Kojiki has a Cover

After too long away, I’m back to show you the cover for my debut novel, Kojiki, available Aug. 2 in the US and Aug 4 in the UK. Look for it pretty much everywhere you buy your books. Click here to read the first chapter or visit fantasy-faction.com.

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Thanks to my publisher Angry Robot Books and fantastic cover artist Thomas Walker.

 

When a Reader Says THIS, It Reminds You Why You Write

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Last year, a blogger approached me for a review copy of my debut novel, Kojiki. She gave it glowing marks; she also gave it to a friend she thought would like it. That friend not only liked it; she RAVED about it. So, when Torii came out–a short story prequel to Kojiki–I made sure this person knew about it. Here’s what she had to say:

“I finished it and felt bad for wanting so much more. But there again, that’s the sign of a good book, and well developed characters you feel like you know personally and want to share in their story and what happens to them down the line.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt my heart break when Botua died… the feeling of horror from Vissyus in his child-like state, replete with unheard of power, yet too broken to wield it properly and ending up hurting those he loves… Lon-Shan risking all for the job of a hero, all of it… and the entire thing wrapping up being this big massive thing that went totally awry that the big man didn’t want his people to find out about through history, so instead… made up something more palatable and noble, so they wouldn’t fear what lurked in the future. Oh, and the formation of the barrier by his own guardian, the entire thing was so epic…

I truly can’t say anything that will encompass how it makes me feel to be put back into a world that delights me this much. And, I was going to enshrine that book you sent me, but I felt like it would have been wrong in so many ways because something that good NEEDS to be shared until it’s pages are lovingly worn, the spine has multiple lines down the center, despite everyone being careful as they read it… I borrow it to everyone I can, and stress to them the importance of giving it back. It’s easily one of my most precious possessions, and I have few of those

You didn’t disappoint, but I didn’t figure you would.”

My reaction to these words was a mixture of awe and humility! Oh, and Torii is available from musapublishing.com as a FREE download. It’ll show up soon on other retailers too. Look for it!

I Can Haiku. Can You?

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The other night, my son told me his class had to write a haiku. He shared a few from his fellow students, all incredibly creative–one, that I previously quoted here turned out to be floating around the web for quite some time–Doh! I’ll have to let my son know. It’ll make a nice lesson. It’s REALLY easy for students to get busted nowadays 🙂

Anyway, back to the Haiku. I loved that my son’s class was learning about them. Not long ago, Haiku saved me from a frustrating bout of writer’s block.  Writers always get stuck at one point or another, often more than one. For me, it happened with the notoriously difficult-to-tell backstory.  I’d made all the cliche rookie mistakes: too much backstory too soon, tell don’t show, interrupting the story’s flow. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

I just couldn’t figure out why Kojiki’s backstory gave me such a hard time. It wasn’t because I needed to write it, I already had–it’s just that I didn’t know how to integrate it into the story’s narrative. I decided, for a few key scenes, to use the characters’ powers–it IS fantasy–as a vehicle for them to share their memories.  It turned out to work fairly well, but I didn’t want to overuse it.  I knew I needed something else, a little variety to keep the narrative fresh.  While the ultimate solution works really well, it doesn’t reflect the crazy path I took to find it.

Remember now, I wanted Kojiki to be a big, heroic epic. An emotional roller-coaster for the characters. It had to be serious and grim. Never in my wildest dreams did I think one of the crassest, most juvenile shows on TV would help me out. That show was Beavis and Butthead.  Yes, you read that correctly. Beavis and Butthead. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit the show often has me in stitches. If you never been a 14-year-old boy, you won’t get it. If you have, then you’ve lived it.

The episode in question had the little delinquents learning about the ‘ancient Japanese art of haiku’.  Needless to say, their haiku were ridiculous. Funny–but ridiculous.

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Halfway through Beavis’s numbingly stupid yet hilarious haiku, I started messing around with haiku in my head. They were just as stupid. Then, something incredible happened.  Inspiration. I realized a haiku would make the perfect delineator for Kojiki’s past and present.  Instead of cueing the reader with the bland ‘The Distant Past’, which I still used by the way, I opened each backstory scene with a haiku.  The reader would know, whenever he/she came across the haiku, we were going to backstory.  I made sure I kept those particular backstory scenes in concurrent chapters to avoid confusion, and viola! Bob’s your uncle.

A little research on haiku courtesy of Google, and I was back in business. I already knew about the format, I just needed to learn more about form. Most haiku have an ethereal feel to them. Like mist on a mountain. I had to go through a couple of versions, but I am pleased with the result. In the end, Kojiki has three haiku, the first of which I’ll use to close this post:

A woman hungers 

Spring turns into winter snow

Winter brings the fire

The moral of the story here, inspiration can come from the strangest places. Keep your eyes and your mind open, and sooner or later, it’ll come.

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Heroes and Villains Blog-Hop

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When the Hero’s the Villain and the Villain’s the Hero

I’d like to open things up here with a big thank you to Martin Bolton for organizing this Heroes and Villains blog hop. With so many SF/Fantasy authors blogging about the genre, we’re bound to have some lively and interesting discussions. Not to mention prizes! So, be sure to check out all the blogs, win some prizes. See what they say and start up a conversation before hopping to the next author. My prize is a swag-bag from my book, Kojiki.

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To win, you have to leave a comment on this blog, retweet my post, share, and favorite it. I’ll choose from the post that hits me just right–but be warned, it has to relate to my post. It must also add something to the discussion. No snarks, please. We’re closing the Blog Hop on May 6, so that’s when I’ll choose the winner! Don’t forget leaving some way for me to contact you 🙂

Now, on with the show. I thought it might fun–and different–to take a cue from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. For those unfamiliar with the book, Mr. Maguire flips what we know about the merry old land of Oz upside down and leaves us questioning our preconceived notions of good and evil.

Mr. Maquire is by no means the first to bend the rules, so to speak. When Sutekh the Destroyer famously–and chillingly–says to Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, “Your evil is my good,” he’s expressing the same idea, namely: that POV plays a big part in determining good and evil, and by default heroes and villains.

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(“Your evil is my good.” Sutekh from Doctor Who–Pyramids of Mars)

Not that I want to disagree with a god or anything, but since SF/fantasy fans are by and large human beings, the POV is pretty well established. And that’s the challenge for an author. Given our preconceptions, how do we, as storytellers, create complex and compelling characters?

For me, the answer meant making the hero’s actions somewhat less than heroic. No milquetoast, squeaky-clean good guys here. True, I set them up as typical goody-goodies, but only because I wanted you to believe in their goodness. To empathize with them. Then–BAM–I have them behave badly. Very badly. The tragic flaw, that’s what my English teacher called it. I prefer to think of it as a nifty plot device that adds depth and momentum to the story.

My ostensible heroes end up turning the story’s noblest character into its villain. Then, just because I didn’t think that was enough of a gut punch, I decided the only way for them to stop their creation from destroying the world was to kill him. Not very heroic, now is it?

As for the supposed villain, he’s actually the only character in the story who acts selflessly. His reasons aren’t necessarily pure, but his desire to help his friends certainly is. Too bad it all goes so horribly wrong. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, as they say. And fall he does–in spectacularly heart-wrenching fashion. Bad enough to do something for all the right reasons–worse to do it for love THEN have it turn you into a monster.

Early on, I told my editor I wanted a cross between Billy Budd and the Phantom of the Opera–with a little mad-scientist thrown in for good measure.  I then added infinite power, madness, and made sure his best friends were the ones who had to destroy him. If I did this right, the reader will dread the book’s cataclysmic ending as much as anticipate it. Right and wrong, good and bad. You’ll have to decide for yourself which of my characters are heroic and which are villainous. It might not be as easy as you think.

Check out these other authors participating in the blog hop for more on heroes and villains–not to mention prizes!

  1. Nyki Blatchley
  2. Martin Bolton
  3. Debra Brown
  4. Adrian Chamberlin
  5. Mike Cooley
  6. Karin Cox
  7. Joanna Fay
  8. Peter B Forster
  9. Ron Fritsch
  10. Mai Griffin
  11. Joanne Hall
  12. Jolea M Harrison
  13. Tinney Sue Heath
  14. Eleni Konstanine
  15. “K. Scott Lewis
  16. Paula Lofting
  17. Liz Long
  18. Peter Lukes
  19. Mark McClelland
  20. M. Edward McNally
  21. Sue Millard
  22. Rhiannon Douglas
  23. Ginger Myrick
  24. David Pilling
  25. EM Powell
  26. Kim Rendfeld
  27. Terry L Smith
  28. Tara West
  29. Mike Cooley

Tomorrow

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Seirin waited for them to move away before ordering the attack. She raised her hand and stepped back as Roarke’s thoughts swept into the basin. His power burrowed into the Earth. The ground along the shore tore free with a loud crack. Whole sections pulled away from the land, dragging soil and ocean into a fissure that stretched for miles. Water met magma and rocketed back to the surface as pressurized steam.

Vissyus’s volcano responded with a thunderous explosion. Towering flames roared into the morning sky. Wind carried the horrific echoes of land collapsing, of liquefying rock and air igniting.

Seirin’s gaze fixed on the volcano’s ruined crown. A burning sphere lifted out of it, a sun-fire orb, intensely bright and hot enough to melt the caldera to its roots. Two smaller orbs followed Vissyus into the sky, blazing red to his left, arctic blue to his right.

Fire raced from the dying island, leaping over the cracked shoreline and dropping onto the plains like firebombs. The earth withered and the seas boiled. Fiyorok landed in a flash of red-and-gold light. Akuan followed several hundred yards to the south, coating the ground with ice. Guarded mountains fell, the pools Seirin protected turned to vapor…

Kojiki.  Available tomorrow wherever e-books are sold.

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Fancy a Look at My Debut Novel?

Starting today, I’m putting my blog on a bit of hiatus.  Instead of my usual ramblings, I will post excerpts from KOJIKI–one per week until the e-book’s April 19th release.  Enjoy…

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“Isn’t this our train?” Keiko tossed her head at the tracks.

Yui blinked. “Train? What train? We still have another ten minutes. There. Look.” She pointed to an illuminated sign dangling from the ceiling.

“I don’t care what it says—even if I could read it.” Keiko sighed. Nobody ever listened to her. At eighteen, she was too young to be taken seriously and too old not to be. She shrugged. “Maybe we just got lucky. Maybe the sign’s wrong. I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that a train’s on its way.”

Yui shot her a skeptical look.

Keiko sighed again. She shifted her body toward the tunnel and waited for her hair to fan away from her head. “Here, see? A train pushes the air down the tunnel. You feel it before you hear it. Everybody knows that.”

Wakarimasen!” Yui muttered. “This isn’t right. Japanese trains run on schedule. That train would have to be a full ten minutes early, and that never happens…not ever.” She stood slowly, woodenly.

“You’re sure?” An irrational feeling of dread fluttered in Keiko’s chest, some instinct both powerful and undeniably clear.

Yui nodded, her face grave. “Hai, Keiko. I’m sure.”

Keiko moved away from the rails. The strengthening draft clawed at her, hot, dry, and stronger than it should have been.

“I’ve never felt that before.” She clutched her throat.

Yui’s head snapped toward the tunnel entrance. “What? You’ve never felt what before?”

“The heat. It’s like an oven in here.”

Face paling, Yui followed Keiko’s gaze down the tracks. “Our train doesn’t come from the left. It’s a northbound train. They only approach from the right.”

“What are you talking about?” Keiko started to say, when a throaty growl boomed out of the northern passage to silence her. Air rushed ahead of it in powerful blasts, each stronger than the last—blisteringly hot and accompanied by a hellacious glow that tinted the station’s white walls with amber. “What was that?”

In a flash, Yui seized Keiko’s jacket and forced her to the ground. “Stay down! You need to stay down! I didn’t go through all the trouble of crossing the Boundary just to have you incinerated!”

Dropping to one knee, she dragged Keiko with her, her face lifting to meet the flickering glow. It churned faster now, coming down the tracks in a rush of sound and light. A wave of intense heat seared across the platform. Keiko’s mouth went dry. She stared at Yui, but the question she wanted to ask died on her lips.

Yui wasn’t paying attention to her. Instead, she stared into the light with an urgency that brought twisting knots to Keiko’s stomach.

“Fiyorok,” Yui hissed, scrambling back into a low crouch. “It’s free!”

Kojiki is due out April 19 from Musa Publishing as an e-book. You will be able to purchase it directly from Musa at http://www.musapublishing.com.  It will also be available at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook sellers.

**Disclaimer:  Kojiki is the property of Musa Publishing, copyright 2012 by Keith Yatsuhashi. You many not be copy or otherwise manipulate this text without permission.