#MSTReRead Update

So I’ve just finished The Dragonbone Chair, and have moved on to Stone of Farewell in my Great Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn ReRead.  You can read my first post on the subject here.

Basically, I’m rereading the series in preparation for the release of The Heart of What Was Lost, an interim novel set between To Green Angel Tower and the forthcoming sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.  Instead of blogging the whole reread and bogging you down with plot recounts and such (not that that doesn’t have its place), I’m sharing my thoughts on Twitter under the hashtag #mstreread.  Here are my latest tweets.

 

And then this happened…

More to come!

The Great ‘Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn’ Re-Read

Update 12/3/16: Read my second big update on the #MSTReRead here.

I’m rereading one of my favorite fantasy series, Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, which is comprised of The Dragonbone ChairThe Stone of FarewellTo Green Angel Tower: Part 1, and To Green Angel Tower: Part 2.  (The original paperback edition of To Green Angel Tower had to be split into two parts due to its length. The forthcoming reprints make the series a proper trilogy again, I believe.)

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams

If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a classic of modern fantasy and which I’ve talked about at some length here before.  George R. R. Martin often cites it as a major inspiration for writing A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series behind HBO’s ubiquitous Game of Thrones.

I’ve read MST many times before, but it’s been a few years since my last re-read.  And since Mr. Williams is releasing five sequels over the next few years, starting with The Heart of What Was Lost (forthcoming in January 2017), to be followed in April by The Witchwood Crown, the first book in the sequel trilogy The Last King of Osten Ard. I thought now was the perfect time for a fresh look at the “four-book trilogy” that in so many ways defined the fantasy genre for me.

You can find more information about Tad Williams and his upcoming Osten Ard novels at TadWilliams.com.  You can also read a lot of great updates and information about Osten Ard and the forthcoming books at The Wertzone.  Larry Ketchersid, an author and contributor at SFSignal, has also written an in-depth reread of MST that’s available both on his website and collected for Kindle for $2.99 (or for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member).

Rather than doing a more traditional blog re-read, where I would write regular, fairly lengthy blog posts summarizing each chapter or chapters and discussing them, I’ve decided to tweet it all.  Using Twitter not only gives me a quick and easily accessible way to talk about the books, but the 140 character limit also forces me to speak plainly and minimizes the temptation to ramble.

I’ll collect the tweets periodically in blog posts here, but for live updates follow me on Twitter or follow the hashtag #mstreread.

I’ll discuss the story as I read it, but not necessarily comprehensively and certainly not chapter-by-chapter.  Likely, I’ll jump around, vacillating between the general and the specific, moving forward roughly as the story does.

Here are my thoughts on the first two hundred pages or so (Part I) of The Dragonbone Chair:

The #SPFBO Has Returned!

spfbo covers

Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, in which my book Exile: The Book of Ever was a semi-finalist, was a great success.  It yielded exposure for a number of excellent self-published novels and created an engaging forum for writers, readers, and reviewers to discuss the changing industry of publishing.

As such, Mr. Lawrence has just announced that the SPFBO will continue, and submissions are now open for SPFBO2:

The question now is whether there is enough action/interest in the self-publishing world to make this something that happens every year, or if it was a one-off that relied on a build up of manuscripts for consideration.

I’m going to open the gates for SPFBO2.

If we get 250+ entries I’ll go ahead with proceedings. If we don’t … I won’t. It rather depends whether the self-publishers out there that can be reached have 250+ qualify manuscripts to hand. Submissions will be open for all of April.

He posted this announcement today and he’s already got 12 entries, so it doesn’t look like there will be a problem filling out that 250 book minimum.  That said, you’ve got a month to submit your self-published novel, so if you missed out the first time, now’s your chance.  The rules are simple:

i) No book that was entered in SPFBO1 can be entered into SPFBO2

ii) The book must be #1 in a series or a stand-alone.

iii) The book must actually be self-published, not something you’re considering self-publishing in future.

iv) It must be a fantasy book.

Mark goes on to explain the contest in more detail, which you can read about here.

I’m thrilled to see that the contest will continue.  It doesn’t look like I’ll have an eligible entry ready by the end of April, but if you’ve self-published a fantasy novel this is an incredible opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up.

Interview with Gabrielle de Cuir

36439d9Last week, the audiobook edition of Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) came out, narrated by the wonderful Gabrielle de Cuir and produced by Skyboat Media, the production company behind the Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed magazine podcast and many other wonderful books in the genre and out of it.

Gabrielle was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few interview questions about herself and the recording process.  She also sent along a great clip of her recording a piece of Exile, which you can watch below!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

I’m a native Californian, but grew up in Rome and have travelled extensively because my father was an Oscar-winning film designer and he always took the family with him on his cinematic adventures. I currently live and thrive in Los Angeles. I attended UCLA and received my degree there in Theatre Arts.

How did you get started narrating audiobooks?

I started in this business as an abridger; when I started doing this a decade ago, most books had to be cut down to fit onto four cassettes. Editing Anna Karenina down to four cassettes was quite a challenge! It also was an invaluable learning process as to what is essential in a story and what is fluff. Then, the company I worked for went out of business, and I hung out a shingle as a narrator. I couldn’t afford to pay anyone else! (The truth is I have a tremendously strong acting and performing background in theatre.) 

How do you choose your projects?

I need to connect at some emotional or intellectual level with the material. And my tastes are varied. I look for books with poetic flow, sharp humor or a variety of accents and characters. Some books have all of these; some just have one quality or another. Exile attracted me because of Ever’s personality and point of view. Stories with a strong point of view are acting gold.

Does your own interest in the subject matter of the book in question matter?

Not really. My job as an effective narrator is to channel author intent; to “midwife” the book, supporting it where I can and being a catalyst between the author and the listener, without getting in the way. 

Tell us a little bit about the recording process itself.  Where do you start? What’s your studio like?  Do you record all the way through and worry about errors in postproduction, or do you do a lot of stopping and starting?

I start by doing a thorough scan of the book. I know that sounds contradictory, but there are not enough hours of the day for me to read and rehearse every word of the book. I look for the story arc; whether the book is going to need a lot of pronunciation research. I determine who the main characters are; whether there are particular accents indicated. When recording begins, we at Skyboat Studios work with a director, for accuracy and also to allow the narrator to fully “perform” the audiobook. Industry demands have forced many actors to work alone in their studios, doing both the narration and the editing as they go. This can be fine for some books, but not, in my opinion for novels with many characters. If a book is estimated at ten hours finished, for example, it will usually take twice that long to record in the studio (i.e., twenty hours).

Audiobook narrators generally don’t record more than four or five hours a day, because the vocal chords can only stand so much stress. So, a ten-hour book might take up to a week to record. So, I start reading. The director stops me when he/she hears an error.

I take tea breaks every hour or so to keep hydrated. The director marks the script for my editor. When we have finished recording the book, we send the director’s pages and the audiofiles to the editor. He does his magic by editing out all the flubs and noises.

Were there any memorable moments recording Exile?  What was it like living with the book in so much detail for so long?

I loved all the instances where Ever’s power made itself apparent; I would try to actually feel the tingling she felt as I narrated it. (I know that sounds a bit New Agey, but, hey, I’m all alone in the booth; I’m allowed!) I found the dialogue scenes between Jared and Ever to flow very easily; I truly felt they made a great pair in the adventures.

Creating Thayne was the most challenging with his “inner voice” and his transformations. It’s heaven living in a whole world., so different from our own. James has created a complete universe, and it was a joy spending time there every day of the recordings!

Thanks so much to Gabrielle and the crew at Skyboat Media!

The audiobook of Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) is available now at Audible.com.

7 Out of 10 #SPFBO Bloggers Have a Positive Opinion of Self-Publishing

Fantasy Faction asked the other nine book bloggers participating in Mark Lawrence’s Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off whether the competition had changed their opinion on self-publishing, and the answers were somewhat surprising.

Seven out of the nine websites to whom Fantasy Faction’s G.R. Matthews (himself a competitor in the contest with his novel The Stone Road) posed the question said that their opinion had either changed for the positive or not changed at all, because they always appreciated self-published fiction.  The tenth participating website is Fantasy Faction itself, managed and edited by Marc Aplin, who has historically been skeptical of self-publishing.  In a blog post October 2, Aplin wrote that while self-published fiction did appear to have gotten better in the five years since he first read any, the field still seemed dominated by amateurish, unpolished work.  He left open the question of whether there was any self-published fantasy out there that could hold its own with the titans of the genre, one presumably to be answered by the final phase of the contest.

Of the other two bloggers whose conclusions about self-publishing were negative, one, Ria from Bibliotropic, took a stance similar to Fantasy Faction’s.  Ria explained that while she did find some decent work, the glut of poor work outweighed it, and she did not intend on seeking out more self-published work in the near future.

The other negative response came from Steve from Elitist Book Reviews, who said that his initial impression of self-published books–that they were “made up in large part by garbage”–was only confirmed by the SPFBO.

I found two things surprisingly encouraging about these responses.  First and foremost: more than two-thirds of the participating reviewers either already appreciated or came to appreciate the place of self-published fiction in the book market because of the SPFBO.  That’s a big number.  In Congress, that’s called a supermajority.  That’s most of the people involved.

Second, of the three websites that were negative (overall) on self-publishing, only one (Elitist Book Reviews) was outright dismissive of it.  Both Bibliotropic and Fantasy Faction felt that while self-published fiction was mostly bad, there were decent books to be found and that the ratio of good to bad may be changing.

It’s also important to note that all three of the bloggers whose reaction was negative on the whole said that they expected to find some good work out there, which is an encouraging thought.

Thanks to G.R. Matthews for putting this poll together, and to all the hard-working bloggers for their time and participation.

Correction: An earlier version of this article identified Fantasy Faction founder Marc Aplin as the author of the article in question, “Has the SPFBO Changed Your Opinion of Self-Pubbed Books.”  The article was in fact written by G.R. Matthews, author of The Stone Road and contributor at Fantasy Faction.

Sneak Preview of ‘Karthanas the Lesser’

Here’s a free preview of Karthanas the Lesser, the swordpunk novel I’m working on right now.  Comments and criticisms more than welcome!


The morning they took ship across the channel to Mesende Yor, Louvhena came to him in his rooms at the capital.  House Kinnd kept a residence in Lansium, a small palace on the mouth of the Renna, where it led out into Lansium Bay.  He had slept surprisingly well the night before and was enjoying his breakfast with a savor that he should have known was too good to last.

He hadn’t spoken to her since that night in her chambers: not the following morning, not over the next three days, not during the ensuing two weeks of travel between Vinerran and Lansium.  Louvhena had ridden closed up in a carriage.  Karth had been happy to ride with the house guard.  He ignored her during the welcome feast at the forum, and she cut him dead when Kantel made his address to the Provost and the gathered Senat.  It was an impressive game, on both their parts, he thought, though Louvhena would never have admitted she was involved in anything so petty.

The look on her face was mild, almost contrite—or so one less familiar with her might have believed.  Karth suddenly lost interest in his eggs and sausage and poured himself a glass of wine.  He did not add water.

“Karthanas,” she said.  He swallowed some wine and wondered, for what felt like the thousandth time, just what the hell he was doing here.

“Still here,” he said, the wine around in his glass.  He didn’t invite her to sit down.

“You leave today,” she said.

“I’d remembered, thanks.”

She made a harsh, cutting sound with her mouth and the mask fell away.  Louvhena was known for many things.  Patience was not one of them.

“That was short-lived,” said Karth.

“What was?” asked Louvhena.

“For a moment, I thought you might have come here to wish me well.”

“I did,” she said.  “Your insolence brings out the worst in me, Karth.”  She so rarely used his nickname that the statement took him by surprise.  Was it unintentionally honest?  Insolence was a trait he cultivated like grapes: he thought making wine with them was enough, but he never thought of the hangover.

“I’ve come to expect no better of you.  The worst in me seems to be your favorite side, though I’ve offered you the best.  Many times.”

Her words shattered his line of thought.  Whatever inclination he’d had to reconsider his own part in their relationship, such as it was, withered on the vine.  He looked at her, stern and cold, and clenched his teeth.  She’d worn a gown that managed to be both imperious and alluring, a soft creamy material draped over her breasts and hips and strapped with ribbon to cling in all the right places.

Anger, Karth found, was a destroyer of obstacles.  Under the cool influence of reason he felt only disgust for his mother and the response she expected from him.  The fact that she sometimes successfully inspired that response, the heavy-breathing lust that drove his mind into his cock and made him want to own her perfect body, normally kindled a shame so deep that he wanted to scourge himself with thorns.

But Louvhena inspired rage, also.  And under its spell, at times like these, that stifled, shameful desire broke free of its enclosure and flared to life.  Fueled, maybe, by the heat behind his eyes, he saw an image of himself tearing her dress to shreds and bending her over the balustrade on the balcony outside his window.  He felt could feel the soft white flesh of her breasts in his rough hands, felt himself twisting them cruelly, looking down as he parted her buttocks with—

Karthanas stood up quickly, shading his eyes with a shaking hand.  His boot caught the edge of his chair and almost toppled it, but the back of it hit the wall and sent its gilt wooden legs slamming back down onto the tiled floor.

“I hate what you do to me,” he said, swallowing.  His eyes never left the remains of his breakfast.  “I hate it.”

“I love you, Karth.  I’ve only ever wanted love in return.”

“No.  You want worship.”  Louvhena shook her head and turned slightly to look out the window.

“Love is worship, Karthanas,” she said at last.  “Hate is worship, too.  If I cannot have your love, I will accept your hate.  It will bring us closer, whether you want it or not.”  Karth gritted his teeth, but stopped himself from responding.

She looked at him for a long moment, then clapped her hands slightly.  The door to his chamber opened, and Karth narrowed his eyes in sudden concern, but only Sevensin entered, carrying a long parcel wrapped in black cloth.  Closing the door behind him, he nodded once to Karth and then presented the parcel to Louvhena, bowing over it.

She unfolded the black fabric delicately, as if some long, fragile infant lay inside.  Karth couldn’t see what it was, at first, but then she lifted it free and Sevensin stepped away.

Kindavyr gleamed in the soft morning light, its blade the polished silver of a mountain lake beneath a winter sunrise.

The sword was unsheathed, and Karth was tempted to make a crack about his mother bringing a naked blade into his room, but kept his mouth shut.  The blade had that effect.  Not for nothing was it the sword of their house, of House Kinnd, the peerage his mother held.  There were a lot of things caught up in that weapon that Karth would have preferred to let alone.  When Kullarno died he was happy to see it returned to its box in the family vault; a tangible relief almost overwhelmed him when he realized Louvhena wasn’t going to immediately offer it to him.

But there was disappointment, as well, which had undoubtedly been her intention all along.  Desire.  Just as the desire for her body was supposed to overwhelm his sense, his desire for the glory of a sword and the power of title that came with it was supposed to make him kneel before her and accept her blessing, accepting with it the burden of loving Louvhena el’Kinnd and being party to continuing her line into the wider world.

He wanted it.  He’d always wanted it.  Since he’d first seen it as a child, since Kullarno and he had first snuck into the vault to gaze at it as teens, and especially since their mother presented it to his brother, the gift of her trust, her belief, the gift she had never even deigned to give their father.  He wanted it and hated himself for wanting it.  And now she was offering it to him.

You are a demon witch, mother.  The lord of the underworld himself could learn a thing or two from Louvhena, daughter of Kinnd.

She walked toward him, across the open space of his chamber to where he stood by the window, and presented it to him hilt first.  She held the blade in her hands in such a way that if he wanted to he could take it and slash through her fingers and breast in one mighty swipe, slashing all of the confusing tangle of emotions she inspired in one stroke.  The message was clear, but she spoke anyway, to remove any shadow of doubt.

“Accept it, or kill me,” said Louvhena.  “The choice is yours.  But it is a choice that you will have to make, my son.  I grow tired of this game of ours.  I suspect you are tired as well.  Take it.  There is nothing easier than to take it.”  She tilted it slightly, and the pommel caught the light.

His hand found it and he took it from her, careful not to cut the delicate skin of her palms.  He held it up before him, the impressive length of it gleaming and perfect.  The grip felt like it was made to fill his hand, the curling quillons elegant in their utility.  Then he saw his face in its mirrored blade, the fuller marking a shadowed line that split the vision in two.  His breath caught, and time seemed to stop.

Then reality returned to him and he threw the sword to the floor with a loud clatter.  Sevensin gasped dramatically, and Karth had the passing satisfaction of seeing genuine surprise on his mother’s beautiful, deadly face before he stepped over Kindavyr and walked out.

‘The Doktor’s Spyglass’ Now Updated on Wednesday and Friday

For a variety of reasons, I’m rescheduling new updates to The Doktor’s Spyglass, my ongoing serial novel, to every Wednesday and Thursday.

You can read The Doktor’s Spyglass as it’s updated, section by section, on Wattpad (all you need to do is create a login), or you can wait until each chapter is completed and read them right here on jamesdcormier.com.  Chapters 1-8 are available in their entirety right now.

Whether you read it here or on Wattpad, The Doktor’s Spyglass is free, so click through and give me some feedback!

Part 2 of the Fantasy Book Critic Interview Is Up

Fantasy Book critic posted the second half of their interview with a dozen #SPFBO authors this morning.  Here’s a sample from one of my answers:

But the image of the concerned agent and editor, painstakingly working through draft after draft of a novel to make it the absolute best it can be, with the result being a polished gem…that seems a bit idealistic to me. There was a time when this was truer: viz., Tolkien and Allen & Unwin; Terry Brooks and Lester Del Rey. From the accounts I’ve read, an editor’s influence on a work accepted for publication at a traditional house tends to be somewhat minor these days. They’ve either read a manuscript that’s good enough to be published with only minor editing, or they’ve read a manuscript they’re passing on. The corporate culture absolutely plays a bigger role than it used to. The bottom line is of the utmost concern, in a way, I think, that would make the publishers of yesteryear blush. It’s not paranoia to say that it matters that the major publishers are all owned by large corporations. It affects their ability to take chances and develop new talent.

The influence only lessens from there: it doesn’t take a lot of research to discover that authors whose early work gets quickly remaindered don’t tend to score big future deals. It also doesn’t take a terribly keen eye to notice that the work of bestselling authors–and I’m talking the big ones, here–only gets less and less polished as time goes by. When you’ve already made millions of dollars for your publisher, your work is going to get published, even if it’s terrible. There’s a lot of successful writers out there making big money whose work would be (sometimes rightfully) deemed unpublishable by an unknown author. None of which is to say that there’s anything wrong with choosing traditional publishing. There are many legitimate reasons to do it, and at its best it still produces fine literature. I point these things out only to draw attention to the narrowing divide between the two methods. Consider the success many self published authors have had by hybridizing their work, and you see more clearly what I’m talking about.

ICYMI: here’s the first half of the interview and the short post I wrote about it.

Interviewed by Fantasy Book Critic

Mihir Wanchoo of Fantasy Book Critic interviewed me and several other SPFBO participants recently.  Click here to read part one of the interview.

Here’s a snippet:

Q] What were your expectations going into it and now that the first round is nearly over, what are your thoughts?

JC: My expectations for how well my own book would do weren’t terribly high, mostly because of what I perceived at the time as potential conflicts of taste–even after I decided that it was definitely fantasy, and that it therefore was eligible to be part of the contest, I still worried that the fact that it was in no way traditional epic fantasy (which seemed to be the bread and butter of most everyone involved) might hold it back. That aside, I was confident that anyone who read it with an open mind would enjoy the experience, and I’m very pleased with how well it’s been received, particularly for my first novel.

I’ve been absolutely thrilled to see how well it’s done: it’s one of Fantasy Faction’s top three in the first round. Even if it doesn’t move forward, I’ll always have the thrill of knowing that my novel got a good review on one of the biggest fantasy sites on the web.

 

‘The Doktor’s Spyglass’ Is Now Available on Jamesdcormier.com

I’ve updated the book page for The Doktor’s Spyglass so that you can now read it natively right on this website, in addition to being able to read it on Wattpad.

I’ll upload each new chapter to jamesdcormier.com at the same time I post them to Wattpad, so that readers will now have a choice of formats.

Wattpad is free to use, but you have to create a login first, and I figured there might be some potential readers out there who’d rather not have to figure out a new app.  So now you can get it right here!