Category Archives: Maze Beset

#My5: Inspiration, or Weird Associations #amwriting

One question most of us penmonkey types get asked often is how we come up with these wacky story ideas, what inspires us, and what exactly is a “heckbiscuit”? That last one might just be me, but the point still stands. Many folks just want to know what makes artist brains do art. KM Alexander, a delightful gentleman who writes disturbing things, asked me to participate in a celebration of this question and its various answers, called My5. As such, I present five things that have inspired my stories. Specifically, the Maze Beset trilogy of superhero novels.

1. The X-Men. Back in college, which happened so long ago cellphones hadn’t been invented yet, I read X-Men titles. I wound up in enforced proximity to these comics often and picked them up to pass the time that otherwise would been blank boredom. Prior to college, I had been exposed to the X-Men cartoon, so when I had the choice of several different comics, I picked up the X-Men ones.

My favorite X-Man is Nightcrawler. Because duh.

On the whole, the movies have been kind of disappointing, but they came out too late to blunt my interest in the characters.

This is the basis for the humanity of the supers in the series. They have lives and families, and the story isn’t really about the superpowers. The powers are just the cool guns and tech they use.

2. The Heroes TV Show, Season 1. Never mind the later parts where it got really weird. The initial season showed supers in a way I hadn’t personally seen before. Superhero as everyday person with a bizarre power and no spandex really appealed to me on many levels. I know comics have been exploring this idea for a long time, but aside from X-Men, I never got into comics much. I like lots of words and not many pictures. This show happened during a segment of my life when I had time to watch TV, and it hit a lot of buttons for me. I looked at that and Hmmed and muttered a lot.

This is where the basic idea of the novels came from. Genetics, conspiracies, modern day action, and all that.

3. Marvel Super Heroes RPG (MSH). Technically, this happened first. I started playing D&D in high school, which turned out to be a gateway drug for Shadowrun, Vampire: The Masquerade, and MSH. That’s right. D&D is, in fact, a gateway drug. For other RPGs.

MSH is ridiculously silly. I once used random chargen to create a character made entirely of strawberry jell-o. I’m not saying it was a good character or I ever played it, but random chargen gave it to me. Another time, it gave me a character with two forms. One was stupid and the other was smart. Ah, MSH, you’re adorable. Because of you, I have a lot more d10s than I need for anything else, ever.

But this is where the idea of random, bizarre superpowers entered my head, which is the foundation on which the trilogy sits.

4. Mutants & Masterminds RPG. Like MSH, M&M provided an opportunity to be a superhero, only this time with less silly rules. Before starting the novels, I started an M&M game on the Myth-Weavers RPG bulletin board site. The game, now in its sixth year and still chugging along with two of the original players, began with exactly the same premise as the novels.

More importantly, I present a quote from the character generation section, specifically the (Alternate) Form power:

Swarm: Your “body” is actually thousands of other tiny creatures: insects, worms, even little robots.

It’s not hard to see where the idea of a person being made up of a swarm of tiny dragons came from. Thanks, Green Ronin Publishing!

5. Friends. (Sorry, no pictures!) A staggering number of my ideas come from chatting with friends. I say “What if…” and then we ramble on tangents via chat or in person until the idea is awesome. In this particular case, the two players mentioned in #4 are friends who’ve been playing the characters of Jayce and Liam for all of those six years. I shamelessly yoinked their characters (more or less with permission) and used them. Bobby came from having an NPC of that name who interacted with their characters and became a real person for having done so.

Those are my five. Check out these other #My5 posts for more ramblings on inspiration: KM AlexanderMichael Ripplinger, Laurie Tom, Eric Lange

Dragons In Pieces #Ebook Bundle

WARNING: Blatant self-promotion ahead.

I’m pleased to announce that Dragons In Pieces was selected to be included in the Zombies, Monsters, and Gods ebook bundle from BundleRabbit. The bundle is Pay What You Want, which means you get to set the price for up to $44 worth of awesome fantasy and sci-fi ebooks.banner

As a value-added bonus, a portion of whatever you elect to pay for this bundle goes to a charity of your choice. Looking for more info about the books? Check here.

#Superheroes In Denim

I’m officially announcing the release of a 3-in-1 edition of the Maze beset trilogy. It includes a brand new short story and a selection of non-Bobby character-based flashfic of the ‘day in the life’ variety. The combined edition will be released in early May because I have to finish other projects (*cough*Ethereal Entanglements*cough*) by the end of April, and this omnibus edition actually requires work to assemble. It seems like a really minor thing to do, and yet, it’s actually a major pain in the butt.

I present the omnibus cover, which I am delighted by. This edition will go into the Kindle Unlimited program, so if that’s your book-reading preference, you’ll be able to find it there. If not, the three separate books are still available all over the place. When the interior is finalized, I’ll be offering the full package of new material as a freebie option for signing up for my newsletter as an alternative to getting ARCs of everything I release.

superheroes in denim

Cover Reveal: 3 At Once

DamselECoverThis brilliant new cover for one of my older books comes courtesy of Kirbi Fagan. She did a fantastic job, and I’m pleased to have been able to find a female illustrator for this project.

Despite this not being quite her usual milieu, she did a phenomenal job and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ll have copies with both covers for a little while. Until I run out, I’ll be offering the old ones at a discount. There’s nothing truly wrong with those books, they’ve just got the old cover. If you see me at an event and want the old cover version, ask and I’ll pull one out of the secret stash under the table.

DragonsInPieces

My very first book, Dragons In Pieces, is also getting a facelift. As with Damsel In Distress, the previous cover art was nice, but not right for the book. This one is much more appropriate for its genre. It’s also cool.

Keith Draws handled this one, and he’s also working on Chains and Flight, so more reveals will come soon! I still have copies of the old version of this one too.

SK2ECoverAnd finally, the new book! Backyard Dragons is scheduled for release on March 18th. It’s the sequel to Girls Can’t Be Knights, my young adult urban fantasy story about Claire, the first ever girl to become a Spirit Knight in its two-thousand-year-plus history. Justin, her mentor, is having a rough day. Claire’s isn’t so hot either. But, dragons!

This fun cover was designed by the talented Lia Rees, someone I met through Writerpunk Press.

2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year full of even more changes, appearances, and books than 2017! I’m thrilled to be buckling down for the last edits on Backyard Dragons this week and next, then diving into the fourth book of The Greatest Sin, which will hopefully be out in time to take to GenCon. With luck, the third Spirit Knights book, Ethereal Entanglements, will be hot on its heels.

Dragons In Pieces Goes Audible #audiobook

At events, people always ask about audiobooks. They’re easy to wedge into your day, during a commute, a jog, a grocery trip, or any other time you need to see where you’re going but not think too hard. Unfortunately, it’s challenging for independent authors to produce audiobooks. We’re faced with three choices: pay someone to do the whole thing for us, go in with a voice actor/producer for a royalty share, or do it ourselves.

Each avenue is fraught with peril, though of different types. I’ve wanted Dragons In Pieces to be an audiobook for a long time. I first went looking for a voice actor to split the royalties with and came up empty for talent I liked the sound of. Doing it on my own felt out of the realm of possibility due to my lack of ability, equipment, and recording space. Also time. Editing audio tracks is at least as time consuming as editing a book.

In the end, I paid someone to do it all for me so I could focus on other things. Like publishing books. Dragons in Pieces, the audiobook, was produced by Skyboat Media and narrated by the award-winning voice talent of Stefan Rudnicki. It’s been worth the wait. He’s brilliant, and I’m proud to have his voice paired with my story. Having professionals handle the whole process means it’s significantly more awesome than I could ever have managed.

Also available on Audible.

Ye Olde To-Do List #amwriting #amediting

I finally finished the first draft of my next book this past weekend, titled Al-Kabar. This is the second novel of Ilauris, though it doesn’t follow Damsel In Distress as a sequel. This book is intended to stand on its own, and only shares the primary element of that previous book: it’s about a woman who has to learn how to rescue herself. Now it’s time to fix all the stuff I already know is wrong with it, then shuffle it off to some beta readers while I dive into my other projects for the remainder of the year.

Here’s my schedule for the next few months:

6/20: South Bay Grange Strawberry Festival, Olympia, WA
6/27: Destination Staycation at the AFK Elixirs & Eatery in Renton, WA
7/3-5: GearCon in Portland, OR
7/11: Guest of Jacobsen’s Books at the Farmer’s Market in Hillsboro, OR
7/15-26: RAGBRAI!
7/30-8/2: GenCon in Indianapolis, IN
8/19-23: WorldCon in Spokane, WA
9/?: Release Al-Kabar
9/19-20: Rose City Comic Con in Portland, OR
9/25-7: Steamposium in Seattle, WA

As you can see, I’ll be a tiny bit busy this summer, especially on the weekends. My next project after Al-Kabar is an as yet untitled collaboration with singer/songwriter Ilana Harkavy. It’s a Young Adult title about self-image inspired by her song Lipstick Liars. At the same time, I’ll be working with Erik this summer and fall on the fourth book of The Greatest Sin, also as yet untitled.

Looking beyond that to November, I’m expecting to walk away from NaNoWriMo with first drafts for the sequel to Girls Can’t Be Knights, already titled Backyard Dragons, and the next Ilauris book, working title Bronwyn. Watch for a 3-in-1-plus-new-material to come soon (no idea when) for Bobby and the gang as I work feverishly to finish the full revamp of the Maze Beset trilogy so I can move on to Bobby’s new adventures without looking over my shoulder anymore at shoulda-woulda-coulda for the original trilogy.

Another new project is coming too! This one isn’t about books as much as it’s about dragons. Come see me in person to be the first to find out about this new venture I’ve been working on. I’ll talk more about that here when the heat and madness has passed.

Here’s to a great summer, folks. May it be every bit as awesome as we all know we deserve. Oh, and by the way, in case you somehow missed it, Girls Can’t Be Knights releases on Friday.

P.S. Should you happen to expect to be in a town while Ragbrai is passing through it, let me know! I won’t have copies of any of my books while on the ride, but I’ll be happy to stop and chat for a few. And if you’re also riding Ragbrai, I’d be delighted to meet with you in an overnight town.

Dirty Reader #CleanReader

I had every intention of writing some flashfic for tomorrow. And then, dunDunDUN, I ran across the Clean Reader Controversy. If you haven’t heard about it, Chuck Wendig does a smashing rundown of the issue, with links to the original article by Joanne Harris and I recommend reading all about it.

The gist: some folks, worried about the delicate, shell-pink eyes of their teenager decided to write an app that scrubs all the words they consider ‘naughty’ in an ebook and replaces them with other, ‘less naughty’ words. Instead of, you know, talking about those words and having a discussion about what they mean and how to handle it when you run across something upsetting in a book.

It’s possible you can guess my opinion of the subject by now. I don’t generally use swear words in my books. The Maze Beset trilogy, as a series that takes place in the modern US, has a smattering of them. The rest of my stuff so far is fantasy, which is usually better served by not having most swear words. Although the word ‘fuck’ probably dates back to at least the 15th century, it still seems modern and out of place, especially when used to refer to anything other than sexual intercourse. Other, setting specific words are almost always more appropriate.

In Maze Beset, otherwise known among my friends as ‘The Dragon Books’, Bobby is a verbal gentleman, preferring made-up words over swearwords, because that’s how his Momma taught him. He says things like ‘heckbiscuits’ and ‘dangnabbit’. Until he doesn’t. In one very specific instance, he says ‘go to Hell’ to someone, and it’s used for specific impact. I didn’t toss the word ‘Hell’ in casually or cavalierly to make you gasp at the audacity of an author to dare inserting a ‘naughty’ word.

In the scene, Bobby is tied up and incapacitated but awake. In the next room, a woman he cares about is being threatened with violence of a type that’s implied without being specified. There’s nothing he can do to prevent it, and he’s forced to listen. The bad guys want information, and this is how they choose to try to get it. Bad guy asks a question, and Bobby, ever the gentleman, having previously chided other people for swearing or otherwise being a dick or a pain, says “Go to Hell”.

I’ve tried to imagine how that scene works when you read it with an app that changes the quote to “Go to Heck.”. My conclusion is that it doesn’t. There’s no reason for him to say ‘heck’ in this context. He might as well have screamed in wordless rage for all the impact it has. The correct quote tells you something about Bobby’s mindset. The altered quote is wasted space.

For the record, the books also contain a few instance of ‘fuck’, but Bobby is never the one uttering them. Several other characters have fewer qualms about swearing. It’s an issue of each character having their own voice and not being carbon copies of each other. Some people swear. Some people swear a lot, others a little, and still others avoid it due to choice or upbringing.

Also for the record, the original version had Bobby say “Fuck you” in that situation. When I revised it, I decided that strayed too far for him. Replacing it was my choice, done for reasons of character consistency, not any sense of prudishness over this word or that.

Now, there’s a point to be made about the inherent fuckery of selling altered versions of books, and Mr. Wendig, Ms. Harris, and others quote thoroughly cover that. What I suggest is that there’s no value in this kind of alteration, because what it changes is more important than authorial consent (although that’s pretty fucking important). The change disrupts character and narrative, which is the entire point of a story in the first place.