Friday, November 27, 2009

Shadow's Son reviewed on!

This took me completely by surprise.

My book, which isn't going to be released until next June, already has a review on Is that crazy or what? Even better, it's a nice review, so I didn't have to brood about the house for a few days after reading it.

So how did this person manage to read a book which is still more than six months away from publication? Checking her profile, I see she is from the Czech Republic... the same country where the Shadow Saga was recently bought by Fantom Press. I'm guessing the reviewer must work for Fantom or one of the other publishers which was shown the manuscript.

Anyway, thank you KatiKat for the kind words!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

Wishing a very happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Shadow in the Czech Republic

The Shadow Saga trilogy will be published in the Czech Republic by Fantom Press. No details about when to expect it yet.

So far, the book will be seen in the U.S. (duh), U.K., France, Germany, and the Czech Rep. I'm hoping this will give me an excuse to go see all these places...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Caught up!

Okay. Now we're all caught up. This will now be my main blog. The website will be used for updates about my writing, including the whens/wheres/whys/whos/and hows about my upcoming books.

The first one's already on Amazon! (shameless ad)

World Fantasy Con

World. Fantasy. Con.

Just the name of it was enough to get me all twisted up inside with equal parts of awe, anticipation, and anxiety. Since Jenny and I haven't had a vacation since Logan's birth last year, we made the trip together and I'm glad we did. Everything we experienced was heightened for someone with share it with.

This year WFC was held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, CA. Wow. The Fairmont is lavish and beautiful--our room was more like a suite. We ate like a king and queen all weekend. On Friday, we met with Jonathan Schiefer of "Adventures in SciFi Publishing" for a podcast interview. I was a little nervous, but Jonathan made the process painless and I think I gave a good interview. Afterward, he took us out to lunch, which was my first free meal as an author. Thank you, Mr. Schiefer!

That evening Jenny and I met with Jo Fletcher, a publisher at Gollancz, the house that will be putting out the U.K. edition of my books. She brought a gaggle of Brits with her and we all went out for a wonderful dinner filled with laughter, alcohol, and witty conversation. The party continued back at the hotel bar for several hours.

Saturday I met with my agents, Eddie and Joshua, in person for the first time. We had a short "business" meeting (just typing that makes me feel so damned professional) in the afternoon, and then they took Jenny and I out to dinner along with a throng of other JABberwocky authors. Big names like Kat Richardson, Peter Brett, Tim Akers, and others were in attendance. And, like the previous night, many of us returned to the hotel bar for drinks and more talk afterward. It was great getting to know Eddie a little better, having talked to him on the phone and via email so many times. He's a very cool guy and smarter than the proverbial whip. He's going to be a huge name in this industry.

Sadly, we had to leave on Sunday (way too early), but it was an awesome trip with memories I'll never forget and new friendships I hope to sustain for a long time.

Fav Movies

I love movies. Jenny and I don't sit around in dark theaters wearing a black beret, but we see a good many films each year (more before the arrival of our son, but we still get out of the house now and again). Although watching DVDs at home can be nice, there is still something special about going to a theater. And stadium-style seats are now mandatory components of our life like broadband internet and HD tv.

Good movies, like good books, enrich our lives. They show us a slice of another perspective, another existence. They make you feel.
Great movies can change the way you think.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention bad movies. I don't know how a multi-billion-dollar industry can continue to crank out recycled crap each year, but they manage to do so with astounding regularly (pun intended). It seems to get worse every summer. CGI is a wonderful tool, but when the entire plot of your film centers around the special effects, then you need to consider a new profession. The same goes for any movie based on a theme park ride. Yes, I'm talking to those frauds who have perpetrated such crapola fests as Transformers (either one), Pirates of the Caribbean (take out Johnny Deep and all you've got left is Keira Knightly's corset-enhanced bosom), and too many others to name. I'd add G.I. Joe to the list, but I was smart enough not to see it.

Here (in no particular order) are some of my favorites:

Stars Wars (original three episodes): My inner Geek insisted that I name the holy trinity first. A New Hope, which I saw seventeen times in the theater at the tender age of seven, had a major impact on how I would later view movies, drama, and even art. Although Mr. Lucas has his share of horrible ideas (i.e., ewoks, Jar-Jar, senatorial proceedings as a dramatic device), the good far outweighs the bad in this trilogy. Of the three, Empire is my favorite. It starts with a wallop -- the awesome battle at Hoth -- and just keeps adding the tension, and the delights. If you don't own these movies on DVD (or well-preserved vhs), I have to wonder what you've been wasting your time on.

Lord of the Rings (all three parts): Peter Jackson took three very good, but very LONG books and condensed them into one of the greatest movie spectacles of my life. These films have eveything you want: grandeur, elegance, grittiness, excellent costumes and make-up, special effects that add to the movie and don't dominate to the exclusion of everything else (I'm looking at you, Mr. Bay), action, adventure, friendship, betrayal, love, heartbreak, sacrifice, honor.... For a real treat, take a day off and watch all three extended versions back-to-back-to-back. Not many things could hold my attention for fifteen straight hours, but I predict that LotR will stand the test of time.

Amadeus: I am by no means a big fan of classical music. Heavy metal is more my style (Up the Irons!). But this haunting tale about the life (and death) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart stays with you long after the final credits. The musical score is incredible -- it even got me to spend my hard-earned cash on (gasp) classical CDs. Trust me. This one's a keeper.

Braveheart: Mel Gibson may have broken our hearts with his racist diatribes and uber-religious streak, but he delivers in this awesome story of a Scotsman out to avenge the death of his bonny lass. Who knows if it's historically accurate, this movie has some of the BEST battle scenes ever. The characters are just terrific on both sides of the struggle.

Ghostbusters I: One of the funniest movies ever without resorting to penis-jokes (well, not many). Bill Murray's magnum opus -- zanny, irreverent, probably more than a little allegorical, and it also boasts one of the worst sequels in modern history.

The Curious Case of the Benjamin Button: I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end of this movie. Of course, my wife and I were just weeks away from the birth of our son, so the ending was super-powerful to us. Still, a clever story attached to strong tugs on the old heartstrings. Excellent pacing (ignore the idiots who complained about it's slow pace. Not everything should be G.I. Joe.).

Conan the Barbarian: The movie that made Arnold a star and one of his best action roles along with Terminator and Predator. Arnold is the face of Conan to modern generations, for better and worse. It's a little campy in places, but that was par for the course as far as fantasy pictures until LotR came along. For once, the Governator's lacks of emoting is a GOOD thing.

The Godfather (I and II): So much has been said of these films that I won't bother adding my two cents. If you haven't seen them, run to the video store and rent them both. Hell, rent Number Three also; it isn't as good, but still better than most of the stuff coming out these days.

The Seven Samurai: I know it's in black and white, and it's sub-titled, but this is a great, great movie. Full of gravity and wit, similar to Braveheart in its temperment (without the modern effects). If you like fights that look and feel realistic, warriors that act like warriors and not Hollywood pretty-boys (or pretty-girls. Sorry, Angie J.), check out this movie.

That's it for now.

Fav Books

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite books.

My all-time favorite novel is Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I discovered it when I was in high school and since then I think I've read it about ten times. Every time, I am enthralled by Heinlein's rich futuristic world that somehow encapsulates the nuances of the 60's (at least, how I envision the 60's). For me, the book is also special because it marks the first time I was able to see, as someone who aspired to become a writer, how a book could contain a powerful universal message without sacrificing the story.

Next on my list a two-way tie for second place, between J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Black Company by Glen Cook. These two novels are the bookends in my fantasy pantheon.

Tolkien's epic opus is a piece of remarkable scope. I've heard it said by professionals in the industry that a book/trilogy like LotR couldn't be published today. It's too ambitious. Too different, or it was at the time of its publication. And yet, nearly every fantasy author I know claims it as an important influence. I try to read the triology every few years. It's almost like a pilgrimage. While I don't write anything like the late Mr. Tolkien, I can appreciate the richness of his language, and the dedication to devote such a large part of one's life to an imaginary world.

The Black Company, by contrast, is a series of such grit and nastiness that it can almost be considered the anti-Tolkien. I call it fantastic realism, and it's a school of thought I follow with vigor. On the surface, TBC is almost simplistic. The names of the characters (Goblin, Croaker, Silent, Lady) and setting (cities such as Opal and Charm) are so plain as to be descriptive, but deep currents stir beneath the surface. Intrigue plagues the Company from start to finish and you can never be quite sure where anyone's loyalties lie, which makes for a delicious read.

That's it for today. Stay posted for some of my favorite (and least) movies.

Edit: I forgot one of my favorite books from outside the genre.

In Anna Karenina (better than his more-famous War and Peace in my humble opinion), Tolstoy explores themes of marriage and fidelity. His command of language and pure human emotion is out of this world. It's really a book that a writer has to hate on some level, because you realize as you're reading it that you will never write anything half this good. But then, Tolstoy is a master.


Today's topic is fiction publication. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on the entire publishing industry, but I've been cruising around the block for a few years and I've made some observations.

1) Writing is a frustrating business.

And business is the operative word. If you enjoy writing as a hobby, something to fill the void in your days, or perhaps to delight your special someone, then it's fine and dandy. But the moment you decide to take a chance and send your little darling out into the world in search of publication, you quickly realize that you've crossed over from Candyland onto (Nightmare on) Elm Street. Perhaps it's because artists tend to see the world in abstracts. We think to ourselves, "Hey, my mom likes this story. It must be good!" Even the first rejection slip can be explained away. That editor wouldn't know a good story if it hit him in the (insert body part). It isn't until the rejections start piling up (and, yes, I keep every one. I used to fantasize about writing everyone who had ever turned down one of my pieces once I got published and giving them a verbal raspberry, but I honestly couldn't afford the postage.) that you begin to realize that good old mom isn't the most reliable source for objective criticism.

But back to my point. Publication is a business. It has to make money in order to survive. That means ruthless competition, because these days everyone with access to a computer, laptop, blackberry, or pencil is trying to sell something they wrote. Because writing is easy, right?

2) Writing well is difficult.

I fell into this trap early on. I mean, we write stuff everyday: grocery lists, phone numbers, lame excuses to the landlord, love letters to our pets... Writing a book is just like doing those things, only a few hundred times back-to-back. Right? And ideas for books are everywhere. I can't tell you how many people have, upon learning that I'm a writer, suggested "the BEST idea" for a book. Usually it's the book they would write if they "just had the time," but I can have the idea for free if I just promise to mention them on the dedication page. This, more than any other reason, is why I cringe every time my well-meaning wife tells someone I've just met that "this is my husband. He's a writer." Most of these people probably think I'm an a complete a$$hole because my first instinct is to mutter something self-depreciating and duck away like a vampire presented with a crucifix smelling of garlic. Well, I can be a right bastard, but that's a topic for another day.

And all this stems from the fact that writing seems rather easy. You string together a few words and -- presto! -- you've got a sentence. Sentences turned into paragraphs, and pages, and so forth. But writing WELL is the trick. It's damned hard. Harder than I imagined when I first started writing with a mind to publish. And the worst part is, the more you study and practice and sweat, the more you realize that you don't know shit. Writing is just like every other skill. You start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder. And maybe, after you've paid your dues and done your homework, after you've re-read and torn apart and reassembled your story until you can recite it in your sleep, if the stars align and Lady Luck smiles upon you, then perhaps you might get a break. Perhaps.

3) Don't quite your day job. (No, really.)

Anyone who wants to get rich, or even earn a decent wage, would be better off looking elsewhere. I used to think that I would make my living with writing. That belief ended on the day my parents told me to either start paying rent or move out of their basement. I was 22 and already had an impressive pile of rejection slips to my name. Now, it may seem to the casual observer that all any writer needs is one homerun idea for a book to hit the big time. We live in a viral world where popularity can spark in an instant and go worldwide overnight. And it's confusing to new writers because many of these mega-best-sellers are (and there's no nice way of saying this) rather poorly written, even to the casual reader. I won't mention any names for fear that one day I may be on a panel with one of these authors.

The honest truth is, if you are writing for anything other than the pure pleasure of it, for the feeling you get when you're hitting your stride and the words are flowing like honeyed mead from your soul, for the reader buried inside you, then don't do it at all. And if you're not happy with the person you see in the mirror, then getting published isn't going to change anything. Publication isn't the whole meal, it's just the icing on a cake that tastes pretty good all by itself.

Greetings, Part II

Howdy. I'm transferring all the blog entries from my website ( to this page. This is the very first:

Hello, folks!

First, I'd like to thank everyone for tuning in. For this first post, I don't have a long spiel, except to say that I feel very thankful to be finally breaking into the ranks of published authors. I have been reading fantasy/scifi since I was quite young. I started with novels like 'The Hobbit' and 'Kothar and the Wizard Slayer' (thank you, Gardner Fox). I suppose my writing is a natural extension of my love for those early books. I often dreamed of publishing my own stories, but it wasn't until a small press by the name of Fantasist Enterprises accepted my short story, 'The Artist,' that I got my first taste of professional credit. I published two more stories with FE, and a couple elsewhere, but the entire time I yearned for the real prize: a novel.

I'd written three books before 'Shadow's Son.' I pitched two of them at conventions to various agents and publishers, got some inklings of interest, but always the inevitable rejection. (The first book I ever wrote to completion is, as they say, the book of my heart. I don't know if it will ever see publication, but it's passages and themes are never far from my thoughts.)

Anyway, when Lou Anders (Pyr Books) offered me a tenative deal for 'Son," I was over the moon. I'd dreamed of that day for so long, I didn't really know how to react. Except to thank Lou profusely, and then call my wife at work to share the news. She cried.

After that, events proceeded at a whirlwind pace. Before I could blink, my agent (Eddie Schneider of JABberowkcy) had negotiated a three-book deal for the entire Shadow Saga. Lou was talking about some artists he was considering for the cover art. There was the dreaded Author Questionaire to fill out for the PR department.

Then came the rewrites. I won't lie. Upon submission, some part of me considered 'Son' to be complete as-is; perfect in every way. I suppose most authors must feel this way. Otherwise, how could we ever send our babies out into the cruel world? But once I read the publisher's notes (and my agent's notes -- he had some ideas as well), I understood what they were saying. So, I dug in. Fortunately, it wasn't as painful as I had feared. The changes didn't require me to rewrite the entire book from front to back. And, as I worked, I found a few other places that could use improvement. Finally, my work completed, I submitted the new and improved manuscript to Eddie, and he passed it along to Pyr.

That was a week ago. I've heard that Lou is reading it between his many other projects (the man is a machine). So what now? Well, I'm back to work, working on the next book. The pressure is on. Writing isn't just a hobby now, it's a profession, and one I intend to perform well.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I'll try to keep this blog going on the regular. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you think.

-- Jon

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Events

I love book signings, even when I'm not the one sitting behind the table with pen in hand. I guess it's the air of excitement, the chance to see that rare creature -- a publisher author -- live and in the flesh. For most of us who have spent a significant part of our lives with our noses pressed into a book, authors are like exotic animals. They live far away and you usually only get to see one on TV or in a magazine. Book events are a chance to get up close and semi-personal. If you're lucky, the author is a proficient public speaker and you get a glimmer of what makes them tick.

Recently, I attended a reading/signing event for Brandon Sanderson. For those of you who don't follow fantasy, Brandon has just taken over the WHEEL OF TIME series after the untimely and unfortunate passing of its creator, Robert Jordan. WOT has a huge following across the world and it was clear from his first remarks that Brandon fully comprehends the colossal shoes he has stepped into. In person, Brandon is gracious, friendly, humble, and engaging -- all the things you wish to see and hear in an author the first time you meet them. Furthermore, he took the time to speak to every person who approached him to get a book signed. When it was my turn, I proudly informed Mr. Sanderson that he and I share the same literary agency, and that my debut novel will be coming out soon. He made the appropriate comments of congratulation, which led me to congratulating him for such a successful book launch. It was a short exchange, but I left the table feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

And that is exactly the feeling we want to impart to our readers, that we care about them and we want to produce works of high quality that they will enjoy for years to come. For me, it's a bit of a difficulty, not because I don't feel those things, but because I'm a bit of a recluse. Public engagements are a frightening prospect. I have watched seasoned professionals work a crowd with practiced ease, and known that I could never be that person. Hopefully, I will strike a balance between hermit and salesman. So, if you attend one of my events sometime in the future and you see me sitting/standing alone (pen in hand), come over and say hello. If you promise not to laugh at my tie, I'll promise not to pressure you into buying one of my books.