Congratulations 2017 Silver Empire Dragon Award Finalists!

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Three Silver Empire and Lyonesse authors managed to score an impressive four Dragon Award nominations between them. How’d they pull off this feet? Our own Declan Finn managed to score two all by himself!

Silver Empire authors who received nominations this year include:

Ms. Lamplighter also served as editor for my own upcoming novel, War Demons.

In addition, two future Silver Empire authors also received nominations this year.

Congratulations to all of these fine authors for their well-deserved nominations!

I’d also like to say congratulations to my personal friends and friends of Silver Empire who also received nominations this year: Richard Paolinelli, Brian Niemeier, Vox Day, and John C. Wright.

Doctor Strange – MOVIE REVIEW

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Thanks to some extremely wonderful assistant instructors, I went home from the dojo early last night and got to eat dinner with my kids. We also sat together and watched Doctor Strange. My wife and I had seen it before in theaters, but the kids hadn’t. Strangely, I never actually left a review of the film. It seems a bit odd to do so this long after the film’s release. Yet I also felt it worth adding a few notes to the general consensus of the film.

Yes, the critics are generally right. Doctor Strange is, essentially, the first Iron Man film’s plot redressed. Doctor Stephen Strange is a rich, extremely intelligent, highly successful man. He’s also more than a bit of an asshole. Then, of course, the film takes him on his journey to finding real meaning, becoming a hero, etc.

Like many other films, the villain is not so much underwhelming (Dormamu is actually pretty cool) as underutilized. He’s just not in the film enough. This is also a fair criticism.

But the film still succeeds, and I think it’s due to three things.

First, the film is fun and generally well executed. As I’ve noted before, execution counts for far more than originality. A big part of this comes from the filmmakers willingness to fully embrace Steve Ditko’s 60s and 70s era trippy artwork. They turned modern CGI effects on that style and the result is amazing.

Second, the climax of the film is extremely well done. I’m talking about one effect in particular: when the sorcerers fight while Strange turns back time itself. I’ve read scenes like this in written fiction before. I’ve never seen anything like it in a visual medium. They executed it flawlessly, and the end result is super cool both visually and from a storytelling perspective.

Finally, the resolution is very clever. Strange manages to find the one weapon he can actually use against an infinite power. As a viewer, you get a sense that his solution would actually work – yet it’s also quite unconventional. Best of all, the script sets up the solution in a very clever bit of early, seemingly throw-away dialog.

On a side note, my children loved it. Even my four year old sat glued to his seat for almost the entire film. He rarely does that for live action movies – he didn’t even manage it for Homeward Bound, a film aimed at his demographic.

It’s not a perfect film, but it’s easily a four out of five stars.

The Magic Words To Get To the Top of the Slush Pile

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As a publisher, I get asked a lot of questions by a lot of writers. One of the most common is, “what are you looking for in a book?” There are a lot of answers to that – but most of those answers really vary from publisher to publisher. Yes, we all want a book that’s “good.” But good is largely a matter of taste. So exact details of what I’m looking for won’t match what any other publisher is looking for.

I can’t give you a magic formula that will generate a book I’d agree to publish. But I can give you a few magic words that will put your book on the top of the slush pile, and automatically ensure that I’ll look at it quickly. I can’t say definitively that this would work with every other publisher. It would surprise me, however, if this didn’t help you. Are you ready? Here are your magic words:

It’s a series, and I have two more books already written.

If you’ve read any of my marketing posts, you’ll immediately understand why this is so important. The thing is, the decision of which books to publish is a business decision. It’s not about which books I like. It’s about which books I can sell. And the simple fact of the matter is that a series makes far more economic sense than a standalone book.

The short version is this: if I have 3-5 books in a series, I already know how to use conventional marketing techniques to ensure that I have a very high probability of recouping my investment in your books. I can’t guarantee them blockbuster status. I can’t even guarantee them high sales. But I can probably make my money back, especially since we operate on a lean structure and keep our costs low.

That means there’s very little risk to me for taking a chance on your book. It’s still not zero-risk. Any book can totally bomb. And the books still have to be good enough. If the books suck so much that nobody will read the second or third, then having a series just means I’m losing money on three books instead of one. But if we’ve got three books, with more on the way, and the books are good… we can probably make something work.

This doesn’t mean your odds are zero with me – or any other publisher – if you’ve only written the one.  It doesn’t mean we won’t look at your book. It also doesn’t guarantee we’ll accept your work. But for us, business logic dictates that an author with multiple finished books goes straight to the top.

New Title, New Cover And a READER POLL!

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After consultation with some experts who sell far more books than I do, I’ve altered the title for my upcoming novel. With it, I’ve also commissioned a new cover design. Both the title and the cover fit the genre far better. However, all of us (including the experts) had one question about the cover – and we decided the best answer was to ask you, the readers!

There are four versions of the cover above (click on the image for a larger version). One has no tagline. The other three have variations on the tagline and positioning. What do you think, dear reader? A, B, C, or D?

Polling is open until the end of this week! Vote here in the comments or on Twitter!

New Podcast – Kennings & Cantrips

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My wife Morgon and I have launched a new podcast – Kennings & Cantrips. We recorded the debut episode on location at LibertyCon XXX! We even managed to con five of our author friends into joining us. Due to the length of the recording, we chose to give each author their own episode.

Episode 1.1 features Hans Schantz, engineer and author of A Rambling Wreck – a hard science fiction alternate history novel set on campus at Georgia Tech. Listen via our official feed or on YouTube! Coming to iTunes and Google Play very soon!

Hymn of the Pearl – BOOK REVIEW

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Last Friday, an unexpected gift appeared in my e-mail inbox: Brian Niemeier’s new novella, Hymn of the Pearl. Full disclosure: in case you didn’t guess from the previous sentence, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. As a longtime friend, this flew straight to the top of my reading list.

Unlike most of Brian’s previous work, this one is short. It’s also a quick, easy read. Given my current schedule, I liked that. Other readers might find it disappointing. Then again, at $2.99 its price reflects that.

Brian’s use of fate as the mechanic for a magical system utterly fascinated me. Given how much fantasy work is out there that I haven’t read, this may not be truly original. But it was new to me, and I really enjoyed it. It drew me in and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. The author, however, clearly understood the system and had it all mapped out. That made it function well in practice.

Even more, the interplay between the two competing “classes” of wizards made for some interesting thought. It carried the weight of an honest religious argument, but without the baggage of real world religions to bog it down.

The author also skillfully weaves personal character struggles with sweeping political entanglements, and the threat of an actual war hangs over everything.

This book kept me fascinated from the beginning. If you’re a fan of Brian’s earlier works, you’ll definitely enjoy it. If you haven’t read his others, Hymn of the Pearl is a great place to start. Highly recommended. 5 out of 5 stars.