Posts Tagged ‘Dark Arts’

FREE FICTION: “Hell Rode With Her”

Hell Rode With Her,” an original novelette excised from the manuscript of The Midnight Front, details events that befall Russian-born sorceress (aka “karcist”) Anja Kernova after she deserts from the Red Army in late 1943.

This was in fact the first part of the Dark Arts series that I wrote, and Anja’s confrontation with her countrymen during the Great Patriotic War sets the stage for the series’ second book, The Iron Codex, in which Anja is the chief target of an international magickal arms race in 1954.

The good folks at Tor Dot Com are hosting the publication of this story, which first appeared in the anthology Apollo’s Daughters. Please head over to Tor Dot Com, enjoy the story, and leave a comment so that the good folks at Tor will know people are actually reading it.

The Iron Codex will be published on January 15, 2019, and is available now for pre-order in both trade paperback and eBook formats.

#SFWApro

Midnight Front named a “Top Read of 2018”

I’m pleased to share that Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie blog has named my novel The Midnight Front one of his Top Three Reads of 2018,” alongside “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky” by John Hornor Jacobs and The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. (Not too shabby!)

He says of my novel, “An impressive and riveting supernatural thriller…,” and “I highly anticipate the sequel.”

Check out his other comments and reading recommendations here!

Video of my NYRSF reading from The Iron Codex

If you couldn’t make it to last night’s readings by me & Seth Dickinson, watch the event now for free online (starting at 22 minutes in):

I read from my upcoming Dark Arts novel The Iron Codex; Seth reads from his new original SF novel Exortia, coming next year from tor.com.

The event was curated and hosted by Amy Goldschlager at the Commons Cafe in Brooklyn, NY.

Cover Reveal: THE IRON CODEX (Dark Arts, Book 2)

The fires of Hell heat up the Cold War in my next Dark Arts novel, The Iron Codex, coming January 15, 2019, from Tor Books. The book is now available for pre-order in trade paperback, eBook, and digital audiobook from several major book retailers.

I’m honored to debut its awesome cover featuring my kickass Russian heroine Anja Kernova:

The illustration is by artist Larry Rostant, based on direction from editor Marco Palmieri, with compositing and final layout by the always amazing production team at Tor Books, led by Irene Gallo.

More about the book, the series, and its treatment of ceremonial magic can be found on: http://midnightfront.com/

In Fiction, Love Isn’t Always the Answer

One of The Beatles’ most famous song lyrics tells us, “All you need is love, love is all you need,” but sometimes love is exactly what a story doesn’t need.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not denigrating the concept of romance in fiction. Over the course of penning more than thirty novels, I’ve written more than my share of romantic subplots. Romance is, at its heart, one of the key drivers of stories of all genres. It springs from the nature of human relationships, which are central to most narratives. Romance novels comprise the majority of the best-selling titles of all time.

Romance is a good thing.

 

If Your Characters Resist Romance, Don’t Force It

That being said, not every story is well-suited to incorporating a romantic subplot for its principal characters. I learned this the hard way while writing — or, to be more precise, while rewriting — my new World War II-era fantasy novel, The Midnight Front.

In its original incarnation, as well as through two of its subsequent versions, The Midnight Front contained an awkward romantic subplot linking its male and female lead characters, Cade and Anja. I had intended for there to be a strong vibe between these two characters, almost a dangerous attraction between people who might in other circumstances have been enemies. As I tried to execute that idea in my manuscript, however, it kept hitting obstacles.

 

The Best-Planned Lays of Mice & Men…

My first draft overplayed the attraction between Cade and Anja. I had intended for her to be someone who could intimidate Cade, and I didn’t want her to reciprocate his infatuation too quickly. After all, I thought, characters should have to earn a good romance. I did my best to create a veneer of conflict between them while also planting the seeds of a future romance.

In the middle of the book I had their romantic subplot blossom in the aftermath of a great trauma. However, the needs of my story also dictated that this coupling, and the feelings of vulnerability that would emerge from it, would drive Anja away from her allies and set her on her own path to self-discovery. During her time alone she would experience feelings of regret for having left Cade behind.

In the outline all of that had made perfect sense. Sharing extreme experiences often helps bond people and can lead to heightened feelings of attraction and connection.

Imagine then, my surprise, when it all seemed to backfire at the manuscript stage.

 

No Sex, Please, We Hate Each Other

As I read through the first draft and compiled feedback from my beta readers, agent, and editor, I realized that my romantic subplot for Cade and Anja had done my female lead a massive disservice. I had made too much of her character development contingent upon her relationship with Cade, and making her flee from that connection—and then pine over it after the fact—made her seem weak.

The relationship also had not sparked enough action, reaction, or change in my male lead. The outcome of their romance didn’t feel any more germane to his journey than it did to hers. In short, their romance hadn’t done either of them any good, and it wasn’t helping the story.

During the last major rewrite of the novel, I transformed their relationship from one of attraction to one of bitter rivalry and antagonism. The moment I did that, their dynamic came into focus.

 

There’s Nothing Wrong With the Friend Zone

Cade and Anja had never been meant for love at first sight. Cade and Anja were destined to be competitors for the attention and approval of their shared master in the art of magic, like two adopted children both vying to be the parent’s favorite.

Instead of using hostility to mask affection, Anja  now owns her feelings. She treats Cade with hostility because that’s how she really feels. She resents him, his advantages, his privilege, his arrogance, and most of all his bond with the man she has come to see as a surrogate father. When she breaks away from her allies it is not a reaction to vulnerability but because she has reached a breaking point in what she considers an emotional betrayal on Cade’s behalf.

After my revisions were done, I saw a new path for Cade and Anja. Their journey in book one is about learning first how to be allies, and then how to be friends. That’s a foundation on which a future romance can be built in books two and beyond.

Making lovers out of bitter rivals is hard, but as a Rodgers & Hart lyric once said, “the world discovers / as my book ends / how to make two lovers / of friends.”

 


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

Read an excerpt from the book. Follow David Mack on Facebook and Twitter.

Words I Can’t Say: Pronunciation Guides for Audiobook Recordings

What do you do when the  producer of the audiobook version of your novel asks you to provide a pronunciation guide for words you have no idea how to say?

Many folks who grew up as voracious readers have probably experienced the embarrassment of knowing the meaning of a word before learning its pronunciation. This phenomenon tends to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times—most often when one is trying to sound erudite in front of new acquaintances. In the company of learned peers, such a faux pas can feel mortifying.

After I graduated from college I had thought this particular nightmare was behind me. By that point my spoken vocabulary had mostly achieved parity with my reading level. Encouraged by the prospect of a future in which I would put words on pages and let others puzzle over them, I let myself get comfortable. Then I got lazy. And I got cocky.

 

What Do You Say, Writer-man?

In early December of 2017 I received an e-mail from the producer of the audiobook version of my original novel The Midnight Front, a story whose premise involves ceremonial black magic being practiced as part of a behind-the-scenes conflict during the Second World War. The producer asked me to do something I had done before for audiobooks of my previous novels: provide a pronunciation guide for specified proper nouns and exotic words in my manuscript, as a reference for the actor who would record the audiobook. But this request was different.

As I skimmed through the list of words, I realized I had dug myself into an inescapable pit. Having reproduced verbatim in my novel the content of Renaissance-era black-magic rituals, it had never occurred to me that I would at some point have to tell someone how to pronounce these words. The rituals included obscure phrases in bastardized Latin, consonant-heavy names of demons, and other archaisms for which no easy reference exists.

Off the top of my head, I had no idea how to say “Vindicta! Morietur, et draconi,” “Occidere monstrum,” “Iustitia et libertas,” or “Adiuro animae meaeanima tua potestate mea sit potestate, in condicionibus foederis.” And I found myself at a loss to think of anyone I knew who could.

 

Nice Place to Visit, But I Can’t Tell You Its Name

The producer also asked me to offer pronunciation guidance for the names of foreign cities. Some were Polish, some Scottish, but all were baffling to me. Loch Duich, Dębniki, Podgórze, Płaszów—try reciting that list five times fast. I can’t pronounce it even once.

The further down the list I went, the more befuddled I became. My producer wanted me to offer spoken examples of “Ut fulgur gladium meum,” “Audite vocem meam, et dolore esse parcendum,” and, perhaps most tongue-twisting of all, “venité, venité, submirillitor.” And don’t even get me started on Novgorodskaya Oblast.

Over the course of forty years I’ve gone from reading words that I don’t know how to use in conversation to writing books that contain words I can’t be trusted to speak without embarrassing myself. In the long run, I suppose, this might count as progress. If only I’d known what to tell my audiobook producer.

If you pick up a copy of my exciting new contemporary fantasy The Midnight Front in audiobook format and all the Latin phrases and foreign cities’ names are mispronounced, please don’t send angry mail to my producers. I assure you that the blame will rest with me alone.

See what I learned over at Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds

I’m spewing words today on the blog at Terrible Minds, the site of author extraordinaire Chuck Wendig. He has a regular guest feature called “5 Things,” in which he invites authors to share five things they learned while writing their most recently published book.

Chuck very graciously allowed me to post on his virtual real estate about the lessons I gleaned from the creation of The Midnight Front, the first book in my new Dark Arts modern-fantasy series from Tor Books.

I hope you’ll check out my post. And before you go, let me extend my sincerest gratitude to Chuck for the way that he lends his platform to other authors. Generosity like Chuck’s (and also John Scalzi‘s and Mary Robinette Kowal‘s) is one of the things that makes working in this industry really feel like a pleasure.

S’all for now. Go. Read.