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.

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Holiday Book Haul

book-haul

Closing out 2016, I put together a pretty impressive book haul. Then I displayed it with beauty! If only my time was as free as my staircase to imagination.

It is my goal to read most of these in 2017… but the problem is I will likely get hooked on most if not all and then try to push ahead in those before reading others. Not to mention re-figuring Forge of Darkness before tackling Fall of Light. My pace on my current read has not exactly been impressive. What I want and how the cards fall never seems to align. What happened to all those summers I had as a kid where I had all day to do whatever I wanted day-in, day-out? Sacrilege, as they are lost.

I enjoyed Forge of Darkness, so I should be more excited for Fall of Light than I am. I think my hesitancy stems from the fact that for years – years – I read a diet almost exclusively Erikson/Esslemont, with a dash of Abercrombie. Now, after the initiation of Purge of Ashes, my horizons have broadened considerably and I relish new books, new authors, new opportunities. Plus the aforementioned recollection required.

Lawrence I’m keen to start in on his second trilogy, if just to see how I take it not being a Jorg fan from the start. I’m keen to read some of his clever wordplay for myself and not just hear it out of context from his Facebook account. Sounds like Osheim is amazing, too, so it’s easy to get going on.

Gwynne, meanwhile, I’ve never heard a bad word about and his books are big and beautiful. I am more confident I will enjoy his series than anything previously unread. But it’s a lot of reading if I get hooked into that one, as I’m certain I will. I still have a baby and threenager at home, if no longer a newborn and toddler.

Then GGK. Some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read is in his previous books. I missed an opportunity to meet him at a book store earlier this year, and I want to get myself back into his vein. Tigana is often considered his best, and as such I am certain it will delight with a majesty even superior to The Lions of Al-Rassan (which my dad pitched to me, oddly enough).

Django Wexler’s Book 1 I picked up on a whim, and the fact it was recommended by an Indigo staff member. It was just sitting there alone on a little pedestal and I recognized his name from Reddit and the like. I read the back and the final few lines sold me to it. I look forward to trying something unprecedented. Last time I did so I read Sean Rodden’s Whispers of War and look at me now: eagerly awaiting his sequel Roars of War and the rerelease come April. Oh, gods! More to read! Eek!

Finally, Neil Gaiman. Just heard too much to not pick it up.

Wishing everyone a lovely end to 2016 and dawn of 2017. May books come swiftly to your enemies!

(So they can learn something and smarten up!)

JM.

Edits

My edits are done! Tim Marquitz over at Ragnarok and ‘writer of lots of books’ (if that were a place) has put the finishing touches on editing for Purge of Ashes and sent it over, and what’s more – after a week of exhaustion defeating curiosity in a grand duel overseen by the twin tyrants Job and Children – I am finally ready to take a look.

I cannot believe it has taken me so long, but as the frequency of my updates indicates I am in somewhat of a holding pattern with regards to Imbalance. First, I was waiting to afford these edits and then waiting for the edits, but second I now have some big choices with regards to publishing going forward. Tim suggests I went smallpress, and then self, far too early and without testing enough waters. He thinks the series is demographically on point enough to raise a few eyebrows in the pitching process with bigger companies. The lazy me feels as though after this final bout of editing, I’d be happy to release and bathe in the due praise. I have time for neither with a 3-month-old and a new teaching job. Life is a roller coaster of monotony – a state that makes perfect sense to the addled mind of a sleep-deprived father.

Either way, you’ll know where it goes.

In the mean time, I am going to say ‘adios’ and go check out my prologue to see if the edits include jots such as, “Jet packs for all!” or “Not enough Gorilla Tape!”

JM

My TOR.com Think-piece on Malazan Book of the Fallen

gardens-of-the-moon-cover

So if you would please take a gander at this article I was asked to write for TOR.com (you know, the biggest fantasy publisher in the world) I would be thrilled. It’s meant for people who are interested in Malazan Book of the Fallen but keep hearing a lot of chat about it ahead of time. Those already disinclined will find nothing to like about the article, while those who already love the series will hopefully feel similar. It really is a unique piece of art when your plumb its depths, and definitely worth the investment.

I have Imbalance news, but will wait a bit to share. Until then: babies, babies everywhere!

JM

Coup de Grace

So I have had some pretty bad news lately, as documented and documented, but ‘everything comes in threes’ as people like to say. Fortunately, as far as news goes, I was saving the best for last.

I am glad to announce I have been offered a guest opportunity to write about fantasy for TOR.com regarding the magnificent opus The Malazan Book of the Fallen. I am really looking forward to praising the virtues of what I believe is the greatest fantasy books of all time, and determined to convince those on the fence of why they need to tackle the monster series. At least one other friend is also gearing up, so it is going to be great fun. Even more importantly to me personally, this chance has come right when my prospective publishing future seemed most daunting (hehe, naw, Imbalance will be one way or another, no worries) and I see it as surefire proof my prose is not so deplorable.

More on the matter to come, and I’ll be sure to direct you to the essay when it is published in September!

JM

The Best Reason to Skimp on Site Updates

So this announcement has been pending for some time, but I went and had a baby boy back on July 14th. Coupled with my two-year old girl life has been busy and unpredictable!

Abby & Sebastian

Now I’m just softening you up. Is there a cuter pair? Doubtful.

Lots has been happening with regards to Imbalance, and a more business-minded follow-up to this post is forthcoming, but hey, as Aronan would say, ‘Family comes first.’ As it stands, this is a pretty good reason for the site’s silence in June and July (and likely August, I’m on very little sleep and the place is a mess).

JM

Grimdark

Just a quick post to note that the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers group is doing a wicked online AMA session today featuring some of the best current fantasy authors – and even giving away signed copies of some of their excellent books!

I already missed Michael R. Fletcher, but I’m excited to pop in for Marc Turner and Jeff Salyards.

In the meantime, I have been working on Grip of Dust as well as a few other things, but with my wife due in under a week things will be pretty quiet on the site. I will, however, post a link to my final Dork Shelf Fan v. Fan videos at some point.

JM

Discussing 609

Game of Thrones Episode 609 ‘Battle of the Bastards’ SPOILERS ahead.

Lots of people hyped about the latest episode of the best fantasy show on TV – and with good reason. It was one of the most consistently intense hours of episodic drama you’re likely to find, and with an entire season of preparation to support it – not to mention paddy wagons full of money. It is something when the unleashing of three amazingly-rendered dragons to burn a fleet of ships is the LESSER sequence.

While I make my thoughts clear in my Fan vs Fan segments for Dork Shelf, and you can watch myself and co-host Brian Crosby break the episode down by clicking this link, there are a few things about the episode I wanted to mention first – mostly to do with people’s reactions versus actual content (again, see above).

This was not the best episode of Game of Thrones.

To say so is to conclude that this show is, at its roots, a machine for big spectacles, and that is not what has brought Game of Thrones so far – for it is not of the game. No one doubts Michael Bay movies are pretty. Everyone doubts they achieve quality storytelling.

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Bolton men press back Snow’s army.

Episodes like “Blackwater,” “Watchers on the Wall” and “Hardhome” are important. They are big moments with big consequences. They show off the show’s budgetal bloat. They bring the gritty nature of medieval warfare to the small screen in a way as yet unparalleled – but they are heavy clubs of awesomeness. There is nothing deft to them. There is no artful tact or careful acting or subtle direction. They scream, “Are you not entertained?” like Maximus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.

Episodes like “Baelor,” “Rains of Castamere” and “The Mountain and the Viper” do something else entirely. They take individual moments – essential moments for essential players – and show off the show’s far more impressive ability at achieving genuine surprise and heart-wrenching grief simultaneously. They are the delicate dance of the needle. They are the artful tact, the careful acting and the subtle direction that brings the show to another level. They are the unforgettable moments. They whisper, “Am I not merciful?” like Joaquin Phoenix.

After Season Two ended everyone thought “Blackwater” was truly an epic episode. Now it seems more a failed attack by a character bypassed by fortune. The ghost of Joffery’s decision to off Eddard Stark, and the painful witness of Arya, remain a sudden and unconscionable course of action. As someone who had read the books, the wait leading up to the Red Wedding had me fitfully gripping my cuffs and clamping my mouth shut – then the payoff ruined the night for everyone. “Watchers on the Wall” lost us a fiery Ygritte and is fun to rewatch, but it changed little.

The short is this. This episode had a near-to-perfectly executed battle sequence that challenges any movie for impressive filming – something incredibly fun (and excruciating) to watch – but it still had ugly little problems. Jon’s divine intervention (either he’s crazy lucky or he’s boringly ‘looked after’), Ramsay’s sudden ineptitude one-on-one, the minimal time given the numerous key Mereen scenes, Davos’s coincidental find, a body pile that was a bit on the ridiculous side… These all amount to points that pull the episode way from ideal. No amount of visuals should undo that. There are other episodes – big ones as named above, or smaller, simpler episodes that move the story along and provide for some great lines and acting – that have fewer negative qualms and are more worthy of the mantle. Even in Season Six one could argue “The Door” held a much weightier punch.

Of course, for me the best episode of all time is the pilot.

I still can’t get over how perfectly they got everything – and the rest flows from there.

Game of Thrones -FvF- 609- Battle of the Bastards

JM

My Interview for Fantasy Faction’s ‘Superfan’

Fantasy Faction – a wonderful online community for fantasy fans and authors alike – recently interviewed me about the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and it was posted as the first in their ‘superfan’ series. Check it out!

Here’s a sample:

So, what exactly is this series about?

The decay of gods. The history of those whose deaths shape the passage of time. The burden of suffering upon those who would create beauty. The longevity of the land’s spirit beneath the rigors of man. The plight of the unwitnessed whose struggle has been lost in the annals of memory.

If that seems poetic, heavy or massive in scope, as if I did not answer the question, then WELCOME to the Malazan Book of the Fallen!

JM