Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 100 Epic Fantasy Audio Books

Hey all, Robin here. Michael's out at the pub so I'm taking over his blog. Since The Death of Dulgath is in pre-order I thought I'd take a look to see how Riyria is doing these days so I went to Amazon's Top 100 Best-selling Fantasy audio titles.  What I found was something really great.  5 out of the 6 books are on the list!!  Also, I've heard from the publisher for Age of Myth that the pre-order for it will be up in a few days.  In any case, if you want to checkout a new audio release, you might want to consider one of these hot titles.

As for Riyria books, when I looked yesterday they had the following spots:

  • #10 - Theft of Swords
  • #22 - Rise of Empire
  • #39 - Heir of Novron
  • #67 - The Death of Dulgath
  • #93 - The Crown Tower
Not bad...not bad at all.  Thanks as always to Tim Gerard Reynolds for lending his amazing voice to the series.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The last leg of a long road...

The Death of Dulgath is in it's final stages.  The copy edits have been turned in by our three great editors: Laura Jorstad, Linda Branam, and Paul Witcover.  Robin is hard at work combining all their comments into one file so I can easily approve/reject what they've suggested.

We've also put the entire book into InDesign, the program that allows the creation of the files for the printer. They are standing ready  and as soon as the file goes out we'll be putting together the ebook.

At the same time, the final copy will be going to Audible so they can prepare for Tim Gerard Reynold's recording (occurring in mid-November).

For those who don't know, we had a pretty difficult deadline for this book, mainly due to the The First Empire which will start coming out next June. Basically we needed to get the book released before the end of the year so that it wouldn't conflict with Age of Myth (which is now live for pre-ordering) by the way.

While I suspect I'll be able to fulfill pre-orders before the online stores, here are the official release dates that have been posted:

  • ebook - November 16th
  • Hardcover - Dec 1st
  • Audio - December 15th
Currently we have 1,871 people who have either pre-ordered through my page, or are part of the Kickstarter. Not a bad send off for the pair.  If you are interested in pre-ordering a copy for yourself. Here are some of the links that are available now, and there will be more coming soon:

UK: Kindle | Audio

NOTE: We're working on getting print distribution in the UK, Europe and Australia. I'll post about it when I know more. (Which means when Robin has it all buttoned up and let's me know).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Grammar Tips: Hyphens and ages

Hey all, Robin here. I don't have a blog myself (maybe I need one) so I'm hijacking Michael's. I want to do a series of posts on editing...I'm doing a lot of editing these days and I'm always learning something new and thought I would pass on what I find interesting.

Today, I want to discuss a when you use hyphens in ages. For instance is it "twelve-year-old" or "twelve year old."

The answer depends on if the phrasal adjective comes before or after the noun.  
  • When before the noun: use hyphens
  • When after the noun: no hyphens

That's all fine and good but I had a bigger problem, what if you are using the phrase as a noun rather than an adjective.  This came up because of the following sentence in Michael's new novel, The Death of Dulgath.
My mother had all the creativity of an eight-year-old with a spotted puppy. 
Well, as it turns out you do hyphenate it.  If you want to learn more on the subject, I recommend this post on the Grammarist site.

Hope it helps someone. If nothing else, it'll provide a nice bookmark for me the next time my old brain can't remember how to handle hyphens and ages.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Relics of Writing Past and Present

I just turned 54. It would appear from the Facebook and Twitter well-wishing that most of you know this already. I was 48 when I first published The Crown Conspiracy, and a full 50 years old when I was first traditionally published. Stephen King was on The Late Show this week and mentioned he was 26 when he published his first book, Carrie. And rumor has it that the average age of a novelist's first publication is around 36 years old.

One of the better questions I've been asked in interviews is,  "If I could go back in time, what advice would I give myself?"

 They mean about writing of course, not advice in general. If that were the case, I'd have plenty to say. I hit a fire hydrant sideways at eighty, blowing all four tires and rupturing the gas tank of my first car because I was stupid. Then there was the time I went on a week-long canoe trip deep in the wilderness with food for three days (because that’s how long we thought it would take). On the same trip we never considered bringing an extra paddle because…what were the odds of losing a paddle? Apparently they were pretty good and we had to carve a replacement from a  log. All there of these would have been good candidates.  But, no, they mean what writing advice would I give myself. For me that’s an easy one:

I would have told the early me..."It’s all gonna be worth it someday."

That’s it. That’s all I’d tell that poor twenty-something with the two toddlers living in the deep snows of Vermont. I honestly think that’s all it would have taken. I just couldn’t see it happening back then. I still wince when watching the Charlie Brown Halloween Special. Poor Linus. I lucked out at least. My Sally Brown was way more understanding.

Still, I wonder what I might have accomplished by now if I had known. How many books could I have written during the twelve years I stopped writing. Maybe nothing at all. Might have taken that long for me to unlock the puzzle that is novel writing, or maybe the market needed to shift, or the Kindle had to hit. On the other hand, maybe—like Stephen King—I, too, might have had a stack of published books as tall as me. Elan could have been a more complete place today, and a handful of other worlds might have been born.

On the third hand, maybe technology just wasn’t there yet.

I’ll admit software helped. I learned loads from all those red and green underlines that are so prevalent in word processors today that weren’t there when I started because word processors didn’t exist. The instant teacher that ran a red underscore every time I typed the word “ recieved” wasn't around. Eventually I realized—oh right—except after C. 

After a certain point, birthdays aren’t celebrations anymore than New Years Eve. They’re times to look back and take stock. This year I looked back at the Relics of Writing Past. Like just about everyone, I started with a pen and notebook, the cheap spiral you got at a five-and-dime—with inflation I think they call them Dollar Stores now. And, like most kids, I couldn’t figure out why the ink in the clear stemmed Bic didn’t flow backward when you pointed the tip up. To be honest, I still don’t.

Writing only really got fun when I found my sister’s old portable Royal that fit in a little hard-shell case. You had to hammer the keys to get a good letter on the paper, especially when the ribbon was running dry. If you hit too hard some of the holes in your Bs and Ds would fill in, but at least three days later I could still understand what I wrote. Other people could, too, and that changed everything.
After marrying my wife (I was twenty-one, Robin not yet twenty), I invested big money in a top-of-the-line typewriter—an Olivetti Praxis. Sleek, black, and aerodynamic—why a typewriter needed to have the profile of a sports car I had no idea, but it was sexy as hell. But the coolest thing was it had correctable typing. This meant that the lower band on the ink ribbon was laced with White-Out powder. Before that, I had to paint mistakes with a bottle and brush like applying white eyeliner, then reinsert the page, line it up, and type again. Later they made little sheets the size of cigarette paper that came in nifty plastic cases. You’d just backspace, insert the correction sheet between the key and the paper and retype the mistake. The powder would cover it up far more neatly than the paint. But the Olivetti had that bit of magic built right into the ribbon.

The ability to erase a mistake? What a dream come true! I had to have that. Robin was less than happy about spending $300 on a typewriter, but this was my dream, and she of all people knew how much I needed to correct mistakes. Sadly, this was 1983. Now that I think about it, I might also tell my younger self to hold off on that space-age typewriter, because the real deal was right around the corner.

In 1984, my wife—an electrical engineer for a small firm in Michigan—found herself being drawn more and more into this new field of Software Engineering, and one day she came home with a present for me: a Compaq Deskpro—a computer. I'd never been so excited about a present...except when I was eight and found a full set of Tonka trucks under the Christmas tree. I was also bewildered beyond words. I had no idea how to use it. What I did know—what Robin told me—was that it was gonna beat the crap out of the Olivetti.

I never could learn Basic, and most of the word processors at the time were not much more than typewriters—except you could backspace and erase mistakes before printing. That was beyond cool, a form of time travel that let me fix mistakes before I made them.  There was no mouse, so moving the curser and highlighting blocks of text required an advance degree in keyboard language. I couldn’t get the hang of most programs, but one called Samna worked like a typewriter. I understood it, and off I went on my amber-on-black screen (green on black was so 1982.) I wrote close to five novels on that Compaq, printing them on a noisy dot-matrix printer that shook my desk. Life for a writer was so sweet.
When Word for Windows came out, I discovered the luxuries a mouse provides -- although it was awkward having to take my hand off the keyboard. I became an ardent fan of the new company called Gateway Computers. I think I single-handedly made them successful as over the the next twenty years I bought more than a dozen of them. I’d given up my dream of becoming an author by the time I bought the big 21 inch, fifty pound, monitor I called Mammoth. At that time, I was running my own advertising agency, which was why I could afford the monitor. We had a little iMac for translating files between platforms, one of those plastic gum ball machines that I couldn’t take seriously. No one in the office actually used it. I suspected the Mac might be a better system, but all the good games were on Windows, and after thirty years of breaking and fixing them, I knew Microsoft like I knew my old ’68 Dodge Dart—the one I wrapped around the fire hydrant.

When my career took off, when Orbit picked up my series, I was using a five year old Gateway and a ten year old monitor. I convinced myself I deserved a new computer, a nice one. I bought an Alienware. After six months it was having problems, and after a year it failed. Looking back I realized this happened a lot. For decades I had to wipe and reinstall everything on my computers at least once a year or buy a new one. By the time the Alienware melted down, I decided to take the plunge and go all-out iMac, baby!

I bought it last year, and as I expected, it has been like going through rehabilitation after an awful car crash. Learning to walk again as an adult sucks. I spent a month doing nothing but learning, but I got the hang of it. It’s been well over a year and I haven’t had a single issue with the iMac. The thing runs as good as the day I bought it.
I realize there’s a cold war between Apple and Microsoft—at least there used to be. Not so much these days, I think. Now its more of a shrug and an eye-roll sort of a battle, still I might ruffle a few old-school feathers, but I have to say I think there’s one more thing I might tell my younger self. 
And yeah, it was all worth it.

So anyway, another year over and it was nice seeing all the birthday well wishes. It was also fun strolling memory lane.  Thanks for your thoughts and best wishes.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Audible $4.95 Win-Win Sale: 49 Great Fantasy & Sci-fi Titles

I love it when audible does one of their $4.95 sales.  Even better when they include on of my titles ;-) Right now (and until September 20th, 11:59 EST) You can get these 49 Fantasy and Science Fiction titles for less than a five-spot.

Now there are some restrictions. These sales are generally for existing members. I'm not sure if you can join up and then get some of these books (I'm already a member). Here's the complete list:

Title & Author   Reviews     Rating   
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 13,624 4.6
Red Rising by Pierce Brown 4,728 4.5
Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan 7,004 4.5
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card 5,357 4.2
Ark Royal by Christopher G. Nuttall 2,572 3.9
The Strain by Ron Perlman 3,082 4.1
The Remaining by D.J. Moles 2,930 4.2
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell 1,294 4.1
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey 3,572 4.3
The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore 1,579 4.4
The Android's Dream by John Scalzi 4,103 4.2
The Second Ship by Richard Phillips 2,174 4.1
Ex-heroes by Peter Clines 3,937 4.0
Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer 2,525 3.9
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke 2,489 4.2
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep 3,118 3.9
The Lost Starship by Vaughn Heppner 824 4.0
Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey 965 4.7
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller 1,295 3.9
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey 2,302 4.1
Bloodier by Helen Harper 925 4.1
Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo 862 4.3
Prudence by Gail Carrier 635 4.3
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie 633 4.2
A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton 1,212 4.0
The Magic of Recluse by L.E. Modest Jr. 937 4.0
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa 1,665 4.0
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence 948 4.0
Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez 1,584 4.1
Oath of Swords by David Webber 996 4.2
Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland 1,028 4.1
Sheepfarmer's Daughter by Elizabeth Moon 1,478 4.1
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell 895 4.1
Mutineer by Mike Shepherd 1,067 3.9
Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory 1,150 3.9
Secrets of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer 575 4.5
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire 633 4.0
The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer 351 4.0
Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon 193 4.0
A World out of Time by Larry Niven 460 4.0
A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson 123 4.1
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen 166 4.6
The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis 104 4.1
The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook 98 4.3
Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini 98 4.3
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin 37 4.4
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake 32 4.1
The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker 5,953 4.3
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 988 4.1

That's an amazing list of titles, and I know I added a few to my shelf. Hopefully you'll see something you like and add it as well. Happy listening!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It's back to school time!

Well, for some, school has already been in for a while, but for me, I'm just now getting into my "back to school" mindset - which is when I do most of my writing.  This fall, I'll really be going back to school but as a teacher rather than a student. You see, Writer's Digest University has asked me to teach a class on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. It will be an ONLINE six-week course running from 9/17/2015 - 10/29/2015.

While taught online it will follow a standard college course with:

• Assigned reading material
• Homework assignments
• Forum for discussions and asking questions
• Critique of part of your novel or a short story

Because it is an online course, you don't have to be available on any given day or time. You can come on, submit your homework assignments, ask questions, or participate in the discussions at your convienence. That said, there will be different topics each week and you should try to "keep up" with the class as the various modules are covered. There is a fee for the course: $319.99 you can register here.

Some aspects covered by the course:

  • You'll take an in-depth look at How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.
  • Learn how to break into the field of science fiction and fantasy writing.
  • Learn the basics of science fiction and fantasy.
  • Learn tips for creating imaginative settings.
  • Learn ways to develop winning story ideas. 
  • Discover how to get your work published. 

  • Session One - Genres and Subgenres: Discussion of the various forms of SF/fantasy, and their many subgenres | A short history of SF/Fantasy | From idea to story: SF and fantasy based on ideas | The importance of originality | SF/fantasy as the literature of ideas | The science in science fiction, the magic in fantasy | Science and technology in SF stories | Ways to generate story ideas.
  • Session Two - Worlds and World building: The importance in setting in SF/Fantasy | World building “as you go” and “from the ground up” | Common settings for the various genres| Tips for world building.
  • Session Three - Humans and Others: The characters in SF/Fantasy | Ways of expressing character | Humans, aliens, robots, and others | Dialogue and behavior | Tips for dialogue and character creation | The central character(s) | How many characters? | The importance of character focus.
  • Session Four - Stories and Plots: Telling a story as a series of things that happen | Tips for plotting | The importance of the exciting scene | When to outline.
  • Session Five - Starts and Stops: Getting the writing started: the terror of the blank page | Starting with an exciting scene | Opening narrative “hooks.” | Narrative “voices.” | Choosing a viewpoint: What does “point of view” really mean?
  • Session Six- Resources and Workshops: Joining the “Country Club”: Professional organizations | Online resources for writers | Fan conventions | Workshops and critique groups | Markets and listings | Manuscript preparation | Finding a literary agent | Submitting to publishers on your own | The Four Rules of Writing.
The course has been run several times in the past, and the material is is one that WDU developed. That said, I'm a pretty opinionated guy, and there are plenty of place for me to interject my own thoughts on the various topics, plus we can really get into the nitty-gritty behind the scenes aspects of publishing through the forum discussions.  If any of this sounds interesting, I hope you'll join us. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Readers Helping Translators...Parlez-vous français?

A while ago I was approached by a person who had read (and loved) Hollow World.  She enjoyed it so much, in fact, that she wanted to translate the whole book as part of her graduation requirement.  That's a lot of work!! Well, she's completed it and I want to see if we can (a) get a French edition of Hollow World out to people and (b) get her some compensation for her effort.

So, here's the deal. I'm going to self-publish the French edition and pass the money onto her until it reaches a certain amount, and then we'll start splitting any proceeds.  Sounds good right?

Well, the only problem is I want some quality control, but really don't have any budget for this since I'm not going to be earning from the book.  Now, I can throw a little bit of money at the project so here's where hopefully someone will come in to help.

I have the first three chapters of the book and I'd like to hire someone to read it and tell me if the translation makes sense to them.  If you haven't read Hollow World, I'll provide you the English version as well.  To be honest, I don't know how much to pay for this, but if you can do this at a reasonable cost, then we definitely should talk.

So, if you are interested please send me an email ( with the subject of French Hollow World and we can talk further.  It would be great if we could get this translator some compensation for all her hard work.  But before I put it 'out on the market' I want to know if the translation came out well.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Welcome to Zeitfuge!

Zeit what? You may be asking...this is the title of Hollow World novel translated into German.

I really like the cover that HEYNE did for this novel - and I only wish I could read German, as I'd love to see how it differs from the English version. If you read German, and are into time-travel novels with a twist, this might be the book for you. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Death of Dulgath Audiobook pre-order is live!

I know a lot of people are as excited as I am about the newest Royce and Hadrian book, The Death of Dulgath.  The beta process has been going spectacularly well, and we are quickly approaching the copy edit stage.

The good people at have let me know that the pre-order page for the book has gone live, so you can reserve your copy now.

As you can see, it will (a) utilize the same amazing artwork as the print and ebook (which was created by the incredible Marc Simonetti), and (b) will once more be narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds.

Robin has done an amazing job wrangling the beta readers and I've already started making changes based on their feedback. Thank you to all those who are participating. You're making a good book even better, and I'm grateful for your generous time and talent.  Here's some of the input we've received from those who have completed the full read.

I think this is a very well told original story. It had everything I love about Riyria.

Hadrian and Royce are as fantastic as ever. This was so much fun.

I SOOO LOVE THIS BOOK. After I'm done with this survey I'm going to reread it.

A combo of great characters and a terrific story well told. 

Great story with memorable characters.

Good to see our old pals again. A great story, loved The First Empire references.

It was like being 'back home'. I hated that the series ended (as all must, eventually) and wanted more. This was right on!

It's a busy time, especially for Robin who is bearing the brunt of a lot of the work. But one that is also very rewarding because I couldn't be happier with the results. I can't wait until others have a chance to read or listen to the book.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Authors Helping Authors: 15 Writers Move onto Round 2

As part of the Kickstarter campaign for my new Riyria novel, Death of Dulgath, I promised to include the short story of an aspiring (or new) writer at the back of the book. While the writer will be compensated at twice the standard rate, ($0.15 a word (up to 5,000 words) as opposed to the standard SFWA rate of $0.06), the real purpose was to provide exposure for the writer in a crowded literary landscape, and hopefully jumpstart their career.

I've received hundreds of entries. If you’re wondering if I staffed this out…no, I read each one personally. It should be understood I didn’t read any of them completely.

In the same way that it is possible to tell if a person is a skilled pianist or a novice from only a few bars of music, most people can tell the difference between a skilled writer and a novice from a few sentences. I most often read until I hit enough problems to determine the entry wasn’t going to make it. This usually required me to read no more than the first page, often only the first paragraph. In a few cases only the first sentence was needed. And in two cases only four words. If I read beyond the first page, the piece was dropped into the “promising” folder to be read in full later. If not it went into the “reject” folder.

This is similar to how publishers and agents deal with large piles of submissions and is something of which all professional writers should be aware. You don’t have long to make a good impression. The good news—if you want to call it that—is that unlike most agents and publishers, I skipped the query letter and read the story. I didn’t care who you were or what your credential were until I determined if you could write. Only after your story landed in the “promising” folder, did I read the query, or even your name.

For those who are wondering why they bothered to work on the query if I ignored it in the majority of the cases, don't should be worth your time. You see,  everyone who submitted will walk away with at least a critique of their query, but that process will occur once I'm past the deadline for delivering the novel.

Judging literature is a subjective endeavor. I do not profess to being The Authority on Good Writing, but this contest isn’t being award to the best literature submitted, it’s going to the one I like best. While most creative competitions are determined by a consensus of opinion, in this case (because this is my competition) only one opinion matters—mine. As a result I can tell you exactly how I judged this first round. I eliminated entries if they exhibited any of the following:

  1. Poor writing (repeated words, unnecessary words, poor word choices).
  2. Story doesn't start at the start of the piece.
  3. Too much exposition.
  4. Difficult  to understand.
  5. Lack of interest.
Any of these were likely to send your story to the “reject” folder very quickly. I would however read more if I encountered: 
  1. An original or interesting premise.
  2. Excellent writing.
Two pieces I read in their entirety because they were so well written, but alas, both lacked a story—part of the reason why I kept reading is that I was trying to find it. There are many short fiction works that aren’t stories, meaning they don’t pose a question then answer it. Instead they are simply an example of writing that begins nowhere special and ends at a random point with out actually having one. I don’t view these as stories so much as exercises in writing. While they might display superb literary skills, they’re cheating by skipping the hardest part: developing a complete, satisfying, engaging and hopefully, moving story in less than 7,500 words. This is what makes short story writing so hard. You have to invest massive cosmic power in an itty-bitty living space, something Hemingway famously managed in six words: 

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn. 

Works that skip this part usually display only the skill, or acquired craft, of a writer, but there is more to fiction than craft. As a result, excellent writing got my attention, however, it didn’t win me over. A great story with wonderful characters and mediocre writing consistently beat out great writing with only the hint of a story.
Of the hundreds of entries I went through, fifteen are waiting for me in the “promising” folder. Those of you who entered this contest and don’t see your name on the list, might wonder what exactly you did wrong, or—should you find your name listed—what is it you did right? Here are the most common problems I found:

  1. You started your story with boatloads of exposition. As in: In the land of Hezgoroth a hot wind blew across the land where ancient kings of the Jeilian Horde warred against the*…I’d usually hit reject at this point. I don’t want you to tell me a story. I want to live it. (* This is not from a submission. I made this up. I won’t post anyone’s work and criticize it. That’s just mean.) Fact is, I hate the rampant habit of the fantasy genre to indulge in excessive, and usually unnecessary, exposition. If your story started this way, have hope, not everyone almost no one feels the way I do.
  2. Nothing happens at the start of the story, as in: Leroy sat on the log pondering his life as he waited to find out the verdict the king would hand down. Ever since he left his home of… Again this is exposition, but at least it started with a character doing something, too bad they were only sitting. Better to have started the story with the verdict, or better yet with the consequences of the verdict. (Again, this isn’t from a submitted story.)
  3. Purposeful avoidance of details that keep the reader from understanding anything, as in: The person was there thinking. They weren’t certain when it would happen, but they knew it would happen soon, or soon enough. It was hard to tell. Or it’s slightly lesser annoying sibling, dithering, as in: He wasn’t certain but he seemed to be almost falling. He thought he might be, and maybe he was but… 
  4. You may have spent your precious first words of your story setting the stage as opposed to starting the story, as in: The forest was dark and gloomy. A thick eerie mist rose. A full moon was only a hazy faint light. Everything was cold and damp and filled with fear full forbidding. It was an evil night. Even the…Reject. 
  5. Confusion. If I couldn’t understand what was going on, I passed. 
  6. Boredom. Maybe I could understand it, and something was going on, but if I wasn’t intrigued, I passed. 
A short story is akin to a sprint. The faster you are off the blocks the better your chances of winning. Meandering your opening isn’t going to win races. Remember the first sentence, and to a lesser extent the first paragraph, might be all anyone ever reads and this applies to novels too. The opening has to be great. 

That said, if the first sentence was a bait-and-switch where you invented a compelling opening line just for the sake of a great opening line, that too was passed on, as in: Bob was plummeting to certain death. Bob woke from his dream drenched in sweat. Bob was born thirty-five years about, and now I will tell you about his childhood. It started… 

The opening also can’t just be action—as many of them were. Action scenes didn’t work for me. Combat isn’t interesting. It’s actually very boring unless you care about those involved, and you can’t if you don’t know who they are.

In the first paragraph of your story I was looking to discover who the story was about (not just their name), what they were trying to do, and why they were having troubles doing it. The entries that managed this had a much better chance of me getting to the end of the first page. Therefore a sentence like: Officer Jane Williams didn’t know whether to cut the blue or the red wire, but she knew she had ten seconds to decide.
  • Who: Most likely a police woman. 
  •  Situation: Most likely defusing a bomb. 
  •  Problems: A bad decision will bring death.
After the first sentence I am into this story, (which again I just made up). I don’t need setup, or mood, exposition, backstory, fancy prose, or clever internal dialog. Twenty-three words and I have what could be the entire story laid out along with the main character and the conflict. As the reader of this I know all the important facts, and am invested. I want to know if she cuts the right wire, what happens if she doesn’t. This is where this story might end as the question posed in this opening is which wire should she cut? The story then could be how she goes about deciding which wire. This could even have a twist in that she cuts neither wire. The point is, a short story, being short, needs to start right at the beginning, grab the reader and go. At least, that’s what I’m looking for. And the ones who managed this, or at least managed to entertain me and were also well written, and who didn’t blow it by the end of the first page, got into the “promising” folder.

Out of hundreds there were fifteen. They are (in no particular order): 
  • Jillian Lokere
  • H. L. Fullerton
  • Kate Smoot
  • Hannah Dancy
  • Tyler Powell
  • Desmond Warzel
  • Thorn Stratton
  • N. E. White
  • Heather Jean Matheson
  • Steve Williamson
  • Marina Lobstetter
  • Terence Kuch
  • Anthony Lowe
  • Setsu Uzume
  • Zachary Brennan
Congratulations to the Promising Fifteen. At this point I will be reading each of these in their entirety and sending the very best to a “Finals” folder. After that I’ll likely invite my wife to read them for a second opinion, then I’ll be contacting the winner. Good luck all.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lots of updates...

Very busy time right now so I have a lot of updates on many fronts. I'll go through them in short form here and will expand them later.

  • Short Story Contest - As you may know, I held a contest to give a "leg up" to writers by including one of their short stories in my next published book, The Death of Dulgath. I've gone through about half of the submissions an have eight "potentials" from that group. I'll be doing a more extensive report once I get through the submissions - and yes, everyone will hear one way or the other.

  • Death of Dulgath Beta - is clicking along and it looks like the book is in real good shape. There have been a lot of good suggestions I've already implemented, but they fall into the category of minor tweaks rather than major reworks.

  • Age of Myth Cover Artist - It's official, Marc Simonetti will be the cover artist for the new series coming from Del Rey. Marc was on my very short list (3 illustrators) that I wanted for the series, and I couldn't be happier with the choice. I've been working with Marc for several projects now and I'm so glad to have in on board with this next great adventure.

  • Writer's Digest Class: Writing the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel - Starts September 17th (my birthday) and will run through the end of October. I didn't create the class (it's a format Writer's Digest had developed and perfected for several course), but I will be the instructor and adding my own experiences in supplemental information. Over the course of the class you'll write a part of your novel (or a short story) and I'll be critiquing the results.

  • Preorders - for Death of Dulgath should be going live soon - including the pre-order page for the audio version. Again, I'll keep you updated as the links start going live. Also, keep in mind that you can pre-order the hardcover, tarpaper back, and ebook directly from me which will take 30% - 55% of the money you pay into my pocket rather than the retail chain. Plus, you can have the books signed - which is a huge advantage.

  • Author Video Diary (vblog) - One of the reward suggested by a Kickstarter Backer was a video diary. Episode #1 just went up. If you want to see it you can from here.

  • Unbound  a new anthology from Shawn Speakman - is moving along. I submitted my story, "The Game" a few months back. Shawn has a great line up for it, and I'm excited about being included.

  • Unfettered II - is another anthology from Shawn. Creating  a short story for it is my current project. I'm trying to make this a story related to my new series, The First Empire. The trick is enticing people into that series, but making it non-essential so the people who don't read the short will still have all they want. I have a story I'm really happy with so far, but it's not as "tied  in" with the series as I would like. Robin came up with a good suggestion yesterday that I'm going to see if I can work into it.

Well, I think that's it for now. Like I said - it's busy times...but I like it that way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Kickstarter Podcast is live of The Author Biz

Robin and I were guests on "The Author Biz" podcast, talking about Kickstarters. Robin did most of the talking because she's a wiz when it comes to Kickstarter. We also talked about things such as BackerKit, and how to setup a successful Kickstarter. If you are thinking of running a Kickstarter any time in the future, give it a listen. I think you'll find it's well worth your time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Blackguards released in audio...and you can get a free short from it

Blackguards, that terrific anthology from Ragnarok Publications just released in audio (8/25/2015).

It contains, works from some great authors of rogues and assassins, and even one from me. Here's the line up:
  • Foreword by Glen Cook (Black Company)
  • Carol Berg, "Seeds"
  • Richard Lee Byers, "Troll Trouble"
  • David Dalglish, "Take You Home"
  • James Enge, "Thieves at the Gate"
  • John Gwynne, "Better to Live than to Die"
  • Lian Hearn, "His Kikuta Hands"
  • Snorri Kristjansson, "A Kingdom and a Horse"
  • Joseph Lallo, "Seeking the Shadow"
  • Mark Lawrence, "The Secret"
  • Tim Marquitz, "A Taste of Agony"
  • Peter Orullian, "A Length of Cherrywood"
  • Cat Rambo, "The Subtler Art"
  • Laura Resnick, "Friendship"
  • Mark Smylie, "Manhunt"
  • Kenny Soward, "Jancy's Justice"
  • Shawn Speakman, "The White Rose Thief"
  • Jon Sprunk, "Sun and Steel"
  • Anton Strout, "Scream"
  • Michael J. Sullivan, "Professional Integrity"
  • Django Wexler, "The First Kill"
  • Paul S. Kemp, "A Better Man"
  • James A. Moore, "What Gods Demand"
  • Jean Rabe, "Mainon"
  • Bradley P. Beaulieu, "Irindai"
  • S. R. Cambridge, "The Magus and the Betyar"
  • Clay Sanger, "The Long Kiss"
I'm proud to be included in such an august line-up. And I hope people will enjoy my Royce and Hadrian entry.  In fact, you can listen to that short story for free...thanks to the wonderful people at  Like all the Riyria tales, this one is narrated by the amazing Tim Gerard Reynolds.

So, give Professional Integrity a listen, and if you like what you hear, why not give the other stories in Blackguards a try. I think you'll enjoy what you find.