GenCon 2014!

Hey, fellas! While a bunch of my loser friends are over at LonCon, I thought I’d get down in the trenches with the gaming men and women of our great world and attend GenCon.  Fortunately, they were nice enough to put me on the Writer’s Symposium track and I’ll be doing a few panels while I’m there! They are as such…

Thursday, 8 PM

Writer’s Craft: Epic Storylines

Room 243

Friday, 8 PM

Writer’s Craft: Character Backstory

Room 244

Saturday, 9 AM

Writer’s Life: Writer’s Toolbox

Room 245

I hope to see you there!

BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!

At GenCon, I’ll be giving away free issues of my new comic: Gold and Steel, Flesh and Blood: A prelude to the novel THE CITY STAINED RED.

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This is a small comic prelude to my latest novel.  If you’d like one, just come up to me at some point and say: “I’VE GOT A REAL RED WAGON.”

Or just ask for one, IDK.

Colonels of Industry

I am not of the opinion that Traditionally Published Authors and Self-Published Authors are as chainmail and rust monsters (see what happened there?  That’s nerd cred, son).

Rather, I’m of the opinion that the line between the two is getting fuzzier every day.  Good kind of fuzzy, like a teddy bear someone would hand you after you watched your house burn down.  Short fiction is becoming an increasingly effective way to gateway new readers into a series, as Brian McClellan has noted, and one of the most profitable ways to market that short fiction is to put it out there on your own steam.  I predict that more and more authors of epic fantasy, a genre possessed of fans who cannot get enough worldbuilding, will be following this kind of model where auxiliary fiction will be produced of their own accord and put out there.

This is a good thing, in my perspective.  But with it comes a few challenges.

See, when you go with a publisher, you are not actually just getting someone to print your book.  You’re getting someone to edit it, format it, make it look nice, do cover art and, most importantly, market it.  When you strike out on your own, you’re doing all that by yourself.

I can’t tell you how to do most of that stuff, since my plan for getting cover art would be basically to beg Todd Lockwood and then maybe sacrifice a goat in his name in hopes of appeasing him.  But I like to think I know a little something about marketing and promoting yourself.

Viewers of this blog will remember that I’ve talked about this subject before.  The best way to market is to Be Honest, Be Unashamed, Be Enthusiastic, Be Involved and also Don’t Be Bitter, Don’t Be Dishonest, Don’t Be Spammy and Don’t Be Discouraged.  These are good foundations upon which to build further ideas of promotion.

So with that in mind, I’d like to talk about the idea of space.

It’s not typically something we think about on the internet, as this is more or less one massive conversation in which several billion people are involved in, all talking at once.  The idea of space in a conversation occurs to us pretty naturally in the real world where, if we were to see two people sitting by their own talking about the merits of Coke vs. Pepsi, you probably wouldn’t think to walk over there, sit down and offer your opinion.  On twitter, though, when two people are having that same conversation, people for some reason think nothing of butting in and saying “COKE IS POISON DON’T PUT THAT SHIT IN YOUR BODY YOU STUPID SKANK.”

To a degree, this is inevitable.  The internet, after all, is a terrible place.  And one of the main advantages of social media sites from a promotional perspective is that the access to the author is opened up.  People actually enjoy talking to the authors of their favorite works.  But again, let us consider the aspect of space.

You might love Joe Hill.  You might really like it if Joe Hill were at a convention that you could go to and go up to him and say: “Mr. Hill, I love your work.”  And you might really like it if Joe Hill replied: “Well, thank you, I’ll have a new book out next month and I will be happy to sign it for you.”  You might really like that whole thing.

If you were to wake up one morning, go to the bathroom, raise the toilet lid and find Joe Hill popping out of the bowl saying: “Hey, dude, I have a new book out only $19.99, act now and I’ll throw in a free shamwow.”  Well, you might not like that.

I bring this up only because I see this happening more often on twitter lately.

Out of nowhere, an author (usually self-published) will send me a tweet that has nothing to do with anything I have been talking about and slap me with a link to their book and a generic “buy it now” message.

Guys.  Don’t do this.

This is the equivalent of someone butting in on your conversation.  This is the equivalent of finding a Chinese takeout menu slid under your door.  This is the equivalent of waking up to find Joe Hill in your toilet.  None of those are pleasant things.

This falls under Don’t Be Spammy, but what I’ve never talked about before is that the concept of space goes both ways (hurr).

This isn’t the only talk about self-promotion gone awry you’ll see.  Talk to any author, any reader, they’ll tell you times they’ve been put off or alienated by an overly-aggressive author.  Hell, you can read any community website out there and probably hear something about how groan-inducing self-promotion is, how tacky, indulgent and terrible it is.

You could be forgiven for being for being paralyzed with fear from ever self-promoting again out of a blind terror of being judged.  But what all these horror stories fail to tell you is that, in addition to being tacky, indulgent and terrible, self-promotion is also extremely, extremely necessary.

I love being a traditionally published author, but I’m also not Jonathan Franzen, so I don’t have the kind of massive marketing budget behind me that I can just toss my book out there and trust some combination of my publisher, Oprah and Jesus to make it a smash hit.  I have to self-promote.  I have to make people aware of my books.  I have to make my books sound like they’re worth buying.

And that’s where the concept of YOUR space, as an author, comes in.

A lot of social media is actually having conversations with all those several billion people.  It’s putting what you want to say out there and seeing who responds.  It’s hawking, advertising, handselling, promising, reassuring, apologizing and sometimes bribing with sloppy kisses.  Sometimes it feels like you’re talking to nobody in particular.  Sometimes it feels like no one is listening.  But it’s out there (and it’s out there forever), so you gotta make use of it.

Your twitter profile, your facebook page, your blog post, your website is where you go to make yourself known.  This is where you have links to buy shit, excerpts for people to read, pornography to peruse, whatever sells.  And you should definitely feel free to do that.  Say what you want, as loud as you want.  Scream it out into the ether.

Some people might complain about the self-promotion, but fuck them, that’s your space.

And this is where spaces collide.  If your promotion is entertaining, clever or funny, people will eventually come to you.  And when they do, if your space is adequately set up to let them see what you’ve got, they will probably partake of your delicious verbiage.

I should stress, though, that this is where the part about Being Honest and Being Enthusiastic comes into play.  The relationship of an author to their readers is peculiar; people prefer to think of you as a person or at least a very good story.  If your space is 100% advertisements, people will think you’re more a spambot broken free.  Remember to talk about stuff you like, stuff you’re doing, stuff you’re worried about, any stuff that isn’t just about selling your book or complaining about people not buying your book.

Readers coming to your space is great.  That’s how you get noticed.  You coming to readers’ space is different.  That can easily be alienating and weird.

Like, imagine if you were sitting in a living room with your friends, who were all Joe Hill fans, and talking about his latest book and your opinions on it.  Now, imagine that the toilet you had installed in your living room for some reason suddenly opens and between the lid and seat, Joe Hill’s glassy stare peers out from the darkness beneath, watching you eagerly for your opinion.

Pretty fucking weird, right?  That’s what going into a reader’s space is like.

But not all the time.

I’m a big fan of /r/fantasy for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that the authors and readers share a common space there.  It’s a very open, welcoming place for both people.  The rules are a bit more fluid there and it’s easier to talk to people.  But again, the rules of all self-promotion apply: Do Honesty, Enthusiasm and Unashamedness.  Don’t Spam, Bitter or Dishonest.

The internet is still kind of a fucked up place as far as socializing goes.  We’re still figuring out a lot of this.  But I think you’ll be much happier if you take these guidelines.

Mostly because your book will probably sell.

Which means you won’t die in poverty.

Hooray!

Tales of Punishment

A few things about me.

1) I’ve been a guest at Phoenix Comicon for four years now.  It is my favorite con, my home con, and I love it dearly enough to have spent a lot of effort contributing to it via lending my particular expertise to its panels and attendants.

2) I love Japanese television.  Not anime (or at least, not just anime), but all Japanese television.  Specifically, the Japanese game show.  Specifically specifically, the Japanese batsu (punishment) game show.  Specifically specifically specifically, the Japanese batsu game shows as performed by the comedy duo of Gaki no Tsukai Ya Arehende!!  A manzai team featuring one of my personal heroes, comedian and screenwriter, Hitoshi Matsumoto.

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A Batsu Game is more or less exactly what it sounds like: people are given a task to complete and are punished if they fail it.  Gaki no Tsukai does one every year and it is always amazing.  Most of these challenges revolve around one challenge: do not laugh.  You can find an awesome example of it here.

3) Having spent all these years building up good will with the people of Phoenix Comicon, I thought it would be great to blow it all by requesting the privilege of paying homage to people (and specifically, a person) who have entertained me and deeply affected and inspired by own sense of humor by hosting a Batsu Game of my own.

Really, the stars aligned on this one as several people made a series of bad decisions.

First of all, the Phoenix Comicon literary track foolishly agreed to let me do it.

Secondly, I asked my friends Myke Cole, Aprilynne Pike, Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, Delilah S. Dawson, Patrick Rothfuss and Leanna Renee Heiber to join.  They all foolishly agreed.

And finally, I requested that the whole thing be videotaped, that we could enjoy it again and again.  Thus, the Triforce of Terrible Decisions was completed.

And now I pass the savings on to you, the viewer.  Please watch the Author Batsu Game here.

San Diego Comicon!

Hello, friends!

Next week is San Diego Comicon!  I will be there!  Along with several other dumb authors!

WHERE WILL I BE?

PUTTING THE EPIC IN EPIC FANTASY

Thursday 7/24, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Room 25ABC

Signing to follow.

Swords, magic, and chivalric knights on white horses — or should that be morally ambiguous knights?  In the age of Game of Thrones, the epic fantasy genre is changing.  Join Patrick Rothfogg, Robin Hoob, Jore Aberglumbie, Raymond E. Foop, Django Wochles, Morgan Roads and Sam Sykes as they discuss their recent works and epic fantasy in general.  Moderated by Bront Wooks.

If you don’t see me there, I can be found all over the place!  Please come by and see me!

Yay!

YAAAAAAAAY!

The City Stained Red

Just like I said I would, I did.

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Every city has its secrets, every man has his demons.

The city of Cier’Djaal has grown rich from the silk its horse-sized spiders spin.  From their unimaginable wealth, the fasha ruling class built a city the likes of which legends strain to capture: spires that glitter gold in the desert sunlight, streets choked with people carrying burdens of coin and silk, a world where the differences between thieves and nobles are so small that an outsider might not even know.

And where there is wealth, there is war.

A radical upstart cult has risen from the slums and sewers of the city, intent on toppling its wealthy masters and spilling their gold upon the streets for the downtrodden.  The ruling thieves’ guild has come to meet them with fire and blade, intent on preserving the rule of their own bloody law.  Foreign armies intent on conquering the city and their opportunity to use the violence as an excuse to seize the city’s vast wealth for itself.  And beneath human heels, the tribal shicts and ferocious tulwar clans seethe, waiting to strike back against the society that has trampled them underfoot.

And into this, Lenk comes seeking a new life.  A life where he can set his sword down and leave the violence of his adventuring life behind him.

But there are whispers of something darker behind the wars, a sinister hand moving pieces across a board, intent upon ushering in a new world, free of gods, of fear, of humanity.  And its gaze has just settled upon Lenk.

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The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

Available from Orbit (US): eBook 10/28/14, Print 1/27/15.

Barnes & Noble Preorder

Poisoned Pen (Will Ship Once Available)

Available from Gollancz (UK): 10/30/14.

Amazon Preorder 

Hey guys, I made a comic

I’ve got something I’m real excited to show you guys.

Now, while I haven’t thrown out an actual official announcement just yet, most of you are aware through twitter that I’ve been signed for a new trilogy with Gollancz in the UK and Orbit in the US.

Bring Down Heaven will be a new adventure of Lenk and friends taking place in the desert city of Cier’Djaal.  Grown amazingly wealthy from its horse-sized spiders that spin highly-coveted silk, Cier’Djaal has found itself at the center of a conflict.  The highly delicate and highly corrupt peace kept between the fabulously wealthy Fashas and shadowy thieves’ guild, the Jackals, has been threatened by an upstart revolutionary group.  Preaching an end to the oppression, the Khovura are a gang that seeks to overthrow the Jackals and the Fashas alike, but rumors persist that a sinister force from deep beneath the earth is the true force.  Meanwhile, the desert shict tribes and tulwar clans begin to rankle under the heel of human growth.  Foreign armies have arrived in the city and are keen to exploit Cier’Djaal’s resources for their own gain, no matter who they have to kill to do so.  The city is rife to explode in a frenzy of war.

And this is where Lenk arrives, wanting to put aside his sword and start a new life.

What a dope.

I will have a proper announcement soon, with a synopsis and everything, and you could read that.  Or you could just check this out.

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Flesh and Blood, Steel and Gold is a small eight-page comic book that I made with the amazingly talented Ashley Cope, the brains and talent behind the truly brilliant comic, Unsounded (and she’s currently running a Kickstarter for her second book, which you should definitely be a part of).

Have a look at what we’ve done!

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The comic features eight pages of illustration and six pages of text, an excerpt from the first book in the new series: The City Stained Red.

It’s long been my theory that you can self-promote as much as you want so long as you’re doing it in a fun way.  This, I thought, would be very fun.  I’ve always wanted to create comics and I think this will be a great way of interesting people in the new book.

I know what you’re thinking.

Wow!  This is super cool!  Where can I get one?

The comic itself will be available on my website in its entirety in the near future, for view whenever you want.  I will be bringing physical copies with me at whatever convention I’m going to.  Details for said conventions will always be up on the website.

We’re not quite in the infancy of this project, but we’re still a chubby little toddler, awkwardly running around the room, so there’s no way to purchase physical copies online yet.  I hope to add a means of doing so through my website at some point in the future, so don’t sweat it too much.  It’s my utmost desire that anyone who wants one of these should have a means of getting one.

Amazing!  What gave you the idea?

Honestly?  I just got tired of having to pitch my book to curious people.  I thought, this way, I can just hand them a comic and they’ll either be interested or they won’t be.

I basically never shut up about how awesomely talented Ashley is, so the fact that she had the time and inclination to work with me was pretty much a sign that I should do this.  People have seemed super enthusiastic about the idea and are really keen to work it out.

Is the series a continuation of The Aeons’ Gate trilogy?

Sort of.

It features Lenk, Kataria, Gariath and the others, but it takes place in an entirely new setting with an entirely new plot.  Their adventures out in the Sea of Buradan behind them, the companions are weary.  They’re tired of the violence, they’re tired of the conflicts, they’re tired of being surrounded by misery.  They head to Cier’Djaal to find a means of ending their careers peacefully.  But the city has a life of its own, and it has other ideas for them.

If you’ve never read The Aeons’ Gate series, you will have absolutely zero problem getting into The City Stained Red.  There’s no infodump backstory, no lengthy exposition, nothing to keep you from enjoying the book.  But old readers will still have a lot to see.  I think it’s going to be fun for new and returning readers alike.

When’s it coming out?

Fall of this year!

When’s the nearest time I can get a copy?

If you’re going to GenCon in August, I will have copies there.

How many instances of Kataria scratching herself are in the comic?

One.  That you know of.

Keep watching this blog and my twitter for more details!  And thanks for reading!

Bowser’s Rejected Manuscript

Today, I would like to talk about writing influences.

I really don’t like doing these posts, usually, because they almost always turn out to be like the kind of thing discussed by John Scalzi in his blog post: The Orthodox Church of Heinlein.  That is, a bunch of people quite comfortable wallowing in their reverence of tradition and absolutely, utterly horrified at the idea that people might not have read the scriptures.

But since I just came from Phoenix Comicon, I’m feeling energized enough to talk about something different.

I love Comicon.  Not just because I get a lot of fun panels where I make Myke Cole puke, nor because fans give me assorted baked goods, nor even because I get to see good friends like Scott Lynch, who in fact inspired this blog post (more on that in a second).  Rather, it’s because it gives me the chance to see just how sweeping geekdom is.  Here, comic book readers rub shoulders with novel readers bump elbows with cosplayers touch butts with video gamers.  All of them are sharing their enthusiasm and all of them are potential readers.

I’ve always been a proponent of the mixed media crowd.  If you’re writing fantasy today, then chances are very good that you’re writing for someone who consumes a variety of media.  There’s fewer diehard Heinleinists and more people who are diverse, passionate and vigorous about what they consume and that’s very good news for an author.

To that end, I’m not sure why I’ve always been so reluctant to acknowledge the diversity of media in my influences as a writer.  I guess it’s because when Tome of the Undergates came out, bloggers were lining up to decry its video game-iness.  I guess I wanted to distance myself from that.  But this was a long time ago: before I stopped giving a shit, before I started making an effort to not be ashamed of what I liked, before I started really considering what made me interested in writing.

And that’s why I decided to make a post about what video games influenced me as a writer.

Of course, Scott beat me to the punch by acknowledging his protagonist as being an homage to Final Fantasy VI.

That authors are influenced by video games should probably not be a surprise.  If we accept that our audiences are growing more diverse then we must also accept that our influences are following.  And if we accept that story is important to a video game, we must also look to appreciate them as art and all the impacts on our lives they have as an art.

Without further ado, here are the top four video games that have influenced me as a writer.

4. Icewind Dale II

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That’s right, motherfuckers.  Takin’ us back to the days of Vista!

Anyone who has read my books knows my opinions of adventurers: they are low-class, unscrupulous assholes who would gladly break into your house, steal all your shit and kill you for no reason than you happened to possess enough financial savvy to have accumulated a small nest egg.  Icewind Dale II (or at least, the way played Icewind Dale II) helped shape that perception.

As the brutish, less attractive cousin of Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale II was a game that gave you carte blanche to pillage your way across the frozen north of the Forgotten Realms.  There was no problem that could not be solved by violence and no violent solution that did not have repercussions.  While Baldur’s Gate was a professor’s long-winded lecture on morality, Icewind Dale II was a frowning mother sitting in the corner, quietly drumming her fingers on her knees as she watches her baby pound shot after shot of bourbon.

In many ways, this game showed how relative morality is.  The guys you happened to kill were mostly evil, but if there had been an orphan with a +3 Sword of Wounding, you would have beat him to death with his own kitten to get it.

Why Icewind Dale II instead of Icewind Dale?  Because 3e is better.  Come at me.

3. God of War

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I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I love God of War.  Possibly more than is healthy.

I loved it when it first came out for the PS2, loved it so much I smashed a controller when I got to the bladed pillars of Hades.  I loved it more when its sequel hit and I got to beat the shit out of a colossus.  The third installment was one of the major reasons I bought a PS3.  I own both sequels for the PSP and I loved it so much it broke my heart when the shit that was Ascension came out.

Now, no one plays God of War for its story.  There’s only so many ways you can phrase “Kratos is pissed at the gods and is out to wreck shit.”  Nor does anyone play God of War for its puzzles, its vehicle sections or its minigames in which you have sex with a number of people.  From those aspects of God of War, I took nothing to my storytelling.  But God of War does one thing and it does it very well and from God of War, I learned combat.

It’s weird.  Prior to this game, the apex of my experience with combat had come from R.A. Salvatore.  Drizzt’s numerous flurries and parries got into my head and Salvatore’s technical prowess when describing fights was awesome.  And yet it felt so…sterile.  Every mention of the word “feint” made my eyes glaze over.  God of War made things visceral, taught me how to keep a scene moving with short, vicious sentences (a lesson I hadn’t quite learned by Tome’s debut).  More importantly, it made me consider how a man would actually fight a monster six times his size.  How would he act to a blow that could kill him at once?  Where would he strike a giant demon?

Now, there’s certainly room for long, fancy footwork in fight scenes (Douglas Hulick does this very well), but it’s not the kind of fight I wanted to write.  God of War helped me discover what I was looking for in a real monster of a battle.

2. Final Fantasy VII

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You had to have seen this coming, right?  How could you not?  You’d need all the fingers of every Cid to count how many people hold this up as one of the pinnacles of RPGs.

Truth is, for a long time, I wasn’t sure why this game was so important to me.  Its plot is considerably convoluted, even for a JRPG.  Its characters are not particularly interesting, unless you’re especially into introspective angst by spiky-haired gentlemen.  The visuals certainly aren’t stunning.  So I voiced this to my friend Carl one day, who came up with a pointed answer.

Prior to FFVII, most of us had just been sort of playing video games.  We knew Mario had a reason for being on Dinosaur Island, but we didn’t give a shit.  We knew that Sonic the Hedgehog probably had people he loved and hated, but who the fuck cared.  FFVII was by no means the first video game to have a story, nor even the first video game to have an interesting story, but it hit around the time when a lot of kids who had grown up with video games were just starting to be able to recognize story, character and plot.  We weren’t used to one plot arc, let alone several: Shin-Ra’s destruction of the planet, Cloud’s identity issues, the growing love triangle and so forth.  For a lot of kids, FFVII was the first video game we played to find out what happened next.

So yeah, it’s safe to say that FFVII influenced me in a lot of core ways.  If DeviantArt is any indication, it did the same for a lot of people.  I’m not reluctant to admit that.

If I am reluctant to admit anything, it’s that I liked Tifa more than Aeris.

But if FFVII was one of the apexes of my video game influence, then my next one must be the primitive spark that started it…

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

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Yeah.

Now, this might seem strange, given that any LoZ game has only one story that just repeats itself over and over.  But back when I first got into video games, LoZ fucking blew my mind.  Fantasy stories!  I was the hero!  Princesses!  I was the hero!  Giant suits of armor!  I was the hero!  Me!  I could be the hero!

I actually keenly recall the night I first played this game, having rented it from Blockbuster after they were out of Battletoads.  I remember popping it in, having no real clue of what I was doing, but entranced all the way.  I remember begging my mom not to return it.  I remember saving up so I could order it (in its authentic gold cartridge) from a magazine.  I remember it starting a love affair with Zelda that would haunt me forever and eventually end in me getting teary-eyed when describing Ocarina of Time.

Sure, the games are repetitive.  Sure, the characterization is non-existent.  But to my tiny, 12-year-old brain, this was fucking amazing.  The story of Zelda is extremely simple, but I think it’s those simplistic, primal elements that form the pillars that support our love of loftier goals.  The love of exploration, the fear of what might lurk in the darkness, the desire to fight against a power so vast it spans worlds: all this and more can be found in my writing and I don’t think I’d give it up.

So there you have it.  My top four.  If you’re at all like me, I suggest you consult for yourself what yours might be!

Phoenix Comicon Schedule

It’s time, motherfuckers.

Next weekend, Thursday June 5th through to Sunday June 8th, is Phoenix Comicon.

My absolute favorite convention for a lot of reasons will be probably my absolute favorite year for a lot of reasons.  You can find most of them right here.  There’s a lot of really great authors attending this year: Patrick Rothfuss, Aprilynne Pike, Scott Lynch, Delilah Dawson and more.

But fuck those guys.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably here to see this hairy son of a gun.

So, here is my schedule for this year’s PHXCC!

What I Learned Writing My Latest Novel

Friday, 10:30 AM to 11-:30 AM.  Location: North 126bc

One of those helpful “how to write” panels, eh?  Should be informative.  Lord knows it won’t be for me, though.  I don’t retain information well.  Where am I.

The Taco Council

Friday, 3:00 PM-4:00 PM.  Location: North 127ab

Kevin Hearne has called to assembly the Holy Taco Church to discuss dick all.  If you caught our Author Chairdancing Panel last year, this will likely be a lot similar.

Magic Systems: Urban Fantasy vs. Epic Fantasy

Friday, 4:30 PM-5:30 PM.  Location: North 132

This one I am actually really excited to be a part of.  I’ve wanted for a long time to discuss the ramifications of magic systems on epic fantasy and whether they’re important as we think they are.

But if there is one panel you absolutely must see…

AUTHOR BATSU GAME

Saturday, 4:30 PM-5:30 PM.  Location: North 132.

This is my own little pet project.  Some months ago, I saw a Japanese game show that did not reward knowledge, but punished ignorance.  I saw men being hurled down cliffs, shot out of catapults and beaten with oars for failing to perform a task and I thought “I must do this.”

Naturally, I can’t beat anyone, but I can feed them very hot salsa if they don’t perform to my satisfaction.

The rule of this game is very simple: do not laugh.  Any author caught laughing will be punished.  I will do my best to enforce this viciousness upon Leanna Renee Hieber, Delilah S. Dawson, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, Aprilynne Pike, Chuck Wendig and Myke Cole.  Winners walk away unscathed.  Losers suffer the consequences.

Do join us, won’t you?

Drinks With Authors

Saturday, 8:00 PM-11:00 PM.  Location: Renaissance Salon 5-8.

Once Author Batsu is done, come join the losers for a jovial good time.  This is basically your chance to come chill with as many authors as possible.  Giveaways, prizes and more!  MOAR!

The Really Epic Fantasy Panel

Sunday, 10:30 AM-11:30 AM.  Location: North 132.

More epic fantasy than you can possibly handle.  First one to say “first, let’s define epic fantasy” gets slapped.

Writing Rogues

Sunday, 3:00 PM-4:00 PM.  Location: North 132.

Degenerates, skullduggers and thugs.  Join a host of best-smelling authors to find out how they write jerks.

And that’s it!  When I’m not at these panels, you can find me in the Author’s Alley in the showroom/exhibitor’s hall/whatever you want to call it.  Feel free to drop by to get anything you want signed: books, kindles, foreheads, puppies, whatever!

Hope to see you there!

Lavos’ Second Form

Around a quarter of an hour ago, I turned 30.

I turned 30 while I was driving home in a car by myself down a highway that was largely empty.  I felt fine.

I’m not quite sure how I was intended to feel, really.  My friends (who all turned 30 earlier this year) all seemed to think it was fun to joke–in a not really joking way–about how they feel so old, their wild ways are over, the best years of their life are behind them.

And so on.

And I still feel fine.

Come to think of it, most of the milestones of my life have passed by me without me really acknowledging them in the way that I should.

When I turned 25 and could legally rent a car, I was sitting in a dark room feeling very upset.

When I turned 21 and could legally drink, I was studying for finals for a subject I hated full of people I didn’t like.

When I turned 18 and could legally drive, I was crying near nightly over a world that I didn’t want to be a part of that I felt was passing me by.

When I turned 16 and could be considered more of a man than a boy, I was just starting to realize how unhappy I was with myself.

When I turned 10, I got out of bed and ran outside into a living room full of presents as my dad congratulated me to making it to double digits.

Honestly, I feel closer to 10 than anything else right now, considering what I’ve done with my 30 years so far.  And these last few ones, especially.

But what have I done?  I sold a new trilogy to a bigger publisher whom I’ve become immensely fond of even in my one year of knowing them.  I’m continuing to do what I love for a living and I’ve proven to myself that my success wasn’t a fluke and I’m actually good at what I do.  I’m alive and healthy enough to enjoy it all.  But these almost seem like a cop-out, things anyone could be happy for.

So what have I really done?

I kissed more people than I thought I would.  I got into a fistfight with my best friend and we are still best friends.  I drank a lot, threw up some, said a lot of things I didn’t mean to people who were smiling and I was glad to see smile.  I cleaned up some dog poop, not as much dog vomit.  I learned how to drive a powerboat and I figured out that it was okay to like Drizzt Do’Urden.

But even that seems totally shallow compared to what I really did.

I learned to love myself.

For a dark period that feels like it stretches a very long time in my life, I was desperately unhappy.  I didn’t like the way I looked.  I didn’t like the way I felt.  I didn’t like the people around me.  I didn’t like what I was doing.  I didn’t like anything, really.

I can’t really say what changed.  I started working out, of course, and that helped a lot.  I learned that there qualities in people around me that I enjoyed and I learned to not be afraid to cut people out of my life who were adding nothing.  I learned to not only love what I was doing, but love that I was doing it.  I learned that I think a lot of people are just plain awesome.

Maybe all the darkness that came before was necessary to figuring out how to be able to put it aside.  Maybe it trained me to deal with it or maybe I just got tired of having it around.  I don’t know.  But I moved past it.

Which is why I hate that a lot of people around me are still in it.  If I can say there were unhappy moments in this year, I’d say that they were the moments I saw people I trusted and admired turn to bitterness, give into fear, succumb to hatred.  I’d say that the moments I saw people bristling with fury, viewing each other with suspicion and mistrust, were difficult.  I’d say that the moments where people I had once understood speak languages I just straight up didn’t get anymore were all but heartbreaking.

This isn’t to blame them, of course, nor even to suggest that there is someone to blame.  What I call bitterness and hatred, some might call justified anger.  That’s fine.  I am perfectly okay with not understanding certain things or even people.

But I do think that a number of people out there are not unhappy by choice.  I do think that a lot of people are bitter, angry and terrified for reasons that they think are beyond their control.  And some times, they are beyond their control.  But some times, they are not.

If I can say one thing about this year, it is that I am very happy now.  If I can tell you how I think you can be happy, as well, it is to forgive yourself for your indiscretions, to love yourself for the people you love, to be okay with disagreeing with people and still enjoying their company, to be okay with sometimes cutting people out of your life.

Do good.

Try your best.

Kiss someone.

Fight someone.

Eat a chicken sandwich.

‘Sup, 30.

Crowdfunding Support: Marc Simonetti and Storium

I actually genuinely adore it when I get the chance to help other people.  Possibly because I’ve committed so many sins of such grievous extents that I hope that even the most modest effort toward goodness is enough to salvage my soul from whatever dark hole it’s tumbled into.

Or maybe I just like art.

Let’s talk about Marc Simonetti.

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This is still my favorite book cover thus far.  Kataria looks like a badass, the netherlings look grumpy and Gariath is all sorts of insane in the background.

Marc did this, along with another cover for Black Halo, in the French edition.  His gallery (as you can see) is full of great interpretations of fantasy art, characters from books and more.  You should seriously consider checking him out.

You should also seriously consider donating money to crowdfund his book.

Coverama will be a feature of his best and brightest covers and favorite pieces.  Not only is it a collection of amazing art, it’s a way to support an amazing artist without having to commission him to paint a portrait of you fighting a giant badger (not that I’ve ever done that).  Marc’s amazing at what he does and he deserves to keep doing it.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to check it out.

…and since I’m already extolling you to give up your money, how about we discuss Storium?

storium

I’m really intrigued by this idea.  Just as YA was great for introducing millions of people to reading, I feel like Storium is going to be hailed as a means for burgeoning writers to really get started.  The way you teach anything to anyone is by making it into a game and I can’t help but feel like Storium is going to be at least partially responsible for a lot of the best books we’ll see in the next twenty years.

I could try to summarize it better, but why not check out their Kickstarter here?

They’re already well past their goal, but the stretch goals keep coming, including one that features yours truly.

When I was approached by Storium to create a world for them, I thought something along the lines of Middle-Earth: Ten Years Later would be fun.  Not the fluffy “peace is everywhere and mankind rules benevolently” version, but the idea of a world where we now have to figure out what to do with a conquered people.

Where do the orcs go now that their homes have been destroyed and their armies crushed?  What do the dwarves do now that they’ve run out of holes to hide in?  What happens to the elves that don’t want to fade into the West?  How can we trust men to rule wisely when they’ve seen so much war and hatred and where do the go?

The answer is Coldrock.

A city that hosts a diaspora of a conquered people, a dying race, a corrupt kingdom, Coldrock is where urban fantasy and high fantasy meet.  It’s a tale of what happens when orcs want their civil rights and elves want to bring everyone else in line with their own kind of degenerative ailing.  It’s got wickedness, grit and violence aplenty, but I’ll leave it to the storytellers to provide the hope.

Anyway, if you’ve got some dollars kicking around, I urge you wholeheartedly to contribute to these projects.  They’re not only amazing, they’re a way to support artists you love and artists you will love in the future.

Do it.

Do it for Sam Sykes.

Who is Sam?

Sam Sykes is the author of The Aeons’ Gate trilogy, a vast and sprawling story of adventure, demons, madness and carnage.  Suspected by many to be at least tangentially related to most causes of human suffering, Sam Sykes is also a force to be reckoned with beyond literature.

At 25, Sykes is one of the younger authors to have arrived on the stage of literary fantasy.  Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo are currently published in nine countries.  He currently resides in the United States and is probably watching you read this right now.

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