Judge Me By My Cover – Day 1

And so it begins. I am beyond excited to reveal the cover to my upcoming novel, The Riddle Box…but I have been over-quiet on the blog of late – so I’m going to need to ramp up to it. Just clog up your feeds with me for a few days, that’s basically what I want. I thought it might be fun to show a little bit of the process by releasing the sketches that lead up to the final design, before revealing the final cover on Saturday.

First the OG cover design, made by yours truly. YES, bask in its awfulness.

Or maybe it was a reanimated Jackson Pollack.
Or maybe it was a reanimated Jackson Pollack.

I think it’s safe to say that this cover is amazing. Sadly it requires a refined artistic sense to truly appreciate, so it’s probably for the best that I went for something a little more mass market.

All of the art you will see henceforth in this series will be from my illustrator, Mike Groves.spell_sword_cover_final [poopbird.com]. You should immediately click over there and take a gander at his work – it is delightful and amazing. The sketches I’m sharing here are rough and you should do  yourself a favor and look at more of his finished stuff. He is the perfect person to draw zombies or robots for you. Fans of the first book will immediately recognize his style from the cover of Spell/Sword – I was really fortunate that he had time in his hectic schedule to work on the cover for The Riddle Box.

And now – the first sketch.

 

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

I can tell you, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this thumbnail. The book’s lived in my head for so long, to see even this sketch of my heroes got me ludicrously pumped. The final design came a long way from this starting point – here would be a good point to thank Mike for his patience with my endless vague emails and texts during the design process.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more sketches and then…DUN DUN DUNNNN…the Final Cover Reveal.

Final Cover Reveal : 7/12

The Riddle Box — Follow the link to add the new book to your Goodreads!

 

A Century of Pennies Minus One

Spell/Sword Kindle Version – .99 

Kindle Version
Kindle Version

Gasp! It’s happened. In preparation for the release of The Riddle Box, I am permanently reducing the first book down to .99 on Amazon for your shiny Kindle. I’m also going to be removing the Kindle exclusivity this summer, so Spell/Sword ebooks can be made available on Smashwords and iTunes. The paperback will remain available on Amazon, but can also be ordered through Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore. I personally recommend Avid Bookshop if you live near Athens, GA – it’s my ‘home’ bookstore, and the paperback is the lowest cost on the planet there exclusively. I can also walk over and creepily watch you buy my book, if you’re into that.

Look, it's my whole fandom! This was a picture I took at my reading at Avid Bookshop.
Look, it’s my whole fandom! This was a picture I took at my reading at Avid Bookshop.

Here are some quick links if you’re still on the fence now that I have reduced my brain-baby to a paltry dollar. One is to Goodreads, where there are a pretty wide-spread of reviews, one is to a mystery location that has nothing to do with my book at all.

Goodreads

Link of Mystery

If you give the book a whirl, I’d really appreciate a review on any online space — it’s the author-nectar, worth more than gold or gold-plated gold.

Wordy-type Makings: A Blog Hop

 

2014-02-23 14.32.39-1

And now I catch the baton from my friend and sadly distant conspirator, Leigh from her blog Fun Things To Do While You Are Waiting. You absolutely should navigate your web-machine to her and Coralie’s site – it’s a lifestyle blog with tons of crafty adventures and receipes — much more regularly updated than my site. I’m terrible at these blog chain letter sort of things – the fun premise will quickly descend into navel-gazing, but I’ll try to keep it frothy.

What am I working on? 

I am working on the final re-writes and edits on The Riddle Box, the sequel to my previous novel Spell/Sword.   I’m hoping to have it ready to publish in another month or two. This brings to a close several months of editing — AKA the part I hate. I’m very excited to get it out there for people to read – but more excited to be able to start work on the third book, working title: Asteroid Made of Dragons.

Side projects — writing for three Pathfinder campaigns, game prep, world information, and forum play.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve expounded on this at great length in the past, but let me boil it down. I’m a special snowflake and everything I do is unique and wonderful.

The name I’ve given it is ‘Swordpunk’, but through my research I’ve found that Terry Pratchett has a much better term for it – the ‘consensus fantasy universe’ – that place we all understand instinctually without need for qualification or endless description. Dragons can fly and are mean, a hero with a sword is generally a good thing to have on hand, witches are potent, elves have pointy ears, etc. etc. etc. As much as I love the current heights of epic fantasy [Martin, Rothfuss, Sanderson, Abercrombie] – I’ve grown weary of the genre taking itself so seriously. Also by traipsing in this ‘consensus’ universe, I don’t have to waste any time or reader brain wattage to re-invent the wheel. We can jump right in and get to the action.

Also my work is not particularly popular, so there’s that.

 Why do I write what I do? 

HRMMM. That’s kind of a brain bender. I don’t know if that’s even the sort of questions I’m equipped to answer. Who knows what strange events and mental misadventures have resulted in my own particular output?

I do know that the forms of fantasy make sense to me. As a writer you’re usually trying to express something – something simple, or something profound – and you grab whatever tools are at hand to get the point across. Swords make sense to me, magic is the perfect metaphor. I think if I tried to write a story set in modern day about emotions, or culture, or banking — I would only make it a few thousand words before goblin-gunners start erupting from storm drains or roc’s land on the top of city buses.

The fun part of my work is I’m absolutely certain there’s some grand point I’m trying to get across — but I’m usually mystified about what exactly it’s supposed to be. I stumble into bits and pieces of the message as I keep rambling on, but completely by accident. My crafty subconscious has something to say, but it whispers in hindsight, in the corners of things.

Spell/Sword  is the pilot episode, so a lot of its energy is spent on getting my heroes together and starting some plates a-spinning that won’t resolve until years in the future – but I like to think there’s a nice through-line about Friendship. The Riddle Box is much more on point as I grapple with my thoughts on depression, and the sick, strange madness that haunts all human endeavor.

How does my writing process work?

I am a ‘discovery writer’ as the lugubrious buzz-term goes. I don’t plot or outline in advance, though I do have a skeleton plot in my head — or rather I have big moments and fight scenes like sign posts on the road ahead. Spell/Sword I had only the most basic of ideas of where I was heading — The Riddle Box, as a murder mystery, I had to know ‘whodunnit’ so I could reverse-engineer the plot. I know outlining is king if you want to truly focus on a marketable product – but I couldn’t go to work if I knew every twist and turn, half the fun is getting to see these moments for myself.

Beyond that, I try not to fetishize my process in any way. I don’t have a set time, or place, or a special mug that I have to have with me. I set myself easy deadlines, of between 5-10 pages a week [depending on the insanity of the rest of my life] and get to typing. I write when I have time between work and home, just as long as I’ve turned in my pages by the end of the week, everything’s kosher. Admittedly, I’m bad about putting it off until Friday or Saturday and jamming out that week’s allotment in one quick stretch. If I get in a groove and write more than my allotment – that’s great! – but I can’t bank anything in advance. Each week is always 5 pages more than where I ended the previous week. I write chronologically — mostly because I have to ‘discover’ the scene, but partly because if I wrote all the fun stuff first, I’d never go back and write the connective tissue.

That’s it – I just keep chugging along until I get to the end. [Or at least what I think is the end.]

 

Huzzar! I have completed my blog hop — of course, I haven’t had the forethought to get anyone else to take the next leg from me. So,  yeah — any of you want to take the next leg? Ping me in the comments for my thanks and blessings.

Love and Parallel Dimensions

Let’s talk about love and parallel dimensions.

I’ve had a theory for several years that it is far easier than one supposes to slip between alternate worlds, through the membrane of reality between eyeblinks. It happens all the time and most people rarely notice because the worlds we flip between are ever-so nearly identical. Here there’s a red house and there it’s blue. Here my keys are on the table, but there they are on the hook. Has that McDonalds always been there? Did this shirt always have a black stripe? We travel when we sleep and things are almost the same when we open our eyes.

Almost the same.

You find yourself talking to a friend, but things seem strange. They know you from Universe 247B, but you are remembering Universe 8-Jacket-907. Are your memories congruent? What’s the margin of error? In Plato’s Cave are we remotely seeing the same shadows?

I like this theory a lot. Maybe it’s because my memory is  a constantly rumbling Etch-a-Sketch, or maybe it’s because I lose things all the time, or maybe it’s

Artist - seventypercentethanol
Artist – seventypercentethanol

because I feel a distance between me and most humans. Some souls are a little less anchored than others, more easily sent adrift through the worlds.

I also fear this theory a lot. One day I might slip too far. Open my eyes in a dimension where no one knows me, or a place where every ill decision waits to wreak itself upon my brow. Most people slip when they sleep, but some days every blink shows me someplace different. Every car ride, every corner turn, every open door a new dimension. I try to hold on, to navigate, to touch stone and remember. The wind keeps blowing, ceaseless and patient.

But then I see my Beloved.

Somedays I slip far away, even from her, but then we blink together. We blink together and I am home. And when we sleep we slip together and wake up someplace new, someplace stranger — but together. We blink together and we are home.

There are more worlds than this and we dance through them unknowing. A forever carousel of worlds and souls and change and wind. A single life can get lost so easily, spun out of the gyre into worlds dark and forlorn. It is only the gravity of love, the shining thread in the dark that binds and must not break. There are those who believe it immortal and inviolate, but I am too full of shadow to agree. It burns all the brighter for its fragility, it holds all the stronger for how easy it is to shatter.

Thank you for knitting the cord with me, thank you for travelling so far with me. Across a billion worlds I prayed to find you. May the shortest distance between two points always be our thread, hand in hand we travel and I always wake up home.

I love you.

Blink with me and we are home.

Inevitable

We’re all telling the same story.

I’ve been thinking about the State of the Fantasy Genre intermittently, and I just had a thought-burst. We’re all telling the same story, the story of 1011841_189098384582884_536161209_nInevitability. Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Abercrombie’s First Law, Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.

And me.

The feeling of fate, of the dark steps at the end of the road pervades the genre — even me, who is supposedly some sort of bubble-squeak rebel scribbling graffiti on the overpass of Epic — I’m telling the same story.

To paraphrase Kvothe: ‘You know how it ends. It ends right here, with me telling you this story.” [Unless of course, Rothfuss has been misleading us all, and Doors of Stone culminates with some version of Kote yelling ‘It’s Clobberin’ Time.”]

I don’t necessarily think this is a new convention in fantasy, Tolkien and Howard laid that ground for us long before — but it feels kind of strange to feel the same cobalt melancholy hanging over so much of the field. Is it because we’re all too cognizant of the gears and automata of storytelling? Or are we all just too jaded to tell a story with a half-way decent happy ending? From whence this kamikaze-love song with the grip of Fate?

Maybe just a function of maturity, of most head-and-shoulders artists hitting the success point when they’re old enough to feel the turn of the earth in its gyre, the dusty cobwebs of age long since gathering.

Or am I seeing a correlation that isn’t there? I know the story I’m telling, the strange and dark end of my Heroes. It sits on my shoulders like a black iron mantel. So tempting to change it, to have it come out better — or cheat the very fabric of the tale.

 

 

 

 

The Riddle Box – 300 Words or Less

A manor. A murder. A mystery. The doors are closed, best keep your eyes open.

Jonas and Rime arrive at the House of the Heart-Broken Lion, interrupting a play and an opulent dinner party. An actor falls dead on the stage, the doors

Gustave Doré Plate XX - “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69
Gustave Doré
Plate XX – “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69

are locked, the authorities summoned. Rime has one night to solve the mystery and escape before too many questions are asked and her wild magic is discovered. Jonas is just excited that there’s really good cheese.

Thirteen guests in the manor. All the doors are locked. One of them is the killer. Can she solve the case before dawn?

A sea-elf shaman, a wood-elf scholar, a bard with an electric guitar. A gentle priest, a vicious trader, a rude dwarf who does not speak. These guests have secrets, could there be a secret guest?

Blood in the shadows, a killer stalks the halls of the Heart-Broken Lion.  How can Our Heroes triumph against a foe that neither spell nor sword can catch?

  • Secrets of Jonas’ past revealed!
  • [Not all of them, but, you know, some!]
  • Rime has a crush!
  • Cryptic clues!
  • Red herrings!
  • Partial nudity!
  • Bedroom hi-jinks!
  • Sweet guitar solos! [Described.]
  • A giant cow!

A truly original mystery shamelessly cribbed from Agatha Christie, Colombo, and N.C.I.S. Fantasy fiction bent into a new, strange shape.

Can you solve The Riddle Box?

[Argggg. I hate writing ad copy. This is my first stab [of many] getting Riddle Box into something easily marketable. Back of book, Amazon description, etc. I am shit at the elevator pitch — comments and reactions very much appreciated!]

December Remember Dismember, So Soft and Tender

Yeah, I don’t know either. It’s a title, a title to a blog post!

I am in Hell Week of our production of Romeo & Juliet, so my brain tachyons are being primarily targeted against that creative project’s deflector shield, but I’ve got some dribs and drabs. BULLETED LIST.

  • Editing on The Riddle Box is at a standstill until this weekend, but I’m still on target to get it hammered into a readable shape for my Beta Readers by,
    Buster Keaton
    Buster Keaton

    let’s say…. DECEMBER 15th!!!!

  • I’m not excited about the new Hobbit movie, and that makes me kind of sad.
  • Another writer online is attempting to sell on-demand short stories, poems…and even novels. As in made-to-order, you tell him what you want the story or book to be about, and he will write it for you. He’s even offering live slots to watch the writing happen on Google Drive. I just…have really mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I don’t begrudge any writer their path to supporting themselves with their craft — but on the other hand it seems just unnecessarily mercenary and disrespectful of our art? Writing as product, built as easily and quickly as a pre-fab house in a subdivision? Logically it’s no different than writing professionally for a magazine or newspaper, but something about it just grinds my gears a touch — mainly because, shouldn’t the best use of your skill be to make, you know, art? Maybe just the thought of some phantom observer watching me write just makes my skin crawl.
  • Sleepy Hollow is endlessly charming and they just hired Victor MF Garber to play Ichabod’s father. Reverent squee.
  • Almost Human is delightful and I will punch any that disagree, the adventures of Eomer and Sassbot 9000 are a must watch for me.
  • Agents of Shield continues to grow and shake off it’s wobbly plotting — except for Skye. Seriously, writer — time for a pow-wow, figure out what story you want to tell with this character. Using her as the constant ‘dumb-question’ Window Character or SHIELD-doubter is completely played out. A disservice to the actress, and to the world you are building.
  • I’m directing Oklahoma in the spring …I should probably do some prep-work for that and confirm my production staff.
  • DM Burnout Tour 2013 continues apace. My Pathfinder group seems to be enjoying the published adventure I’m running, but I haven’t even had time to prep that properly. Need to do my nerd diligence before we play again on the 16th.
  • I wish I had time to play video games.
  • And see my Beloved.
  • And the four-footers.
  • Shadeaux Bros. holiday album is in pre-production.
  • There is a bizarre attitude one must affect to keep moving forward while self-championing your art. This bizarre blend of cocksure arrogance and razor-sharp anxiety, slathered over with a chocolate shell of delusion. Mike Birbiglia has  a great bit about it.
  • Spell/Sword makes a great holiday gift!