Annual tradition: Here’s my favorite version of A Christmas Carol
My new book, first in a new trilogy, is on sale now. Let me start with a blurb.
“It’s Epic Fantasy that reads like a Thriller” — Kat Richardson
Here’s the description from the back cover:
The city of Peradain is the heart of an empire built with steel, spears,and a monopoly on magic… until, in a single day, it falls, overthrown by a swarm of supernatural creatures of incredible power and ferocity. Neither soldier nor spell caster can stand against them.
The empire’s armies are crushed, its people scattered, its king and queen killed. Freed for the first time in generations, city-states scramble to seize neighboring territories and capture imperial spell casters. But as the creatures spread across the land, these formerly conquered peoples discover they are not prepared to face the enemy that destroyed an empire.
Can the last Peradaini prince, pursued by the beasts that killed his parents, cross battle-torn lands to retrieve a spell that might—just might—turn the battle against this new enemy?
Several free chapters start here. Go forth and sample.
And here’s the cover itself:
God, I love that cover. Spoiler: the art on the inside is gorgeous, too.
Let’s have some backstory. When I announced that poor sales numbers meant I was not going to be writing any more Twenty Palaces novels, I kept telling readers “I hope you like my next series just as much.”
Well, no pressure on me, but the next series is here. Anyone who’s been following this blog knows it was written as part of a homeschool project with my son. I tried to find traditional publication for this book and the two sequels, and when that failed, I turned it into a successful Kickstarter.
Hold on, let me just post this to see if I’m tired of looking at it yet.
Nope. Not yet.
It has a map by Priscilla Spencer, illustrations by Claudia Cangini, and the paperback was designed by a professional (who uses the pseud “thebarbarienne” online).
Anyway, the original working title for this trilogy was Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts, which everyone thought was funny but few understood was mostly aspirational. Most epic fantasy has a slack, touristy feel to it, and I wanted to try for something different.
But I like to think this is more than just a thriller. It’s also about empire, and how it feels to live in one, and how you come to identify with it even if you hate it.
It’s also about being invaded. In fact, one of the NY publishers who turned the book down explicitly complained about this: a portal fantasy where the enemy is magically transported to a new land? Apparently, that’s Doing It Wrong. Portal fantasies are supposed to be about protagonists invading other places, not being invaded.
Please read the sample chapters. If you like the books, please tell your friends.
After being six months past the “there’s-no-way-these-books-will-take-longer-than-this” deadline, I finally ordered the trade paperbacks for my new trilogy, The Great Way. The expected delivery date from UPS was last night, and I rescheduled a bunch of work so I would be ready when the boxes of books arrived (16 of them) and could slip them into the already-addressed and sorted envelopes.
Then, on Tuesday morning, I double-checked the UPS tracking numbers and realized the books had been bumped a day, to Wednesday. Sure, the boxes had arrived in Seattle before 3 am on Tuesday morning, but apparently UPS needed 30 hours to get them on a truck.
Do I need to say I was disappointed and angry? I griped about it on Twitter, and a UPS help account encouraged me to email their customer service department with the tracking numbers and other details to confirm that they were actually sitting in a warehouse down in south Seattle.
The customer service rep confirmed it. My books, which had been delivered to Seattle the night before, still had not been unloaded and sorted. I’d have to wait for them to be delivered the next day.
Three hours later, sixteen boxes of books arrived.
My son, to my great surprise, believed me when I said I needed his help. He got off his computer (not a small deal) so he could slip bookmarks into books so I could turn to the title page quickly and seal envelopes. When my wife got home at 9pm after a long day of physical work, she cheered to see us working together, then chipped in.
I started alone at 5:30. We sent the boy to bed at midnight. My wife and I didn’t finish until almost two am. This morning, we got up early, called a cab, and transported all the books to the local post office to mail them out.
Pictures behind the cut.
As I mentioned before, I think, I’ve been working from wake to sleep on Kickstarter stuff, and I needed a break. Luckily, there was a movie marathon of all three Hobbit movies yesterday, so I slipped away for an afternoon and evening to see them all in one go.
I’d deliberately decided to skip the first two movies when they were released, figuring I’d have an opportunity to see them all at once. I’m sorta glad I was right, but only sorta.
(Spoilers for the first two films)
Here’s the truth: the movies don’t work. It’s obvious they’re meant to be seen together, and while that unity helped, I can’t imagine sitting down for part one, knowing part two was a year away and part three a year after that, and being content with that endless dinner scene. I could bear it because I knew I was seeing a seven(ish)-hour movie, but wow, those scenes were slack. Really slack. And they weren’t alone.
And the dialog… Okay, the Lord of the Rings movies had plenty of shitty dialog in it, but it also had amazing dialog, too. These two examples are pasted right out of imdb:
Theoden: Simbelmyne. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebears. Now it shall cover the grave of my son. Alas, that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should live to see that last days of my house.
Elrond: If Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is defeated and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes true you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality. Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die. And there will be no comfort for you, no comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death an image of the splendor of the kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell bound to your grief under the fading trees until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.
Quibble with that if you want, but even if you don’t like that sort of dialog, it’s head and shoulders above “Do not think I won’t kill you, dwarf!” or “I am fire! I am… DEATH!” or
Thranduil: [to Thorin] Where does your journey end? A quest to reclaim a homeland, and slay a dragon!… I suspect something more prosaic. Attempted burglary, or something of that kind. You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule: the Arkenstone!
Which… ugh. Lee Pace is great in the role of Thranduil, giving him a complexity that the other characters desperately needed. And that’s the odd thing about this adaptation: So much stuff has been added to the story, and very little of it serves to make the characters interesting. (Sidenote to the woman in the row in front of me: I actually liked the love story Jackson et al added to the films).
And it’s all this added bullshit that people have hated about the films, and it’s easy to see why. The Hobbit, as a book, is a children’s story set in the same world as LOTR. It’s a prequel, too, but the tone and the language are very different.
With these movies, Jackson is trying to create a prequel trilogy that matches the tone and style of the first movies. If you were hoping for a children’s movie version of a children’s book, you’re not getting it.
So, the company of dwarves can’t be hapless regular folk who cower before every enemy, they have to be high-level PCs who plow through orc mooks. And, obviously, we need an extended scene where Thorin et al make a serious effort to defeat the dragon with his golden not-jaeger. (I swear I thought that thing was going to open its eyes, and I would have been really disappointed. I mean, even more disappointed than I already was.)
Not that this fits with the dragon’s decision to *run away* from those dwarves and burn Laketown, but the new stuff has to be shoe-horned in, right?
And the dwarves can’t just be sealed in barrels and floated away, complaining about being cramped and bruised. Instead, there has to be a running battle with orcs on the shore, with weapons flawlessly passed between them like the dishes in Bilbo’s kitchen. In other words, they have to be exceptional.
And there’s all those scenes at Dol Guldur. From overhearing other audience members, I guess they came from unfinished stories. They would have been enjoyable enough, if only they hadn’t been filled with all these Tolkien characters. Those were the parts (along with the forges and molten gold) that felt like fan fiction: characters we recognize but creative choices we don’t, as though someone wanted to play with Tolkien’s stuff and fill in all the blank spaces.
The thing is, whether or not you like Tolkien, his work was heavily informed by epic grandeur. He would never have created a conflict scene that played like a Rube Goldberg machine that so many modern movies expect us to watch. They’re like amusement park rides or video game levels: the toppling stone stairs of FELLOWSHIP have been transformed into ledges on the body of a giant in the midst of a fight. Jump here, grab this, cut this rope, swing here, now push this fucking wheelbarrow into the stream of molten gold and ride it to the waterfall, then jump onto the come on, people. Come on.
There’s an undeniably visceral excitement that comes from this shit. The music, the camera swooping past a dizzying height… one a very basic level the body responds to this stuff. But when it’s over, the feelings don’t stick with you. It’s like riding a roller coaster without even the feel of the wind on your face. It certainly doesn’t match the scenes where the people in Helm’s Deep prepare for a fight no one thinks they can win. It’s not enough for characters to bash a shitload of mo-capped cgi monsters. It has to mean something more.
Worse, the parts of the children’s book that remain unchanged (like the amazing survival rate of the dwarves) just didn’t mesh with the new tone and design. Why is it so hard to write decent dialog for a dragon? And why did they add so many extra scenes but cut a bunch of Bilbo’s riddle contest with Gollum?
The first movie was not good. The second was even worse. The last one was the best of the bunch, and I’m reasonably glad I stuck with it. Thorin’s dragon sickness was portrayed very well, and since there are a few characters who don’t survive the final war, the violence finally carries a sense of risk to it.
Plus, there’s much less Rube Goldberg bullshit.
Here’s a shocker: adding genuine mistrust within Thorin’s circle, terror and tragedy for the people of Laketown, and Thranduil’s grief-driven reluctance to lose his own people in war, actually turned the third movie into a story I cared about.
There were definitely low spots and a prequel-ish urge to fill in back story, but it mostly worked. Of course, maybe it just looks good because it came on the heels of Desolation of Smaug.
Let me just say one thing, though: On my birthday, I took a day to watch all three extended editions of LOTR, and for weeks afterward I had the urge to watch them again. For all their flaws, they’re terrific movies. I had no urge to watch the Hobbit movies again. At all.
Yep, The first book of my new trilogy is available for preorder.
Why, when the ebooks haven’t even shipped yet?
Well, because I’m close. Uploading the first book was part of the formatting process, because Amazon, B&N, and Apple found issues with it, as expected. I have a lot of emails to send, obviously, and I’m looking at a new program to handle it.
The trade paperbacks are scheduled to be delivered tomorrow, Tuesday (knowing UPS, it’ll be Tuesday night). A friend has offered to drive me to the post office the next morning. The envelopes are already addressed and sorted. All I’ll have to do is sign them and slip them into their bubble mailers.
The hardbacks won’t be ready to ship until sometime in late January or early February. Sorry, omnibus orderers. It takes longer to print really fancy books.
So, yeah. I’m close. I’ve also been working from wake to sleep every day, and it’s exhausting.
But, if you missed the Kickstarter, you can pre-order the paper version (pub date is being corrected) or the ebook from Amazon right now. It’ll be available from other vendors as soon as they list it.
You can also check out sample chapters for this book right here:
For the past several years I’ve been listening to people griping/mocking/whatever about the The Hobbit being turned into three movies. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous.
The next Captain America movie will adapt Marvel’s Civil War crossover story, but how are they going to fit everything from dozens of issues into one movie?
Did you know that the screenwriter of the KULL THE CONQUEROR movie took advantage of his contractual right to create a novel version of the movie, which was closer to his original script? I haven’t read it, but he says he never wrote the stupid stuff about Kull being terrible with a sword, and he included the reason for the “madness” that drove the king to murder his children, along with other complexities cut from the film?
In other words, yeah, people adapt things. They condense them. They expand them. They change them significantly. They put happy endings on the end of Romeo & Juliet. They turn Stephen King’s vampire into a wordless nosferatu. Works high and low are altered in the adaptation, and I’m tired of hearing the same old gripes about Jackson’s Hobbit films.
Yeah, there’s profit-seeking in it (says the guy about to release a fantasy trilogy of his own) and can I say that I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on in this establishment. Of course, the only way to stop movie-makers from splitting adaptations into more than one film is to turn them into flops. Having just taken my son to see MOCKINGJAY PART ONE, I’m not holding my breath.
Me, I haven’t seen any of THE HOBBIT films yet. Maybe they suck. Maybe they’re fine and people are shit-mouthing them because they feel ripped off.
In any event, I have a ticket to see all three films, in a marathon, on an IMAX screen, this Monday afternoon. It’s going to be a nine-hour event, starting at 1pm (watching all three LOTR films on my birthday took 13 hours) and I’m going to be there for the duration. Unfortunately, my wife and son aren’t bit on movie marathons, the poor dears, so I’m having a Me-day.
(Seattle-area folks: is anyone else going? Drop me a note on Twitter at @byharryconnolly and maybe we can arrange to meet up)
Certainly, some parts will be dumb, some will be entertaining, some will be both. I last read the book a few years back, when my kid was young enough that we could subject him to family read-aloud time, so I won’t notice minor changes and won’t care about large ones. In other words, fuck Tom Bombadil. I expect that the worst thing about it will be eating meals out of the concession stand.
If I get a shit ton of work done this weekend, I’ll even be ready to sign and mail out the paperbacks when they arrive the next day.
Seriously, though: if you’re going and want to meet up, let me know.
3) Is everything good about Minecraft gone? This piece echoes my earlier post about buying my son an Xbox, and I agree that Minecraft has changed as third parties set up their own servers. My son plays a game that’s a lot like The Hunger Games, and doesn’t build nearly as much as he used to. He still builds, but there’s a lot of PvP, too.
5) Dutch real estate broker installs mini-rollercoaster into home to give prospective buyers a tour. Video. As stunts go, this one is terrific.
6) Ugly Christmas sweaters are the new thing, so why not turn them into men’s suits? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
7) Ben Edelman, Harvard Business School Professor, Goes to War Over $4 Worth of Chinese Food. You can be very very wrong while being right.
Sorry, but he’s not me, even though I get a lot of hits from people looking for him. I’m an author who lives on the west coast. He’s the photographer in Baltimore.
Here’s a Google+ page, with contact info.
Anyway, I get a lot of his traffic (and my fantasy novels get mixed up with his photography books all over the web) so I thought I’d make it easy for folks.
Curious where things stand with my upcoming fantasy trilogy, The Great Way? Well, I just did a Kickstarter update laying out the details. Short version: I received the proofs for the trade paperbacks, approved them, and placed the order for backer copies.
Which means they’re being printed right now.
I’m just waiting for the proofs for the omnibus cover and, assuming that’s all correct, I’ll order those, too.
In other words… SOON.
Well whaddaya know, I guessed the killer!
Usually I never even try to guess the killer of a mystery novel; that’s not what I read them for. I like the characters, the conversations, the hidden narratives, but I don’t much care about puzzles.
Still, looking at one of the elements of the mystery (no spoilers, don’t worry), I thought I know how I’d do that if I were the killer and from there it was obvious.
Not that this ruined the book.
I confess to having a soft spot for private eye novels, even though no one is publishing them any more (supposedly). The good news is that Rowling apparently intends to continue writing the series indefinitely. Hey, she revived the boarding school genre, maybe she can make PIs marketable again.
Buy a copy for yourself.