30 Days of Balance #18: Naming Conventions

Ever since I was little, naming things was one of my favourite things to do. Video games for the Nintendo or Sega systems that did not include naming your hero, or *gasp* had only THREE spaces for your handle, were judged accordingly. Names like EYE, ORB, MrT, and POO were only entertaining for so long. The longer the allowed spaces for a name, the happier I was. For example, I LOVED Nintendo’s unicycle racing game Uniracers principally because it allowed me 12 characters with which to concoct epic names. Friends who were less creatively inclined would get me to name their heroes, too. It was a big deal to me.

I think it stemmed from loving maps as per this post from earlier in the Days of Balance. When you create lots of fantastical worlds from maps, you have to name things – and you eventually get a grip on what you like in an original name and what you dislike. Practice makes perfect, as teachers like myself sometimes say.

Many of the names in Imbalance are drawn from names that came before. I named a friend’s Diablo hero ‘Csarvenvoroth’ once and we laughed at its length while still thinking it sounded cool. Later I would shorten this down to ‘Csarvent’ the capital of the Thynlands. The longer form is even tucked in there in Orenzo’s grandmother’s book, as ‘Csarventhyl’. Yet more names had their origins in the Warcraft III book I wrote in high school – including the capital of Banor, Axhold, from the name ‘Axhind’; Gilche’s crony ‘Kharagon’ in Grip of Dust; and even ‘Rafien’ came before, although adopted to a much different purpose than being an Orc. Greatly transformed, that one.

I take great pride in my names. I think an excellent name can draw a character out of the blue. For example, starting to write Grip of Dust over a year ago I had to construct the sceptre of Csarvent and his family. I composed the following names:

  • (Sceptre) Cedgar Tolman
  • Erie Tolman (Chentry)
  • Hoskar (Hoss) Tolman
  • Lia Tolman
  • Kryloak Tolman

Okay, cool, so we’ve got the sceptre and heart-of-the-sceptre, plus her maiden name. Sound like monarchs, sure. Then Cedgar’s brother Hoskar, called ‘Hoss’, I can totally picture this gruff fellow. Gotcha. Lia Tolman… probably a younger girl, and… Kryloak.

What a damn cool name. Kryloak. Kryloak Tolman. I could not let this beautiful name be a footnote in the family lineage of the Csaventi sceptre. There is a story to be told for this Kryloak. No space in Grip of Dust besides the anticipated use of the royal family. I am currently adopting her character to Book Three for a story arc requiring a young heroine and feel entirely justified in the process.

As a final note, I’ll say this. Keep your names handy. Use them. Reuse them. Recycle them if they spark excitement. Just never make them illustrate something about the person themselves – unless a nickname. I remember a discussion in Writer’s Craft class in university wherein a fellow student suggested a girl rename her hero from (something like) ‘Samantha McNeil’ to ‘Samantha Lions’ to help illustrate how she was a strong, courageous, lion-ly person. Puh-lease.

I named my next character ‘Jon Martyr.’

JM

30 Days of Balance #17: Self-promotion vs. The Internet

A day late, but I just had to leave that sample up 48 hours…

One of the most immediately awkward things of getting a publishing deal is you go from pimping yourself to publishers to pimping yourself to the public. Instead of focusing exclusively on mastering the impossible craft of query letters and the dreaded synopsis, you now have to wade into a sea of screaming writers all trying to sell each other debut novels while scanning for people who just like to read. It can be a little daunting. As soon as it was suddenly my job to promote Imbalance to the internet, it felt like I was flicking the myriad switches and toggles essential to busting the Millennium Falcon into hyperspace.

Twitter especially. The vast majority of people who have added me are wishing to promote their novels while I accept them with the plan of promoting my novels. I, meanwhile, add most anyone who has the word fantasy in their bio, which is principally fantasy authors who are keen to promote their novels. See the challenge?

Self-promotion is a sticky thing. It is uncomfortable in real life, a contest only conquered by the most grandiose egos. Yet by the same token, it is essential to the life blood of any fandom you wish to accrue. It is an interesting question to ask whether heavy hitters like Martin and Sanderson could have ever found popularity without some form of promotion. Had they published with no fanfare would someone have taken a chance on the novels and shouted loudly enough?

The hardest part of it all is separating your work. Yes, only the work itself can do that, but there is a certain critical mass necessary for people to rally around your banner. Given the choice between being a fan alongside 100,000 people or 10 people, which would you choose if the books were of equal import? The 100,000 for your own personal joy of discussion, debate, etc. The 10 for your own support for a black horse. While supporting David is all cool, clearly the majority prefer to hang with Goliath.

JM

Final note today – the cover release will be dropping back to March 31st at the latest, as will pre-orders. Also, a big sorry to everyone who can’t make the upcoming Release Party in Toronto. It’s going to be cosmic.

30 Days of Balance #15: Writing Women

I wanted to watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights while on a field trip in middle school. We were on a bus from Toronto to Montreal and had plenty of hours to fill. Those of us clever enough to have hauled out our VHS stash would get a chance to see their favourite movies played for a whole bus load of Vesuvian hormones. I was first in line, Mel Brooks clutched safely to my chest.

The teacher responsible for adjudicating over the choice was the school’s noted feminist (more rare in its overt form back in the mid-90s) Mrs. V. She was the homeroom teacher for about half my friends but not I, and had recently shaved her head for cancer research. She glared down at the clunky rectangle I offered her and asked, “What are the women’s roles?”

I was forced to eventually answer: a princess, a matron, and a witch.

Not long after I was watching Dave Chappelle and co. get silly to the many hearty guffaws of my peers, but I did not forget her snort of disgust – nor the brief internal struggle writ across her face. As a teacher she had no real recourse but to let us watch the movie – it was PG and light-hearted and contained nothing objectionable from a censors point of view – but as someone fighting to educate us on gender roles, she knew the three labels above were rudimentary stereotypes.

Now, writing women, I try not to think of any of it. I don’t want outside influences affecting my choices with what they do, what role they play, or their place within my world. I want the only difference to be a care that I am not. See, as a man it can be dicey – to write a woman exactly as I would write a man is to drift over that which makes her female, but to write a woman as a man sees women can undo accuracy the same way I don’t believe I am at all like how a woman views a typical man. As such, it is a craft to write the opposite sex. One that succeeds or fails on its realism (forced ‘strong women’ are every bit as two-dimensional as a ’60s Disney damsel, for example).

This ‘realism’ stems from the root beliefs of the author. To build a unique and vibrant character of either gender requires the recognition that such people exist in either gender. Those unable to tap into such a base will no doubt create artificial copies. I have faith that I can ‘not think of any of it’ because I trust my inner self to naturally create women who might be strong or might be weak – but are always invested. It is my belief Avery Shim ta Salm, Asma Madrejingo, Minette Cullas-Kloss, Corporal Eunice and Emerlyse drive home this message.

Back in the day Mrs. V. was quite the character and she made me think. I aim for my daughter to read characters who do the very same.

JM

30 Days of Balance #14: Love + Art

My wife doesn’t do fantasy novels. Nor anything in the realm of unreality.

One time we left a theatre after spending three hours watching the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas – a movie that jumped through about 8 different time lines spanning hundreds of years – and when prompted to give her opinion on the multi-layered, interwoven, cryptic feature, she said the infamous word: ‘sokay.’

Not even proper English, yet a beautiful portmanteau of “it’s” and “okay.” The merits of the movie are another debate, but the merits of this response are beyond dispute. If you can sum up that with a single, non-committal, slug of monosyllabic reply – this sort of stuff ain’t for you.

I have always felt that finding someone you want to be with forever, if that’s your thing, is a matter of the heart and not the head. You want your heads to be in the same space as far as important life goals go: so, say, the value of education, raising children, political angle, career ambition, and if it’s cool to record your own nerdcore in the basement. Beyond that, however, the rest belongs to the heart – and the idea that you value someone not for what they like, but who they are. You know, as a person. My geeky friends can like what I like. If my partner does, that’s a bonus, not a criterion.

So for the tenure of our relationship (nine years in July) my wife has had no friggin’ clue what I’ve been talking about whenever I bring up Imbalance, its characters, its story lines, etc. No clue. Once in an effort to keep me awake while driving she let me get into detail about Purge of Ashes, but only with the disclaimer that tired as she was she was certain to forget it all by morning and I could not hold it against her. She knows there’s a guy named Orenzo. She knows there are further characters named Aronan and Avery. She knows it’s about soldiers and refugees. After all this time, that is the level to which the transfer has occurred – the transfer between art and love.

Not such a bad thing, really. Like mixing personal and professional. Besides, now that Purge of Ashes is being released April 5th by Realmwalker Publishing Group, she will have to read it.

Please note that her distance from the project has not prevented her from frequently ‘correcting’ me on the pronunciation of ‘Asma’ Madrejingo.

JM

30 Days of Balance #12: The Cracks of the Day vs. Money

On the Fantasy Faction group of Facebook the question recently went out: what do you find most difficult about writing? The answers ranged from not being able to express oneself properly, to not finding the time, to writing certain types of characters, to loneliness. I thought about it for a moment and answered thusly:

Dealing with the contrast between my proven track record of producing day in day out for weeks without hitting a snag and the current financial limitations that prevent this from becoming a day by day reality. Aka the one thing that takes precedence over the work: supporting a family simultaneously.

Writing in the cracks of the day sucks. But if authors have any form of life responsibilities they need to make money. Unless your books are selling like proverbial hot cakes, this eliminates the possibility of writing full time all day every day – and yet this type of time and attention press is exactly what young authors need to see whether they can actually do it. Dabblers write here and there. Authors can fill a day with no reservations. The problem then becomes overcoming that feeling.

For five straight weeks in 2013 I drove my wife to work by 8:20am, got to the local library by 8:30am, read a few chapters in the car (I think I was finishing up Wheel of Time upon Sanderson’s third release), and then at 9:00am found my own space inside. I would write until sometime near lunch, eat a bagged lunch while watching a Futurama episode, then write until 4:15pm. I would pick my wife up at 4:30pm and drive home. Every day except weekends.

Now, plenty of authors can brag this sort of devotion. Devotion by itself does not make for excellent writing. What these weeks did do was prove that I could be productive and happy while writing 40 hours a week while giving Imbalance the unprecedented rate of focus it demands. Achieving this was important. I also got about a quarter of the book done.

I was a full-time teacher. I was paid over those summer holidays. I was paid as if working full time and yet I could write the day away.

It’s a hard habit to kick.

Now the pressures of the day are many, I have no teaching contract that extends over the summer, and my daughter requires attention above and beyond all manner of previous duty. Whenever I work on Grip of Dust I get hit with this malaise of frustration that such boundless time and focus may never again be available to me – that such a blissful writing set-up may never again provide such design alacrity. It casts doubt that I can once again compile such a mass of details during the cracks of the day with so many distractions abound. I know other authors feel my pain – even ones halfway famous. The distance between designated writing time and forced writing time is enough to sink a war galley.

Yet up paddles.

JM

30 Days of Balance #10: Favourite Authors

As a long standing fantasy fan I definitely have a few series that I enjoy greatly, but my angle on reading is different from most people. Lots of hardcores fans of a genre read everything and collect everything they find amazing, exposing themselves to a great number of worlds and concepts then digesting them all. As a reader I love these people. It’s such a cool way to live! Always a new adventure just a click away with so many start-up fantasy projects undergo at any given time. As an author I love these people even more because they are the venerable sort who will pick up a tome from a new author and treat it with respect.

Joel Minty, though, reads with less variety but more redundancy. I show my fandom and my excitement for the fantasy series I do dive into by reading and rereading. By delving deep. By digesting like a Sarlacc. I have reread all of, or parts of, Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Malazan Book of the Fallen sometimes in triplicate, and each time caught a little bit more. Of course, that still left me 80% in the dark for Malazan.

Thus, my favourite authors:

Steven EriksonMemories of Ice and the Malazan Book of the Fallen. (Age: adult)

Lots has been said about Malazan, but billions of further words will be needed to fully wrap the series, and I am a staunch believer in its epic girth, it’s authorian attitude, and its all-encompassing capability. The majesty is in its patience and impatience both – patiently waiting lengthy stretches between connecting details and impatiently demanding the reader’s full attention. The beyond the pale structuring of the books rings of Alan Moore – as if Erikson is walking a leap year ahead of the rest of us. In fantasy novels I love weaving, and Erikson has so much of the series carefully constructed to the minute detail that I am always left in awe. Add to this the fact that his world-building is brave and vast, his races cool and unique, his landscapes historied and alive, his battles course and bloody, and his villains sly and… heroic – and you have every other element integral to fantasy. And that’s before the conflagrations make for 100-200 pages of fast-paced, action-packed conclusion. Plus it’s funny. Plus it’s sad. Plus it makes you think for a moment. Plus it dwarfs you like you are staring up at the immeasurable night sky.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for one of my favourite web sites, Dork Shelf. It further explains the amazing nature of Malazan’s scope (also, gotta love the related article listed at the bottom [for me anyway] “Sean Bean cast in HBO’s Game of Thrones”).

Ian Cameron EsslemontStonewielder and the books of the Malazan Empire. (Age: adult)

Alright, so Ian’s works are all a sub-category of the books of Erikson, but at this point, with seven titles to his name, I enjoy the co-creator’s works in their own right. Everyone compares him to Erikson, but instead I compare him to everyone else and find each addition to the compendium of tomes explaining their world a gift. There are times when I feel like his books are fillers meant to expose cool parts of the history otherwise left in the dark, and at those times the books can sometimes feel like Star Wars expanded universe stuff – built for the sake of exposition – but beyond that I still find their level of depth, scope and writing impressive.

Joe AbercrombieThe Heroes and the First Law & The Great Leveller trilogies. (Age: adult)

What I love about Abercrombie is that his strength is characterization where most of my big sagas’ strengths are world building and epic showdowns. Like Malazan it leaves little room for joy and hug-heavy endings, but ample care is put into his stories to achieve a similar level of ‘that left unsaid.’ I often have trouble deciding which characters I enjoy most, because none are ‘set up’ to be obvious choices (as opposed to, say, Tyrion from A Song of Ice and Fire). He also wrote my favourite sex scene of all time in Best Served Cold. Of his works, his initial trilogy is great, but his follow-up stand alones – jointly called The Great Leveller – are his best work to date, particularly Best Served Cold and my favourite The Heroes. Zooming in close to people in dreadful times of war makes for some grim dinner, but his chaotic, fumbling battle scenes remind the reader that in reality wars were little else.

George R. R. MartinGame of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. (Age: teen)

I refuse to input a link here. I could never decide if GRRM’s work overtook The Wheel of Time or just hovered level with its own strengths and weaknesses, but as time went on I got further and further from traditional fantasy to settle into the (partially) GRRM-inspired ‘gritty’ fantasy that focused principally on humans and did not involve bugbears in any fashion. With A Song of Ice and Fire I follow the typical fan’s arc – I love the first three, grew tired of the fourth and fifth, and wait with marginal interest for the remainder. The first book is still the best and offers one of the best surprises in fantasy – especially if you read it in the ’90s when there were no spoilers from the TV community.

Robert Jordan – The Fire of Heaven and The Wheel of Time. (Age: teen)

No fantasy series had as great an impact on my formative years. Wheel made me want to be a fantasy author and inspired a ton of rereads and teenage fandom during long, hot summers. I once made a list of all the characters I could find and came to over 400 by the end of book 6. A friend and I once stayed up all night drawing pictures of every character we could think of. As I’ve said before, Wheel is a gateway fantasy – it opened my eyes to the fact an author could just invent his or her own monsters, own rules of magic, own maps and missions. I loved it as much then as I cherish Malazan now, and while I, too, follow the common mythos of Wheel fandom with regards to the latter books (8-11 could have been one book if you cut out Faile’s plot and the Bowl of the Winds) the work as a whole is still too important to disparage. The three books following Jordan’s death by Brandon Sanderson were an excellent finish and, likely, a distinct improvement on what would have come to fruition from an aging Jordan who had already become redundant.

Guy Gavriel KayThe Lions of al-Rassan (Age: teen)

I read earlier work by Kay, but it did not strike me as much as the ending of Lions did. Even before reaching halfway through the Fionavar Tapestry I knew Kay was an author’s author who was more elegant by half than every fantasy author I had loved thus far. He seemed an author turned fantasy fan rather than a fantasy fan turned author, and holds the dubious honour of being the only author to make me cry. I have Tigana slated to be read soon and I have heard it may be his best.

There will be more. I have many new authors slated to read (Scott Lynch), and series I’m currently puttering away at (Patrick Rothfuss), but also feel as though there’s something to be said for Joe Abercrombie’s point of view that it is not essential for a fantasy author to constantly be trying to read everything fantasy. I can’t copy Mistborn if I keep putting it off, right?

JM

30 Days of Balance #8: Two Levels: Shakespeare vs. The Simpsons

I have a theory that to be truly great a work of art has to hit on at least two levels – that it has to be able to excel with two separate demographics simultaneously. You cannot just draw from one source for too long or the well runs dry. I came to this conclusion while studying Shakespeare during an American Literacy course over a decade ago.

The premise is so: in the 14th and 15th centuries Shakespeare gained great notoriety for the plays performed in London, most notably at the Globe theater. The design of the Globe separated the audience into two distinct parts: the first were the wealthy, sitting in gilded chairs in front of fancy curtains. They filled most of what we would call the balcony and surrounding walls. The second part was the main floor in front of the stage, which more closely resembled a mosh pit than the orderly chair matrix we would find today. This design created a duality with regards to patronage. On any given performance, the gentry would be bumping shoulders with the commoners on their way to and fro, in line for the bathroom, etc. Back then even being within eyesight of a poor person was likely enough for a lady to faint, so you can imagine that such polar groups all shoved in together was quite a feat.

It only worked because of Shakespeare’s art. Most Shakespeare plays were brilliant in the witty repartee of the time, being inventive in their language and ushering in new terminology. They appealed to the educated in their complexity and vanity both. Most Shakespeare plays also featured baudy sexual humour, racy zingers and violent duels and deaths. They appealed to the masses who wanted a little break from the proprietary decrees of the time period. The content of the plays could be performed once and appeal to two entirely unique groups within the city. When the plays came across to America this sensation was made clear tenfold. The Americans treated them more like traveling circus shows than high art. That aspect was lost in translation (from English to English) but the Yanks loved a good dust up as much as the next state. Magic.

I realized this was mirrored in the brilliance of the modern day Shakespeare: The Simpsons (and dear reader please be mindful of the fact we were barely into the double digits with regards to which Simpsons era I was considering). Here we had a show that was clearly the most creative and hilarious thing on TV being made for an audience that mostly appreciated it when Homer fell down or was SMRT. All around the world The Simpsons became a commercial beast with smart alec Bart and dumb Homer as the lynch pins to the physical comedy, and every other aspect of the writing as the genius riding high on another plane. Harvard comedy writers knowing what would keep them on the air and keep them sane at the same time. Magic.

You might not be surprised to learn I really enjoyed MacHomer.

In fantasy I believe a good book tells a great story, but a great book tells multiple great stories to multiple types of audience. When people read Imbalance I want them to find the aspect of the work that best connects to what they seek in an escape. It could be the slower moments of introspection and manifest emotion. It could be the moments thick with desperate battle and unbridled violence. It could be the rings of history encompassing the present. It could be the depth of tragedy. It could be love. It could be the weaving of all five together.

If so, it could grow to be a novel that can hit on two levels.

JM

30 Days of Balance #6: Value of a Good Ear + Friends

Writing can be very solitary. It can be especially solitary if you’re writing epic fantasy or science fiction wherein the vast majority of plots and terminology are challenging to explain to the general populace. It can be tripley-especially solitary if you’re brand new and none of the people in your life have an inch of respect for your work yet. My work on Imbalance is the same now as it was in the years it took to write and edit, yet thanks to my publishing deal the difference in respect afforded the book is night and day. Once someone in the outside world validates the work it leaps from “yeah, yeah” to “legitimate” overnight. I imagine self-published authors just have to keep pushing forward with this sort of anonymity – at least until a critical mass has read and lauded the release.

Having worked on Imbalance much of my adult life, I came to appreciate three friends of mine in particular who cared enough to listen to my premise and storylines. I’m a talker. These fellows were, principally, listeners. As such, they were well-suited to take it all in, and they already knew me to be a staunch supporter of my own latest projects. The details of the backstory – either told over a few hours of beer, or after badminton, or via questions about my old movie script – bred interest in actually reading Purge of Ashes while most people remained in the dark. These three were my primary beta readers.

I’m writing this post to emphasize the importance of such people – those willing to put faith in you when you have no meter to gauge your faith in yourself. I knew I was proud of the book, that it was very carefully woven, and that it maintained the action-pacing of a feature film. I also knew I read it through rose-tinted glasses and a pervading bravado. To discuss it with others in similar detail as to if we were discussing The Wheel of Time or Malazan Book of the Fallen was integral to realizing it was ready. That I could have a whole conversation with one of these three without mentioning entire story lines – or any character arc in particular – instilled a recognition that there was enough content to merit the page count. Now, friends are friends and not true beta readers – this I know. I think their contributions are just as important but in a different way. Such friends make it worth your while even if every stranger is unimpressed with the book.

They can also confirm that such a scenario is never going to happen.

JM

30 Days of Balance #3: Biting My Nails vs. Writing

Some days my biggest adversary is not getting words into the story, obeying timelines or the organization of the almanac, but the wanton destruction I deliver to my own fingernails. See, finger tips are used to type, and unsightly fingernails can often tarnish said tips. A furious amount of carving disguised as cleaning will ruin these functioning appendages to the point of creating ten hyper-sensitive, throbbing extremities – digits no longer capable of pressing keys without exacting an unfair amount of pain. Equally as nasty, the distraction of having a hand up at my mouth keeps me from typing, lending my mind to long gaps in focus where my subconscious is instead hell bent on straightening some calcium deposit.

It does not bode well for an author. A quick Google search reveals few to no hits correlating the two premises and I find this odd. When I had this problem writing essays in university I used to minimize and load up a hockey video game. It took twenty minutes to play and required both hands firmly on the keyboard. The result was twenty minutes without touching my nails. Biting one’s nails is a strange thing to do – but once you start, it is the sensitivity of the area that drives you back without thinking. Fade that sensation and you are set free.

Alas, this tactic is insufficient. I no longer have twenty minutes to so freely spare.

My solution? I may be one of the only authors to wear a pair of gloves while writing. I am all style in a pair of black gloves so tight they almost cut off my wrist circulation – the kind as ideal for snowballs as they are unsatisfactory at keeping wetness at bay. While this is simply happenstance, it serves the tips of my fingers well because I can still type through the material. Despite their overt benefits, I don’t always choose to wear the gloves, usually resulting in stinging regret. Stubbornness? Discomfort? Assumed control over my vice. Whatever the reason, they are a necessity. They may look a little silly, but if I know I’m in for the long haul I make them my first priority. No one requires their authors to look good during.

As of the writing of this post, the mitts are sitting in a clump beside. I assumed I would have no fingernail problems, but my right index and pinky are sore. I don’t really remember causing the damage. Blog posts are one thing – their style is you and quick to fire off. Imbalance is quite another.

If you’re a writer and have the same problem, I’d love to hear from you.

30 Days of Balance #2: 200,000 Words + One From Joe Abercrombie

Being new is hard.

Being an author is hard, too.

Being a new author with a book breaching 200,000 words is doomed to failure.

Being doomed to failure is hard.

My debut Purge of Ashes clocks in at around 204,000 words, about double what ‘they’ say a newly minted author should attempt. Everywhere I looked my word count was not just implausible or foolish, it was impudent and rude. A sure sign of an upstart university kid who thinks piling words from his engorged lexicon comprises prose fiction. The gall of it, going a book’s length into the sextupal digits. And yet here I am writing with both a publishing deal and the guile to work the word ‘sex’ into a post sans smut. University was a long time ago.

The word count was one of the most daunting aspects of completing Purge of Ashes. Attracting an agent or publisher would be based on their opinion of whether or not I would make money for the company. At first there would be no bearing on quality. The gatekeepers were therefore math types who were hedging their bets to calculate the odds of your book being a success – a risk worth taking. At 204,000 words all the algebra in the world would never fit the right numbers into the right variables for me. The cost of the excess paper required to print the novel outdid my potential, especially if the measure of that potential was 250 words on a single query letter.

I could never simply lop a chunk of the book. The ramifications were either too vast to consider or too damaging to the atmosphere or pacing. Nor could I split the book in two. You don’t set out on a mass exodus only to have the story end mid-jaunt when people’s feet are starting to get sore. One option seemed ideal: print as is and cuff the norms.

The thing is, they say write what you know for a reason. If there was one thing I was comfortable with in my knowledge, besides the TV show Futurama, it was my understanding of why my favourite fantasy series were so great. The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire and then later Malazan Book of the Fallen and First Law. None of these were small books. None of them squirmed into the presentation britches of the so-called rules of publishing. If these were what I knew, then an 80,000 page one-off to get my feet wet was not for me. Not grand enough by half.

So what could I do? I had done it my way like a cool dude, but now my way had petered from a paved highway into a lapideous streambed.

An offhand comment from @Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie, did the trick. I was beside myself at how impossible maintaining my 204,000 words seemed in a day and age where the internet could tell me ahead of time the many reasons I would fail. No one was going to care to represent my work and my craft was going to be for nothing but a few loyal friends. Then, halfway down the comment section on a thread purporting to tally ‘caps’ for word count by genre, I came upon an old post of Abercrombie’s calling the results into question – and you’re welcome to read it here. (A search for ‘Abercrombie’ will find it for you quickly.) He basically implied that a great number of impressive debuts in the preceding years, including The Blade Itself at 190,000 words, were closer to 200,000 than anything else… so why imply limitations? The successes belied the restrictions.

This prompted in me a steely resolve to ensure Purge of Ashes failed or thrived as conceived. If other excellent books could skip the line then so could I. Even the most famous authors started out timid over their capability. Let April 5th be the judge of the company it will keep.

JM