Friday, January 31, 2014

Episode 4 is out today!

"A Watcher in the Alleys" is out today. Someone is watching those who've already been infected and punishing those who might be willing to help. Marrel's band warns those they can, as carefully as possible, and seek out weapons for their own protection. There's something strange about this watcher, something not exactly human.

Check it out, at all the usual places!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Faux ad #6

What with all this snow in most of my Facebook news feed, I'm guessing some of you may have need of a chimney sweep soon. Tiba & Sons will make sure you can keep heating your flat safely.

(We have our share of snow as well today, with a couple more inches forecast for the rest of the day...but the forecast includes the expected return of Chinook winds on Wednesday. Chinook winds are also called snow-eater winds because of how quickly they devour the snow left on the ground. Not for us, long winters of never-melting snow.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"The Skin Stealer" sold to Penumbra

I'm pleased to announce that I've sold this short story for Penumbra's March issue. More about the story when it comes out, but here's a bit of trivia that I learned while working on the story:

Dr. John Polidori was a companion of Lord Byron and the Shelleys and wrote the first vampire story in English, Vampyre. That's background. The trivia is that Polidori was the uncle of the Rossettis--Dante Gabriel, Christina, etc. I was a big fan of the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood back in college, so it was this was a cool tidbit to learn.

The story loosely involves that circle of the Romantics, as you'll see in March.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Birth of a Serial: post at Musa

I've been largely away from computers most of the day, but I'm finally getting a chance to pop in here and mention the post I have up on the Musa blog: Birth of a Serial. Do check it out, for a story that involves great disappointment and the decision to write something new and different.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Guest post: Lindsey Duncan

I'm honored to welcome Lindsey Duncan to my blog today. She's a wonderful, poetically gifted writer, and here's what she has to say today:


Thanks to Dan for inviting me to post on his blog – and being patient with my scatterbrained state of late. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to talk about, but I finally lit upon a subject I think we both share an interest in … and you’ll find some elements of it in Spire City (and to a certain extent, in my Flow – first and only plug on my behalf, I promise).

In a lot of secondary world fantasy, while the characters deal with kings and dragons, enchantments and a convenient lack of poor sanitation, their mindsets and outlooks on the world are more or less similar to ours - recognizably modern, if not in every detail. Many of these characters could be transported to other worlds, and they would still be inherently the same person. This isn’t wholly a bad thing: people are more than their surroundings. However …

Occasionally, one comes across a story where some aspect of the world – or its entire foundation – alters the underlying assumptions of its denizens. These are often short stories, because it can be difficult to maintain such fundamental changes in perception, both for the writer and the reader. An example would be a setting where telepathy is universal and constant. Do people even develop the concept of privacy? What do they do with their voices, assuming the physiological ability to speak doesn’t wither away? How does it affect crime, politics, education …

I’ve been reading Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey lately (not to be confused with a certain recent smash-hit about BDSM), and struck by the way this intensively developed and bizarre world saturates every motivation and decision the characters make – but it also affects something as basic as description. The narrator is unable to see any natural color but red, and both the normal mottle of the world and the strategic use of artificial color remains consistently described throughout.

And that’s the way it ought to be, really – with the writer paying attention both to the broad changes in paradigm, and the smaller, subtler changes that influence details in everyday life. A seagoing society uses the ocean for metaphors; the daughter of a farmer may not have the words to pinpoint a noblewoman’s hairstyle.

Somewhere between the two lies a number of other possibilities … including some views that are historically accurate, but unacceptable now. How does a writer deal with slavery or religious persecution? Is it authentic to frame main characters as opponents to a dominant trend? Of course, these are questions with a great variety of different answers, but the important thing is for the writer to ask them … and not simply insert a real world mindset where it may or may not belong.

A fully realized character is a product of their environment. The setting becomes an integral part of their shape and development – and in the end, both feel more real.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Faux ad #5

Since the city's beetles have a prominent role in the most recent episode of Spire City, it's a good time to include an ad for the beetle-pulled flying taxi service. The Yellow Cloaks have an even more prominent role in the next episode as well.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Interview with Martin Bolton plus Free Giveaway!

Welcome today to Martin Bolton, a fellow Musa fantasy author. He is the co-writer of the novel The Best Weapon and its sequel Sorrow. Sorrow is being published in serial format, with part 13 (of 16) as the most recent one released.

As part of this interview, we're holding a contest for a free copy of The Best Weapon. So simply comment below, and one lucky reader will win a copy of the novel. For all the episodes of Sorrow as well as The Best Weapon, visit Musa's page. Also visit his website for more information about his work.

Without further introduction, here is the interview:

You actually co-wrote The Best Weapon and Sorrow with David Pilling. How does that process go? Do you hash out all the details together at the start of the book? Before each chapter? Does one of you always do a certain part of the writing?

When we wrote The Best Weapon, we didn't know where to start. We had no idea how other co-writers had worked. Luckily, the idea to write a book came to us in the pub, which is where all our best ideas come. David had been writing short stories and I had been writing a parody news website called Kerrier District News. David had been encouraging me to write a short story. Over a few decent ales, we decided it was time to write something together.

We knew we were going to write epic fantasy, which made it easier because there are so many strands, characters and sub plots in this genre. We decided it would be easiest, at least for our first book, to write a story about two different people born on opposite sides of a world, who were inexorably destined to meet. I would write about one character and create their culture and environment, and David the other. That's how we came up with The Best Weapon – Naiyar and Fulk were born of necessity in real life, as well as in the book.

From there on we would meet once a week or so in the pub, get beered up and basically rant about what we had written. We would bounce new ideas of each other and come up with new characters and aspects of the tale. So the story grew pretty organically. It was easier then because we lived quite near to each other in London. Sorrow was a different proposition because by then I had moved to Bristol and David to Wales, so we communicate by email and meet up once every couple of months.

Sorrow is being released in serial format. But it's the sequel to The Best Weapon, which was released as a traditional novel. What led to the change of format?

The main reason for the change in format was because we thought it might help to boost our profile as fantasy authors. Sorrow was initially written as another full-length novel, but we felt the plot leant itself to being serialised and we decided it was worth trying. I've enjoyed releasing a serial. It is a bit easier editing a bite-sized chunk each month and I loved coming up with sixteen different tag lines. All in all, it has been a valuable experience, but I want to write another full-length novel now, which is what we're doing.

How did that change the writing process?

The writing process never changed because we wrote Sorrow as a full-length novel. The editing process was much different, however. First I had to split the novel into sixteen parts, each with some sort of cliff-hanger, which was difficult because you end up with almost entire episodes written by either me or David. I tried my best to keep a balance of both writers in each one but it didn't always work out. It wasn't really a problem though, because I think we have very similar writing styles, that's why we write so well together.

How do you think that changes the reader's experience of the story?

Hopefully each episode leaves the reader wanting more. I suppose that's the idea with a serial, you want them to be waiting for the next one, wondering what happens next. I don't know if we've achieved that, but hopefully we've got somewhere close.

You have an excerpt on your website of the next novel, Hardway. Is this a direct sequel to Sorrow, or a separate story that takes place in the same world?

Hardway is standalone novel set in the same world (The World Apparent) but farther to the east and with a completely new bunch of characters. I can't tell you much about Hardway, but I can tell you that the title is the name of an island, a former penal colony that has won its independence, which is on the front line between two warring empires. As for the people who live there, and the journey they must make, you will have to wait and see.

Are you writing this one in a way that it can be serialized as well?

No, this is going to be a novel. In fact, it is going to be an epic. Longer than The Best Weapon. I'm quite excited about it.

Sorrow has a gritty, epic fantasy feel, with certainly other influences. What would you say are the main influences on the story? Any that might surprise readers as not an obvious influence?

My main influence was Robert E Howard. I was reading The Chronicles of Conan while I was writing The Best Weapon, I love the colourful way he wrote and Conan is probably my favourite fantasy character, when I was a kid I wanted to be a barbarian – I should have eaten my greens. I wanted to write fantasy like that but with a bit more gritty realism. I'm also a big fan of Joe Abercrombie.

As far as story-telling is concerned, Bernard Cornwell is one of the best, and has certainly had a big influence on me (if you haven't read his Warlord Chronicles, please make it a priority).

I also like a dark, supernatural slant on my fantasy as well as the sword and sorcery, and H.P Lovecraft is the master of eerie, graveyard horror as well as some really twisted fantasy. After reading Lovecraft's short stories it was impossible not to be influenced by him.

Jeremy Dyson's sheer imagination has also influenced me in everything I write. I read a collection of short stories called Never Trust a Rabbit and it really made me think. There are some amazing ideas in that book.

What's next for you? Besides working on Hardway, anything else in the works?
Well, Hardway is the big project at the moment and will be for some time. I try not to plan too much at once otherwise I find it hard to focus. I am writing for a blog called The 900 Club, which is a group of five writers (one of whom is David's dad, John) who each write a nine hundred word short story every month. I post them all on the blog on the last day of each month. We're just celebrating our first anniversary and I'm about to publish the anthology of 2013 stories (that's the year, not the number of stories).

My thanks to Martin Bolton for his answers. Don't forget to comment to be entered to win a copy of The Best Weapon. Here is the description of that novel:

The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.
Two young men, born on opposite ends of the world, are inexorably drawn together by forces outside their control or understanding. Created and manipulated by demonic forces, they must take charge of their own destiny and seek to prevent the very disaster they are supposed to bring about. As their world slides into war and chaos, they are faced with the ultimate question: can men do without Gods?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Episode 3 "The Spires" is out, plus a couple of blog appearances

Desperate to escape thinking about her newly infected body, Chels seeks an old friend of her mother's, one of the city's singers who live their lives chained to the spires so that their songs guide the city's beetles through the maze of streets below.

As always, you can get your copy from Musa, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, and eventually other online stores as well.

Also, I have a blog swap with Martin Bolton, another Musa writer whose novel Sorrow is being serialized. This weekend I'll be putting up an interview I conducted with him. My post on his blog went up today. In this post I talk about serialization, especially focusing on what it offers readers.

And last, for today, there's a post on the Musa blog about the release of this episode. This one is simply an announcement and excerpt. Over the next few months I have several more in-depth blog posts that will be appearing there.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Book Club at Coopersmith's

I've been sporadic lately in posting about my book club meetings, but since this was a book I chose, I decided I'd better put one up this time, at least. Five of us braved the cold to meet up last night.

Place: Coopersmith's Pub

Beer of choice: I went with a new one, their Dunkel Doppel Weizen Bock, which apparently translates as Dark Double Wheat Bock (strong lager).

Book: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. OK, I hate ranking things as favorite, second favorite, third favorite, etc. So much depends on what I want from a book at a given time. But...if I'm forced to pick a favorite, this is probably the one that ends up being chosen. This was my third time reading it, and it's no less entertaining today than it was when I first read it in college. I won't give a full review or anything, but the basic idea is that you begin reading a story about a traveler waiting in the train station, and just as it reaches a point of high tension, there's a defect in the book. You bring it back and receive what you're told is a correct copy only to find it's a completely different book. Which also gets interrupted at a point of high tension. And so it goes.

The book is obsessed with doubles and fakes and surface similarities as it tells the stories of the Reader, the Other (Ideal) Reader, the Nonreader, etc. in between these repeated starts of different books, each engaging, each in a different style. So we had a good discussion about it. Not everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. But overall most of us found it entertaining at one level or another.

Our next book will be a whiplash change: The Man Who Knew Too Much by David Leavitt (not the G. K. Chesterton collection nor anything to do with the Alfred Hitchcock movies, but rather a biography of Alan Turing).

Friday, January 03, 2014

Faux ad #4

A new year is a great time to get yourself or someone you know a new hat or a new watch, right?

One week to go until episode 3, "The Spires," comes out!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Guest post at Unicorn Ramblings

Yesterday I was honored to have my blog post hosted by my friend Lindsey Duncan. I wrote a bit about the structure of the Spire City episodes and how that affects the narrative flow. Stay tuned for her post here sometime soon.