Friday, September 19, 2014

Contagion is out today

Release day at last! This is the bundle for episodes 1-6 of season one. I believe I mentioned way back last spring when episode 6 was released that there is a definite narrative arc to these first six episodes. So while it's half of the season, and I generally think of each season as its own unit, this is not some randomly cut-off portion of the story. It doesn't have much big resolution (but then even the full season doesn't), but it definitely has its own climax that propels the story on toward the remaining episodes (and seasons).

As always, this is available from most online bookstores and directly from Musa. It sometimes takes longer for some of the stores to add them, but I'll put up links as I find them: Musa, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iBooks US, UK, Australia.

And please consider leaving a review or at least a star rating (or however it's set up at that store). Reviews and ratings can be a big boost for small press books, so each one is much appreciated!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cover for episodes 1-6

Tomorrow is the release day for this bundle of episodes 1-6. There's something very elegant about how this cover turned out. I love how it continues the basic image and format of the individual episodes and yet be clearly not just another episode, because of the color scheme.

Stay tuned for purchase links and the like. I can't wait!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ten Books (well, it rounds off to ten, anyway)

I keep putting off answering this meme. I like seeing the lists others post, but my impulse is to turn the list into a story. So I've avoided thinking too hard about this, as per the instructions, but I still wanted the space to make some comment at least about each, and Facebook didn't seem ideal for that. I'm aiming for something loosely chronological here, though that may mean adding a little more thought to this, since I don't want to already hit my ten by the time I'm up to my college years... So here are ten thirteen books that affected me at the time I read them:

1) Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett & Ron Barrett. Seriously. I write stories about giant beetles, implausibly huge trees, and uncannily massive playground equipment. I have no doubt that those resonate with me in part because of how much I liked this book as a child.

2) Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. There's no denying how massively influential this was on me from the time I read it at age 12 through college (and beyond). Its direct influence on my writing is less than you might think, but its indirect influence is huge, both on my desire to write and on my imagination.

3) Language of the Night by Ursula K. LeGuin. A nonfiction book examining what fantasy and science fiction are and how they work. Not exactly what you'd think would grab a 16-year-old. Especially since at the time I read this, I'd read one of her novels and hated it (to my embarrassment today, since I've loved most everything else she's written), but as this was a paperback about fantasy and SF, the small-town librarians shelved it with the other fantasy/SF paperbacks, and I grabbed it. And it forever changed how I looked at imaginative fiction.

4) The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip. It's hard to even single this one out, as I actually don't remember a lot of details of the story. But...I found this on a bargain books table and bought it for my younger brother as a Christmas present, which was the start of many years of buying him McKillp books for Christmas (and reading them myself, once he'd finished). McKillip has been a favorite ever since.

5) Silence by Shusaku Endo. Now we're into books I read in college. This was for a world lit class, historical fiction about a devout Catholic missionary to Japan at a time when it was closing to European influences, including religion. The title refers to the apparent silence from the missionary's God to the people's suffering.

6) San Manuel Bueno, Mártir by Miguel de Unamuno. I read this one in Spain. It's the story of a priest, seen as a saint by his parishioners, but who can't bring himself to believe in everything he preaches. His martyrdom, then, is in feigning that belief.

7) The Brothers K by David James Duncan. A coming-of-age novel about a family of four brothers (and much younger twin sisters), against‚the backdrop of baseball and the Vietnam War. Duncan is a very funny writer, and this book weaves together the voices of the brothers wonderfully (I'm guessing the fact that I am one of four brothers might have drawn me into this even more), and deals with faith and doubt and war and anti-war and family dynamics in an impressive way.

8) Gormenghast books by Mervyn Peake. The shear architectural imagination of these books, the absurd characters, the whimsy and the weight of traditions, and a claustrophobically vast castle, in decay. Originally I read this for my undergrad honors thesis (and I've re-read it since then).

9) Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Not for a college class, but based on my advisor's suggestion for my own interest...for which I am very grateful. Calvino is my favorite writer, and this was my first introduction to his writing (and remains my second favorite, close behind If On A Winter's Night a Traveler).

10) The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. Now we're into the post-college time frame (yeah, there's no way I can limit this to ten...let's make it thirteen). The subtitle for this nonfiction book is "A Plants-eye View of the World," and I don't think I can say it any better. Seeing how these four plant species have changed and interacted with human history was one of those mind-twisting things that changes how you see the world.

11) Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. I've always pointed to this book as a paradigm-shifting book, where I finally realized just how wide open the field of fantasy can be. I find Mieville's imagination in books like these Bas-Lang books and Railsea to resonate so closely to my own.

12) City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer. At almost the exact same time I read PSS, I read this book (for the first of...4 times, I think). VanderMeer has long been a favorite writer (I'm currently reading his latest, Acceptance), and this book would have been even more paradigm shifting if I hadn't already read PSS. The city of Ambergris with its fungal infestations has stayed with me like few other imaginary places.

13) The Orphan Tales by Catherynne Valente. Difficult to say anything about these books except that they are pure storytelling magic, full of nested stories that feel like fairy tales in all their original power and resonance.

There are easily a dozen more books I'm sure I could pick out, if I were to think about this for any length of time. But these are all definitely a part of my reading DNA.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Unburied Treasures book trailer

Now this gives a good look at a bunch of the artwork in the Unburied Treasures anthology. You get a view of the drawing associated with each of the stories, along with a quote from the story. Very well done, Lydia!

The anthology is still available from all the usual online bookstores, so check it out if you haven't had a chance yet. And if you have...consider leaving us a review on whichever site you bought it from. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A new word!

I learned a new word today: Thomasson. Always exciting to learn a new word regardless, but in this case especially cool because it fits in so much of my writing. A Thomasson is the vestigial remnant of earlier buildings or architecture that no longer serves a purpose, but is still being maintained. Like a stairway that goes up to a blank wall, or a gate that doesn't fully cross an opening. (I love how carefully shined and polished that gate at the top of the article is.)

Those kinds of things are all over Spire City. I reference orphan alleys in at least one episode, and the tunnels and secret ways the characters use to cross the city are full of these kinds of no-longer-used features. And, too, the Boskrea stories take place in a city full of old ramps and ladders and stairways that no longer serve their original purpose. I wasn't familiar with Piranesi's Dark Prisons series of etchings when I first started writing the stories set there, but as soon as I discovered them, I saw how perfectly they matched the mood of the setting. And those pictures, to my eye, look full of Thomassons. (Though obviously they predate the term significantly...)

And what it brings to mind even more, is Gormenghast, that great sprawling castle of Mervyn Peake's architectural imagination. I will gladly admit that both Spire City and Boskrea are deeply influenced by his books (though not much by the writing style). Reading that article, I saw a perfect image of Dr. Prunesquallor, hands flapping as he climbed up a pointless staircase and back down the other side while Flay strode purposefully past. Steerpike would have paused to examine it and come up with a way to fit its presence into his vaguely ambitious plans. And Swelter, drunk, might have climbed up them, his weight threatening even the stones of the stairs, as he called on his kitchen workers to celebrate.

Now to keep an eye out for Thomassons around here...which may be much more difficult to find in a city that's not yet 150 years old...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New artwork, new artwork...yay!

Check out this awesome scene from Spire City, drawn by Worlds Beyond Art! Be sure to zoom in for the details, if it shows up small for you at first. Especially check out the ominous steampunk-dart gun in Mint's hand. Not aimed, not yet... I've loved working with Lydia and Isaia for these pictures. They really bring Spire City to life in a different way than words do. So cool. (I've been posting the sepia versions here on the blog, but I do have black-and-white versions as well. I will be making use of those too, at some point...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A rather different sort of interview, with Nyki Blatchely

Yesterday, Nyki hosted me on his blog with an interview. And today I return the favor, but instead of asking the typical interview questions, I decided to take a different approach, based in part on his story in the anthology Unburied Treasure. His answers are delightfully absurd:

What are you listening to right now?

A heavy rock morris dance tune.

Porcupine or raccoon: choose one for a companion.

Difficult to say, as I've never actually met either, so I'm only going on reputation which could, of course, be slanderous. It's said, though, that porcupines get notoriously prickly if you forget their birthday, whereas raccoons just use it as an excuse to have a second birthday. So I suppose it really depends on whether they're planning on having a birthday any time during the quest.

Your story in Unburied Treasure involves a human seeking to undermine his dragon overlords. Is it dangerous to write such a political work? Have the dragons caused you any difficulties since it was revealed that you wrote such a seditious work?

Well, of course we radical activists have to take our chances. Did Hobbits for Justice get the anti-sizeism legislation passed in the Reunited Kingdom by playing it safe? Without the dedication of countless vampire campaigners, staking would still not be recognised as murder.

So… um, I sent anonymous letters to each of the dragons alleging that one of the others was about to steal their hoard. That'll have them fighting each for some years to come, and then they'll need a decade or so napping to recover. By the time they wake up, they'll have forgotten all about me. I hope.

Have you been hoarding gold? Where?

Me? Hoarding gold? Certainly not. The very idea that I'd be… er, where did that gold piece come from? What a coincidence.

If a dragon leaves London at 1:00 am and flies due west and second dragon leaves an hour later and flies straight toward your house, how much time will you have to flee? What books will you be sure to carry with you?

Well, I won't have to worry about the first dragon, as it'll be going in completely the wrong direction. The second will be a problem, though. It's difficult to gauge its speed without knowing whether it's a European or African dragon, and whether or not it's laden. But probably between two and five minutes.

I have around a thousand books, and I'll need absolutely all of them, so I'll need to get hold of a large lorry and load it within that time. If I really have to travel light, though, I'll just take a dictionary and thesaurus. And the Complete Works of Shakespeare. And a copy of each of the world's great religious texts. And all the major classical Greek authors. And all the major English poets since the fourteenth century. And all my favourite fantasy authors. And the ones that aren't fantasy, as well. That should keep me going for a while. Till I get to a bookshop, at least.

What pseudonym will you give your captors to keep them from learning your true identity? What nickname will you have the other prisoners call you?

I'll tell the dragons my name's Dan Ausema, of course. That'll have them confused.

And I'll tell the other prisoners I'm Bard the Bowman, which should get me respect in jail.

Do dragon prisons serve coffee? Tea? Cold drinks?

If they don't serve coffee, I won't be patronising their prisons. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, if this is the way the dragons treat their prisoners, they don't deserve to have any.

And last, on a more serious note, what do you have coming up? What projects are you working on at the moment or hoping to do soon?

I have a "flintpunk" story coming out later in the year in Plasma Frequency, who have already published two of my stories. It's called The Petrologic Engine, and can be best described as a serious, dystopian equivalent of The Flintstones.

I still have to do some fairly heavy revision on the second and third volumes of my trilogy The Winter Legend, while the first is doing its grand tour of agents, but at the moment I'm writing the first draft of a novel that's a sequel to At An Uncertain Hour and a prequel to The Winter Legend. Its working title is "The Empire of Nandesh", but there's virtually no chance that will be its final title. I'm writing it in four 1st person POVs, one of which is the Traveller, the main character of At An Uncertain Hour. I'll be revealing a fact about him that I've hitherto kept strictly secret.

After that, I have a loosely connected trilogy to write, followed by the final book in the whole ennealogy. So that should keep me out of mischief for a while.

I'm also self-publishing some of my stories that are now out of print. I'm a little ambivalent about self-publishing, which seems often to be an excuse to put out unpolished first drafts, but these are stories that have already been professionally edited. I've so far republished At An Uncertain Hour, after the original publisher closed down, and a short piece called Steal Away. I have a couple more lined up, when I can organise good covers for them.

Another project I've started is writing children's stories. It started with a story I really wrote to amuse my own inner child, and it's grown from there. The stories are aimed at around the 8-10 age-range and involve a sorceress and a young girl who's her apprentice — if I manage to get them published in book-form, which is the aim, I might called it The Sorceress's Apprentice. It wasn't really intended to make a point, but the feedback I've had is that there's a shortage of children's adventure stories with female protagonists.

Then again, as I'm sure you know, unexpected ideas are always just around the corner. You never know where this writing lark is going to lead you.

Many thanks for allowing me on your blog and giving me some… er, different questions from the usual ones.

Thanks for playing along!

Be sure to check out Nyki's website for more of his deep knowledge and excellent writing, including links to all his available works.