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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Steven R. Boyett

Okay, to take a moment and be non-promotional for a change, I just wanted to quickly refer to a post at Whatever, the blog of John Scalzi.  It's about science-fictiony writer stuff, just to warn you.  It includes a discussion by Steven R. Boyett about his new novel, Mortality Bridge, and how it took so very long to get it right.

This is a common problem among writers, when your vision outpaces your art, craft, or personal perspective.  It's immensely frustrating, and can lead to the justly-feared writer's block.  That's part of the problem with being a young writer -- you have the talent, perhaps, and the ambition to write, but you just don't have the chops yet.

It used to be that authors were cultivated and developed by publishing houses, who understood that a writer matures over time and (hopefully) gets better with age.  But that was when publishing was a fairly straightforward business. About the time that Boyett was writing some amazing stuff -- namely Ariel and Architect of Sleep, both of which I devoured when they came out (I mean, Ariel's about a neurotic talking unicorn and her faithful boy companion in a rugged, magical post-apocalyptic landscape, and Architect of Sleep is about the best alternate-reality story about sign-language-using sapient raccoons I've ever read.  No shit.), the publishing industry was undergoing a change, namely the death of the Mid-List Author.  Back in the 80s and 90s people were starting to make serious money in publishing, but everyone only wanted blockbusters.  And of course publishers, editors, and agents play favorites as a professional necessity, so breaking into publishing at all was hard enough.  If your first book didn't spike enough, it was quite likely your last book.

But now we live in the Age of Kindle, in which the authors have Boldly Risen Up And Seized the Means of Production From The Capitalist Publishers, the whole industry is a bit topsy-turvy.  This has had led to a whole host of problems, and opportunities, which I'll probably talk about someday when I want to rant.  Your development as a writer isn't controlled by the publisher anymore, it's controlled by direct reader feedback.

But Boyett's point was very well taken: sometimes our best work takes years to emerge.  He calls it the Big Idea.  It's the project you keep returning to as "the one" -- the one for which all of your other work is mere conditioning and preparation.  The one which you hope to be known for, respected for, the one which gets you a simultaneous sweep of the Hugo, Nebulae, and Oscar for Best Original Adaptation Of A Novel in one year.  The one which you keep putting off even showing to anyone because it's not quite right yet.

I've got my own "the one" Big Idea hidden away, and I'm just now feeling that I've got the chops -- the technique, the craft, and the emotional maturity -- to do justice to the original, exceptionally powerful vision.  It's a truism that a writer should approach every work as the most important work, ever, to ensure a top quality and entertaining product.  But the fact of the matter is that we do, indeed, play favorites.  If we're honest with ourselves we have to admit that craft and emotional maturity are just as important as a nifty idea.  Which is why you probably won't see my "the one", a noir, disturbing planetary romance called The Wolves Of Arcadia, for a couple of years, at least.  It's got a great idea at its core.  I'm almost a good enough writer to pull it off, stylistically.  The market is moving towards favoring strongly-plotted, deeply disturbing sci-fi that wouldn't have gotten past the slush pile a decade ago.

But mostly it's a matter of emotional maturity -- Wisdom, as Boyett rightly says -- that keeps the novel from emerging fully-formed.  Until I can find that point in this very special book, it will remain in the compost pile, and I will envy Boyett his breakthrough.

I'll also be picking up a copy of Mortality Bridge as soon as possible.  I encourage you to do likewise.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Princess Valerie's War is UP!

Princess Valerie's War, my second Space Viking sequel, is now live on  Cover art is to come -- my artist went on vacation.  But the book is up and ready-to-read, at half off what I charged for the first one.

Oh, yeah.  Temporary cover art for Prince of Tanith is up.  The Second Edition will be up within 24 hours, fixing a lot of little bugs and glitches that didn't get fixed the first time around.  The book is a lot more consistent and better-edited now.

And what the heck?  I dropped the price on that one, too.  Classic space opera Atompunk for the masses.

Best yet?  I'm already 4 chapters into the next one, Trask's Odyssey.  It should be out by late this year or early 2012.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Princess Valerie's War published on Kindle this week!

Hate having to wait 47 years for a sequel?  Me, too!  That's why I went ahead and did a sequel to Prince of Tanith, my first Space Viking sequel, called Princess Valerie's War.  It's arguably a better book, now that the characters are established, but I suppose that's for the readers to decide.  But here's the cover blurb:

Escape From Planet X!

When Prince Lucas Trask of Tanith and seventy of his crew from the Nemesis were captured by the Atonians, one of the “civilized” worlds of the Old Federation, things seemed bleak: he was tried in a secret court, paraded before the cameras for propaganda, and sentenced to “re-education” at the dreary secret prison known only as Planet X for the crime of being a Space Viking.  Using interstellar space ships, high-tech combat troops and nuclear weapons to extort planets of their wealth (the Space Viking’s stock-in-trade) is frowned upon by the corrupt dictatorial bureaucracy of Aton – and Trask is in the way of their imperial aspirations, to boot. 

Once on Planet X, however, it becomes clear that Aton is involved in something far more sinister – a conspiricy going all the way to the distant Sword Worlds, five thousand light-years away!  Lucas and his men discover clues to plots and conspiracies over a century old inside an ancient wreck on Planet X – could they also lead to a way to escape the miserable prison world?

Meanwhile, back on Tanith, Lucas’ beautiful wife Princess Valerie is on the trail of Garvan Spasso, an old adversary who has tried and failed to kill the Trasks in the past – and succeeded in kidnapping their infant daughter, Princess Elaine.  The beleaguered Valerie has ordered every resource at her command to find her daughter and punish her kidnapper, but Spasso’s ransom for the infant Heir is no less than the throne of Tanith, itself! 

Princess Valerie has her allies: Admiral Harkaman, Count Valkanhayn, her fanatical Golden Hand guardsmen, and an embarrassing number of captured warships and enthusiastic Space Vikings.  She also has the assistance of the mysterious Mr. Dawes, a very helpful emissary from the enigmatic figured known as the Wizard, whose reasons for helping Tanith are a mystery – and not necessarily a pleasant one. 

But she’ll need all the help she can get, with her charismatic husband lost among the stars.  Tanith has plenty of enemies: the rival Space Viking world of Xochitl, the Sword Worlds of Gram and Haulteclere, and of course the despicable Space Viking turned would-be usurper Garvan Spasso.  With her husband missing, her daughter gone, and her nobles grumbling about the state of the Realm, the former schoolteacher from civilized Marduk suddenly has to learn the difference between a reigning princess consort and a ruling monarch of a Space Viking planet in a time of war – Princess Valerie’s War!   

Lurid enough for you?  I love space opera, in all of its pulpy, over-the-top manifestations!  And new cover art is on the way, too, courtesy Neal Dillon.  

And yes, I've already started working on the third book.