graphic Novel)

Will McIntosh 
 • Defenders

Simon Morden
 • The Curve of The Earth
 • Arcanum

Christine Woodward 
  • Rogue Touch

Jacqueline Carey
 • Saints Astray

Terry DeHart
 • The Unit

Odette Beane
 • Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale

These are some pretty amazing titles mostly from Orbit, but if you want to get in on this deal, don't wait to long, the sale ends July 18th.  Here is a link.  And here are the covers:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Time is running out to get in on the Humble Audiobook Bundle

18,000 people have gotten in on this incredible deal which includes:
  • 4 audio books that you can name your own price for
  • 6 more audio books if you chose just $9.21 or above (including Hollow World)
  • 1 more bonus book if you chose to pay $10: Chuck Palantiuk's Fight Club
Since the last time I told you about the deal three new audio books have been added:
  • John Sandford's Rules of Prey
  • Umberto Eco's Baudolino
  • Piers Anthony's Bearing an Hourglass
This really is an incredible deal, but it will be over in 1 day and 5 hours, so if an of the above books are of interest to you now is a great time to get these audio books at a great price.  Here is a link to order.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Never eat a barbeque pork sandwich with beans and potato salad after you’ve biked 34 miles and have another 15 to go. You won’t find that in the writings of Confucius or Ann Landers. Why? I don’t know, because in retrospect it seems pretty important. I kept it down. I’m just mentioning that for those of you letting your imaginations run off the leash. Nothing so awful as heaving on the side of the trail knee deep in field grass and gnats, but it did sit like cement in my stomach. And when you’re struggling to break 50 miles at an average speed of better than 12mph, which at my age and level of fitness is the equivalent of the sound barrier, a stomach anchor isn’t an afternoon delight.

If you’re just tuning in, I am training for the Ride to Conquer Cancer this September 13-14th. The challenge is a hundred and fifty miles in two days. I’m asking folks to pledge their hard earned dollars, so I feel it is just and good that I keep you appraised on what I’m doing.

I’m an author. I’m not an athlete. Want to get that out in front to avoid any misunderstandings. Authors spend most of their days sitting on soft cushy seats that swivel and rock. We drink lattes in coffee shops, and if we’re feeling ambitious, walk around a bookstore or library breathing in through our nose and out through our mouths. And we look out the window for inspiration, not as a prelude to anything crazy, such as investigating what the deal is with that bright light in the sky.

I’ve never tried doing a marathon, a 6K, or even a power walk. I’m not an invalid. I can run a mile in about 12 minutes. If you’re under thirty, I hear you’re able to run a mile in 7-9 minutes, so since I’m nearly 53, I think that’s a decent display of physical prowess. And once upon a time, I rode my bicycle forty miles in single day. Come this September I’m going to have to ride one hundred and fifty miles in two days—seventy-five miles a day, back to back.

I obviously need to train. I started a little over a week ago. Last Saturday my wife, Robin, and I rode thirty miles. Then just to see the extent of the damage we rode another 35 the next day. We took it slow, about 10 mph, but we did it. We both have hybrid bikes, which is to say they are a cross between a sleek racing street bike and a rugged tank-styled mountain bike. How they got these things to breed I have no idea, but I thought we had nice bikes until we tried to ride 35 miles on it. Now I see that what we own are heavy, iron-wrought behemoths from some age when men had thighs the size of oak logs. When two days later we tried to up our speed, Robin, who lagged behind me, decided to put her ironclad out to pasture and get a sexy street machine. A street bike is one of those low-slung handlebar bikes with tires thin enough to shave with and so light you double the weight by adding a water bottle. At least that’s the way it looks to me from my perch atop my WWII battleship of gunmetal gray.

Our next ride was on this past Friday, and we rode for a record 46 miles. Using her new sporty ride, Robin became “Zippy Girl” flying into a dot on my horizon and having to wait for me to catch up. When at last I did, puffing, sweat covered and grimacing, she sat with one leg over the bar and a guilty grin on her lips.

“Maybe I should get one of those, too,” I said.
Horror and shock replaced the grin. “No!”
“Why not?”
“This way we’re even,” she told me.
Even my ass, Zippy Girl.
She looked at me with big Sherik-styled Puss-in-boot eyes.
“Fine.” I climbed back aboard and resumed peddling like Bart Simpson with a light generator pressing against his bike wheel. That’s how I remember it, anyway.

After a day of rest, we went out on Sunday. The weather was good and we pushed out on the trail to the tune of twenty-five miles. This was the farthest we’d ever gone, and the trip home would make it a clean 50 miles, a new record.

Along the trail is a rustic pit-barbeque restaurant that caters to trial riders.  People come from 600 miles for their authentic North Carolina cuisine, and on the way up the trail I was captured by the siren song of barbeque smoke wafting across the path from a giant black kettle drum. Bright red umbrellas shaded picnic tables and the place was circled in bicycles and packed with riders. I had loaded up on tuna salad carbs and beans before the ride so I was still good, but I promised myself we’d stop there on the way back. I deserved to sit under those festive umbrellas and eat that authentic pork with those exquisite plastic utensils and Styrofoam plates. The farther up the trail I went the more I began to dream of that dinner as a kind of heaven. Everyone there would be friendly, and beautiful. Old Jimmy Buffet songs would be playing from some outside speaker, and I would definitely have beans and potato salad for my two sides.

My steel horse was running out of gas by the time we made the round trip to the restaurant and I knew I wouldn’t make it home the last 15 miles without food. Oddly, by the time I got my food I wasn’t all that hungry. Exhaustion was setting in and maybe a bit of dehydration stole my appetite. I ate anyway. I had to.

The Zippy Girl, being on a diet, trotted off to a nearby organic café and came back with something in a bag, something that crunched when she ate it.

I cleaned my plate and wished I hadn’t. The sitting and the weighty food left me lethargic. I felt so heavy that I think my bike grunted when I sat on it. “It’ll be okay. We’ll make it, girl.” I patted the Trek’s crossbar, as Zippy Girl shot off, a spandex clad arrow vanishing toward the horizon.

Burping isn’t fun while exercising. Ruins the breathing rhythm, and beans never taste as good the second time. On the way up I had enjoyed the forests and fields. After leaving the restaurant I only saw the streak of pavement blurring beneath the all-too-wide tires. Maybe there were moments of downhill. Robin said most of it was. It all felt uphill to me. One steep grueling climb where I never had the chance to coast, to breathe, to hear what was playing on my playlist that I spent an hour the day before making—Music to Fly By—I had envisioned. As I burped and breathed my way up that non-stop hill, I’d become deaf.

There’s no way I can do this. And I only went 50 miles! I have to ride 75, sleep in a tent and then get up and ride another 75! I’m way to old for this. I was too old for this when I was twenty-four.  Zippy Girl is probably rocking out to tunes in the air-conditioned car back in the trail parking lot by now. Easy for her, she’s a whole nine months younger—younger and she has that miserable bike—that magic Pegasus. So unfair. I’m not going to vomit. That’s something. Feeling a little better actually. Oh look, a bunny on the side of the trail. Hey bunny! Wonder if the Nationals won against Atlanta today…

Then I lifted my head and I was back. I could see the parking lot and the car. Zippy Girl wasn’t there. She was behind me. I’d passed her when she paused for a short rest. Bending over the racing bike hurts her back and she needs to take breaks.

We’d done it. We’d broken the 50 mile barrier. Checking the cycling app it turned out we’d averaged over 12mph. A new distance and speed record all in one day!

Today I’m dead. I should lift some weights, maybe jog, but I’m just blown out. I need to rest and rebuild. But we did it, that much at least. And we still have another two months. Maybe we can do it after all. Maybe if we just keep trying. Maybe the impossible is possible. I’m a published author, I suppose I should have learned that lesson already.

Tax-deductible donations to sponsor my ride can be made from this link.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

First Five Pages Update

Back in January, I posted that I would read and critique the first five pages of your story. If you’re among the many who submitted and did not receive a reply, I need to apologize. Turns out I’ve critiqued many of the stories sent to me, but none were ever sent out.

You see I had a system. I wrote the critiques and left them for my wife to review and then mail. Why? Because she was concerned—and rightly so—that I might be too harsh or blunt in my comments. When it comes to writing I’ve lost much of my sensativity in the same way I suppose some doctors can become insensitive to the emotional impact of their treatment. I focus on the problem more than the person. I’ve learned not to let comments about my writing harm me emotionally, but this is a skill most aspiring writers don’t have yet. Robin checking to see if I was being an ass seemed like a good idea. Problem was that she became very busy with more important matters and never got around to the Five Pages Project. I didn’t know this until a few of you resubmitted stories I’d already thought I’d done.

So here’s the deal. I’m just going to mail these out ‘as is’ and will continue to do so. This means they’ll be ‘blunt’. Try not to hate me.

You all should keep this in mind: I am not trying to help you be better writers. I’m not trying to teach you to write. I can’t do that. No one can. Only you can teach yourself how to write to the best of your ability. What I will do is explain how I think you should write, which is exactly what any instructor will do. Most teachers base their comments on the foundation of an education they received (which may or may not be of any practical value) but which they believe in because it was what they were taught.

I wasn’t taught anything. Everything I know about creative writing I discovered for myself. As a result, I have a very specific, and admittedly, narrow view of what constitutes good writing. Many works that society admires I don’t care for. I recognize that this is based on my opinion and personal taste, and you should too, because that is what you will receive if you submit your work for my review. In other words, if I trash your wonderful story, remember it’s just the opinion of one guy. And if I’m harsh, or sound uncaring, also remember, I wouldn’t be taking the time to do this if I wasn’t trying to help. Still, it is up to you to decide what advice is worth listening to, and this is another skill you’ll need to develop if you’re to become a successful author, because you’ll be getting a lot of it.

Also, since I started doing this I can see that I’m actually averaging one critique a week (not ten a month.) And by the way, if you send more than five pages, I’ll just be reviewing the first five.

As for what I’ve read so far…

A lot of the submissions are average—what I would expect from new writers. Almost all of you suffer from the same basic mistakes: excessive telling instead of showing, excessive exposition, explanation syndrome, trying to be too artsy, trying to demonstrate your vocabulary, wordiness, setting-the-stage syndrome, dull beginnings, action-packed but confusing beginnings, keeping too much from the reader, telling the reader everything…and so on.

The first five pages are hard, so are my critiques.

And again, sorry for the delays, many of you will be getting responses soon. If not, resubmit.

Monday, June 16, 2014

When no other word will do

“…because fuck cancer.”

This was the end of a recent comment Shawn Speakman made on Facebook. Not exactly the end, he did address his use of the F-bomb by saying cancer doesn’t care. (I didn’t include the whole comment because Shawn said some things about me that were embarrassingly nice, and I have no business repeating those.)

I too considered editing the F-word from this post, but I couldn’t, because Shawn is right on both counts.

In case you don’t know who Shawn is, Mr. Speakman is an author, as well as the editor of the successful Unfettered anthology. More importantly, Shawn is the only person I know who has kicked cancer’s ass. He’s a vet in that war, which makes him a hero to me. He’s the boy who lived.

When I was nine, I lost my father—who was 51—to cancer.

When I was fifteen I lost my sister. She was twenty-nine. I spent a summer keeping my mother company as we watched her, very slowly, die. Some people consider you an adult at thirteen, some at eighteen, others at twenty-one, and car rental companies believe it’s actually more like twenty-five. For me it was fifteen—the year I spent every day sitting in a hospital room watching a beautiful woman turn into a skin wrapped skeleton, and each night in a motel room trying to help my mother understand why. My sister was a fighter. She wouldn’t give up, even when no one else held any hope, she still fought. Cancer killed her anyway.

For years I saw cancer as this evil creature that stalked my family. A dark, mysterious and undefeatable force: Sauron, Voldemort, and the Nothing all wrapped up in one. My father survived being trapped by the Nazis in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He helped defeat Hitler, but he couldn’t defeat cancer.  My family was forced to sell our home in the city after he died. We left everything behind, and led by my sister Noreen, we moved away like some marked family. That’s how I saw it when cancer found Noreen and killed her in retaliation for saving us—that she dared to live.

Then for nearly four decades, cancer couldn’t seem to find me—still it found plenty of others, many of them authors: Diana Wynne JonesA.C.CrispinKage BakerSara DouglassIain M. Banks, and most recently Jay Lake. Cancer was after my new family, and now cancer has come back after Sarah Chorn.

Sarah is one of the best book reviewers in the world. Not only is she a highly respected and talented judge of literature, her willingness to read my books, and give a fair review—even when I was still self-published—helped make my career. To read Sarah's amazing personal and heart-wrenching post on Jay's death and her own relapse go here.

So cancer—my old nemesis—is after her. She’s beat it off twice before, but it’s back again, because like any cliché evil-for-evil-sake-villain, that’s what it does. And just like any cliché child who watched his family murdered by such a villain, who managed to grow up, I’m drawing my sword, and I’m gonna help kill it.

In the names of all those I’ve just mentioned, I'm joining the Ride to Fuck Conquer Cancer®.

What this means is that on September 13-14th, along with (hopefully many) others I’m going to ride my bicycle a hundred and fifty miles. I’ll be just a few days shy of fifty-three when I do this, and the longest I’ve ever ridden before is forty miles. Quite frankly the odds of me succeeding are slim. I’ll be training all summer. This last Saturday I rode forty miles, and then the next day rode another 35. That’s exactly half of what I need to do. This isn’t going to be easy, but then that’s the point. Maybe you don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.

If, like me and Shawn Speakman, you also think cancer should die a vicious and permanent death—the sort where we cut off its head, stuff it’s mouth with garlic and toss it in lava—I hope you’ll consider helping me.

If your willing to kill yourself on a bicycle, and can be in Washington DC September 13th and 14th I'd love to have you join "Team Riyria." It would be great to pool our fund raising dollars to show just how much the fantasy and science fiction community cares about eliminating this terrible disease. You can ride on your own, or join me to talk about anything you want—in between letting the old man breathe, of course.  Plus we'll have plenty of time to chat Saturday night as all riders will be staying at a campground where we'll share dinner, some entertainment, and probably a few beers.  If suicide by bike isn’t your thing, you can still help by making a contribution. So far I haven’t raised much, which honestly is the reason for this post, or I wouldn’t ask here, where you come to read about books and other nice things, happy things. And I’m only resorting to this level of begging now because—well, as Shawn so aptly and eloquently put it…because fuck cancer.

With your help we can tell cancer exactly what we think of it.

Learn more and donate here.  Contributions of any size are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hollow World and Humble Bundle

Not too long ago I got the ebook version of Hollow World into a StoryBundle curated by Sci-Fi Saturday Night. I love bundles.  Not only are they great deals for readers, they also provide for cross-pollination and a great way to discover new authors. So I was thrilled my my audio publisher told me he would be including Hollow World in the second Humble Audiobook Bundle. I've been sitting on the news until it went live, which it did last night, and will continue for just 2 weeks.  Here are some fabulous authors in this bundle including:

Here's what's currently included:

You can get hundreds of dollars of audio books at a price of your choosing. But note to get Hollow World you have to beat the average which is just a bit over $9.  With $10 you get The New York Times Bestseller Fight Club.  Here's how they break down
Name your price
Unlocked with $9.34
Unlocked with $10 
And in case you aren't familiar with how these bundles work, you get to chose where your money goes.  For instance you can decide what amount should go to the authors, how much to be retained by the people who organize the bundle, and even indicate a percentage to go to charity. For this bundle the two charities that will be:

So this is a great time to get Hollow World, and to try out some other books. always I'll still provide free ebooks for anyone who purchases the audio version. So there's that as well.  Now how much would you pay? Sorry channelled Ron Popeil for just a minute. But seriously, this is a great opportunity, and I thank Recorded Books and the folks at Humble Bundle for including Hollow World in the mix.