Thursday, December 29, 2005

SFNovelists blog site

For those who just can't get enough of blogs (and you know who you are), there's an interesting site at SFNovelists. It's an aggregate blog site for nineteen (and counting) science fiction and fantasy novelists. These are all people who have either had a novel published by a major publisher (and been paid an advance) or have a novel scheduled to appear within the next year (like me). I'm part of the site, so every post here is fed over there. If you're interested in reading the blogs and journals of some up-and-coming SF and fantasy novelists and don't want the hassle of navigating to a bunch of different sites, this might be for you. Check it out!

First book signing session scheduled

Hey, say that three times fast! The publicist at HarperCollins has told me that I am scheduled for a book signing/Q&A session at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Camp Hill Mall on April 4 at 7:00 pm. For those of you who are local, please stop by and say hello (and buy a book or five while you're there!). :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Message boards now live

The message board is now live over at Click here to visit them!

I hope everyone had a great holiday! We spent the day at my brother's house and of course ate way too much, but that's what holidays are for. Time to get some exercise back into the schedule somewhere....

I've been spending every spare moment doing a line edit of The Words of Making so I can get it shipped off to my agent and editor, so I haven't had time to read a darn thing. I'm going to get to Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys and Simon Haynes Hal Spacejock books in the next two weeks or so. I feel like I need a vacation from the holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas (or whatever)!

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas or [insert holiday of choice]. I'm not a religious guy myself, but I do like getting goodies! And it's so much fun to watch my six-year-old son get all worked up and expectant. And best of all, he still believes in Santa unconditionally. He makes me feel young, and how great is that?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chapter One online

I've posted chapter one of The Amber Wizard here, for anyone interested in a sneak peak.

For those of you who celebrate it, have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Web site now live

The web site at is now live. I still have some tweaking to do, but I'm open to suggestions for improvements.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A few good movies

I recently saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Chrnoicles of Narnia, and King Kong. All are very good films. I read the first couple of Narnia books at least 20 years ago and remember almost nothing about them (I do have them on the shelf to reread at some point), so I can't comment about the faithfulness of the adaptation, which is something I usually don't worry too much about anyway. Films and books are two different mediums, and changes have to occur if the adaptation is going to have a prayer of succeeding.

I remember only vague details of the Potter books. I enjoy them immensely as I'm reading them, but the minutia and lots of the plot details fade almost at once when I'm done. I don't know why, but it makes it nice to watch the movies because I have only the foggiest recollection of what is supposed to happen.

I thought Goblet of Fire was wonderful. I know that tons of stuff had to be cut out, but the little details left in -- like Neville dancing with himself after having such a wonderful time at the ball, or Hermione sitting on the steps and taking off the dress shoes that are obviously hurting her feet -- worked to make it all grounded and real. And Mad Eye Mooney was just marvelous. The effects work was top notch, and Ralph Fiennes pretty much nailed Voldemort. Highly recommended, but not for younger kids. The ante is definitely raised in this one, and it has some truly terrifying moments.

My son and I really enjoyed Narnia. Tilda Swinton is glorious as the white witch, and all of the child actors are more than adequate for their roles. I had some problems with the kids wandering around in a frigid forest in clothing that would have gotten them frozen to death inside of an hour or two, and what was up with Santa Claus showing up and handing out weapons (!)? But it was an enjoyable film that took the material seriously.

And finally, King Kong. If you love movies, you need to see this in a theater. Yes, it's long. Yes, some of the action is over-the-top ridiculous. Yes, some of the compositing work, especially during the brontosaurus stampede, is almost shockingly bad in a few shots. But you know what? The movie as a whole works. And Kong himself is the most incredibly realized special effect ever put to film. He's worth the price of admission alone. The recreation of 1930s New York City is a marvel, especially considering it was all back-lot work shot in New Zealand. The final scenes atop the Empire State Building are so realistic that I got some severe vertigo in a few instances. It's dizzying and scary and breathtaking. Don't miss it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

To Ash or not -- that is the question

I've finished the first revision of The Words of Making and cut it down to 195,000 words (about 60 manuscript pages). My editor was very happy to hear the news! I'm going to go through it one more time before I ship it off.

I also need to figure out the fate of A Path of Ashes. While I was writing The Words of Making I got all kinds of new ideas and reached the point where I thought they needed to be in a separate book rather than incorporating them into one of the remaining volumes in the series. I need to decide that soon, because if I go ahead with it, A Path of Ashes will be the next book in the series, before The Commanding Stone. I have a ton of plot and character arcs figured out, but I don't have an ending, which for me is a huge problem. I always need to have an ending before I start, so I know where things end up. I'm not one of these writers who can just slog along and then decide, "Hey, I'm done!"

And while I have some arcs figured out, I still need to decide on the overall narrative engine and work it in such a way that it doesn't completely screw up the plans I have for the last two volumes. Or, if it does screw them up, that it's worth the time and trouble.

So I need to figure out relatively soon what the bones of the story will be. I'll probably be splitting my workdays between the second revision of The Words of Making and hammering out the story outline of A Path of Ashes.

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 14, 2005


I finally received an electronic copy of the cover art. Check it out!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Proof copy arrives

I received the printed proof copy of The Amber Wizard yesterday. It's pretty cool to finally see the book in its (almost) final printed form. I was kind of dreading having to read it yet again, but now that it's not in laserprinted manuscript form it's almost like reading something fresh and new.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Two movies you should see -- soon!

Yes, I'm a little behind in getting out the word, but both Corpse Bride and Serenity are very much worth your time.

Corpse Bride is a brief (only about 70 minutes long) folk tale-inspired story about a young man on the verge of being wed who inadvertently marries a murdered bride while practicing his vows in a dark and spooky forest. The stop-motion animation is superb -- it's worth seeing for the animation alone, but the story, while slight, is still enjoyable, and the voice work from the cast is first rate.

Serenity is the film spinoff of the cancelled Fox television series Firefly. I admit I never saw Firefly when it was on television, and only came to it earlier this year on DVD. Thirteen epidsodes were filmed but only ten aired, and those were done out of order. It's a shame, because this show was first-rate, and I highly recommend you rent or buy it on DVD.

You do not need to have seen the series to understand and enjoy the movie, however. While having seen the series makes some of the character interactions more meaningful, I don't think anyone who missed the show will be confused or feel the movie is playing only to insider geeks.

This is a fun movie, though surprisingly dark in places. It was created by Joss Whedon, the guy who did Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV series (neither of which I have seen). Think of it as a movie about Han Solo's smuggling days before he met up with Luke Skywalker and that will give you a decent idea of setup.

The small smuggling ship commanded by Malcolm Reynolds is called Serenity, and it travels around a large solar system controlled mostly by an unfriendly Alliance that Mal dislikes immensely since he was once a rebel fighter against them. The rebels lost, and now Mal does what he can to poke a stick in their eye by smuggling various kinds of cargo and people, and pulling the occasional heist. Some of his jobs are legal, some not.

He takes on a doctor and the doctor's sister River as passengers. River is a telepath who was kidnapped by the Alliance and turned into a weapon (though she has been damaged by the events and cannot clearly articulate what happened to her). They are now desperate to get her back because of secrets she may have gleaned while held in captivity. The Alliance has sent a ruthless Operative to hunt them down and recover River, no matter the cost.

This is a smart, well-written, well-acted SF adventure movie. Far more enjoyable than the let down of Revenge of the Sith (and this from a life-long Star Wars fan who's been bitterly disappointed by the prequels).

See them both! You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I finished The Words of Making yesterday. It clocked in at 230,000 words. The bummer is that when I told my editor she was vaguely horrified by the length and said I would have to cut a substantial amount. We didn't get into numbers, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to drop it below 200,000 words at least.

Apparently the trend is for shorter books in epic fantasies, the George Martins and Steven Ericksons of the world (and a few others) excepted. I'm guessing that if I sell well I will have more leeway to go longer, but as page length directly affects the price I don't have much negotiating room at the moment. Ah, well. I've already thought of some things I can cut, and I'm sure there's more I'll find as I go through. There are some full-blown scenes that can go, but what I regret is that a lot of the "flavor" of the world-building gets lost. But such is life for the as-yet-unknown novelist.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Disaster averted

The geniuses at UPS (a wretched company, one I have had no end of problems with) lost the copyedited manuscript of The Amber Wizard when I sent it back to HarperCollins. They had no record of it being scanned into their system even though I confirmed it had been picked up from the shipping center. I was freaking out until it finally showed up in New York a day late. Somehow it made it all the way without ever being scanned.

I had no idea what we would do if it remained lost. I'm thankful I'll never have to figure that out.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Copyedited manuscript

I just sent the copyedited manuscript back to my publisher today. Ten days ago I received the hardcopy from UPS. I kind of freaked out a bit when I saw how much red pencil was on it from the copyeditor (who is a freelancer and is not an employee of HarperCollins or any other publisher). When I realized a lot of the marks were not changes to the text but proofreader marks for the printers I calmed down a bit. I went through the manuscript and made my comments in blue pencil. I kept most of the changes that were suggested and only reversed a handful. To those unfamiliar with copyediting, you do this by writing "stet" in the margin by the text you wish to keep unchaged. "Stet," according to The Chicago Manual of Style, means "let it stand."

And I bet you didn't think you'd learn anything from reading this blog!

Tomorrow I'll get back to work on The Words of Making. I'm around 226,000 words, and hope to finish in about thirty more pages or so.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Enclyclopedia of Science Fiction

I have the print editions of both The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Both are excellent, masterful works, full of isightful information about writers, their works, trends within the genres, and more.

The latest incarnation of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction will be online. The entries will be even longer and more comprehensive since the editors won't be limited because of page length (the print copies are enormous books).

It's not available yet, but if you'd like to sign up for an e-mail newsletter about the project, go here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The silence is deafening

Yes, I know, the lack of updates here is appalling and pathetic. We've been on vacation (Ocean City, Maryland, where we had a blast), and I've been plugging away at The Words of Making, which is nearly done. Other than that, there hasn't been a whole lot to talk about.

I just got the copyedited manuscript of The Amber Wizard back this morning -- damn, there are a lot of comments in it! And my deadline for getting this back is pretty tight, so I'm going to have to put book two on hold again so I can work on this. Ah, well. Not that I'm complaining. I'm just so focused on book two right now (and thinking constantly about book three, and making lots of notes), that it seems to be a giant backward step to go back to the first book.

And can anyone believe the NFL was even considering having the Saints' season opener in the Superdome? Hello! Have any of you seen the news?!

All is well. You may return to your regularly scheduled programming at this time.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

listed at Amazon!

Okay, for a newbie writer like me, this is really cool. I'm already listed on even though publication is still months and months away. Pre-order now! :)

The cover art isn't up yet, but I would expect that to arrive fairly soon.

Click here to preorder, if you're so inclined. Let's see if you can help me topple Potter! (A fabulous book, by the way, though I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that.)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Book Jacket blurb

I just got the first pass a the jacket blurb. I fixed a couple of very minor things, but here you go:

Front cover will say above the title:

A legacy of great power...and devastation.

The back cover will read:

For a thousand years, there have been no great wizards in the world--and even longer since a wizard-king reigned.

Now all must welcome and fear the coming of

As Gerin Atreyano takes his place as the Crown Prince of Khedesh after his father ascends to the throne, a stranger appears and proclaims that Gerin may be the amber wizard foretold long ago. Now young Gerin’s training, both as prince and wizard, must begin in earnest. But his enemies place a secret enchantment upon him, pulling him down a path of darkness. As opposing forces mass across the land, arming for bloody war, he inadvertently opens an ancient portal using forbidden magic. And suddenly Gerin Atreyano faces a dual destiny as savior or destroyer of a world in chaos--as he prepares for the dread reemergence of humanity’s most powerful enemy: Asankaru, the vengeful and terrible Storm King.

The inside front cover will have this excerpt:

Hollin withdrew a clear jewel from the leather pack. It was the size of his palm and cut with many facets. He held out the jewel and spoke in a language Gerin thought was Osirin. “Iva trestalkiri paran yi dakhal sethu…”

A spark of light flared at the heart of the jewel. At the same instant Gerin felt warmth ignite in his belly. It quickly worked its way outward into his arms and legs and up through his neck, as if he was being submerged in hot water. He felt the warmth in his skull and on his scalp; when it reached his face a faint amber light filled his vision, as if he were looking through a piece of colored glass like those in the windows of the hall. He looked down and saw that the jewel was glowing brilliantly with the same amber light.

Then the light was gone, both in his vision and in the jewel, as suddenly as it had appeared.

“By the Blessed Hand of Venegreh,” whispered Hollin. “It is you.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Map for The Amber Wizard

Those who are fantasy map geeks (like me -- I love to scrutinize maps and follow the action along them) can get a look at the map for The Amber Wizard here.

I drew the image freehand, using a pen I got for free from Sovereign Bank when they took over my old bank. It actually worked better than the other pens I picked up at an arts supply store. Go figure. About the only worthwhile thing I got from that lousy institution (other than a severance check).

After it was drawn, I had a friend of mine who owns a graphic design firm (thanks, Lori!) scan it in as an Adobe Illustrator file, which was the preferred file format I got in the specs from HarperCollins' art department. I then added all the text where needed, scaled it to the proper size, and shipped it off.

I have a map of the city Almaris that will be part of book two partially completed. This one I'm doing completely in Illustrator since I don't need mountains or other features that are much easier to draw by hand.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Battlestar Galactica this Friday

For those of you who've been watching the best show on television (and for those who haven't, tune in now!), the second season of Battlestar Galactica starts this Friday on the Sci-Fi Channel at 10:00 pm. I wish to hell SCi-Fi broadcast this in high definition. The Universal HD channel has been running the first season in HD and it's glorious to behold. I really hate watching shows in standard definition anymore (yes, I know, I'm an HD snob; sue me). The second season will run on UHD sometime later in the year, but there's no way I can wait that long to start watching.

This is an incredibly well-written and well-acted drama. I find the religious pieces of the show to be highly interesting. The Cylons -- a race of cybernetic beings created by humans who rebelled against them in the past and recently nearly wiped out the human race in a sneak attack -- have a belief in a single god, while the humans worship a pantheon based on the gods of the ancient Greeks. It's fascinating stuff. This is not a show about ray guns and gee-whiz gadgets (and has been criticized by the more fanatical hard-core science fiction crowd because of it). It's a show about people who are dealing with the literal end of the world and it's aftermath, and what it takes to endure such bleak circumstances.

Watch it!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

So what the heck have I been doing?

In late May I received the line-edited copy of the manuscript back from my editor, so I spent a few weeks going through and making those changes, then going through it again to make a few changes I needed (some things have evolved during the writing of book two that needed slight modifications in book one), and then I went through it a third time to create a glossary and pronunciation guide.

When that was all done, it was time to draw the map. I have sketch maps in pencil that I use for reference when writing, but I got the okay from my editor and the art dirctor at HarperCollins to do the actual map that will be in the book. They sent me specifications (size proportions, and their preference for an Adobe Illustrator file), and I set to work, meticulously drawing out the map in ink on very heavy (105#) white art paper. I did not label anything since my handwriting is horrid. I gave the map to a friend of mine who owns her own graphic design company (thanks, Lori!), and she will scan it as an Illustrator file. I'm waiting for her to get that back to me now. Once I have it, I will enter all the land/river/city/miscellaneous labels using Illustrator, since they can then be resized and moved around if need be. And of course I'm still pounding away on book two....

Friday, July 08, 2005

Book two update

I just passed the 184,000 word mark with The Words of Making, and still have six or seven chapters to go. I figure I'll top out around 230,000 words or so, around 700 manuscript pages (right now I'm on 517). At least the end is in sight, though I'm having a helluva time working on this current sequence that's going to include a naval engagement. I need to do some serious research here to pull that off, since I know next to nothing about how medieval naval warfare was conducted.

Harrisburg Magazine Q&A

I recently gave a brief Q&A to Harrisburg Magazine, a regional publication that focuses on -- you guessed it! -- people and events of interest in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area. It will be in the August issue, so for those of you who are local, be sure to check it out!

Tardy me

Yes, I know, I know, I've been pitiful in keeping this thing updated. Part of this has to do with simple scheduling. My son's full-day kindergarten wrapped up at the end of May, he was home for two weeks, and now he's going to a half-day outside program at a local park (today they're bowling!). Since my most prolific writing is done in the afternoons, I've been scrambling to fit writing time in whenever I can.

I can't complain too much. He and I have been going to the pool, to the movies, playing outside, etc. I love playing with him, so it's not exactly a hardship. And I already said I'm not much of a diarist (and let's face it, that all blogs are, for all the chest-thumping and self-importance some people make of them -- new journalistic paradigm my shiny metal ass!), so my drive to post here hasn't been exactly overwhelming me.

More a little later on what's been going on with the writing...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Erickson and Clarke

I just finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I enjoyed the story but absolutely hated the style. I despise third-person omniscient narrators (where the narrator is a character and can also peer inside the thoughts of any other character at any time). It came close to derailing the book for me in a couple of spots. There's a whimsical, almost young-adult narration style to the book that sometimes is at odds with what's going on, especially toward the end as the events become more serious and take on a more mythic tone. I understand why she made the choice she did -- the novel is set in the early 1800s, and third-person omniscient was a style very much in use back then -- but I don't have to like it. I think Neal Stephenson did a fabulous job of writing about the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries in his Baroque Cycle of novels. He used an ironic tone throughout, but it fit the story and characters and could be both laugh-out-loud funny and deadly serious without ever seeming out of place.

I'm also embroiled in Steven Erickson's Malazan Empire novels. I really didn't care for the first one, Gardens of the Moon, and almost skipped the second one, Deadhouse Gates. I'm glad I didn't. It was leaps and bounds better than the first. I still have problems with Erickson. He creates way too many races that serve no real purpose and aren't differentiated from each other in any way. Can someone please tell me exactly what a Trell is? "Pastoral nomadic warrior society," which is in the glossary, doesn't cut it. But those are minor quibbles. Anyone who can write something as powerful as the "Chain of Dogs" segment of Deadhouse Gates deserves a round of applause. If you like extremely complicated, grim epic fantasy, check out Erikson. Skim Gardens of the Moon because it's necessary for character introductions and plot points, but sink your teeth into the rest. I picked up the third and fourth books in UK paperback editions since they won't be available here in the US for some time yet, and I wasn't willing to wait. So I guess that gives you an idea of how much I like him, despite my quibbles.

Line edits

I've been terrible about keeping this thing updated. As I said before, I'm not a diarist, I don't have any great urge to post my thoughts on politics or my daily routine, and for a while I've just been grinding away at writing, so there hasn't been much to write about.

I've seen a revised cover sketch in color which looks really good. It's dark and spooky and should do its job, which is to make it stand out on the bookshelves. I'm really happy with it and can't wait to see the final oil or acrylic version.

I just got the line-edited manuscript from my editor. There's not really that much to revise other than a general tightening and some grammar fixes. She only has a handful of plot and/or character comments, most of which make sense and shouldn't be hard at all to fix. I need to get this back by June 29 to keep on schedule for the bound galleys, and I don't think I'll have much of a problem with that.

Writing The Words of Making has given me some ideas for a fifth book in the series, tentatively titled The Path of Ashes. It's still pretty vague and it may be that I'll simply incorporate the ideas for it into one of the other volumes, but right now it looks llike a book-length idea to me. I'm not sure if it will be book three or four chronologically. I expect to plan all of that out once I have a draft done of The Words of Making .

I'll post something soon about a couple of books I recently finished reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cover art and contracts

It's been a busy couple of days here. Yesterday I finally received the contracts from HarperCollins, and today I got to see a sketch of the cover art. The artist's name is
Tristan Schane and you can see some of his work here:

Monday, April 25, 2005

Forgiving great evil

I read a quote the other day from J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon Five (and lots of other things), about forgiving evil. He said he wrote the episode of B5 called "Passing Through Gethsemane" in order to try to understand how someone can forgive a great evil that had been done to them, because it was something he could never do.

It's a question I've pondered a great deal. How exactly do we forgive? I think I'm a mostly forgiving person, to a point. And that is the rub. Where is that line drawn? I'm not a person that holds grudges. Someone can really piss me off, and if they apologize sincerely, five minutes later I'm fine. (This bugs the crap out of my wife.) But these are usually minor disagreements, or someone being rude or thoughtless. Not someone who has done me, or my family, considerable harm.

I could not, under any circumstance that I can envision, forgive someone who harmed my son. I don't believe in sin the way the church (take your pick which one) does, but I think an adult who willfully harms a child is committing the worst sin imaginable. How could a parent forgive a pedophile who molested a son or daughter, or killed them when he finished sating his appetite? Yet what is the alternative?

I worry about my son sometimes. Not in an obssessive, unhealthy way (at least I don't think so), but I imagine in the way most parents do. What would I do if something happened to him? How could I go on? An accident would be devastating enough, but if someone deliberately took him from me...? I could not forgive. That capacity is beyond me in that circumstance. I fear something happening to him not only because of the depth of my love for him, but because of what it would do to me as well. I would be consumed by hatred and guilt. Hatred for the person who took him, and guilt that I could not do what all fathers are to do, and that is protect their children. It's something that's too awful to contemplate.

But there are people who have lost children, or spouses, or parents, who have found the ability to forgive what was done to them. I believe it is a survival mechanism of some sort, a way of dealing with a trauma that otherwise would be as deadly as ebola. But it's also a conscious decision, a choice made to forgo hatred and the desire for vengeance. Do these people feel this way because they are religious and believe what happened was somehow a working out of God's will on Earth? I don't know. I only know that such forgiveness is beyond me, and I hope I never experience it outside a father's late-night wonderings.

Lack of updates

I apologize for the lack of updates, but not much has been happening book-wise, and I'm not one to take the time to fill up space with a lot of crap about what I'm having for lunch (pizza from the Pizza Grille! Yummy!) or other such inconsequential nonsense.

My work on The Words of Making has been going great. I'm past 150,000 words (out of what will probably be a total of 220,000-250,000), and have been getting more than 2,000 words written every day. But making daily or weekly recaps of my word count would bore me to tears, so I won't inflict that on anyone reading this, either.

My agent is happy with the rewrite of Foreverness, so that is going to market soon. I will, as usual, keep everyone updated if there is interest from a publisher or a sale.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Cover scene decided

I heard from my editor today, who told me the cover scene had been chosen. It was one of the scenes I suggested, with a slight change to it.

My original thought was that, if they wanted a "minimalist" look, they could use the black door where books of forbidden black magic are kept that the main character steals in an attempt to summon a long-dead wizard from the grave to learn the location of a lost library of knowledge. The door is inscribed in gold with the wizard symbol for death, and protected by powerful spells to keep people out. They loved the scene, but thought it needed the main character in view as well. The symbol of death may be embossed and foiled, which I think would be pretty dramatic and eye-catching.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Meeting postponed

The cover art meeting was postponed for reasons not revealed to me, so at the moment I still have no idea about what artist they are looking at or which scene they will illustrate. I'll let you know when I have any new info.

Back to work on book two. More soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More on cover art

I was right, I'm not actually included in the cover art meeting, but my editor was kind enough to solicit comments from me regarding my preferences for both artist and scene. I spent some time last night looking through the book for scenes that I thought would work well as cover illustrations, then wrote a brief description of each and the page number in an e-mail back to her. I came up with ten images in all. Some were dynamic "action" scenes, while others showed some of the unique landscapes and "sense of wonder" images from the book. I also threw out some names of a couple of artists I like, such as Gary Ruddell, Steve Stone, Keith Parkinson, and a few others.

My favorite image is one they probably won't use. There is a statue described in the book called "Death of a Son," a symbolic representation of the long lives of wizards that they cannot share with anyone else. They will remain unchanged for several centuries while their loved ones grow old and die. Here's the description of the statue:


The statue rose seven feet above the pedestal and depicted a father carrying the limp corpse of his son, one arm beneath the boy’s back, the other beneath his knees. The father cradled his son gently, lovingly, a boy of five or six, whose head rested against his father’s chest, his eyes closed, his lips slack. The boy’s left arm lay across his abdomen; his right hung limply, the fingers relaxed, and Gerin could imagine it swaying lifelessly as the father carried him away from the place where he had died (for surely that must be what was shown, he thought). The dead child wore a sleeveless tunic and trousers that reached only to mid-calf; his feet were bare. The son had no wound or blight upon him, no visible injury that could have caused his death. Indeed, he could easily have been sleeping except for the expression on his father’s face. It was etched with anguish and pain, a sorrow so deep and penetrating it seemed he must collapse at any moment from the crushing weight of it. His head was tilted back, looking skyward; his eyes were wide and imploring, and looked so close to spilling tears that Gerin half-expected to see water begin to pour down his white cheeks. The father’s lips were parted slightly, as if he were attempting to speak but could not find the strength for his voice. His hair was swept back from his face by an unseen wind, which billowed the cloak that fell from his shoulders.

“It’s both beautiful and terrible,” said Reshel in the same whispery tone.

“This is ‘Death of a Son,’” said Hollin. He too spoke softly, and with a reverence in his voice Gerin had not heard from him before. “It is my favorite sculpture in all of Hethnost. Many find it morbid and avoid it, and in some ways it is, but I find it heart-wrenchingly sad, and beautiful as well, as you said, Reshel. It was made by a wizard named Eredhel Anyakul after his own son drowned in one of the cisterns here. He never sculpted again after this was finished, and in fact went mad a few years later and lived out his days in the uppermost room of the Derasdi Tower.” He pointed to a solitary square spire near the foot of the ramp that led to the Khalabrendis Dhosa. “He allowed food and water to be brought to him, but received no visitors and spoke to no one. They knew he was alive only by the lights in the tower and the empty trays left outside the door each morning.” He looked at the statue and folded his arms. “I’ve always imagined that the father is about to speak the name of his son, but that his grief is simply too great to overcome.”

“It seems to me his is going to ask why?” said Reshel. “Why was my child taken from me? Who will answer for it? He’s looking to the gods, but his question is met only with silence and a voiceless wind.”

“I like that,” said the wizard. “I’ve also thought this was a potent symbol for wizards and our inability to pass our powers and long lives to our children. I think that’s why so many of us are troubled by it; it’s too sad a reminder of what we can never share.”


There are some other images that would make good covers, but I think this one captures the melancholy that is at the heart of the book. I'll let you know how things develop.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Cover art

It appears I spoke out of turn when it comes to cover art. I was certain that authors had no input whatsoever into book covers, but apparently that's not entirely the case. I just got an e-mail from my editor informing me of a cover conference on Wednesday. I'm not sure I'm actually included in the conference, but my editor asked me for my input, so I'm going to put a list together of scenes from the book that should translate into interesting covers.

Friday, March 18, 2005


One of the central narrative arcs in the story cycle of the novels is the movement from polytheism, to henotheism, to monotheism. Most people recognize the first and last terms, but "henotheism" is not nearly as familiar.

So what the heck is it?

Henotheism is the belief that there is one god for a particular people or tribe, without disbelieving in other gods for other peoples. Moses, contrary to popular opinion, was a henotheist, not a monotheist. He did not disbelief in the gods of Egypt -- he said only that they were not for the Hebrews, who were to worship Yahweh and Yahweh alone. That's why the Egyptian priests are able to transform their staffs into serpents. It was a show of the power of their gods. But Yahweh is stronger, and the transformed staff of Moses devours the other two, "proving" that the god of the Hebrews is stronger than the gods of Egypt. A lesson the Pharaoh ignores to his ruin.

In the second novel, The Words of Making, a henotheistic religion arises that greatly alarms the king and the priesthood because of its popularity with the common folk. The men who are in power see the religion of the One God as a subversive force that must be contained or destroyed. The problem for the king is that his son, Gerin, has become a follower of the new religion, since he has come to believe that the divine presence who has appeared to him several times is a messenger of this new god....

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What the books are about

I've been trying to figure out a way to describe what my books are about that doesn't read like a jacket blurb, but also doesn't give away too many of the surprises. I'm going to launch a web site later this year that will contain the prologue to The Amber Wizard, but it's kind of large to put into this blog, so for now I'm going to resist going that route.

First of all, The Amber Wizard and its sequels are epic fantasy in a "medieval" tradition. I realize this is not everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine. I will describe Foreverness sometime soon, which is a young adult dark fantasy set in the here and now (southcentral Pennsylvania, to be precise) with lots of religious implications and musings about God's plan for the world. So if you're looking for me to write a plain old mainstream novel, sorry! I read them occasionally, but the idea of writing one definitely isn't my cup of tea. Even if I tried to write something "normal," my twisted brain would drag something weird into it. That's just how I am.

The Amber Wizard, at its heart, is about the consequences of one's actions and how terrible crimes can resonate and affect the world centuries after they occur. The main character, Gerin Atreyano, is a prince and heir to the throne of the kingdom of Khedesh. He's young, brash, arrogant, and talented. He learns that he has the ability to become a wizard -- which were once a separate race of beings, and whose interbreeding with non-magical peoples has caused their powers to fade until they now stand on the brink of their own extinction -- the likes of which have not been seen for nearly two thousand years.

A mysterious divine being appears to him on several occassions to make cryptic pronouncements about the power -- and powerlessness -- of the gods, causing him to wonder if he's drawn the attention of the gods themselves upon him.

While in summary it sounds kind of generic, the details in the book -- and the larger story that will play out over the next several volumes -- are pretty unique for this kind of fantasy. What exactly is mankind's relationship to the gods? Is there one god or many? What kind of events would cause a former polytheistic priest to create a new religion dedicated to One God alone, and why would such a new idea spread across the world like a wildfire? Is evil an external, incarnate force, or does it live only in the hearts of mankind?

In The Amber Wizard, Gerin faces a terrible dilemma. There is a force of death at work in his world, created by an act of his own making
that went horribly wrong -- the use of forbidden black magic to summon the spirit of a dead wizard. Many are dying, and more will continue to die unless a proper balance can be restored. But the only way to correct the balance is by the sacrifice of an innocent, one who must be pure. And it must be done by Gerin's hand. He will also uncover the secret of an ancient crime so ghastly it will forever change how he sees the world.

Monday, March 14, 2005

How not to go insane from the solitary life of a writer

I'm sure every writer working full-time has little tricks to keep from cracking. Writing is a very solitary experience. One person, alone in a room with a computer (or tablet, or napkins, or whatever), and (for a novelist, at least) a long story to tell that won't be finished for months, or years. It's not really a life that's well suited to the kind of person who thrives on contact with others. Fortunately, I'm not that kind of person. Not that I'm anti-social, but I don't mind long stretches of time by myself. Of course, I've only been at the full-time gig a month, so I haven't exactly had time to go bonkers yet.

Here's how I do it. Your mileage may vary:

  • Treat writing like a job (because that's what it is). I write from about 9:00 (after I drop my son off in kindergarten) to around 4:00 or 5:00. I'm no longer working evenings and weekends (well, most of the time I'm not -- there are days when I really want to finish something and I need to work longer, but that's the exception rather than the rule). If you just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike before you start writing, you will probably never finish anything.
  • Take breaks, and get out of the house! I schedule lunches with friends two or three days a week so I can get out of my office and have interaction with real people. (I like solitude, but not that much!)
  • Have a goal or quota, and don't stop until you hit it. Before I started writing full-time, I set a goal of wanting to write at least 1,500 words per day (you might use number of pages or some other measurement, but the idea is to pick something). That would keep me on track to finishing a long novel in about a year. So far I've been hitting 1,600 to 2,300 words every day. As I've said before, outlining really helps!
  • I like listening to music while I write. Others might need absolute silence. I've been burning my CDs down to iTunes while I work (2,000+ songs so far) and I just hit shuffle and let them play. Or I listen to some of the radio stations on iTunes. There's a pretty interesting selection of stations out there.
Tip for getting started each day: Always end your writing day by stopping while the writing's going great. Never stop when you've run out of gas or ideas, or are in a quandary of some kind. I've stopped mid-sentence before -- it makes it that much easier to get started in the morning. Just make some notes on the page of what you're planning next (if you need to), and shut things down. It really works. You can pick right up and get going. I've yet to experience "writer's block" (though I will say that when I make all of the hard choices in the outline stage, things can move pretty slooooowwww.)


I proofed the most recent changes to my young adult novel Foreverness today (I took a break from working on the sequel to The Amber Wizard last week to do the revision) and sent the revised manuscript off to my agent. He'd read it recently and had asked for a number of changes. None of them were substantive, but they helped to clarify a number of plot points and create some more emotional resonance between the main characters. Matt is a great guy for cutting right to the heart of a piece of fiction and figuring out exactly what works and what needs some help. I will let you know what he thinks of the revision when I hear from him in the next few weeks.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Some interesting questions...

David Gordon asked:
"I am especially interested in how you will balance the very solitary life the writer leads (it is, after all, just you and your word processor behind locked doors) with the 'public' life a person who is (happily) married, with children must concurrently lead. In addition, there is the frustration you soon will encounter when you discover (as if you already do not know) that publishers perceive their end-market as book-sellers, not book-buyers and readers. People such as me. So in addition to writer and proof-reader, you also must assume the role of Chief Marketer and Publicist for David Forbes, Inc. Of course, if you are related to those other Forbes, well then no problem!"
Very good questions, David, especially dealing with the solitary work environment. This is going to be a short post, but I promise I will get to your questions soon. This blog itself is part of the marketing effort I'm doing for my work, and I'm sure HarperCollins will expect some things from me as well, but at this point I have no idea what they might be. That's all part of this new journey I'm experiencing and planning to share.

No, unfortunately, I'm not related to those Forbes, otherwise I could have just bought HarperCollins and saved myself all of the grief of having to submit my work to them!

Expect a breakdown of my work day (though not, I hope, in enough detail to put any of you to sleep), how I deal with working on multiple projects at once (writing the sequel to book one, revising Foreverness, revising book one itself once I get the editorial letter from HC, maintaining this blog, and building a web site for, and some updates on me bugging my agent about the contract (sorry, Matt!) over the next few days. I'll also try to work in a little more detailed description of the books when I have some time.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

What happens after your novel gets accepted by a publisher?

While I was waiting to hear whether or not The Amber Wizard was accepted anywhere, I was working on the sequel, The Words of Making. I had written a two or three page synopsis for each of the remaining three books in the series -- The Words of Making, The Commanding Stone, and The Fell King -- but as I've said before, I found I need a very detailed outline completed before I sit down to begin writing. I can make all of the hard plot and character decisions and change things around much more easily in a 30 page outline than after I'd completed 300 manuscript pages. So I spent a couple of months hammering out all of the plot details of book two until I had a 37-page, single-spaced outline done, breaking the story down chapter by chapter.

After HarperCollins offered me the contract, I got a call from my editor, Diana Gill. We talked for a while and she filled me in on the next few steps in the process. Here's what I remember from the call. I didn't take notes, I just listened, and some of this may very well be wrong. But here's the publication process as I understand it at the moment.

  • Once I sign the contract, I get paid the first installment of my advance (no, I won't say what it is; more than ten bucks and less than a million). HarperCollins actually pays my agent, who deducts his 15% and other miscellaneous fees, then remits the rest to me.
  • I will receive an editorial letter from Diana. This is her list of things she wants changed in the book. I've had people ask me, "What if she wants you to throw most of it out and start over?" I'm not worried about that at all, because the book industry is so competitive that if a novel isn't about 95% ready to go as is, you won't get an offer in the first place. Of course now that I've said this, her list of changes will be huge and I'll gnash my teeth and come back here and bitch and moan about the unfairness of it all, but I really don't think that will happen (he said with his fingers crossed).
  • Once I make the changes and return the manuscript, I get paid a second installment of the advance. This is called "delivery and acceptance."
  • The manuscript is then typset and gone over by a copy editor, who checks for things like spelling and grammar mistakes, etc., and marks up the manuscript accordingly.
  • The copyedited manuscript is then set as a proof. Someone (I'm not sure who) meticulously compares the copyedited manuscript to the proof copy to make sure that all the changes in the copyedited version were actually carried through to the proof.
  • Once that is verified, a proofreader a HarperCollins and I receive copies of the proof, which we read in detail (which I'm dreading -- I'm a lousy proofreader), make any changes that might be needed, send it back for corrections, etc. I don't know how many iterations of this process occur. I hope not many!
  • Once the proof is approved, it...well, hell, I kind of forget. I guess it goes to a final typeset stage at this point, but I'm really not sure. And somewhere in here the art department has to find a cover artist, send him or her the manuscript (or selected parts of it), receive sketches, decide on which one to use, etc. From what I understand I have zero input on what the cover art will be. So if it sucks ass (and no offense, but I think a great deal of fantasy cover art blows big chunks of steaming monkey vomit), don't blame me!
  • The book goes into HarperCollins publication schedule, a print run is decided upon, whatever marketing is to be done is worked out, and a lot more stuff that I presently have no idea about.
That, in a nutshell (or a couple of bullet points), is the general outline of the publication process as I now understand it. As I go through each stage I'll write about it here in detail, so be sure to check back!

Next post(s): Getting into the groove of writing the sequel, why even outlining in detail can't always save you from some big changes once the writing starts, and moving to writing full-time during the day. (And yes, I will give an update on what's going on with Foreverness soon, I promise.)

How to juggle a "normal" life and still find the time to write

I got married in 1994 to my wife Connie, and our son Alex (who's in the picture with me to the right) was born in 1999. After college, I worked at a credit union for six years as a research analyst in the marketing department, then jumped ship to a regional bank as a marketing product manager. I wrote in the evening, on weekends, on holidays and sometimes on vacation. I watched very little television because I had to choose between writing and watching TV, and since books don't write themselves I knew I had to devote the time or I would (a) never get anything finished and (b) therefore never get published.

Yes, it was hard. I've pretty much had two jobs for my entire adult life: "work" during the day to pay for things like utilities and the mortgage, and writing in any "spare" time I could find (which I have always considered my real "work" even when I wasn't getting paid). I tried to write at least five days a week. And I still had to do "life" things like cut the grass and play with my son and spend some time with my wife and try to get out of the house at least once in a while.

But you know what? It paid off. Here's a brief chronolgy of how things played out:

After my first agent and I parted ways, I spent a year or so cutting a crapload of material out of The Amber Wizard, but I just got exhausted with it. I needed a break. I had an idea for a completely unrelated novel called Foreverness, about a fourteen-year-old boy who gets caught up in a war between angelic powers and the nature of God's purpose for us. The idea had been floating around in my head for a while, and I'd been making lots of notes for a couple of months. Finally I decided to take a break from The Amber Wizard and work on this new project. I outlined it in a lot of detail (I start with a rough synopsis of a couple of pages, then keep expanding that until I have a detailed, chapter-by-chapter breakdown), which took something like six or eight months. It was the first time I'd outlined in such detail, and I realized it's how I need to work. I wrote the first draft of Foreverness -- 100,000 words -- in 90 days. The damn thing practically wrote itself. I let it sit for a month, revised it, then started looking for a new agent, hoping Foreverness would get me in the door.

One year and a gazillion queries later, I still hadn't found one. Probably a dozen agents wanted to read some sample chapters, and though they liked it, the comments I got all went along the lines of, "I don't know how to sell this." It frustrated the crap out of me, because of course I could see exactly how to sell it and I couldn't understand how someone "in the business" couldn't figure it out (all writers pretty much think this way).

I ended up shelving Foreverness for a while and went back to The Amber Wizard. Wrote and re-wrote, blah blah blah, then started the agent hunting again. I lucked out when I found Matt Bialer in late 2003, who not only understood exactly what I was trying to do, but whose every suggestion for a change -- even the ones I initially fought -- ended up making the book better. (I would normally find that annoying as hell -- I'm the one who likes to be right all the time! -- but Matt gets a pass since he's such a good guy.) We worked for about five months on rewrites, then he shipped it off.

In the meantime, the bank I worked for had been sold to a larger bank, and I was pretty sure I was going to be laid off when the deal closed in early 2005. I was obviously, for a number of reasons, really gunning for this book to sell. I will tell you that trying to get a book sold in the middle of the summer (this was 2004) is a nightmare. No one is around to read anything -- they're all on vacation, or the person who needs to make an approval for the person who has read it is on vacation.

But on October 1, I got the call from Matt that HarperCollins had made an offer for a three-book deal, and he recommended that we take it.

Like there was a chance in hell I was going to say no!

So what's a book contract look like?

I wish I could tell you. I still haven't seen it. The publishing industry moves slower than [insert folksy Dan Ratherism about turtles in Texas or cold molasses moving downhill in winter]. I hope to have it soon. Matt has apologized and said that HaperCollins has changed some of their standard boilerplate language, which has forced a lot more back-and-forth than usual. But I can't tell you what's in it until I have it. Once I do, I will let you know.

And, unfortunately, until I sign it, I also don't get paid.

The moral of the story: Perseverence pays off. Yeah, it's a cliche. Sue me. I must have sent 60 or 70 queries at least, and I was prepared to send more. If you give up, you'll never stand a chance. Rejection hurts, but there's no other way through to the promised land of publication.

Next post: So what's next with The Amber Wizard? What about the sequels (since I'm under contract for three)? And what happened to Foreverness?

My new life as a full-time writer

Hi! My name is David Forbes and I have just transitioned from a full-time career in the banking industry (a little more on this later) to a career as a full-time fantasy writer. I'm under contract for three novels with Eos, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, but they have not yet been published. I plan to use this blog to chart the course of the publication process -- it's ups, downs, what goes smoothly and what doesn't, and how I manage all of the things about which I have no clue -- for the benefit of both myself in understanding how this all works, and to grant some insight for those struggling writers who are not yet published into what they can expect when they finally get the call that, yes! their manuscript has been accepted.

So how did I get here?

I've wanted to write since I was in high school (I'm now 39). So it's been a long struggle for me. I certainly expected to be published long before now, but other than a single short story printed in a regional literary magazine, I wasn't able to get in the door. I got some handwritten rejection slips every now and then encouraging me to keep writing (Algis Budrys, in particular, seemed to like my stories, though he never bought any of them!). I'd hear that what I'd submitted was good but not what they were looking for at the moment, or it was almost but not quite right for them (though they also never told me what I could do to make it right), etc., etc.

In the late '90s I acquired representation with a New York agent (who shall remain nameless) for a now-discarded novel called The Wizard's Gift. He gave me lots of good advice on it, I spent a long time reworking it, and finally he sent it out to the major fantasy publishing houses. Once again I got some good feedback (a few places asked specifically to see the next book I wrote), but everyone passed on it. It was incredibly disappointing, but I wasn't going to be deterred, so I started with a new novel from scratch.

This one was huge -- the first draft was 274,000 words and took me two-and-a-half years to write, called The Amber Wizard. My agent hated it. We went back and forth about what he didn't like, but what it boiled down to -- at least from my point of view -- was that he didn't like the kind of fantasy I was writing. He kept trying to get me to write like other writers in his stable, most of whom I didn't really care for. Not that they were bad, but they simply didn't write the kind of fantasy I wanted to write. I was after a large-scale, multi-character epics like Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books. Martin's books weren't out when I started my own work, but when I read them it was liked getting gobsmacked in the head: Yes, this is the kind of thing I want to do! (For the record, no, I'm not comparing myself to either of them, but they are writing the serious, ambitious works that I am going for.)

That agent and I had a parting of the ways. My assertion that our disagreements were more about literary taste than story content annoyed the living shit out of him, but I still think I was right.

The book that got me the contract with HarperCollins was The Amber Wizard, extensively re-written (down to 194,000 words), but it's much closer to what I have always intended it to be than what my previous agent wanted me to turn it into. It's the first of a four-book series that chronicles, in a fantasy setting, the shift from polytheism to henotheism to monotheism before and during the rise of a divine Adversary who is believed to be the enemy of the One God whose new religion is sweeping across the world.

The moral of the story: If you find an agent who wants you to write stuff you don't like, or doesn't get at all what you're trying to do, move on. As painful as that will be -- because I know how hard it is to find one agent in the first place, let alone a second one -- you just can't write something you're not interested in (at least I can't).

Next post: some background on my life before I started writing full-time (which officially began on Tuesday, February 15, 2005). I had a full-time job, a wife, a house, a young son, and some semblance of a life. Where did I find the time to write? And how did I find agent number two?