Rag the Grenadier

Update! As promised, I took a while away until I had something more juicy to post. Here’s where things are at:

  • Purge of Ashes is on submission. Came close-ish once! Have to keep sending.
  • I’m 130k into Grip of Dust and… about half done. Eek.
  • I got less done this summer than last due to ‘life’, but progress is progress…

…which leads me to the end of August where, instead of starting a new chapter in the WIP, I decided to take a break and write a short story for the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers group and NegativeHP’s fourth upcoming short story contest. In a few days I wrote “Rag the Grenadier”, an idea that had been percolating for some time, and joins “Residue” as now two short stories written for the World of Imbalance.

Lo and behold, it got all the way to the finals before coming in 2nd (to a story by the editor of Grimdark Magazine no less!) I’m pretty happy with that result. If you have a moment, head over to NegativeHP and give it a read! (and while you’re at it, read the winner “The Duellist” which was my favourite of the rest).

It’s Time

The truth is you can post about your book, or writing books, or trying to write books, until you’re blue in the face – but authors with titles to their credit do the very same. And I’d listen to them over me, so… The blog and website are tools of trade. They are purposed with drawing eyes. Without a product, they are as useful as signs directing consumers to empty vendors or unstocked shelves.

As such, this site waits. I have lots to say – little battles vs. finalizing a novel, balancing editing vs. children, trying to balance multiple story lines – but there is no purpose until there is a product. When the site was (proportionally) thriving I had a book inbound, and that makes all the difference with keeping up. Frankly, I’m far better off producing word count on the WIP, or inching Purge of Ashes closer to as professional a launch as I can achieve, then reminding passersby of my existence while yielding no news of interest. The product sells the product.

Now, though, the time has come. I looked at my wife a few nights ago and blurted, “I might never actually touch Purge of Ashes again.” I wrote. The editor edited. The beta readers beta read. Now I am working with the exemplary Michael R. Fletcher at producing an eye-catching query letter and synopsis. It is time.

So consider this my official website warning – there is nothing to report until one of the following two things happens: either I get picked up by an agent, or I announce a release date for Purge of Ashes self-published.

Until then, keep reading.

Fall of Autumn

Another summer passed. I got around 25k written this summer, which is much more than last summer, but I had far greater opportunity. Unfortunately, I also extracted 21k words from the same WIP, saving those two story lines for a third book. This left me not far from where I was, although in truth it is much farther progressed. My skeleton for the book is now almost complete but for a few toe bones.

I wrote chapters 2, 4, and 6, mainly. These would be following the characters from the end of Purge of Ashes and picking up shortly after it left off. I cannot stress enough how much more difficult it was to work on these than the other seven or so I had already written. Those chapters were fresh characters, fresh locations, fresh story lines, and lots of action. It felt great to hammer those out because building and creating is just a lot more fluid than grooming and preening. But these follow-up chapters, that start after a climax, are tough. You have to re-establish the ambitions of each character, you have to deal with the repercussions of what just occurred, and in my case they themselves had to re-establish what the hell they’re doing and how they are going to do it. It’s a lot of exposition or inner monologues, with less time for action (not a problem since half a world away every other chapter keeps the pace up).

So while the word count is not as special as I would have hoped, the actual job done in steering the story in the right direction was essential: a worthy challenge for a mind without the distraction of the day job. After this post I’m starting on a pair of chapters that are basically a heist. I’ve been waiting to write these scenes for years. They up the ante and the adrenaline. It’s nice to know, now that I’m teaching all day again, that it is this kind of work waiting for me at home – where I can get into the adventurous side of things rather than the emotional. It’s freeing.

1 of 7 beta readers are in, and the others have till the end of the month. Moving on Purge of Ashes will come sooner than I expect, and I hope my finances are ready. I am not publishing anything short of a pearl this time. There can be no regrets.

Paternus Review

Cryptozoology on steroids.

This book laughs at conventions, does everything I hate, and then pulls it off with a cavalier attitude that reminds me there is no set formula for writing a book.

Paternus is bold. It doesn’t care what you expect or what you’re looking for, and I love novels that stride into the room with a confidence that lets everyone know: ‘No, that IS how it’s going to be. Get used to it.’ There is no pandering here. Below are some broken conventions that were hard to hurdle at first, but eventually became endearing:

1. It’s not written in past tense. At first this is weird weird weird, especially as Dyrk slips from consciousness to consciousness mid-page. By the end it is invigorating, allowing him to tell all perspectives at the same time, without forcing an artificial stopping point where the point of view shifts. Therefore there is less repetition than a typical multi-POV because what’s beheld is beheld.

2. If has lots of info dumps. At first you’re wondering why you are reading an ancient history of some of the different monsters that show up (and there are lots! Also, he is careful not to ALWAYS explain their backstory, just in pertinent situations), but eventually these morsels become the most delicious part of the book, with my favourite part to read actually being a CALM between action scenes wherein characters parse out some understanding as to what’s going on. When Ashton builds such mystique into the major players, their backstories become both critical and some of the best reading.

3. Parts of it are like a YA. One scene early on had me half-barf from cheese, but then that was BEFORE the major events of the story. Once Paternus pulls the ripcord there is no going back to normal. One of the greatest strengths of the writing for me was that his characters’ reactions once under fire are intense and excellently done (and damn hard to write, I’d imagine, as the events are a supernatural supernova). Once again, this contrasts my issue as Ashton turned how I read the book on its head.

4. The book has some strange scene organization. While I still think this is true having finished, I would rather read a story with enough heady content to require some back and forth than something linear. All my favourite series have lots of events happening and some careful weaving between them, so I still like that it is going there, that it trusts its reader enough to put it together – or keep key scenes in the back of their mind. I’d recommend reading it as swiftly as possible, which I didn’t do, but now wish I did.

In the end, this is a unique series with some unique writing that is sure to shake up your reading list, and even beyond the scope, and the careful crafting, and the sheer badassery – that in itself should be enough to incite a read.

Plus, it’s great to see a book where vampires and werewolves are merely fodder.

Beta Read

Last night I sent my book out for its first beta read. That would be 2+ years after being originally published. Now let us never speak of it again.

After the latest round of editing, I am very excited for their feedback. For the first time I really feel like the writing has caught up to the story itself and tells it clean and true. I cut 7,000 words, most all of them useless, and brought the first 30 pages from tepid to intriguing. Now, when I hop in and read a page here or there, I just read. No fixing, editing, or shuffling in my head. Just smiles on my mouth.

As for the new cover, I just threw something together in Photoshop to differentiate between this and my previous version. I’m pretty proud of it, even if close attention exposes my shoddy work.

My beta readers are:

Dyrk Ashton – Fantasy Faction’s choice for SPFBO#2 and third place finisher, Dyrk is the author of Paternus: Rise of Gods – the novel I’m currently reading – with Paternus: Wrath of Gods coming out July 10, 2018.

James Downe – co-author with AEsc Adams of the 5+ book series Legacy of Ash, his website is constantly expanding with new information about their detailed world.

Michael Baker – author of the Thousand Scars: Counterbalance Book 1 (hey, a sister series to The Imbalance?), he’s a diligent author who gets things written.

Tom Smith – I had to Grimdark it up a little with the next two, as I do draw some inspiration from the genre. Tom writes for Grimdark Magazine and knows how to get dirty.

Femke Geisolf – is a badass blogger who connected with me over our mutual love of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. She works hard at expanding self-published fantasy in Europe.

Debdip Chakraborty – is a friendly fellow from Kolkata who is working on his own book and is much loved by the online fantasy community.

Khaled Jabar – won my seat designated for a total stranger. It’s an important role!

I’m super excited to let the book out of my hands a while so I can focus on its sequel. Last year I made some headway twice a week, but this summer I expect to have more than triple the opportunity to push it close to completion.

Mark Lawrence Contest Entries

I mean, I might as well post them.

For those who don’t know, every so often Mark Lawrence hosts little writing contests, of roughly 300 words or so, with a panel of stellar judges. You write, usually with a theme of key words to mention, and then they are ranked and prestige falls upon the victors. While my entries never achieved anything notable, I loved the process for a few reasons:

  1. It forces you to work with so few words you quickly learn how essential it is to be efficient or curtain your ambition.
  2. It made me think about what type of scene is ideal for such a contest.
  3. Reading the winners sometimes really impresses. Other times it doesn’t, but then you learn from that, too. Five major fantasy authors as judges deemed this 3rd place. What do they see that is lost on me?

They also gave me a chance to write other content from my Imbalance world. While I toil away on the books (Purge of Ashes is preparing for beta readers in July) I rarely get to hop away. For both of these entries I went somewhere in-world distant and it taught me more about the world itself. I recognize that writing in my own world may inhibit my chances of winning, but this is the world I write in. Until it is done, I write in no other.

Without further ado: Bridge From Dard and Cutting.

Bridge From Dard (requirement: using the terms ‘life’ and ‘death’)

“I’ll be fine, Norae. You’ll see.”

We will see.

She would not get too close. She had her pole if need be.

The Bridge to Furl stretched out before Thanol Baeddicus, four lines of ropes coiled upon ropes framing an ingenious succession of interlocking planks. Each was long as a man and rooted by sturdy metal pins thick as mauls. It obscured not far from where Thanol was making his way out, lost to the blanched air of a soothing snow storm.

Morning had done little to alleviate the night’s chill, and the bridge itself was thick with snow heaped tall as her hand. It sloughed from Thanol’s boots to drop a thousand leaps to the chop below.

“See? Immaculate! A work of virtuoso engineering!”

So you said in crossing.

“Immaculate!” he repeated.

The man was a gifted talent. Her span in Furl as his apprentice had braved his thinly-veiled pomposity to find the skill underneath relished the exposure. In her naivety, Norae had assumed such capability beckoned an honest man. When the bridge had been proposed, such naivety withered. Life was, after all, the vandal of innocence. The greater fault lay at its feet.

Not my own.

“She withstood a blizzard, Pupil Norae. A blizzard! Warleader will march by nightfall.”

Two pins were shoved deep in her rucksack.


Thanol reached the plank that felt their absence. Easy to see in daylight. Impossible under snowfall. He gave a weak squeal and slipped through. Norae had her pole ready, but it would not be necessary. The magnate was already fallen to his death.

Chilled, she rubbed her hands together. Just the night’s work catching up to me.

Norae of the Dard drew her knife and began at the ropes fixing the bridge to her cliff.

Cutting (requirement: using the terms ‘night’ and ‘day’)

“Wait, heading where?”

“Lonely Child.”

“And how many?”

“Two thousand. More. I-I’ve been riding since noon, sir.”

Rold the Lobber chewed, eyes set on the outrider. Offland’s finest knelt, feathered headdress splayed across his goat-horn helmet in a mess that bore a striking resemblance to Rold’s mess of a kingdom. He addressed the supplicant with his fork while cutting with his knife and cursing the man’s belligerence. This is why I need guards on the doors. Those boots just ruined my carpet.

“Get Latmask. Have him marshal half our horse and get going. If they can muster in twenty they will arrive with well over an hour to spare. Have him… hide… in the hills, or something.”

“S-Sir, it will take three—”

Four hours to get there, give or take an axle. I was just dining with my eldest son and his family no less than a week ago. Think I don’t know the roads between here and Banor?” He snatched a third potato.

“They were already at the border, sir,” the man said, overloud.

Rold gobbled down the potato half chewed so he could sooner upbraid the mongrel. Remain after being given orders? Utter pomposity! Plus he stinks of horse. Preparing to lash out, he caught a glimpse of the man’s trembling comportment. Caught the dust coating his boots and the length of their shadow.


Since noon, sir.

The room heaved under a sudden, suffocating weight he could not unsummon. His knife clattered away, a numb attention grasping at senses that each slipped free, bleary and useless. His mind slugged its way through the loathsome calculation, then, pushing back his chair, Rold the Lobber stumbled away to the balcony where he faced a depthless night cutting through the light of day.

Kings of the Wyld Review

On page 33 of my copy of Kings of the Wyld there is a section that beings with the line “And there it remained” and goes to the end of the chapter. It is two or three paragraphs and concludes chapter three, a chapter that by title (“Hitting the Road”) and placement within the book is surely a building chapter, there to get the story going. And yet, this section was for me the greatest part of the book. All the fantastical creatures, extraordinary treks, wacky antics, rich comradery, and dangerous encounters to follow stemmed from this one simple moment where Eames gets to the heart of matters, and elegantly.

It took a similar amount of chapters to impress his fellow author Sebastien de Castell (as mentioned in the acknowledgements) which was the beginning of Eames’s ascension to agent and publishing. I’m not surprised. I imagine it was this moment that sealed the deal. It is a beautiful thing to draw emotion from comedy, pull pathos from romp. Sometimes more beautiful than doing so in a work where it is the chief goal.

Great characters, clever interweaving, fun rock ‘n’ roll dressing, and some famous scenes. An excellent read.

Book Chat w/ Nicholas Eames, Sebastien de Castell, and Miles Cameron.

Bakka Phoenix Feb 2, 2018.jpgA few weeks ago I popped down to Bakka Phoenix at Harbord & Spadina to catch a chat with Sebastien de Castell, Miles Cameron and Nicholas Eames (above, left to right) about their novels, fantasy writing, and how to offend GRRM fans by accident. It was a quaint space, wall to wall with fantasy and genre fiction, and a slew of interested fans at attention as the trio discussed finer aspects of the craft and quipped about coffee.

I once went to see Dave Gibbons speak about WATCHMEN, but this was different because he was the artist and his crowd were aspiring artists. Seeing authors discuss books live is a great way to get interested in their work, because – at least with these three – their general intelligence, depth of research, and ease with which they speak in front of a crowd draws you in. Cameron had clearly done this the most, and often wanted to tread into deeper subject matter, while Eames was the opposite – throwing one liners about while taking a humble approach – or just being so. de Castell, for his part, offered the lion’s share of the most interesting stories, as well as the best advice. He’s also dashing.

All in all, I learned a bunch and had a nice time. Got my copy of Kings of the Wyld signed and had a nice chat with Eames. Picked up Traitor’s Blade as well. Apologies to Miles Cameron – my wife made me promise to only buy one book!

Next time I’ll have to sneak my way out to the dinner they mentioned they were attending afterward – ostensibly to eat.