stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The audio edition of IRON AXE is part of Audible's First-in-the-Series sale until Friday! It's only $3.99.  Narrator PJ Ochlan does a great job reading it, too:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Iron-Axe-Audiobook/B00Q75H1Y0/
Although Danr's mother was human, his father was one of the hated Stane, a troll from the mountains. Now Danr has nothing to look forward to but a life of disapproval and mistrust, answering to "Trollboy" and condemned to hard labor on a farm. Until, without warning, strange creatures come down from the mountains to attack the village. Spirits walk the land, terrifying the living. Trolls creep out from under the mountain, provoking war with the elves. And Death herself calls upon Danr to set things right. At Death's insistence, Danr heads out to find the Iron Axe, the weapon that sundered the continent a thousand years ago. Together with unlikely companions, Danr will brave fantastic and dangerous creatures to find a weapon that could save the world - or destroy it.

If you've been thinking about trying an audio book to hear on your phone, now's a great time!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
My story "Sight Unseen" will appear in the next Darkover anthology: Masques of Darkover. And here we have a really awesome cover:



The anthology comes out May 2, 2017.

25!

Oct. 21st, 2016 08:46 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Over the weekend, I finished the final draft of another novel.  This book I actually started over eight years ago, if you can believe, but what with one thing and another, I didn't finish it until just now.  It's a YA mainstream novel.  The big question is, will it sell?  We'll have to see.

This book makes 25 novels I've written in my writing career so far.  Whoa.  In case you're wondering, the other 24 are:

WRITING AS STEVEN PIZIKS

In the Company of Mind, Baen Books, 1998

Corporate Mentality, Baen Books, 1999

The Nanotech War (Star Trek: Voyager), Pocket Books, 2002

Identity (movie novelization), Pocket Books, 2002

The Exorcist: the Beginning (movie novelization), Pocket Books 2004

The Plague Room (The Ghost Whisperer), Pocket Books, December 2008

The Blacklist: The Beekeeper, Titan Books, November 2016

WRITING AS STEVEN HARPER

Danny, Book View Cafe, 2015

un/Fair, Book9 (Tantrum Books), 2016

The Clockwork Empire

The Doomsday Vault, ROC  Books, 2011

The Impossible Cube, ROC  Books, 2012

The Dragon Men, ROC Books, 2012

The Havoc Machine, ROC Books, 2013

The Silent Empire

Dreamer: a Novel of the Silent Empire, ROC Books, 2001

Nightmare: a Novel of the Silent Empire, ROC Books, 2002

Trickster: a Novel of the Silent Empire, ROC Books, 2003

Offispring: a Novel of the Silent Empire, ROC Books, 2004

The Books of Blood and Iron

Iron Axe, ROC Books, 2015

Blood Storm, ROC Books, 2015

Bone War, ROC Books, 2016

Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

Dead Man on the Moon, Phobos Books, 2006

Unity: a Battlestar Galactica Novel, Tor Books, 2007

Reference Books

Writing the Paranormal Novel, Writers Digest Books, 2011

WRITING AS PENNY DRAKE

Trash Course, Carina Press (Harlequin), 2010

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I'd been meaning to read THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker for quite some time and finally pulled it out off my TRB list.

The idea is intruiging.  A Jinni from Syria is released from his bottle in New York's Little Syria neighborhood in 1915, hundreds of years after he was imprisoned.  An iron band on his wrist keeps him from remembering how he was imprisoned in the first place and forces him to live among humans.  Meanwhile, a man in Eastern Europe pays a powerful rabbi to fashion a realistic Golem woman for him so he can have the perfect wife, but the man dies while emigrating to New York, leaving the Golem without a master and struggling with newly granted free will.  Circumstances and other people bring the Golem and the Jinni together.

The book suffers quite a lot in its execution.  Wecker spends far too much time wandering through her character's thought processes. In more skilled hands, this could have been fun or even riveting. Unfortunately, Wecker pauses her narrative to create several paragaphs of dull, leaden prose that could--and should--have been trimmed and tightened.  (Where was her editor?)  Her Golem does a great deal of internal whining about how constrained she is, despite her newfound choices, and she spends the vast majority of the book sitting in her room, ruminating about how dull her life is and how risky it is for her to go out and be a person.  (She fears making a mistake and being uncovered as a Golem.)  After the third page about her latest sewing project, we readers are bored as well.

The Jinni also has to hide his true nature for fear of discovery, and this becomes dull as well.  A budding forbidden romance between him and a human woman seems at first to be a central character plot, but it abruptly fizzles and goes nowhere, with no decent resolution.  Like the Golem, the Jinni is constantly portrayed as weak and helpless, and he gets into enormous trouble whenever he dares actually DO anything.  Boring.

It's actually possible to skip over entire sections and still follow the story.  The middle of the book sags badly, and nothing at all happens for entire chapters.

According to the author's note, Wecker did enormous amounts of research into the Little Syria of 1915, but you'd hardly know it by reading the book.  With the exception of a dance hall and a tin roof (which are described in great detail), the setting is given short shrift.  We have a generic coffeehouse, a generic smith's forge, a generic mansion, and a generic bakery.  (And, I might add, bakers work at night so the breads and rolls are ready to buy first thing in the morning. They don't work during the day, as the novel portrays.)

Wecker's prose =does= shine when it comes to portraying Jewish mysticism and just how the Golem of legend might work in "modern" New York, and her development of Jinni culture is great fun to read as well.  This doesn't overcome the books enormous flaws.

I wanted to like this book.  I worked hard to like this book.  But I just couldn't. Give it a miss, folks.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
It's Release Day!  Release Day!  Happy, happy Release Day!  un/FAIR is officially available from booksellers everywhere.

It's difficult enough to live in the neighborhood "freakazoid" house. It's even more difficult when you're autistic and neither your family nor best friend really understands you. So when Ryan November wakes up on his eleventh birthday with the ability to see the future, he braces himself for trouble. But even his newfound power doesn't help him anticipate that the fair folk-undines, salamanders, gnomes, and sylphs-want him dead, dead, dead. Ryan races to defend himself and his family against unrelenting danger from the fairy realm so he can uncover the truth about his family history-and himself. Except as Ryan's power grows, the more enticing the fairy realm becomes, forcing him to choose between order and chaos and power and family. And for an autistic boy, such choices are never cut and dry.



Grab it now! It's a great read for the start of the school year!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Today, we have a cross-blogging event: How I Met My Agent / How I Met My Client.  It's a fun and funny story because . . . well, you have to look.  My agent is Lucienne Diver, and we've been in a client/agent relationship for over twenty years now.  Her posting of this blog can be found here.

I also have to admit that this is the first time I heard about the spiders.

As an introduction, Lucienne Diver is a literary agent with the Knight Agency, where she represents a bunch of authors in several genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and romance.  She's also the author of popular The Latter-Day Olympian series and the highly-acclaimed YA Vamped series.

The story starts with me, so I'll go first:

How I Met My Agent by Steven Piziks

It was that miracle moment. The phone rang.

I snatched the receiver off the wall and discovered I was talking to Jim Baen of Baen Books. He had read my science fiction novel In the Company of Mind and wanted to buy it.

I almost leaped through the ceiling. But I kept myself under control and said something I had been rehearsing for years. “That’s fantastic!

Thank you! What kind of terms are you offering?”

He told me, and I said, “That’s great! I’ll call you back when I know more. Thanks so much!”

Once I hung up, did I call my parents? My best friend? I did not. I called an editor who had bought a bunch of my short stories over the years.

“I need an agent!” I bawled.

She laughed and gave me the number of Vince Alfieri, a New York agent.

By now I was wondering what my phone bill was going to be like. I called Vince, who said he wasn’t taking new clients right then.

Argh!

Remember, this was in the days before cell phones, before the Internet, before Google. I couldn’t just hop on-line and spend a couple hours looking up agents and agencies.

“But,” Vince continued, “I know a lady who is taking clients. You might want to give her a call. Her name is Lucienne Diver.”

I seized on this. Vince gave me the number, and I dialed yet again. A woman with a radio announcer voice answered the phone, and I found myself talking to Lucienne.

This was 20 years ago.

I think I must have been one of her first clients, though at the time she never let on. She handily took over the Baen negotiations (though that turned into a real trick–buy me a cheeseburger some time and I’ll tell you about it).

Lucienne negotiated two contracts with Baen for me, and another contract with Roc. We had a number of conversations on the phone, but no face-to-face contact until about three years later, when we both attended the same convention. I think it was a World Fantasy Con, and we agreed to meet at a party.

“We’ll find each other,” she said on the phone. “I have long blond hair and I’ll probably be wearing a blue dress.”

“I’m the tall guy with the shaved head,” I said. “You’ll probably see me first.”

I was right. Five minutes into the reception, a voice said, “Steven?” and at last I was talking face-to-face with my agent. She took me to the bar for a Coke. (I don’t drink, so I’m a cheap date.)

Lucienne and I have been agent-and-client and friends for over twenty years. Our relationship has lasted longer than my first marriage, in fact. We’re both friends and business associates, and I’ve watched her go from single lady to married woman to proud mom, and from steadfast New Yorker to woo-hoo Floridian. We’ve weathered a number of changes to the publishing industry together, and I can only wonder what’s coming up next.

_______________

How I Met My Client

What Steven didn’t tell you is that he called me the week before my wedding to say that he had an offer on the table for his debut novel and was I interested in considering it for representation. Well, of course I was. The book sounded amazing! But this was in the early days of e-mail, before we all had e-readers and could accept electronic submissions, which meant that he had to send it in hardcopy, which put us into my wedding week. Still, I dug in right away. I couldn’t resist, and it wasn’t exactly a hardship, as I was physically unable to put the novel down. (IN THE COMPANY OF MIND, for inquiring minds who want to know, a dark, gritty novel with both highly personal and massively far-reaching stakes.)

Of course I wanted to represent it. I told him so, we came to an agreement, and I got right on the phone with the publisher. Or, at least, I left him a message. By that time we were into the final crash-prep for the wedding, so I found myself alternating between arguing with the caterer and negotiating on the phone at my parents’ house and, best of all (by some Tim Burton definition of the word “best”) from a spider infested phone booth on my honeymoon.

As Steven says, these were the days before cell phones. My husband (ooh, it was so exciting to say that then!) and I honeymooned in a rustic lakefront cottage on Lake George. The only phone we had access to was in a phone booth at the edge of the parking lot at the lodge. The only problem was it was festooned with spider webs and, I was quite certain, populated by the eight-legged menaces that created them. Clearly, no one was expected to actually make calls on vacation. What, was I crazy?

The answer, of course, is yes. I am. And a work-aholic. And so I, the girl with the spider phobia, reached bravely into the phone booth, risking life and limb to put coins into the slot and grab onto the receiver, holding it at the very end of its reach and contorting myself to stay as far away as I could from the creepy crawlies. Here, I’ve drawn you a visual with all of my spectacular artistic talent.

spider booth001

(You can see why I don’t give up my day job for my art.)

The rest is history. Steven and I have worked together for years and years, through various genres, names and publishing permutations.

We’ve seen the restructuring of publishing distribution, the advent of e-books (as more than a faraway fear that they would ruin book publishing for all time), cell phones and electronic signatures. We’ve seen crazes and trends and bandwagons, oh my! It will be fascinating to see what the next twenty years have in store.

_______________

BONE WAR is currently on sale everywhere!


stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The covers for the Books of Blood and Iron follow a progression, and it's pretty cool.  We start with IRON AXE:



We have an ancient axe, crudely made and battered and chipped. It looks like something from an archaeological dig, which makes sense, since the Axe was made more a thousand years ago, and quickly.  An axe, of course, is one of the first tools humans ever created.  Stone axes were used first to cut wood by hunter-gatherers, then were adopted as weapons.  The volcano-esque surge of power in the background is a great touch.  If you've read the book, you know why . . .

Then we have BLOOD STORM:



The weapon is more sophisticated.  It's better-crafted, but still well-used.  Since it belongs to Pendra, one of the Gardeners (or fates), the well-used part makes sense.  So does the blood on the blade.  The sickle came after the axe, appearing when people settled down into farming communities and needed something to harvest grain--or slice enemies in half.

Finally, we have BONE WAR:



The sword is the most difficult weapon to forge, and a sword of ivory, complete with runes and a blood-red ruby in the pommel, would be all but impossible to make.  Swords were the final bladed weapon to be created by human civilization.  We've arrived at the most powerful and sophisticated weapon in the progression, sleek, powerful, and able to slice through fate itself.

I had minimal input on the covers, incidentally.  Anne Sowards, my editor, asked me for some images or ideas from each book that might make good covers, and I gave her a list.  The Axe showed up on the first cover (I'm afraid I don't know who the artist is), and Anne thought a progression of weapons would look great for the series.  She was absolutely right.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The kind of main character you usually find in fantasy is a straight white male.  I was more than halfway through BONE WAR before I realized I didn't have any of those in the trilogy.

Really.  I don't.

Danr, the main character, is half troll.  He isn't fully human.

Aisa, a primary character, is a Middle-Eastern woman.  Or rather, she's from a culture based on the Middle East.

Talfi, another primary character, is a white male, but he's gay.

Ranadar, who starts off as a minor character in the beginning of the series and becomes a major character by the end, is a white male (though an elf), and he's also gay.

Hmmm.

I didn't set out to do this on purpose.  It just happened.  Danr came to me when I was reading a set of children's stories about Norwegian trolls.  Aisa started off as an image--a woman wrapped in rags that hid even her face and hands.  I wanted to know who she was and why she wrapped herself up.  Talfi was originally based on Thjalfi, the mortal boy from Norse mythology who became Thor's servant.  I always wondered what it would be like to be a teenaged boy who was unexpected snatched into a world of gods and monsters--and immortality.

I did deliberately set out to create a set of outcast heroes.  A half-blood human-troll.  An escaped slave.  An immortal boy who loved a man.  An elf who betrayed his (evil) family for love.

Along the way, I accidentally created a more diverse cast than I thought.

BONE WAR is available at bookstores!

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Sometimes authors slip the names of real people and even their descriptions into their fiction.  This is called "tuckerizing" after a fan named Bob Tucker, who made it a hobby to persuade as many writers as possible to name characters after him.  Authors do it as favors, for fun, or as fundraisers.  I've done all three, but especially the fundraiser part. BONE WAR has tuckerizations, too.

The school where I teach has been hit by a number of tragedies, often ones that come with a financial cost.  At the time I was writing BLOOD STORM and BONE WAR, Joshuah Bertram, the young grandson of one of the cafeteria workers was diagnosed with cancer.  Josh's mother graduated from the school as well.  The medical costs were devastating.  The teachers and other staff at Nameless High School decided to collect money to help.  I sent out a school-wide email that I was auctioning off the right to name a character in BLOOD STORM.  Halfway through the auction (and bids flooded the system), someone hit on the idea of everyone pooling their money and naming the character after Joshuah.  The pool won by a wide margin, and Joshuah appears in the second chapter of BLOOD STORM.

Against all expectation, Joshuah's cancer went into remission, and everyone celebrated.  But when I was halfway through BONE WAR, it came roaring back.  Again, I set up an auction for characters.  This time we had a tie for first place, so I tuckerized two people. You can find Lady Sharyl and Joe the Sailor both playing small but pivotal roles in BONE WAR.

In my book, I'm able to make fate do whatever I want, but in real life, nobody has that power.  In the end, the cancer proved too powerful, and Joshuah passed away.  He was five years old. Joshuah lives in the pages of BLOOD STORM and the memories of everyone who knew him.

BONE WAR

Jul. 27th, 2016 08:10 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
My epic fantasy novel BONE WAR comes out next week!

The author of Blood Storm and Iron Axe returns with the third Book of Blood and Iron—where Danr the half-troll must stop two vengeful queens from razing the world to the ground...

From their sacred Garden, the three fates control all life and maintain balance in the world. But one of the fates has been captured by the evil elf queen, placing the future of every being, including Death herself, in jeopardy. And only one hero can defeat the elf queen: Danr the half-troll.

In order to rescue the missing fate, Danr must first acquire the fabled Bone Sword. Normally Danr would expect his companions to help. However, they are currently in pursuit of a mysterious creature who seems both oddly familiar yet dangerously unknown. But one thing is certain for all of the adventurers: failure is not an option.

Order print at Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01839Q4RC/

Order audio book at Audible:
http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Bone-War-Audiobook/B01H60YE3U

They Came!

Jul. 19th, 2016 07:18 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
These came in the mail today!



So awesome!  BONE WAR is the latest in the Books of Blood and Iron series:

From their sacred Garden, the three fates control all life and maintain balance in the world. But one of the fates has been captured by the evil elf queen, placing the future of every being, including Death herself, in jeopardy. And only one hero can defeat the elf queen: Danr the half-troll.

In order to rescue the missing fate, Danr must first acquire the fabled Bone Sword. Normally Danr would expect his companions to help. However, they are currently in pursuit of a mysterious creature who seems both oddly familiar yet dangerously unknown. But one thing is certain for all of the adventurers: failure is not an option.


It's available for pre-order now, and goes on sale August 1!  The audio version, read by PJ Ochlan, is also up for pre-order.

If you haven't read Iron Axe or Blood Storm (and why haven't you?), don't worry--the books are written to stand alone.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
During the Mackinaw Trip, I read THE BOYS OF EIGHTH AND CARPENTER, by Tom Mendicino.

And I wished I hadn't.

NOTE: There will be some fairly major spoilers in this review.

Michael (the younger brother) and Frankie (the older brother) grow up together under the lash of an abusive father who runs a barber shop in South Philly.  They're born in the sixties (so they're my age), and we follow them through childhood 70s, teen 80s, new adults 90s, and adult 00s.  Frankie is gay and never quite escapes the barber shop.  After Papa dies, he converts the dying shop into an upscale beauty salon (but of course).  Michael becomes a DA, obsessed with a particular case in which the killer's sentence is commuted from execution to mere life in prison.  And then, one day, Frankie's current boyfriend disappears, and Michael finds the body stuffed in Frankie's freezer.  What's a brother to do?


Really, the book was just awful.  Don't read it.  I was mad that I stuck with it as long as I did.

The novel jerks the reader back and forth through time. One moment we're in the present, watching Frankie nervously thread his way through a hair styling show just after the murder.  The next we shoot back to the distant past to learn all about Papa's boyhood in Italy (complete with a history of his family and young Papa's love affair with a red wagon).  Then we bolt back to the present, in Michael's point of view so he can find the body.  Then we're yanked back to the past, to get details of Papa as a young married man, and then the birth of the brothers, and their childhoods, and so on.

The problem is, the only indicators we get of time are the chapter headers: FRANKIE 1972 or MICHAEL 1990.  We leap around so much, we can't figure where and when we are.

The book is also bleak and nasty.  Papa is a four-time widower, and his wives are killed off for no reason that advance the plot.  South Philly is always described as a grungy, dull, garbage-filled ghetto (at one point, Frankie has to stop to peel trash off his shoes).

No one in this book is EVER happy.  Frankie is the subject of relentless physical, psychological, and sexual abuse from his father, from a childhood friend, from a creepy priest, from two long-term boyfriends, from his father's family (because he's gay), from the boys at school.  This we could handle if there were any joy in Frankie's life as well.  But there is none.  Frankie has not one single happy moment in the entire novel.  Even opening the hair salon comes about because his unfaithful boyfriend dies and leaves him some life insurance money.  You might think that Frankie would be happy once the salon becomes successful, but he isn't.  Instead, he stresses over being TOO busy and how hard it is to keep his conservative and liberal clients separated.  His life is always awful.

Michael is described as much the same.  He marries a woman he loves and has a son he is close to, so you would think he has SOME happiness in his life.  But never once is any happiness described.  Instead, we get a dull, continual awfulness of political receptions, and how angry he is about that murderer not being executed, and how he can't sleep at night, and how he doesn't like any of Frankie's boyfriends, and on and on and on.  No happiness.  After a while, you ask, "Why am I subjecting myself to this?"

The author also summarizes his own story.  We get these tidy little capules of life events that read like back cover copy.  The chapter about Michael's surprise birthday party (in which Michael "nearly wet himself" instead of being happy) epitomizes the author's inability to show us what's going on.  He gives a quick, choppy summary, then wrenches the reader around to a nonsensical ending, where we find a drunken MIchael passed out under a tree with his head in Frankie's lap.  Major life events, such as Frankie realizing that he's gay or Michael having his first sexual experience or Frankie getting an actual boyfriend or Michael getting his first job, are summarized in a paragraph or skipped entirely.

In fact, most of the chapters make no sense.  They don't reveal much in the way of character, and they certainly don't advance the plot (such as it is).  It's a dull, meandering, depressing piece that could have been wonderful in the hands of a competent writer.

It's too bad.  I was looking forward to a good read with a gay character. 
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Book View Cafe announces THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY III.  We've had such great success with the first two volumes, we had to do a third.  (I don't have a story in this one, but I'm spreading the word.)

In the world of the Shadow Conspiracy, where the human soul has proven to be measurable and transferable to an automaton, the question arises: is the robot a person?

The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 freed all the slaves in the states in rebellion against the Federal Government. What if that same document freed ensouled automata as well?

This third volume of the Shadow Conspiracy has seven stories that examine the question of humanity. We take you from an observation hot air balloon above the siege of Vicksburg to the soul-grinding Battle of the Crater, from simple farm folk who call themselves Friends, to the mysticism of Marie Laveau and Voudon. Our award winning authors ask the age-old question of what makes us human, what is the nature of slavery, and who deserves freedom? Only you can provide the answers.

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/the-shadow-conspiracy-iii/


The Shadow Conspiracy III, ed. Phyllis Irene Radford & Brenda W. Clough
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
My novel DANNY is an April special at Book View Cafe for $0.99. Check it out!

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/category/specials/

Sometimes you can’t tell the gods from the monsters.

Danny Marina’s new step-father takes him to the laser tag stadium, the movies, the go-kart track. He and his mother now have a new house and more money. Then Danny finds the cameras–in the living room, his bedroom, the shower. Which leads him to uncover the secret web site, the one devoted to him and his step-brother Eric.

Danny’s Mom doesn’t believe him–doesn’t want to believe him. Faced with the unthinkable as his stepdad brings home strangers, Danny and Eric hop a bus for Florida. Frightened, and with only each other for support, they flee to Aquapura, a crappy, decrepit resort town. But the streets of Aquapura have dangers of their own. A grinning hotel owner named Lucian ropes the boys into a prostitution ring, pimping them out to traveling businessmen who flash enough cash. The work crushes Danny’s body and threatens to steal his soul.

As an escape, Danny fills his notebook with a strange and secret story. He spins the tale of Ganymede, a teenaged boy from ancient Greece. Zeus, the king of gods himself, snatches Ganymede up to Mount Olympus, where he is pulled into a web of intrigue and adventure that threatens the very gods.

As his life under Lucian’s thumb worsens, Danny escapes deeper into Ganymede’s fictional life. Except the more Danny writes about Ganymede, the more it becomes clear he’s writing about himself. And over time, Ganymede’s life crosses Danny’s in strange and impossible ways. Danny needs to use Ganymede’s strength to fight back and create a better life for himself and for Eric. But can a teenager use the power of a god?

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I wandered past a book display at a big-box "we sell everything" store yesterday. Check out what was on the shelf:









Quick--what do all these books have in common?
A.  They all have spectacularly awful covers.
B.  Those little price stickers will leave a nasty reside when you try to peel them off.
C.  None of them were written by the celebrity "author" whose name appears in huge type over the teeny name of the person who really wrote the book.
D.  All of the--oh, you know the answer by now.

Yeah.  These eight books, faced cover-out, made up over half of the display, but not one of them was actually written by the big-print author.  All of these "authors" are either celebrities who can't actually write, or novelists who date back to the Jurassic and can't write anymore.

Look at the above.  James Patterson makes no secret of the fact that he does little more than create a plot synopsis, which he hands over to a shlub.  (How anyone could think he "writes" five best-sellers a year is beyond me.)  Mary Higgins Clark is basically retired, and someone else does the heavy lifting.  Tom Clancy is DEAD, but he somehow manages to write novels with Mark Greany.  (And you'll notice the cover doesn't actually say the novel was written by him--they just put his name on the cover, as if he accidentally wandered in for a cup of tea.)  Bill O'Reilly and Brian Kilmeade can't write their way out of a dead metaphor, and anyway, both of them work more than full time as talking heads for Fox. They have no time to do their Christmas cards, let alone write books.  But their names are sure prominent on those covers, leaving poor Martin and Don in the shade.  Ben Carson can barely speak, let alone write, and the publisher carefully hides the fact that Candy Carson wrote his latest political screed call to action.

What's going on here?

In every single one of these cases, the publisher said, "Hey, how about a book by _____?  That would sell a lot of copies.  Readers love _______.  If you put ________'s name on it, people will buy it and we'll get lots of money."

And then an assistant or other flunky says, "Well, that would be nice, but _______ can't write books.  He's a news commenter."  Or the flunky says, "_______ is getting on in years and has a hard time writing a shopping list, let alone a novel."  Or the flunky says, "Uh, sir?  ______ is dead."

At which point, the publisher says, "So?  Get some young shlub to fill in.  We'll put _____'s name on the cover in huge font and hide the shlub's name in tiny font.  No one will notice, or if they do, they'll think the shlub is an assistant who checked the commas.  Who'll know?"

And lo, it happens.  The publisher waves a handful of money at a younger, unknown writer, way more than the writer would get for his or her original work, and makes an offer.  "We'll give you a bare-bones synopsis, you write the book.  The big name author will do all the interviews and stuff.  You just write and keep your damn mouth shut."

The unknown writer looks at the electric bill, the one with PAST DUE stamped on it, and says, "Yeah, sure."

The big name author gets the lion's share of the royalties for an outline and also gets all the credit in the media.  The publisher gets another best-seller and all the cash that comes with it.  And the shlub who actually wrote the book crouches under the table and begs for a small piece of the pie.

Why is this bad?  I mean, the unknown author gets more exposure--and more income--than s/he would have had otherwise, right?

The trouble is that the publishers are refusing to go with new authors.  Tom Clancy is DEAD, but the publisher, afraid the public won't read a new writer, refuses to do something new.

Terry Pratchett's daughter stated quite firmly in the wake of her father's death that there would be no more Discworld books.  No ghostwriters, no "by TERRY PRATCHETT and Jenny Smith" nonsense.  And the publishers somehow survived.

Look, authors grow old and die.  Let them go.  TV personalities can't write books.  Let's let some actual writers write books--and get credit for them.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Back when I wrote the Silent Empire, I wanted each book to stand completely alone so that no matter what order readers might find them, they could read them all.  I also wanted to avoid the problem of readers saying, "Oh--this is book two, and there's no sign of book one anywhere. Never mind!"  This is why each book says, "A Novel of the Silent Empire" on it instead of "Silent Empire Book I."

When it came to the Clockwork Empire , I wanted to do something similar.  The trouble is, I had an overarcing story that made it difficult.  Additionally, readers always forget some details--they read Book I many months ago, and they forget, say, that Alice met Gavin when he was only 17, or that Gavin's best friend died in an air pirate attack.  I needed to remind returning readers of key details and give new readers a chance to slip into the story, and I didn't want to do it by trying to sneak in all kinds of exposition into the book itself.

And then I hit upon "The Story So Far."

TV shows do it, after all.  How many shows can you count that start with, "Previously on . . ." to remind you what happened a few episodes ago?  And why couldn't my novel do the same?

So I started THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE with a sort-of prologue called "The Story So Far."  It was supposedly written by the book's editor, and he enthusiastically welcomes back old readers and heartily greets new ones.  Then he tells everyone quite pointedly that if you already remember everything from THE DOOMSDAY VAULT, you can skip right ahead to Chapter One, but if you need a quick orientation, feel free to read this prologue.  I deliberately wrote the material as fast and funny--no reason a big hunk of blatant exposition can't be interesting!  Then I held my breath.

Reviewers loved it.  A great many reviews and blogs mentioned how much they liked a section that reminded them of details from the previous book, and one blogger said the information let him read THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE without getting THE DOOMSDAY VAULT first.  So I started THE DRAGON MEN and THE HAVOC MACHINE the same way, to equal success.

Now I've become a fan of it.  BLOOD STORM has just come out, and it includes a "Story So Far" section of its own.  If you missed IRON AXE, don't be shy!  Jump right in--we'll make sure you understand everything you need to know.  Though of course you can buy both.  They're perfect for all your gift-giving needs.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
My book IRON AXE got a lot of favorable reviews.  Awesome!  It also got a few less-favorable reviews.  Ah well.  Not everyone can like everything.  One displeased reader, however, wrote:

"I really enjoyed this story up until the introduction of the gay character I don't [read] books especially fantasy for some great societal commentary"

Hm.  I don't respond to reviews on forums where they appear.  But this is =my= forum.  And I'm gonna say:

What kind of shit sandwich did you eat for lunch, dude?  Talfi, the gay character you're talking about, doesn't reveal he's gay until chapter eleven, exactly halfway through the book.  Until then, you had no idea.  Meanwhile, we have a protagonist who deals with the fact that his half-blood status makes him an outcast and a slave who is made an outcast because she dared to stand up to her (male) owner, both of which are thinly-veiled social commentary that carry us through a good two hundred pages.  But a character who off-handedly mentions that he's gay--THAT becomes social commentary which makes the book unreadable to you?

Shit sandwich reader, you need to examine your life priorities.  Reading about the injustice of prejudice, sexism, and slavery doesn't bother you in the slightest, but a form of love bothers you.  Dude, grow up.  Look around you.  Walk a few miles in the real world.  Or, if you can't, look at a fantasy novel as a fantasy and enjoy the craft that went into the story.

BLOOD STORM, the second book in the series, went on sale yesterday, and Talfi is in it.  His relationship with his partner Ranadar is one of the things that forces him to accompany Danr on the dangerous quest to find the power of the shape.  And we find out more about Talfi's background along the way.  How, exactly, did Talfi survive the Sundering?  What happened on the day he died the first time?  Who was his family and what happened to them?

And Talfi talks directly to Grandfather Wyrm, one of the most fascinating characters I've ever created.  I can't wait to see what readers think of him.

BLOOD STORM is on sale now, including in audio format!
stevenpiziks: (Bad Ass)
BLOOD STORM is one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month for Science Fiction and Fantasy!

http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=4919319011
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
When I wrote IRON AXE, the protagonist was Danr, sometimes known as Trollboy.  The book centered around him and his need to come to grips with his human and troll heritages--and with the long-ago loss of his mother.

When it came time to write BLOOD STORM, I knew things would have to change a little.  I've read a number of series books in which the author conjures up a brand new emotional or mental problem for the series hero to deal with, and it always feels forced.  I didn't want to do that with STORM, and in any case, I already knew that STORM would focus more on Aisa.

Danr is still the protagonist, make no mistake.  It's HIS story and HIS series.  But Aisa is enormously important, both to him and the world of Erda, and this time around I wanted to bring her a little more into the forefront.  A large part of Aisa's background was left in mystery in IRON AXE, and in BLOOD STORM, I explored those mysteries.  Why was her mother always so ill?  Why was Aisa's father so uncaring toward her?  What does it mean in IRON AXE when Grick tells Aisa she's "earned her face"?  How does AIsa, a newly-powerful woman who clawed her way out of slavery, deal with a government that buys and sells people?

Also, Aisa lived through a brutal battle at the end of IRON AXE.  This doesn't leave you unscarred.  I did quite a lot of research into PTSD and used it in a fantasy world.

So BLOOD STORM shifts a bit from dealing with Danr's personal problems to dealing with Aisa's.

For all the Danr fans out there, Danr still has issues to work out.  But that's another blog post.

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