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IRON AXE is now available in German translation!  WELTENSPALTER ("world splitter") is now available at Amazon.de and in bookstores everywhere. 

I've been paging through the book. A few observations:

1. They translated Trollboy's name to Trolljunge! Cool! When David Eddings sold THE BELGARIAD to a German publisher, the translator kept all the names in English, including the characters Silk and Velvet, instead of translating them into Seide and Samt, and it came across as silly in the German. This translator is way better!

2. Although I loosely used Danish and German culture as the basis for the land of Balsia, I wasn't thinking when I created the death god Vik, whose name in the book is also used as a swear word. Looking at the name surrounded by German words has made me realize that a German reader would naturally pronounce that name "fick," which is the German word for "fuck." Oops! Or . . . did I do that on purpose? Yeah! That's it!

3. They also translated the map names! "Alfhame" became "Alfheim." "Skyford" became "Himmelsfurth." I love it!

4. I still love the cover!

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The New York Times posted this article about students and writing. Go have a look and come back:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/education/edlife/writing-education-grammar-students-children.html

It's interesting and shows a number of teachers who have different approaches to solving the problem of students who can't write well.  But, as the article notes, people complaining of a lack of writing skill in America dates back to at least 1874.  The article also fails to point out the two biggest reasons we have that many students don't write well, and I'll address them here.

1.  Student Motivation  A lot of students--the majority of them--just don't care if their writing sparkles and zings.  They really don't.  They only want to know what they can do to earn a certain grade.  For some, this grade is an A, and for some it's a D, and some don't even care about that much.  Only a tiny handful actually care about learning how to be a better writer.  This describes the vast majority of the population, really.  Ask a thousand people on the street how many of them enjoy writing and want to improve their writing skill.  You'll come up with a vanishingly small percentage.  A teacher can only teach what the student wants to learn.  A student who puts in minimal effort will see minimal improvement.  In my own classroom, I use a number of techniques and activities to cheerlead and motivate and attempt to persuade that they should work to improve their writing, but in the end, they have to want to do the work.  I can't force them.  No one can.  It has to come from the students.

2. Class Size  A glaring omission from the article is the impact of class size.  Teacher A talks about identifying a great sentence in a student's work, and Teacher B talks about having all her students read their writing aloud in class.  Very nice.  Then I look at my class lists.  35 students.  34 students.  37 students.  How the hell?  I simply can't go through my students' writing and look for "great sentences."  And having my students read their writing aloud to the class?  I do that with ONE assignment per year, and it takes three full days, plus one make-up day for students who were absent.  I can barely provide feedback on essays by circling responses on a rubric.  I agree that teacher feedback and student rewrites are important to improving student writing, but when you have 34/35/37 students in class, with a third of them special needs, you just can't do it.  Back in the days when my classes were 21/22/19, I gave a lot more feedback, and my students did a lot more writing.  Now?  I scrape by with the minimum because I can only evaluate so many papers at once.

You'll notice that the above two situations aren't within the teacher's control.  Motivation ultimately has to come from within.  Class size is dictated by budgets.  If you really want to improve student writing, parents need to set an example for their kids to provide the motivation and vote to improve school funding to help with the budget.


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When summer comes, I like to move outside to my summer office. It's the front porch of our lovely house. It faces north, so it's always cool and shady. We've installed some comfortable porch furniture out there, along with a porch rug so I'm not on bare cement. We aren't far from a pond, so I can hear red-wing blackbirds sing and mourning doves call, both birds I remember from my childhood in Wheeler.



Although the porch looks out onto the street, bushes and trees surround it, giving me a fair amount of quiet privacy. I've put up hanging baskets of flowers and other plants around, and also put more plants on the rail for more greenery and privacy. If I don't move, no one even notices I'm out there. :) This is my view:




When it rains, it's even more beautiful.  The porch stays perfectly dry, and I can admire the rain while I write.

When I was a child, we lived in a big farmhouse.  Next to it was a small milk house for storing fresh milk in the days when the place was a working dairy farm.  It was the size of a garden hut and hand a concrete-lined pit in the bottom that you filled with cold water from the nearby well.  Then you put the big metal milk cans down in the water to keep the milk cool.  The house was also shaded by pine and lilac trees to keep it cooler still.

My mother covered the pit over with a wooden platform and converted the milk house into a playhouse for my sister and brother and me.  We played house and created fairy tales and other games of pretend in there.

And I wrote in it.  I had a pile of notebook paper in a blue folder and a lap desk, and I often sat out there to write.  I remember sitting out there in the rain and once even a thunderstorm with my papers and pencil.  I felt adventurous and secretive and cozy all at the same time while I put those words on paper out in the little house among the trees and the rain.  I don't have the old manuscripts anymore, but I have the memories.

Sitting on the front porch to write on my laptop makes me feel like I did when I wrote in the milk house, and I like it very much.


stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
This Saturday, I'll be speaking twice at the Rally of Writers conference for their 30th anniversary (!). It's gonna be awesome!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I don't have a contract or deadline right now.  It's a little nerve-wracking, because it means I don't have any for-sure checks coming up.  On the other hand, it means I can write whatever I want.

This is also a little daunting.

It's easy to let myself slide.  "Hey, nothing's due!  I can let it go today."  Well, no.  The new book won't write itself.  It's harder to make myself write when the story bogs down, though, and the project I'm working on--a mainstream novel--is more challenging than anything else I've done, so it bogs down often.

I'm used to writing under deadline, and I'm feeling the lack of not having one.  It's very strange.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I'll be speaking--twice!--at the Rally of Writers conference in Lansing, Michigan on April 8, along with a whole mess of other Michigan writers.  This is a really good conference for the price, and it's been going on for 30 years!

If you want to register, check out their web site: http://www.arallyofwriters.com/
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.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I've actually run out of stuff to read.

I know, right?

So I'm auditioning books.  It's kind of frustrating, to tell the truth.  My standards on books have gone way, way up.  Anything that doesn't absolutely enthrall me, I toss aside, and when you write novels, enthrallment is difficult--you know the tricks, and even the slightest authorial quirks quickly get under your skin.

I've been searching for some nice reading, but a number of honking big red flags on the cover copy of a book will send me running.  I've learned from experience these books will not appeal to me and chances are, they'll be poorly-written to boot.  Some samplings:

"Now that Barabara's husband of twenty years just dumped her . . . " Nope.  Not interested in whiny protagonists, even if they reform later.

"In this breathless, poetic novel . . . " This book has no plot and the sentences are unreadable.  Run!

"Comes to a heart-wrenching and tragic . . . "  No.  I have enough tragedy in my real life.  I don't need it in my fiction. You, of course, are welcome to have your innards stomped on all you like, but leave me out of it.

"National Book Award Winner . . . " Translation: a judge decided "unreadable, purple prose = great literature."  Pass.  (Yes, some NBA winers are worth reading. I've read exactly one. The rest were awful.  So I've stopped.)

"Told in lilting . . . " No way.  See "poetic" above.

And any cover that has two shirtless men on it makes me shake my head.  I WANT fiction with a gay protagonist, but I can't stand I'M GAY FOR HIM! OUR LOVE IS THE CENTER OF THE BOOK! gay fiction.  Especially when it's always--ALWAYS--so badly written.  I've read maybe fifteen or twenty shirtless-men-on-the-cover books, hoping for something cool, and every single one has been a disappointment.  So I've quit.  Some of my friends have tried pointing me toward this or that author with shirtless men, and on the rare occasions I've given in to my better instincts and read their recommendations, I end up wondering what the hell kind of literary tastes my friends have.  (Yes, I know about Josh Lanyon.  Reading his books is like eating cereal made of shredded cardboard laced wtih broken glass, and why in hell he's so popular, I don't understand.)

This makes book shopping difficult.  I'm trying to find good books with a gay protagonist in which the main plot DOESN'T revolve around the main character being gay.  I want a spy thriller in which the main character dodges bad guys, then goes to his boyfriend for help; or a medical book in which an ER doctor saves lives, then goes home to his husband; or a small town story in which the local librarian handles whacky patrons with outrageous requests, and falls in love with one of them while trying to save the beloved library's funding.  Or something.  And I want them to be well-written, with riveting plots that make sense, dynamic, empathetic characters, and fascinating settings.  Is that too much to ask?
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I'm pleased to announce that I'm now also the client of Travis Pennington of The Knight Agency.  Travis will be representing various non-genre novels of mine.  I'm excited about this!

Lucienne Diver, also of The Knight Agency, is continuing to represent my genre fiction, both past and future.

This is so cool  I feel like the popular kid at Homecoming!  :)

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)
At World Fantasy next weekend, I'm moderating (!) a panel with Linda Robertson, Marilyn Mattie Brahen, Fred Durbin, and . . . Mercedes Lackey!

Whoa.

While I've sat on panels with any number of Big Name Authors, including ones whose work I've loved, I've never moderated one before. Time for the Big Boy Pants!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Currently I'm a writer at loose ends.  I have no contracts and no deadlines at the moment.  I'm giving myself the month of September off from writing because, what with school starting, is so hectic at my day job.

But I'm finding myself oddly spinning.

I have all this spare time.  I can actually take a little nap when I get home from work.  Or watch a TV show.  Or cook a nice meal.  Or go for a walk with my husband.  Or read a book.

It feels weird.  I'm used to setting aside hours a day, every day, to write, and right now I don't have to do that.  I often find myself not knowing what to do.  I look at the clock--huh.  An hour before bedtime and nothing in particular I have to do.  What shall I do to occupy the time?

In a couple more weeks I'll get back to the keyboard.  I do have more projects in the pipeline.  It's a strange feeling, however, for the moment to be at loose ends.
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!

Story Sale

Aug. 29th, 2016 08:10 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Just got the news that I sold a short story to MASQUES OF DARKOVER, the anthology of Darkover stories set to come out (I believe) in the spring of 2017.  Woo hoo!  The editor is Deborah J. Ross, and her own blog about this is here.

My story is titled "Sight Unseen." An orphan boy sets out to rescue a cursed Comyn lord in the hope of getting rich, and finds something he didn't expect.

The full table of contents includes:

Jane Bigelow, Duvin’s Grand Tour
Rosemary Edghill, Generations         
Meg Mac Donald, Upon this Rock                  
Evey Brett, Only Men Dance
Shariann Lewitt, The Wind
Ty Nolan, Dark Comfort
Steven Harper, Sight Unseen              
Robin Wayne Bailey, The Mountains of Light                    
Marella Sands, Bone of My Bone       
Rebecca Fox, Where You’re Planted
Leslie Roy Carter and Margaret L. Carter, Believing
India Edghill, The Price of Stars
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
This came from Kermit the Frog's Twitter feed yesterday:

Success isn't easy. It takes determination, perspiration, and, for frogs, condensation to make it.

It's cute, but not very funny.  It could be funny, but it isn't.  Let's look at what went wrong--and how to fix it.

WARNING: Humor, like a frog, is wrecked when you dissect it. But you have to dissect it to understand it and make it work.

First, good writing uses a thing called parallel structure.  This is when you repeat a word or phrase in a similar--parallel--way to create a pleasing pattern.  It's fun to read.  If you don't use, you should.  An example: The first chair was too hard.  The second chair was too soft.  The third chair was just right. Another example: Because I love you, because I cherish you, because I adore you, I want to marry you. Notice how in both cases, the phrases create a nice pattern.

Kermit's tweet, however, starts a parallel structure, then wrecks it.  He begins with a series of words that end in -tion. Nice!  Then he interrupts his parallels with the prepopsitional phrase for frogs. This jars the reader and wipes out his parallel.  Bad frog. No horseflies.

Also, most humor comes from unexpected opposites.  The TV show Friends used this masterfully, especially with the character Phoebe. For example, in one scene, Ross is talking to Rachel's pregnant belly. "I'm gonna play with you all the time!" he coos.  Phoebe interrupts.  "How can you let him talk to your crotch like that?"  "He's talking to the baby!" Rachel protests.  "Oh!" Phoebe says.  "For a moment I thought he was waiting for an answer, and I said to myself, 'There's a trick!' "

We get a bunch of unexpected opposites in the scene.  First is the idea that Phoebe thinks Ross is talking to Rachel's crotch.  The second is that Phoebe thought Ross would actually get an answer, and third is the mental image of it really happening.  It's even funnier because the reality never occurs to Phoebe--yet another opposite.

Kermit misses this chance.  He could have come across as assuming that everyone is a frog, just like him. That's another reason why the for frogs part of the tweet wrecks the humor.  Without that phrase, it would look like Kermit assumes we're all frogs, too.  Funny!

Finally, humor should always end with the punch line.  Notice in the Friends example above, Phoebe ends with "I said to myself, 'There's a trick!' " She doesn't end with, " 'There's a trick,' I said to myself.' " There's a trick is the funniest part of the scene.  Adding anything after it wrecks the humor.

The funniest part of Kermit's tweet is the word condensation. But he adds to make it afterward.  Not only is the phrase unnecessary (it's already implied by Success isn't easy), it also adds words after the punchline.  Get rid of it!

If we tweak the tweet according to the princples above, we get this:

Success isn't easy. It takes determination, perspiration, and condensation.

Rather better!  But we can make it even punchier by getting rid of the linking verb is in the first sentence, leaving us with:

Success takes determination, perspiration, and condensation.

There!  Short, punchy, funny.

With parallel structure.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)


Today we have an interview with Nicky Peacock, fellow author of YA paranormal, urban fantasy, and horror fiction.  Her Battle of the Undead series pits vampires against zombies, and her latest novel Lost in Wonderland is--well, I'll her talk about it.  Take it away, Nicky!

What's the title of your latest book, and what's it about?
My latest book is the first of a new series; it’s called Lost in Wonderland. It’s a twist on the classic Lewis Carroll book, but doesn’t just re-tell the story, it takes the themes of madness, growing up and being lost and threads them through a YA thriller about a secret vigilante group who go after serial killers.

Your three favorite authors are . . . ?
Poppy Z Brite – a horror author who can make the grotesque beautiful.
Laurell K Hamilton – an urban fantasy author who thinks outside the box
Richard Laymon – sadly no longer with us, but his legacy is a wealth of scary books best read with the lights on!

Where's the strangest place you've ever gotten a story idea?
Working at a Halloween attraction. Although being a horror writer, ideas were going to be inevitable there I guess! I do tend to have a lot of ideas first thing in the morning when I wake up, and I write best late at night.

Makes perfect sense. Dark or milk chocolate?
I know that dark chocolate is meant to better for you, but I prefer milk chocolate – especially if it smothering peanuts or draped over Turkish Delight, hmmmmmmm.

What's your preferred caffeine source?
I have to watch my blood pressure, so I have to limit my caffeine intake. I do drink tea, but I keep it to just to cups a day. I actually prefer smoothies. My fav is a banana, strawberry, blueberry and chocolate milk.

Sounds delish!  What kind of writer are you--an outliner or a pantser?  Explain.
I’m a plotter, but I always leave some wiggle room. Stories tend to evolve as you write them, and I think if you fight against that evolution, you can damage your story. I keep everything loose and then tie it all together through edits. I truly believe you have to plot a book to make sure that you don't meander around with characters that don’t have an impact and a story that plods along, but you still have to keep it ‘pantsey’.

Where did the inspiration for Lost in Wonderland come from?
Last year was Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary and I re-read the book as an adult. It was a real eye-opener for the themes it included that I didn’t pick up on when I was young. So, I decided to write a book that honored the themes, but didn’t just re-tell the original story and Lost in Wonderland was born.

Describe your writing area.
The best area is a beautiful 15th Century hotel that’s about a 5-minute drive from my house. It’s set in stunning grounds and is like stepping back in time. You also can’t get an Internet or phone signal there for love nor money, so it’s perfect for making sure I don’t get distracted.

Now the tough one: Right now, do you prefer to read ebooks, paper books, or both? Explain.
Both. I love my Kindle as I can take hundreds of books with me everywhere I go, but there is still something special about a physical book, especially when it has your name on the cover!

What four people from history would you want at your fantasy dinner party?
Amelia Earhart – I’d like to know what happened to her.
Bram Stoker – I’d like to know if he based Dracula on a real vampire.
Genghis Khan – he seemed like a bit of a party animal.
Christopher Marlowe – I would want to talk to him about Shakespeare.

Nicky can be found at the links below:

Thank you, Nicky!

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)
A reader reviewer for IRON AXE wrote that he liked the book until he hit the "social commentary" about gay people, and then he didn't like it anymore.  He wanted interesting characters in his fantasy, not social commentary.

I found his statement odd.

If there's social commentary in the Books of Blood and Iron, it's about how people treat those who are different--half-bloods, LGBT people, slaves, people of different races.  Or it's about about how society treats men differently from women.  None of that commentary bothered the reader in question at all.  Hell, the fact that I have two interracial relationships--a half-troll with  a human, and a human with an elf--didn't bother the reader in the slightest.  But Talfi falling in love with a man--that's a deal breaker.

Look, dude--it's not my job to tell you what to like and what not to like.  You are free to hate any kind of story you want.  But don't be a god-damned hypocrite about it.  Don't try to climb a pedestel and say the story is bad because of social commentary.  Admit that you don't like Talfi because you're too insular, too uneducated, too shithouse-behind-the-trailer provincial to join modern society and accept that LGBT people have read heterosexual love stories for centuries, and now it's okay for a few books to have in them men who love men.

I've said said before that Talfi is based on Thjalfi, the speedy teenaged mortal from Norse mythology who became Thor's servant.  He only appears in two stories, but I always liked him and wanted to use him somewhere in a book.  I was halfway through IRON AXE before I realized he was gay.  Talfi is also unapologetic and unashamed about  it, even though he lives in a society that puts him down for it.  Talfi also has a happy ending.  (This isn't a spoiler, really--I've said over and over in my blogs that I despise the Tragic Gay Character trope and will use it only after the sun burns out.)  I would have cheerfully committed murder for this kind of character when I was a teenager.

Talfi is not merely "the gay guy," either. He is an archer, a prankster, a runner, an imp, a loyal friend, a happy-go-lucky, accidental immortal who has no idea how powerful he can be.  He needs to learn.  After a thousand years, it's time for Talfi to grow up, and that's what we explore in BONE WAR.

And yeah--he's gay.  You'll like him.

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.

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