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Posts Tagged ‘mirror dark’

MIRROR EMPIRE is out! Buy from B&N & Get Second Book… FREE

Yes, you read that right. We’ll be giving out up to 250 free digital ARCS (that’s Advance Reader Copies) to anyone who buys THE MIRROR EMPIRE from a physical Barnes and Noble location from August 26th-September 8th. You’ll be emailed your free digital copy of EMPIRE ASCENDANT BEFORE the book is available for general release – at the same time as general reviewers. 

That’s fine, you say, but what do I get NOW?

Well, for buying a physical copy of MIRROR EMPIRE from Barnes & Noble from August 26th-September 8th you will ALSO receive a free signed bookplate sent to the snail mail address you provide to us. This bookplate, in fact (only, you know, signed!):

Bookplate final

How to get your FREE bookplate and FREE Advance Reader Copy of EMPIRE ASCENDANT:


b&n promo

Questions? Here’s Why We’re Running this Promo

Q: What’s the difference between an Advance Reader Copy and the final version of the book?

A: Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) are not-quite-final versions of the text. They’ll likely be missing a map and updated glossary, and will have some typos that we haven’t caught yet. These typically only go out to approved reviewers, but I had so many fans ask for them with MIRROR EMPIRE that I felt it’d be fun to send them to super fans early as part of this deal.

Q: What the hell is a bookplate?

A: It’s a sticker you can put in the front pages of the book that contains my signature. That way it’s like I signed your book even though we were never in the same room! It’s like magic.

Q: I already ordered a copy of THE MIRROR EMPIRE somewhere else/I don’t live near a Barnes and Noble. Do I have to buy a copy of THE MIRROR EMPIRE from Barnes and Noble to get my free reader copy and bookplate?

A: Yes, you need to buy a physical copy of the book from Barnes and Noble. Buy one for a friend (or have them buy one for you!) and just take a picture of it (or have them take a pic) with the receipt! Generosity!

Q: My Barnes and Noble doesn’t have/is out of THE MIRROR EMPIRE but I still want the ARC and bookplate! What should I do?

A: Go up to the counter and order it directly from the bookstore. I realize this is annoyingly old school, but that’s why we’re offering the next book free if you go through with this. Physical bookstore orders are that important.

Q: I only read digital books/I don’t like Barnes and Noble. Why do I have to buy a physical copy from Barnes and Noble?

A: Barnes and Noble placed a not-bad order for my books (a couple thousand). To be frank, my third book did not sell well in physical form, and it’s made it difficult to convince booksellers to place big orders for my books (and been a sticking point in getting publishers to pick up new work from me).

Angry Robot has paid for table placement for THE MIRROR EMPIRE from August 26th-September 8th at Barnes and Noble. If we can prove to Barnes and Noble that there is demand for this book, they will order more. Larger orders for this book means larger orders for the next book, and can help me avoid the dreaded low-order death spiral so many authors get caught in. Trust me. This is a big deal. I could seriously use your support here, and I’m looking to sweeten this deal in whatever way I can.

Thanks to everyone! I look forward to sending you your bookplates and ARCs!

Remember: send your receipt and snail mail address toXXX during the August 26th-September 8th giveaway window.

The Little Book that Flew Away: Fly, Fly Little Book

Tomorrow is the official release day for THE MIRROR EMPIRE, my fourth published novel and the first in a new epic fantasy series.

Folks always want to know how you feel on book launch day, and the thing is, you know, I can tell you that on the *eve* of book launch day, I feel resigned. Not in a bad way, mind. But I’m content knowing that we all did the best we could to put out a great book.

Thanks go to my agent, Hannah Bowman, for helping me yank this thing into shape with a full burn down and rewrite. Thanks also for talking me down from cliffs and providing a measure of sanity in the chaos that is the writing life, where one can often get so stuck in a feedback loop that seeing outside of it is difficult.

Angry Robot Books has been a fabulous partner throughout this whole process. It was wonderful to work with a great team of book folks who, to be frank, knew what the fuck they were doing. Thanks to Lee Harris, Marc Gascoigne, my editor Amanda Rutter, and fabulous PR and marketing work from Michael Underwood and Caroline Lambe. Some miracles were achieved, let me tell you.


Thanks to cover artist Richard Anderson (and Marc Gascoigne again, for managing this process so smoothly all I had to do the whole time was be like “YES!!”) for an amazing cover that was just right for the tone of this work, and made it super easy for all of us to sell this book. Thank you to Steff J. Worthington for stepping in to swiftly create a beautiful map for the book. Thanks to my copyeditor, Richard Shealy, for bearing with me through all the made-up plants and people. And many, many thanks to my assistant, Danielle Horn Beale, for managing the massive wiki and inputting round after round of extensive copy changes.

And, of course, thanks to my spouse for tireless support and plot checkups during this strange rollercoaster of a ride. It was not easy to pick up after my last series and move on, with all the entanglements and sorrow, but we’ve done it, and I’m super happy to be moving on to more pleasant entanglements.

Thanks forever and ever to all the fans of my work: the book bloggers, the passionate convention goers, the booksellers, the forum posters, the book club members, the readers, readers, readers for spreading the word about my prior work and this work. Without folks clambering for more, and sharing it with their friends, it’s just me yelling alone on the internet.

As you can see above, there’s a lot of work from a lot of people that goes into making a traditionally published book. I didn’t just bang a typewriter with my forehead and slap the resulting words onto the internet. Whatever happens with THE MIRROR EMPIRE – whether it sells 3 copies or 3,000 or 30,000 or 300,000 – I know that we put together the best book we could put together at this point in our careers.

What happens after you position a book the best you can, and promote it as best you can, is that you have to let it go. It either connects with readers or it doesn’t. It either swims or it sinks (or just circles around awkwardly treading water, which is what happens to most books). This is where hard work ends and luck kicks in.

So good luck, little book. We’re all rooting for you.


How People Really Talk: Language and Signaling Difference

So just last week I happened across this video by Daniel José Older about why we shouldn’t italicize words in other languages while writing in English. If you have yet to see it, enjoy it here for the first time:

I laughed my ass off watching this, because anyone who’s actually known people who speak more than one language will recognize that how people talk in real life – the fluidity of language between English and Spanish, or English and Hindi or English and Zulu, or Zulu and Spanish, or any other combination thereof – is indeed exactly as Daniel describes. There’s no Pause for Effect. There’s no: AND NOW I AM SPEAKING FRENCH.

My grandmother was French, and moved between languages often. She did not wait to speak French until she was eating a baguette and wearing a beret(!). The same with my dad, my uncle, my aunts, my cousins – those who spoke French conversationally or fluently would flit back and forth when chatting with my grandmother without too much thought. It was just how everyone talked.

What I found interesting was the wrapper put around this conversation as it applies to how we offset these “foreign” languages in English text. The italics actually drew more attention to the words, it… othered them. When in fact, moving between and among two or more languages isn’t weird or other at all – it’s just how people talk.

Though folks may not think this is a huge deal – to italicize or not italicize – if you look at it in the context of othering, and how we normalize certain patterns of speech, and certain types of behaviors, it actually means a great deal. It signals that *this is something not like the rest.* Funny enough, words we’ve wholly adopted into English – like resume, faux pas, adobe, armada, schadenfreude – get a pass on the italics. So who decides when a word has been subsumed into the English borg collective and is no longer othered? Certainly not those who seamlessly move between languages every day.

I got my final copies of MIRROR EMPIRE a few days after watching this video, and as I flipped through it, I realized one of the last changes I made between submission and ARCs was that I got rid of all the italics on the various made-up words. There are three major languages in the book, and folks move between and among them quite often. The first few drafts of the book, I italicised all the words from one particular culture, but then not the other two, as the folks in those two cultures moved between these languages more often, and I started to wonder… who was considering which language other? Should I be italicizing all the Dhai words in the chapters from a Saiduan POV and the Saiduan words in chapters from Dhai POV or italicizing Dorinah words in a Dhai POV or… or…

It became a horrible inconsistent mess. The more appropriate thing to do, when I’m working with folks who are fluent in at least two or all three of these languages, is to just pull out the italics all together. It simply made more sense. Language is language, and they use all of.

Offsetting words implies there is one Standard. There is One True Common Tongue. But the truth is… there isn’t One True Language. There’s not Universal Common. Not in real life, and not in much fiction, either. Offsetting words which are “other” sets up reader expectations that there is one way, one real language, and that it’s your dominant culture, the dominant culture of your “hero” that decides that. But there is no One True Culture, either. And if our goal is to have more diverse, and interesting stories, we need to shed the trappings of our own preconceptions about what’s “normal” and what’s other and how we speak about that.

THE MIRROR EMPIRE Gets a Shiny, Shiny Bad Ass Cover

Though I would not call it a LONG wait – as this deal was just announced in January – it felt like a long wait because things are moving along so fast (comparatively!) with THE MIRROR EMPIRE.

But here it is, the epic fantasy I’m seriously hoping I had the chops to write (you should always be writing the book you don’t quite think you’re ready to write). When I saw this cover all I could think was, “Egads, I hope I wrote a book worthy of it.” With ARCs now out to reviewers, it’s up to readers to be the judge of that. I’ll just be over here hiding under the flesh-eating plants, protected by eight squads of blood mages.

Get more thoughts from me about the process, and some quotes from the amazing cover artist, Richard Anderson, over at A Dribble of Ink.



Ain’t No Party Like a Novel Party

A lot of what people see of the writing life is actually the part that has nothing to do with writing actual novels. What you see are the blog posts, the tweets, the convention appearances, the book signing, the G+ hangout, the author D&D, the podcast, the workshop… all the stuff we do *around* the writing to draw *attention* to work which has already been written.

I’ve spent the last three weeks living out loud, with twenty-something guest posts, a manic Twitter pace, giveaways, a convention, and even some grumbling on Facebook. I also got to tell folks about a cool new book deal and a really awesome award nomination.

But none of that is writing novels.

d871daee597e702707a1051c2d226a923I have an incredibly tight schedule for the second book in my Worldbreaker Saga. You all get to read the first one, THE MIRROR EMPIRE, in September, but come December 31st, I need to turn in another 160k of novel, of which I’ve only got about 100 pages done. I also have a day job.I have not been on a real date with my spouse in three weeks, and I’ve been pulling a lot of late nights already. The answer to “how do you manage your schedule?” is that I’m working all the time. Even watching TV, in many cases, has become me studying plot and story structure. I used to get a break by watching reality TV, until I realized it was all scripted, and then I found myself analyzing how they created successful narratives. The story brain, it never turns off. 

At any rate, to hit this year’s goals, shit’s gonna be tight.

So, I’ll be ramping down here a bit until summer, when the convention appearances are happening, and of course, as we lead up to the book launch in September I’ll hopefully be all over the place again, as annoying as ever. But for now, right now, I’m hunkering down to write another big book, one that requires me to pull off some really tricky shit I set up in the first book and now actually have to deliver. I do love a good challenge, but it’s definitely a challenge.

I get asked a lot how my writing schedule goes, and since I’m under contract and on deadline again, here’s basically how it goes. Here’s my novel tracking spreadsheet, with daily goals through mid-March:


You’ll note that this weekend, I’ll be revising that 20K that’s already done; I started on that process already, but there’s more to do, and I want to create a new first chapter/prologue that sets up the central conflict of the book. I’ll also be using this weekend to flesh out my existing synopsis, chapter-by-chapter, to make hitting daily word counts easier, and plot the full emotional/plot arcs for each character. I don’t usually do this, but because it’s a complex book that’s twice as long as what I usually write, with twice as many characters, it’s become necessary.

Also note I have a date there where I turn in pages for review to my agent. My agent is pretty hands-on, which is not for everyone, but which works for me because it helps to have somebody keep my usually aimless plots on track. I suspect it results in far less rewriting in the end, and richer stories that make a lot more sense. So hooray for that.

Note that these daily word counts are just averages. So I can write more one day and slack a little the next. I write mostly every day when I’m on deadline, but if I can get in a good 5-6k or more day and get ahead, then I’m happy to take a day off. This schedule just keeps me on track to ensure I hit deadline.

Now, what this chart doesn’t show is that behind the scenes, I’ll also be working with my editor at Angry Robot to revise THE MIRROR EMPIRE, doing copyedits, page proofs, talking maps and covers, and all that admin stuff, as well as putting together a marketing promotion/schedule for September. That is a lot more sort-of-writing and non-writing stuff that I need to get done at the same time, (while keeping up at my day job!) which is why discipline is so important in this biz.

Am certainly looking forward to the rest of this year, but I don’t want folks to assume it’s all parties and pinatas over here.

It’s buckle down and get the fuck to work time.

THE MIRROR EMPIRE Announcement & Convention Schedule

Very pleased to announce that the first two books in my next series have been picked up by Angry Robot Books.

THE MIRROR EMPIRE is scheduled for September 2014, with the sequel tentatively slotted for September 2015. If ya’ll want the third one, I suggest buying the hell out of the first two!

Yes, my friends, that’s THIS September, which, as you may imagine, has incited a flurry of activity around these parts, as I’d assumed that – best case – I wasn’t going to have a book out until 2015 (publishing is notoriously slow).

I’m incredibly excited about this book, and can’t wait to see what folks think about it. What’s it about?

This is my Game-of-Thrones meets Fringe novel. If you don’t know what that means, it’s cool. Here’s the setup:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of collapse. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler struggles to unite a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

 In the end, only one world will rise – and many will perish.  


I hope that’s EPIC enough for you.

For those who want to know more about the project, I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA tomorrow, January 29th. Comment thread will go up tomorrow afternoon – ask away then!

Launching such a big series so quickly also means I’ll be updating the website here soon, as well as creating a site for the series for maps, extras, wikis, and other goodies. Expect the full deal – book trailers, giveaways, guest blog tours, and all that jazz come September.

I’ve also added several convention appearances (a couple of which I got invites to just last week).  This is the most cons I’ve done in a year (with ConFusion, it makes four. So let’s hope I can survive it).



ConVergence: Twin Cities (Bloomington, MN)  July 3rd-6th

ReaderCon: Boston, MA. July 10th-13th

GenCon: Indianapolis, IN. August 14th-17th

I’ll be a program participant at all three cons, and will have books for sale at GenCon. I’m also hoping to have ARCs to giveaway (possibly even final copies) of THE MIRROR EMPIRE. So I do hope to run into ya’ll when I’m there.

Starting to get pretty excited….


Yes, I’m Writing a Book…

Which is why things have been so quiet here. I was gunning to be done with the huge revised monster and sending it off to my agent before heading out for my trip this week, but that hasn’t happened.

All I can say to everybody is, I think the wait will be worth it.

Until then, enjoy one of the fine views that’s inspired this book:




New Trilogy Sneak Peek: What I’m Working On

I’ve had some questions about what I’m working on (what, three books in two years IS NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU??), so here’s a peek at the (still a tad rough) prologue to Forging the Mirror Darkly, the first book in my Worldbreaker Saga, which I’m on track to complete by the end of April.

After that, it’s off into the big, bad world to find it a home.  Wish it luck!




Because ruin came so often from the sky, no on one in Saiduan watched the sea as the invaders came in on the morning tide. The dread dealers drove before them a swarm of seething, mindless vegetal flesh – a massive black surge of death that slithered up the coastline like ravenous snakes of acidic kelp, devouring all it touched.

Everything on the world called Raisa began and ended with the sky. Armies fell and cities burned under the light of the ascendant satellites that blazed across the heavens, flaring brighter than Raisa’s triad of moons. Families devoured their dead to satisfy the blazing, erratic satellite called Sina, the soul-stealer. Generals sacrificed children under the green light of Tira. And when Para was ascendant the blasted mountain peaks from which it drew its name became a place of pilgrimage, drawing hundreds of thousands of Para’s worshippers from across the world to prostrate themselves beneath Para’s blue essence.

In the billowing blue folds of the sky, the cracked face of vegetal flesh the invaders had summoned moved and multiplied as if Para’s sister Tira, the life-bender, were the dominant body, instead of four years into its descent. Those who used Tira’s influence to unmake and remake the stuff of life were brought to the Saiduanese beaches to destroy the horror that the invaders had wrought before it reached the city.

But Tira’s weak conjurers failed, and were devoured.

The city called Araduan was next.

And for a time, the Saiduan forgot about the sky.


Original image here:

Maralah secured Aaraduan’s inner and outer gates with shimmering skeins of air and soil summoned by a parajista. The parajista had far greater control of the air than she and her perpetually descendant star, and she seethed at her own impotence. She cursed the invaders for not coming ashore fifteen years earlier, when she was the most deadly power in Saiduan.

She marched into the hold to watch the burning of the archives. A half dozen sanisi assassins tossed ancient records of bamboo, human skin, carnivorous plant exoskeletons, finger bones, and the pounded carcasses of winged insects – most of them long since extinct – into the roaring hearth. On some other day, one not so mad, Maralah imagined the Patron of Saiduan himself sitting beside the hearth with one of the records, tracing the columns of text with his worn fingers as some sinajista conjured a flame for him to read by. But the Patron would never sit here again. The room itself would be eaten soon, and the sanisi along with it.

What records they could not save, they destroyed. Better than leaving it to the invaders, who would spill into the hold in an hour, maybe two, drawn to the archive room like dung beetles to fresh shit. How the invaders so intimately knew the layout of every hold on the Saiduan coast; how they were able to dismember their defenses with seething plant life that should not have existed while the heavenly body Tira was descendent, was still a mystery. All she could do was delay them in an effort to ensure the Patron and his broodguard outran the onslaught and found some safety further inland.

Like the other sanisi, Maralah dressed in a long black coat that touched the heels of her boots. She wore a knee-length padded tunic and long trousers. The hilt of her ensoulede blade stuck up through her coat. She kept two more blades at her hip. She was not beautiful, which was a blessing. Men and women alike had turned away from her face from the time she was small, with or without the veil Saiduan families wrapped their children in until they reached maturity. Those who did not see her did not anticipate her wrath. It had given her a great advantage. Now that she carried the ensouled blade of the sanisi, they had another reason to turn away. The blade marked her as one of Sina’s soul stealers. It still meant something, even in decline.

The youngest of the sanisi, Aahra, looked up from the stacks. His dark hands were smeared darker with soot. As a boy, it was she who put the sword in his hand, and taught him to channel their shared ascendant star to unmake the flesh of those around them. It was she who took responsibility for his fate now.

“We’re nearly done here,” Aahra said. “Let me die on the wall with the others. I beg you.” Maralah saw the fire reflected in his bright eyes. Oh, to be twenty again. And foolish.

“The ones at the wall will be dead in an hour,” Maralah said. “Killing a single biting tendril achieves nothing. You must burn out the weed’s nest. So keep burning.”

He dropped his gaze. “I spoke out of turn.”

“You did,” she said. At another time, she might have cut him for it, but the day was too short for punishment. She wearied of blood. Maralah watched him take up another stack of records.

The heat of the room became oppressive, and she turned away. In the corridor, she heard a great yawning sigh move through the hold. Maralah let her fingers tarry to one of her shorter blades and walked out into the long mirrored hall that faced the coast. She gazed across the jagged black city, still bundled in a husk of spring snow, to the harbor where the invaders anchored their fantastic bone and sinew boats. The boats blanketed the harbor – one hundred deep, one hundred across. The Saiduan Patron, the city’s civilians, and the most valuable documents from the archives had been evacuated the night before. Maralah had seen to that herself, and hand-picked the Patron’s broodguard. Everyone left in the city would die here to delay the invader so the Patron and remaining records survived. Without them, little hope remained of salvaging their people from this darkness.

She looked for the source of the sigh, but saw no evidence of it, and from this vantage, the sound of the slithering plant life devouring the walls was indistinguishable from the thrashing of the sea. In the strangling silence of the hold, she could almost pretend the end had already come.

She rested her hands on the warm railing. The holds this far north were ancient things, grown and manipulated by long-dead tirajistas, back when they had been called something else, something far more fearsome. Those sorcerers had since become priests, torturers and engineers, because their work still breathed and grew; it lasted. But something that was grown could be eaten, and the spongy carnivorous plants were doing a fine job of it below.

A dozen cities had fallen this way over the eight long months of summer, and all of Albaaric – Saiduan’s only commonwealth state, its farthest northern outpost.

Maralah heard the low, keening sigh again. She pulled at the collar of her coat. Some may have thought it was just the wind blowing through empty corridors, creeping through wounds in ancient living walls, stirring paper lanterns whose flame flies had long since died. But she knew better.

Maralah drew the short blade at her hip, pivoted left, and thrust into the deep shadow of the curtained balcony behind her. The blade met resistance. Slid through flesh.

A man hissed, and yanked his body from her blade.

“Tierna,” she said as he pulled out of the shadows, clutching at his bleeding side. She sheathed her blade. “You have gotten soft… and noisy.”

“I wanted to see how it ended,” he said. He took his bloody fingers from the wound. She watched as the bleeding tapered off, then ceased. The blood around the wound began to bubble and hiss as he repaired himself. She smelled burnt meat. If only he could replace his filthy, tattered clothing the same way. She wrinkled her nose. This close, he stank. Maralah expected the Patron would have killed Tierna long ago, if killing him was possible.

Tierna dressed in oiled leather and a padded brown dog hair coat. He carried no visible weapon. Tall and dark, his hair was shorn short, and he stooped awkwardly; wreckage from a wound she had inflicted on him, one he could not repair himself, not unless he persuaded another sanisi with her talents to assist him, and only when Sina was again ascendant. When the Patron stripped Tierna of his title, he became dead to the other sanisi; just another ghost in the hall. A pity she still felt compassion for him, after all this time… compassion tempered by a visceral understanding of how valuable he could be to her, and the Saiduan, now that he was no longer bound by the same warded obligations.

“Was she the one?” Maralah asked.

Tierna shifted his weight as another cold wind curled in through the windows, bringing with it the smell of the sea, and the tangy acrid stink of the plants. “No,” he said. “She died in the ruin of a tattered gate. Maybe all of those who can call on Oma to open the gates are dead, here. Maybe we’re too late.”

Maralah went back to the rail and watched the invaders disembark from their bloated boats. The men’s chitinous armored forms rippled up the beach. All men. She had yet to see a woman among them. They rode no dogs, brought with them no pack animals or siege engines, only the burbling plants and fungi and red algae tides, and those they tugged with them from coast to coast, like fish dragged along in great nets.

As she watched, a bit of the sky tore, like something from a fantastic nightmare. She had a glimpse of some… other place where the sky was a murky orange, as if on fire. A rippling shadow crossed the sky there; a black mass that made her skin crawl and her breath catch. The sky shimmered again, and the seams between her world and… the other closed. She let out her breath.

They had started seeing those mad tears in the sky four years before, in the far, far north. She had not believed the sightings at first; thought it was just some drunk rural simpleton enchanted by especially brilliant northern lights. But no. Oma, the dark star, was creeping back around toward the world, and chaos was coming with it. The doors were opening, far sooner than anyone anticipated, and she had no way to stop them.

A belt of sanisi stood along the parapets of the hold, waiting for the invaders to come within range. Eight hundred more sanisi and thirty thousand warriors waited inside the walls. The walls themselves were beginning to heave and shimmer as they deployed their own natural defenses against the invaders.

“I want you out of this city in a quarter of an hour,” she said. “There is a worldbreaker among the Dhai who can channel Oma. There always is. You don’t have that many Dhai to pick through, these days. We only need one.”

“They’re a bunch of petty pacifists and maggot eaters and cannibals. And weak, besides. You did not see how easily that girl died.”

“You were a girl once. Take pity.”

“That was a long time ago,” Tierna said. “Let them take that maggoty country, and the worldbreakers with it, for all I care.”

Now he was just baiting her. She faced him. He shrugged, knowing he was caught out. They had danced together too long. She knew his real intent.

“I did not agree to murder children,” Tierna said.

Maralah gestured to the coast. “You think they care about murdering children? They have murdered mine, and a good many others. How long until the Saiduan are a myth, like the talamynii before us? Like the empire of Dhai two thousand years ago, before they became slaves and refugees? I won’t lose this world.”

“I cannot see all futures,” he said. “Nor can you. We make wild guesses. Nothing is certain.”

“No,” she said.

“Is the city really fallen?” he asked. Softly, now, but not contrite. Never contrite.

She’d fought the invaders on every coast. When she sought out her father’s house in Albaaric, after the fighting, she found only a weeping ruin and the slimy remnants of red algae smearing the walls at knee height, where the highest tide had reached. She had not spoken to her father or sisters in twenty years, but she went to the house in search of living kin – an aunt, a cousin, a nephew – despite the silence. She found nothing but the taste of smoke. They never left the bodies, these invaders. What they did with them… Maralah did not want to guess.

“The city is done, Tierna,” Maralah said. “Now you must decide if you’ll stay and perish with it, or do something to stop it. If I have to murder a hundred thousand children to stop these things, I will. It’s time to make your choice.”

Maralah watched the water. In an hour, the tide would go out, pulling the boats well over two miles from this shore. The boats would recede and resupply and come back with more men and more seething plant-based weapons.

“May your roads run long,” Tierna said, neatly sidestepping her.

“And yours,” Maralah said. “Don’t come back without a worldbreaker.”

Tierna pulled away from the window and turned lightly. “They’ve reached the walls,” he said.

Maralah looked. They had. Brown, slithering plant flesh swarmed the shimmering blue walls, even as the structure spat and hissed at them. The sanisi standing at the top of the walls raised their hands to call on the ascendant Para, Lord of Air, for protection.

When she looked back, Tierna had gone.

Maralah drew her blooded blade. The room cooled, and she watched blood seep from the blade, gather at its end, and fall to the stones. The blade sang to her, the voices of hungry ghosts, all Saiduan, all collected fifteen years ago when Sina was at its height. The invaders did not have ghosts. They did not have souls. A pity, that. Instead, she would defend another city with the souls of her own dead, knowing it would not be enough.

Without Sina’s full power, she had only her hungry blade, her training, and some cunning. She had lived a good life. She had outlived her children. She did not wish to outlive her Patron.

Maralah swept her blade over her head and slammed it into the living flesh of the hold. Her blade keened. The hold wailed. Thick, viscous green fluid gushed across her forearms, her boots. Her blade licked greedily at the soul of the hold.

She prayed to Sina it would be enough to survive to see the triple-dawn.

On Fear of Failure and Writing “The Book”

I recently came back from the Wellspring Writing Workshop in Lake Geneva, WI. I got to spend a lovely week with a bunch of other writers – only one of whom I’d met before! – and talk shop and boat around on a lake (“We’re on a boat!”) and look at swanky stuff and ride bikes and read books and even play a card game or two.

It was a nice change of pace, and fun to workshop face-to-face with other writers for the first time in a dozen years.

I’d initially planned to finish a really rough draft of LEGION by June 30th that I could workshop there, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I might have a complete plot for that book, but the worldbuilding – if I want to do it right – is pretty massive, and I wanted to take some time and do it right. So instead I decided to pull out the project I planned to work on after finishing LEGION – a dusty trunk novel that I’d tried to shop before GOD’S WAR and have been rewriting every few years since I was 23 (I started the first draft when I was 19). I’ve sat on this book a long time because the story was really ambitious for me. It was originally supposed to be a 15-book series that I’ve trimmed down to 5 (because really? 15?). The thing was, every time I wrote and re-wrote it, it just never turned out to be the book I wanted it to be. I just didn’t have the skill to tackle it. I needed to be a better writer.

So I put it aside.


And again.

And again.

This time, I picked it up.

I did a quick read-through and some name-swapping and revision before the workshop (for the #&$)(#@*&#@*& time) and sent it off. I’d been working on the fucking thing so long I honestly didn’t know if it was any good. But, I suspected, if it was any good… well, this could be The Book.

You all know what The Book is, right?

It’s the breakout book. It’s the bestselling book. It’s That Book That People Actually Read.

It may not win you any awards, but it’ll help pay off your mortgage, you know?

So I trundled this book off to Wellspring, and read a bunch of folks’ s lovely stuff, and tooled around with LEGION for a bit, and read some books. And then I had my critique session.

And the writers were all lovely folks with lovely ideas, but after the first 50’s and the full critiques from folks, there was one thing that came forward very clearly.

“Hey, Kameron…. I think this is The Book.” (yes, people said it just like that)

If I fix it, yes. It could be The Book.

And knowing that, knowing that it wasn’t just my own secret feeling, made my chest hurt and my breath catch and made me want to grab up the book into my arms and run home, open up the trunk, and lock it away again for another decade.

Even after finishing the Bel Dame Apocrypha, I’m still worried I don’t have the skill to pull off this story. I’m terrified that I’ll fail. And if you fail with The Book, well, you’re kinda fucked then, aren’t you?

Until, of course, The Next Book.

And unless you get hit by a train, there will be a Next Book.

Deep breath.

So I have finally started going through all the comments on the book now, and thinking through the plot again to try and tie everything together and give readers a sense of motion and progression in the story (if you think my plots are rough now, you should have seen what I came up with at 19). I’ve now listened to Brandon Sanderson’s lecture on progression plots at least half a dozen times now. It’s a big series, with a  lot of characters, and a bunch of portal magic, and yes, even a few bugs, and massive political machinations and wars and genocide and all the rest. It’s a lot to pull off in five books.

I also have to advance some of the worldbuilding, as I raised the bar with GW and I suspect readers are going to come to my work with certain expectations, and this isn’t quite up to par (but getting there).

But mostly, I think, my biggest hurdle with this book isn’t the work – it’s not the plot, or the worldbuilding, or anything else.

It’s the Fear.

When you work on something for so long it’s a lot easier to just keep it in a drawer and imagine all the success it could have instead of actually finishing it and watching it tank and then drowning yourself in whiskey. GOD’S WAR was only four years of my time, once I started submitting it. This one is thirteen years (fourteen by the time I shop it, I’m sure). That’s a long time to kick something out the door and then sell a thousand copies and spend the rest of the decade crying into my cornflakes.

Ah, well. At least I have LEGION.

And maybe that’s what will keep me sane throughout this rewrite – knowing that I’ve got plenty of other stuff in the hopper. If this fails, I’ll do what I do with any other failure – get up, dust myself off, and do better next time.

Did that sound convincing?

I need it to sound convincing.

Ok, maybe I’ll dust myself off and have some whiskey. But just one. Not the barrel.

Not yet.