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Category: Works

Worldbuilding you can live in…

Posted in Dustings of Blue, Fantasy, Research, Setting, and The Affinities of Magic

One of the foundational elements of a Science-Fiction or a Fantasy story is its setting. All stories have settings, but a contemporary novel can get away with skimming over things its readers already understand from their daily lives in a way than a lot of SFF can't.

If you don't describe the space ship and its limitations, you can't picture the characters in that environment. If you don't ground the Hero-with-a-Mission™ in a particular place and time and culture, you can't move him around in a realistic way that lets your readers identify with him.

The picture above is the background full cover for Structures of Earth, the first book in my new series The Affinities of Magic. [Reminder — I am finishing the first three books before releasing the first one, and I'm in the middle of book 3, Dustings of Blue, now…]

Most Fantasy authors feature their characters on their covers, and I am no exception. But just this once, for the first book of what I expect to be a long series, I wanted to feature the setting: a wizard guild hall that has fallen on very hard times, in a backwater of the capitol city of an empire that is just beginning to feel the impact of its Industrial Revolution. The hero will become one of the movers & shakers of an Industrial Revolution of Magic.

So far, so good. I certainly understood the real British Industrial revolution well enough as a model for a lot of what I had in mind, so I poured out the first two books with satisfying stories that worked for me. This was followed by a pause for life events (all better now), and then I started to put the third book together, eager to begin releases. And then I realized… my understanding of the Industrial Revolution was clear enough, but my understanding of living through it — dealing with urban life, transportation, servants, architecture, etc., was somewhat… inadequate for my purpose in my built-world.

Updating covers for The Chained Adept series

Posted in Artwork, and The Chained Adept

For quite some time I've been thinking the covers for The Chained Adept series could be improved. To my eye, they signal more of a juvenile flavor than I had intended.

Michal Wojtasik, my new cover artist, agreed to do a new version. All but the first book are treatments of the same scenes as before.

What do you think?

It's a lot of work, changing the covers of 4 books and all the sets and bundles they participate in. I still have to generate the 3D and bookstack images, and then replace them on all the retailers for both paperback and ebook, not to mention my three websites. I want to get that done in time to announce it for my next newsletter, on the first Monday of the month.

Cover for The Chained Adept

Cover for Mistress of Animals

Cover for Broken Devices

Cover for On a Crooked Track

More on eBook Bundles

Posted in The Chained Adept Bundle (1-2), The Chained Adept Bundle (1-4), The Chained Adept Bundle (3-4), The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (1-2), The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (1-5), and The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (3-5)

Image of Hounds of Annwn Bundle 3-5 - BOX SET - Ebook CoverSome belated news about ebook bundles…

In 2016, I created and released ebook bundles for The Hounds of Annwn series:

  • Books 1 & 2
  • Books 3 & 4 & the story collection
  • Books 1-5

They're great deals for my readers, especially the last one, which is a savings of more than 50% over buying the ebooks separately. I recently broke down and included that last one on Amazon, despite the disadvantage of how Amazon penalizes royalties for books priced higher than $9.99.

But I realize I haven't made the equivalent announcement for ebook bundles for The Chained Adept series:

  • Books 1 & 2
  • Books 3 & 4
  • Books 1-4

Image of box set of ebooksThose are now all available everywhere, and with the same great savings.

They haven't been out for long, but I find that a significant percentage of my readers are taking advantage of the savings. Better for them, and better for me, too.

I'll be doing the same for The Affinities of Magic series, lagging a bit behind the publication of the individual books, so that by, say, book 4 there may be a bundle for books 1-2, etc.

 

Prairie Home Companion and the origins of Perkunas Press

Posted in Events, Harmonious Companions, and Volume 1

Image of T-shirt saying Prairie Home CompanionI originally posted this on Facebook back on Dec 9, 2017, when Garrison Keillor got dropped down the memory hole, allegedly for some sort of “conduct unbecoming.” I thought I should reproduce it here, since it was my first sale of the first book published by Perkunas Press, in the spring of 1993. (And the only book so published for almost 20 years.)

Keillor's show that year was called something else, the title of which escapes me, but he went back to his older title (Prairie Home Companion) later.


I guess my 15 minutes of fame back in 1993 on Garrison Keillor's show has been erased along with every artist who ever performed for him, in the grand auto-da-fé that has consumed all his works.

Seems a bit much… Like the Lord Dunsany character who so offended the gods that they caused him not only not to be, but never to have been.

Back in the 80s and 90s, I wrote out a lot of 2-4 part traditional/collegiate songs which my post-college friends and I sang from. I collected 100 of them and did a nice songbook, then self-published it in 1993 from the newly-founded Perkunas Press. Several hundred of them are still in storage. Info here  and here.

(I still have the original sheets — maybe I'll reissue it sometime. But there's no demand for that sort of thing these days.)

Image of cover for Harmonious Companions, vol 1I sent out a mailer when the book was available, and Minnesota Public Radio returned with an order, and then invited me to the show in St. Paul, where Garrison & I led his chorus in 3 of the songs.

It was quite a hoot standing around backstage watching all the incredible regular musicians and sound effects professionals doing their jobs.

At the time, I was doing a weekly stint for a traditional folk music show at a public radio station (“WMNR, Fine Arts Radio, 88.1 on your FM dial”) in Monroe, Connecticut, so it wasn't that unusual for people in the local grocery store to recognize my voice. But coming back from the Garrison Keillor show and being asked for a signature in the hotel elevator by someone from the audience was a new first.

I've got arrangements for a couple of hundred more tunes, but alas no audience. Any singers out there?

Agar Art

Posted in Artwork, and The Affinities of Magic

Image of bacteria on a Petri dishMy new series, The Affinities of Magic, has a microbiological basis for magic.

What that means in practice is that I have to describe cultivating bacteria on an equivalent of Petri dishes as part of the contextual background for the novels.

That's a matter of diluting your source multiple times and scraping streaks across your dish, and other ordinary conventions of basic bacterial cultivation.

And then this comes along…

The American Society for Microbiologists hosted the first bacteria art competition called ‘Agar Art.’

Image of bacteria in Petri dishOf course, there's more than one way to cultivate bacteria.

Like the Horsehead Nebula? I especially enjoy the obligatory Hokusai and van Gogh homages.

Check out the full set of a dozen intricate “paintings”.

Image of bacteria in Petri dish

Image of bacteria in Petri dishes

The Chained Adept – German edition

Posted in Language, and The Chained Adept

I've commissioned my first translation. This is a new experiment for me, and very exciting!

I decided the German market was the place to start, since it has a well-developed interest in SFF, both locally written and in translation. While I have some knowledge of German (well, the language from hundreds of years ago, anyway), I naturally needed to turn to a professional.

My biggest concern is not just the accuracy of the translation, but the tone of it. I want to make sure it doesn't have any whiff of modern slang to throw the reader out of the story while still presenting itself in living German idiom. That requires a sensitive hand, willing to reset the phrasing as necessary instead of just processing the words mechanically.

Image of robot from Metropolis
From Metropolis, part of the long history of SFF in Germany

I am myself slogging through the translated results with the aid of automated translation (Google Translate) to try and catch any obvious issues with individual words, especially since my English vocabulary is broad and therefore a potential source of confusion. This has the added amusement of showing me German constructions I've never seen before, as when “bandy-legged” becomes “o-beinig” (bones shaped like an “O”, I presume — who knew?)

I anticipate this will be ready by the end of the summer. Now I have to study up on my international marketing skills.

 

 

Cover reveal – Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, and Structures of Earth

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My cover artist of the last couple of years, Jake Bullock, got a full-time job (good for him) and is prohibited from doing freelance projects (bad for me). The good news is that I had just finished The Chained Adept series, but I already had a cover from him for book 1 of The Affinities of Magic series. So I had to start over again for that.

Happily, I've partnered with a new cover artist from Poland, Michal Wojtasik.

His audition blew me away. I only asked for a simple sketch of the scene I had in mind, and look what I got, a day later.

Needless to say, he buried his competitors.

He's completed the cover for Structures of Earth and is working on the one for book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I'll be writing book 4 before I release the first 3 books in the series, one right after another, to try and build up some momentum for the new series.