I’m begging you: Please buy THE IRON CODEX

Some of you folks might have seen other authors posting about the crushing effect the pandemic has had on book sales.

Everyone thought people stuck at home would buy MORE books, but that isn’t what’s happened.

Truth is, most people lost their incomes. Many people in the publishing industry have been laid off or let go outright, resulting in many titles being delayed for months or longer.

Worse, the supply chain for book production and sales has all but collapsed. Printing companies are running out of paper; trucking companies that move paper and books are losing drivers; many retailers, both virtual and brick-and-mortar, who used to sell books are now closed.

The result has been a calamity for publishers and authors. Some folks thought readers would embrace eBooks and bypass the paper/shipping problem. But that hasn’t happened. For all the talk of eBooks supplanting print, the dead-tree format remains the dominant format for sales.

What has all this meant to me? My sales have been slammed, just as many others’ have. I’d like to say “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,” but that’s not really true anymore. Truth is, my sales could use a bit of help, too.

Tuesday, May 12, is my birthday. I would be grateful if, on that day, anyone reading this who hasn’t already bought a copy of my fantasy-thriller The Iron Codex would please buy a copy in any format from the retailer of your choice.

If you already have The Iron Codex, then I’d be grateful if, on May 12, you’d pre-order a copy (in any format, from any retailer) of my upcoming Dark Arts series finale, The Shadow Commission (coming Aug. 11 from

Not to be too melodramatic about it, but my future as an author of original fiction might well depend on this. So any support you can find it in your heart (and finances) to provide at this time would be potentially career-saving. Thanks in advance for your support.

Art is a Kind of Magic, Magic a Kind of Art

Making good art is hard.

That turned out to be a key concept in my new epic fantasy novel about a secret war between Allied and Nazi sorcerers during World War II, but I didn’t know that until after I had started writing it.

When I began working on The Midnight Front, my goal was to tell a secret-history adventure that transplanted Renaissance-era ceremonial magic into a 20th-century setting. For those who are unfamiliar with the precepts of ceremonial magic from the Christian tradition, its central idea is that all true magic (as opposed to stage magic), from the smallest trick to the grandest miracle, is predicated upon the conjuring and control of demons. The terminology of this style of magic is highly technical and antiseptic, and its practitioners treated the exercise of magic like a form of science (possibly because magic during that period was connected closely with the practices of alchemy, the forerunner of modern chemistry).

To make my novels’ system of magic more cinematic (and therefore better suited to a fast-paced action narrative), I grafted onto it the concept of “yoking,” in which a magician binds one or more demons to his or her mind and body and, for as long as he or she is able to maintain control over the spirits, wields the demons’ powers as if they were his or her own.

In the interest of limiting my characters’ ability to wield such powers I imposed certain consequences upon this practice. My characters soon learn that yoking demons is a miserable experience, one that comes with such side effects as headaches, nosebleeds, intestinal distress, obsessive-compulsive habits, self-harm such as cutting and hair-pulling, nightmares, and other such unpleasantness.

Consequently, my characters swiftly take to self-medication to mitigate the side effects that come with yoking demons. Alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, opium—whatever dulls the pain and quiets the voices, my characters make use of it so that they can yoke more spirits, gain more power, and try to win the war. So far it seemed to be shaping up into a well-balanced and narratively workable system of magic.

Then, one night a few years ago, I was describing the magic system to a friend at a party, and I experienced a revelation: the system of magic I had concocted, and the manner in which my characters coped with its deleterious consequences, mirrored my own creative process.

When I stepped back from my story and examined its moving parts, I realized that magic, which my characters sometimes call simply “the Art,” was a metaphor for all types of creative art. The notion of having to perform exhaustive research and preparation, and to master the fundamentals of the process before being able to use magic professionally was no different from the learning curve experienced by any artist. Writers, painters, musicians, actors, sculptors — any artistic discipline that I could think of fit this paradigm.

Then I thought about what demons represented beyond the context of my story, and I saw that they were metaphors for those forces that drive artists to create, to reshape reality. Some of those forces are benign, but others are not. How many artists have spoken of grappling with their “personal demons” during the act of creation? How many of us find the inspirations for our art in the darker corners of our psyches?

Even my characters’ coping mechanisms are hauntingly familiar to anyone who knows people who make their living in the arts. The creative professions sometimes seem almost synonymous with substance abuse. Opiates and music have a long shared history, as do writing and alcohol. I’ve never made any secret of my own proclivity for drinking; I have long practiced the edict “write drunk, edit sober” (a saying often attributed, possibly in error, to Ernest Hemingway).

The most vital parallel between my perception of artistic expression and the depiction of magic in my Dark Arts series lies in my main character’s moral conundrum: How can he do good in the world when his power is derived from a source considered to be the ultimate incarnation of evil?

The answer, both for my character and myself, is that what matters most is not the source from which one derives power, but what one ultimately does with that power. That’s as true for artists as it is for magicians. Even when our inspirations are drawn from the darkest places, what’s important is that we use our gifts to shed new light — and that we do our best to burn brightly.


The Midnight Front: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


This blog post originally ran on the Unbound Worlds blog in January 2018. That site no longer exists, so I have reposted my essay here.

Obituary: Yvonne M. Mack, 78

For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, and also those of you who do, my wonderful mother Yvonne M. Mack passed away this Monday, after a long battle against cancer.

Because the local newspaper that ran my mother’s obituary does not permit paragraph breaks, her obituary ran as a single massive block of type in a very long column. For this reason, I am sharing her obituary here, in the format that I originally intended.


YVONNE M. MACK, 1941–2020

Yvonne Mack
Yvonne M. Mack

Yvonne M. Mack, 78, of Chicopee, Mass., passed away April 27, 2020, in her home after a courageous four-year battle against cancer.

Yvonne was born May 13, 1941, in South Hadley, to Adelard and Amanda Beauregard (née Lamothe). She graduated in 1959 from South Hadley High School and studied business administration at Holyoke Community College.

In June of 1960, Yvonne married John W. Klisiewicz. They had two sons, Stephen J. Klisiewicz and David A. Mack (Klisiewicz), before they divorced in 1973. In March of 1974, Yvonne married David L. Mack, with whom she shared 46 wonderful years.

At age 13, Yvonne knew she wanted to be not just a secretary but an executive assistant—a “Della Street” to a “Perry Mason”—and devoted herself to that career goal. She worked as an executive assistant for various law firms, as well as for Holyoke Hospital and the admissions department of Smith College. She retired in 2011 from Springfield law firm Bacon & Wilson LLP, but she loved her work so much that after retirement she served as the secretary to the HOA where she lived.

Yvonne was an avid reader, a superb cook, a patient gardener, and a loving wife and mother. She enjoyed doting on her cats and working with her hands.

She is survived by her husband, David; her older son, Stephen, and his wife, Elizabeth Klisiewicz, of Whitinsville; her younger son, David, and his wife, Kara Bain, of Astoria, NY; her grandchild, Julian X. Klisiewicz, of Whitinsville; and six siblings: Adelard Beauregard, Jr., of Florida; Marion Russell, of Chicopee; Patrick Beauregard of California; Regina Dzuris of Belchertown; Jeanette Bechta of Florida; Cecile McLoughlin of Holyoke; and innumerable nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents and her older brother Henry Beauregard.

In lieu of flowers, Yvonne and her family ask that those who wish to honor her life and memory make donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (stjudes.org) or to the charity of one’s choice. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.

WARPATH review on Tor Dot Com

Today on Tor Dot Com, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro reviews Warpath, my Star Trek: Deep Space Nine post-finale novel published in April 2006.

This review is part of a series, just as the novel was. Alvaro is reviewing the entire run of post-finale Star Trek: DS9 novels, which was started by editor Marco Palmieri in 2001.

Warpath falls somewhere in the middle of the series, and as such, though I am proud of it on its own merits, it would be a hard place to try to jump into the ongoing post-finale DS9 narrative.

Regardless, it is still immensely satisfying to read comments such as these:

Warpath is an intricately-assembled emotional rollercoaster which, despite plenty of quiet character scenes, never lets up on tension. Part military thriller, rip-roaring medieval battle, detective mystery, post-modern Western, and high-tech medical drama, it plays on the strengths of all these sub-genres and fuses them together into a dazzling story that is amply greater than the sum of its parts. The main reason for this success, outside of fastidious and intelligent worldbuilding, is Mack’s prose. He is able to switch effortlessly between scenes of muscular action, measured dialogue, and evocative description.

And there’s plenty more where that came from. Read the full Tor.com review of Warpath here.

As it happens, all U.S. eBook versions of Warpath (as well as my Vanguard series debut Harbinger) are on sale until the end of May 2020 for just $0.99 each. So get ’em while the getting’s good, my friends.

 

 

My Star Trek eBooks on Sale in May

Good news, everyone! All eBook versions of two of my many Star Trek novels are on sale to U.S. readers for just $0.99 now through the end of May 2020.

The first title on sale is my Deep Space Nine action-thriller Warpath. From the back cover:

They were created to be killing machines. Highly intelligent, resourceful, and deceptively complex, the Jem’Hadar are a species engineered for war and programmed at the genetic level for one purpose: to fight until death as soldiers of the sprawling stellar empire known as the Dominion. No Jem’Hadar has ever lived thirty years, and not even their masters, the shape-shifting Founders, know what such a creature is capable of becoming were it to be freed of its servitude.

One Founder, however, has dared to wonder.

Appointed by Odo himself to learn peaceful coexistence aboard Deep Space 9™, Taran’atar, an Honored Elder among the Jem’Hadar, had for months been a staunch, if conflicted, ally to the crew of the station, ever struggling to understand the mission on which he was sent … until something went horrifically wrong.

Consumed by self-doubt and an ever-growing rage, Taran’atar has lashed out against those he was sworn to aid. While Captain Kira Nerys and Lieutenant Ro Laren both lie near death aboard DS9, their assailant has taken a hostage and fled into Cardassian space, pursued by Commander Elias Vaughn on the U.S.S. Defiant. But as the hunt unfolds, Taran’atar’s true objective becomes increasingly less certain, as the rogue Jem’Hadar leads the Defiant to a discovery even more shocking than his crime.

The second title on sale is Harbinger, the first volume in the eight-book (plus two eBook novellas) Star Trek Vanguard saga, which I created with editor Marco Palmieri and alternated writing duties with the team of Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. From the back cover:

Returning from its historic first voyage to the edge of the galaxy, the damaged U.S.S. Enterprise journeys through the Taurus Reach, a vast and little-known region of space in which a new starbase has been unexpectedly established. Puzzled by the Federation’s interest in an area so far from its borders and so near the xenophobic Tholian Assembly, Captain James T. Kirk orders the Enterprise to put in for repairs at the new space station: Starbase 47, also known as Vanguard.

As Kirk ponders the mystery of the enormous base, he begins to suspect that there is much more to Vanguard than meets the eye. It’s a suspicion shared by the Tholians, the Orions, and the Klingon Empire, each of whom believes that there are less than benign motives behind the Federation’s sudden and unexplained desire to explore and colonize the Taurus Reach.

But when a calamity deep within the Reach threatens to compromise Starfleet’s continued presence in the region, Kirk, Spock, and several key specialists from the Enterprise must assist Vanguard’s crew in investigating the cause of the disaster and containing the damage. In the process, they learn the true purpose behind the creation of Vanguard, and what the outcome of its mission may mean for life throughout that part of the galaxy.

This is a great deal on two of my seminal early works. Grab ’em while the grabbing’s good!

#SFWApro

The Shadow Commission delayed until August 11

For those who have pre-ordered The Shadow Commission, my upcoming third Dark Arts novel from Tor Books, be informed that due to the effects of the ongoing pandemic on the publishing industry and related businesses, the release date of my book (and many others) has been delayed.

Originally scheduled to publish on June 9, 2020, The Shadow Commission is now scheduled to debut on August 11, 2020.

I know it’s a bummer, but there’s really nothing that can be done about it. Many publishers, including Tor’s corporate parent company, Macmillan, are laying off employees and reducing the salaries of those who remain. Printers are running out of paper to print books, because the supply lines for their just-in-time inventory model have been disrupted. There are fewer truckers to cart books from printers to warehouses, and from warehouses to retailers. And the brick-and-mortar retailers are mostly closed, and the biggest online retailer isn’t accepting books right now.

Kind of a perfect storm of suck, really.

At any rate, please be patient. Here’s hoping that when the book arrives at last, you’ll all agree it was worth the wait.

 

#SFWApro

MidSouthCon 38 postponed to 2021

Now that an official announcement has been made on MidSouthCon’s website, I can share the news that MidSouthCon 38 has been postponed until next year at this time—March 19–21, 2021—to help safeguard the health of its attendees, guests, staff, volunteers, and hotel personnel from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

I was slated to be this year’s Author Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon, and I fully support the convention committee’s informed decision to postpone the event. As much as I’ve looked forward to my first time as a GoH, I don’t think it’s worth risking the health or safety of other people for a moment in the spotlight.

The MidSouthCon committee has graciously invited me to be their GoH next year when their convention returns, and I have gratefully accepted their offer. I have been impressed by their attention to detail, their superb sense of organization, their clear communications, and, now, their commitment to public safety.

To everyone who was hoping to see me next week in Memphis, I’m sorry we won’t get to hang out until next year. But my hope is that, until then, you’ll all do your best to stay safe and healthy, and help others to do likewise. Be well, friends, and I’ll look forward to seeing you all next year in Memphis!