Map Reveal: Earldom of Kettering

I've gone on before about how important maps are to fantasy novels. So important, I commissioned a regional map for my first novel, The Hall of the Wood, and again for the first book in The Alchemancer series, The Five Elements.

The Nullification Engine, which was just released a couple of days ago, is no exception. In fact, this new book has not one map, but two!

Here is the first one (with the second to follow in a near future post). I give you the Earldom of Kettering.

For those who read The Five Elements, you'll no doubt notice the presence of Norwynne Keep, which is where the story in that novel begins. Much of the rest of the places from The Five Elements are 'off the map' (see the map for the Barony of Fallmere), because now our players are heading north. Where, you ask? All the way up to Brighton, which is a city that sits at the intersection of three rivers (The Nullification Engine actually begins with our heroes already having made the journey). There are a lot of hamlets, other cities, and geographical features called out in this map. Not all are touched on in The Nullification Engine, but will become more relevant as the series progresses.

Next post I will reveal the second map, which is of the city of Brighton itself.

You can purchase The Nullification Engine at all major online retailers.

The Nullification Engine (The Alchemancer: Book Two) Release Announcement

It's official. The next book in The Alchemancer series has been released!

This weekend only, you can buy The Nullification Engine for 99 cents at Amazon and Smashwords only. After that, the price goes up to $5.99.

This new novel picks up pretty much where The Five Elements left off. The first thing readers will notice is that the story widens, as does the number of characters. Aaron has more challenges ahead, Serena returns to a city she left behind three years ago under dubious circumstances, and Ensel Rhe will confront one of his greatest enemies. Also, he has to face his daughter, who he abandoned seven years ago. Throw in a whole lot of 'steamfantasy,' as one reviewer called it, and you've got 500 or so pages of high adventure, intrigue, heroes, villains, mystery, machines, magic, and mayhem.

Here's the blurb:

The city of Brighton promises new beginnings for Aaron, Serena, and the taciturn eslar, Ensel Rhe. But, upon their arrival, Aaron and Serena are arrested for their role in the Chaos of a week ago, while Ensel Rhe slips away on business of his own.

The pair are given the opportunity to plead their case before the earl himself, whereupon they are released and assigned a very special duty, for deep below the palace lies the Nullification Engine, an ancient machine completed hundreds of years ago but never activated. Until now. While Aaron and Serena struggle to unravel the machine's mysteries, Ensel Rhe confronts his past once more when he learns his daughter has come to Brighton, but in the company of one of his greatest enemies.

A race against time begins as Aaron comes to realize the Nullification Engine was never turned on for a reason, for once the machine reaches a state of full nullitivity, it will destroy Brighton and everyone in it.

You can get more details about the novel, see additional buy links, and find out about the characters, both new and old, at the The Nullification Engine's product page.

Marion Zimmer Bradley Rejected Me in 1994

I sent my first short story out for submission way back in the early 90's to a very small print publication called Realms. Much to my surprise, they accepted the story. I still have the check they wrote me for $7. Fresh off this victory, I kept going with my writing, which went slowly because I was also getting close to finishing up work on my engineering degree.

But, in 1994, I had another story ready to send out. It was called Witchstone. In hindsight, it was pretty bad. Nevertheless, I thought it was gold, and, still glowing from my initial acceptance, I went for the bigs, sending the story to a number of notable print publications (back then, the Internet was not what it is today; online 'zines were just getting started). Of course it got rejected across the board.

Amidst the carnage, though, came this gem (click image for larger version):

MZB Rejection-small

It's a form rejection letter from Marion Zimmer Bradley, who ran the print publication, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, and whom you might know from having written a classic fantasy tale or two.

Though the letter is of a form nature, Ms. Bradley took the time to write in a few personal notes.


The first one reads, "Just a little slow-starting. It would already have sold if there were more markets. Keep trying."

The other handwritten note is:


Which reads, "Lots of occult clichés. If Fate were still buying fiction, I'd say try them. Weird might like it."

The comments are encouraging and supportive. Not meant to crush my spirit at all like some others who heard from her in similar fashion. Maybe I caught her on a good day, or maybe she really did see something in my writing. I'll never know. But, of all the rejection letters I have received, this is the only one I've kept. I'm not one of those "wear your rejection slips like a badge of honor" type of people. I'm not ashamed of them at all, but they take up space and, when you get down to it, what is the point of hanging onto them other than as a record of who you've submitted what stories to (something I would now do in a spreadsheet if I still submitted to small press markets)?

So why did I keep this one? Simply because of who wrote it. Plus it's a nice reminder of the early days when I was still in my twenties and ready to make my mark on the world, whether in the software industry or the world of literature.

Maybe the rejection did deter me from writing a bit, because I didn't really get back into writing until recently. But the same year I received this letter, I also graduated from college and started my career as a software engineer. I remember writing some during that initial period, but I was tired of studying (working) all day, coming home, and having to continue studying (writing) all through the night. I was ready for a life and some serious downtime. So writing got pushed to the backseat and only because of the digital self-publishing phenomenon of a few years ago has it truly resurfaced. It would seem that, for me, writing for the sheer joy of it isn't enough. I need readers, too.

As I approach the release of my next book, I feel like I owe Ms. Bradley some gratitude for keeping my writing spirit alive even if I did ignore it for a long time after that. So, here's to Marion Zimmer Bradley. I feel like I should go read something by her now.

The Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by author TL Rese to participate in The Next Big Thing. TNBT is relative, of course, since each individual's "next big thing" is different. But, since I'm the one who was tagged here, this NBT post is going to be about me and my upcoming novel, The Nullification Engine, which goes on sale December, 2013. Here's the cover in all its glory:

The Nullification Engine

What is the working title of your next book?

The Nullification Engine. It follows The Five Elements, pretty much picking up right where that book left off.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the series as a whole really is a culmination of all of my favorite books, series, and authors . All fantasy, of course, though in this new book you'll see some influence from the seafaring tales of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian via the airship, Griffin, and her crew.

What genre does your book fall under?

That's a tough question because the content really doesn't fall under a single genre. Primarily, it's fantasy. But there elements of steampunk, pseudoscience or science fantasy, and alchemy. One reviewer described the first book thusly, "I'm not at all sure how to categorise this. There are elements of steampunk, there's alchemy, there's a fairly standard form of elemental magic and there's a fair dose of science in the mix as well." The Nullification Engine follows this same formula, so if you enjoyed The Five Elements, you'll like this one too.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When the Nullification Engine is activated, Aaron, Serena, and Ensel Rhe must stop the ancient machine before it destroys Brighton and everyone in it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The entire book, from outlining to finished product, took about 14 months. The first draft itself, maybe 7 months. A timeline might be something like:

  1. Oct 2012 – Dec 2012: Outlining
  2. Dec 2012 – June 2013: First Draft
  3. June 2013 – Sep 2013: 2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts
  4. Sep 2013 – Nov 2013: Editing/proofreading

Keep in mind I have a day job which can occupy anywhere from 40-60 hours/week depending on what's going on at the time.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Probably Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In a general sense, the inspiration for this series comes from my love of fantasy literature but also from my background as an engineer. I play fast and loose with scientific principles, though, which is entirely on purpose. First and foremost, my writing is about entertaining. The pace is often fast-paced, so I never want that to get bogged down with "hard" science. Besides, hokum is a lot more fun to come up with.

Writing Progress & Other Business #26

I realized it's been three months since I last did one of these updates.

Based solely on that, it might seem I've been on vacation. Not so.

In that time, I've:

  1. Revealed a new cover for The Five Elements
  2. Announced plans for a re-release of The Hall of the Wood
  3. Ran a LibraryThing giveaway of 80 copies of The Hall of the Wood (of which I have not gotten many reviews in return, which means I likely will not be doing another one of these for future books)
  4. Did the official release for (yeah, you guessed it) The Hall of the Wood
  5. And, THE BIG ONE, I made the official announcement for the release of Book Two in The Alchemancer series, The Nullification Engine

I have one more announcement, which is that the The Nullification Engine goes to my editor tomorrow.

That means I've done all I can do with it. Some argue that art is never really "done". That's a point I can get behind. But, in commercial works, there's a point where you have to declare it finished. I'm almost there.

Once back from editing, I have about three weeks to make all the needed changes and then it goes to proofreader 1, then proofreader 2, then proofreader 3. I'm taking the proofreading more seriously than ever before. I learned my lesson with previous works and I want as many eye balls on this as is financially reasonable.

The book will be "done, done" late November. The official release is therefore late November/early December. I'm trying to give myself the best possible chance of making back my investment on this one, which means I want it on Amazon's New Releases list between Christmas and New Year's Day. The exact release date will be determined based on those dates (I really just need to take a look at a calendar and figure the date out).

More on the official release day in a future post.