"For the sake of humanity, join in Bitterwood's revolt." - Kirkus Reviews

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I finish the night with a wonderfully symetrical word count for the new novel of 36863. That's a bit over 8k words for the week. This coming week will be a bit more challenging, since I have Trinoccon coming up next weekend, so I essentially lose a weekend of writing. Fortunately, I'm taking the Monday following the con off.

This is perhaps news more appropriate for my Whateverville blog, but my writing time is currently in competition with home improvement time. I'm selling my house, and so a lot of things that were set aside last year when I did the major improvements--new floors, new walls, painting, etc.--are now finally being tackled. Tiny stuff, like fixing the deadbolt on the backdoor, where the lock and the receptacle plate were out of alignment, and painting small bits of trim I never got around to painting, fixing small gap I had left where the new tiles in the bathroom didn't quite meet up with the new linoleum in the office. No huge projects--most of these things are taking me ten minutes to tackle. Just the sheer number of details to tackle makes it overwhelming.

But, of course, there's a parallel there with writing, in that writing any given word on a page isn't tough--most of them flow onto the page without my even having to stop and thing about them. Occasionally, I'll be slowed down by trying to think of a name for a character, trying to figure out what something that doesn't exist in our world might feel or smell or taste like. Any given detail isn't that hard to tackle, but they really accumulate as the scenes and chapters build up. The trick is to set aside the final goal and sit down with a micro goal--one more scene tonight, or just write enough to turn the odometer on the next thousand words. Tomorrow, I'll sit down and think, "Two hundred and thirty seven words to go to 37k. Barely half a page, single spaced. Just a few paragraphs. You can tackle this. Then, once I'm typing, I'll start trying for the end of the scene, or the end of the chapter if its near enough.

Little by little, the writing gets done.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My first negative review

A reader named ASL sent me an email letting me know he loved Bitterwood, but his cat, Isaac, just wasn't as interested. Maybe he was put off when he learned that the dragon queen Tanthia likes to snack on baskets of white kittens?

Back from the Beach

I'm back from the beach. I've had very little access to the internet, so I plan on getting quite a few updates posted here and at whateverville this weel. I've come back from the beach with about 12,000 words written on my new novel, bringing the total to over 28,000. Only 97,000 to go!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I feel as if I've done my job

Pat Esden on her live journal has provided one of my favorite quotes about Bitterwood yet, and she hasn't even read the book! She attended my reading at Readercon and writes on her blog: James Maxey read the beginning of his novel “Bitterwood”. It was great and convinced me to move the novel higher up in my stack of summer reading—and gave me a craving for barbequed dragon tongue.

Really, that's pretty much what I consider the key to engaging writing... leaving the readers with cravings. It's been twenty years since I read Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Aiule (I'm sure I just misspelled her name). Yet, I can still recall vividly her descriptions of the food the cave men gathered, all the fresh green sprouts and pungent roots and giant fish. I remember going to a salad bar and loading up on bean sprouts and bamboo shoots and thinking, "a caveman would enjoy this salad." (Though I'm not sure they had ranch dressing.)

I said in my recent Solaris interview that my first goal as a writer was to entertain the reader. I also said I tried to make my writing thought-provoking. I left out my other important goal--make the reader hungry. A useful goal to remind myself of now, since I'm well underway with my next novel for Solaris. I've finished four chapters and am almost 17,000 words into the project. I'm leaving on vacation this week, and hope to get through at least two more chapters, perhaps even a third. I'm guessing there will be a feast in there somewhere.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bitterwood Live!

While at Readercon last week, I got to do my first live reading from Bitterwood. Click here for the MP3. Also live as of this week is the "Talk about it here: Bitterwood" thread at the Solaris Books forum. Anyone interested in carrying on an online conversation with me about Bitterwood and what comes next can post their questions and comments there. I'll check that thread often and respond as promptly as I can.

The thread is also a great place to get news about other Solaris titles including the wildly popular The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin and Jeffrey Thomas's critically acclaimed Deadstock.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

SFRevu likes Bitterwood

Paul Haggerty has published a review of Bitterwood at SFRevu.

A brief taste: "There are clues scattered throughout the beginning of the book, and practically handed to the reader later on, that the world is not what it appears to be. But the secret isn't really important over all, it just adds to the richness of the setting. While the setting and plot entertain, it's ultimately the characters and their interactions that matter the most. This is no quest novel where the various personae are brought together to find that they're more than the sum of the their parts. Half the characters hate the other half and would like no more than to see them dead as soon as possible. There are heroes and villains on both sides of the conflicts, and plenty are scheming for what will profit them the most. Pretty much like real life, only with dragons."

Also, yesterday I did my first Bitterwood signing, at this year's Odyssey Workshop. For pictures of the event, head over to Whateverville.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

We're number 2! We're number 2! revewed Bitterwood a week or so ago, and now Bitterwood has claimed the number 2 position on her list of Best Books of the First Half of 2007. Hopefully my next book can make it to number one on her list.

"Next book?" you may ask. Yep. Two books, in fact. However, details are still being worked out. Hopefully I'll have an anouncement by the end of the week.