I don’t hate Valentine’s Day

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I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either. Even before I got together with my wife, I didn’t begrudge a holiday for love, lovers, and people with strong romantic feelings.

Still, for me it’s as private as most every other part of my marriage. And I know there are lots of folks out there who hate the day with a passion.

In that spirit, let me offer my sorta-annual pitch for the Twenty Palaces books: The male and female leads do not romance each other, and do not fall in love (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Magic! Violence! Problematic work relationships!

They’re in the little-recognized genre of Paranormal Unromance.

I assume most of the people reading this post will have either read them or decided they’re not interested, but if you know someone looking for some Anti-Valentine’s reading…

Get your own ghost knife. Seriously.

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I wish I didn’t have to drop this note on the weekend, but the email came yesterday. I’ll be posting about this again next week when more folks are actually looking at the web.

News: Pat Rothfuss’s Worldbuilder fundraiser has two copies of my SFBC omnibus edition of The Wooden Man–as I mentioned on Twitter, these are the only two copies I’m planning to sign. One is in the general lottery: you donate ten bucks, you have a chance to win one of the items being offered at random. The other is up for auction. I guess several readers sent notes to him asking for a more direct chance to buy it, so thank you!

But once I saw my book was in the auction, I wanted to sweeten the deal. I took the ghost knife prop for the book trailer–the only one I kept–and popped it in an envelope.

So! If you’re the winning bid on this auction, not only will you get a rare signed 20P omnibus, you’ll also get your own ghost knife to use as a bookmark. Best of all, it’s for a really good cause. Here’s a direct link to the auction.

Pat’s a good guy for running this, so I hope we can help bring in a few extra bucks for his favorite cause. The auction ends on the 29th, so don’t wait to make your bid.

Reviews, Part 33

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1) Bethany Warner at Word Nerd liked Circle of Enemies: “This Connolly [is the] one Best Discovered Author for me from the Word Nerds this year, the series is that good. Check it out.

2) Marilee J. Layman read all three books in The Wooden Man omnibus and liked them: “I’d really like another book or so of these.

3) Yaz at Yaz’s Books N Stuff thought Child of Fire was “refreshingly unique”: “An enjoyable read, I look forward to more of Ray’s adventures.

4) Garrett at Ranting Dragon liked Circle of Enemies: “… a novel of deep insight and character development.

5) Former SFBC editor Andrew Wheeler at The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. liked Circle of Enemies very much, and wishes the series could continue: “The Twenty Palaces books come from the world of Jim Thompson and David Goodis, where all choices are bad and all ends are horrible — where just surviving one more day and keeping yourself from getting into more trouble is a major achievement. The magic in these books has the danger and threat of old fairy tales and worse: touching it once marks a person for life.

6) k reads at So I Read This Book gives Child of Fire an A: “You can probably tell that I really liked this book. The voices of the characters are clear and believable and the plot moves swiftly, with not a moment wasted.

7) Fritz “Doc” Freakenstein at Guardians of the Genre expected to hate Child of Fire but very much didn’t: “Not much time is spent on either explaining the magical rules or the origins of the Twenty Palace Society that Ray and Annalise work for. This causes a bit more work for the reader than I’m used to, but it works for Child of Fire in that it forces you to focus on the plot at hand and work out the magical rules for yourself.

Quick note, this is the last review round up post. I may link to one or two reviews in the future, depending, but not every one I see.

THE WOODEN MAN in the Worldbuilders Charity Drive

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I haven’t been posting much because I’m really pushing on this new book. I’m fighting my way through the middle. Also, I’m making #LesserDarths jokes on Twitter. But never mind that! I have some cool news.

A couple of weeks back I signed two copies of The Wooden Man, the SFBC omnibus edition of my three Twenty Palaces books and sent them to Pat Rothfuss’s Worldbuilders Charity Fund Drive. The first is now listed right here.

Now, I’ve made some Pat Rothfuss jokes here in the past, but the truth is a) I don’t know the guy at all and b) he seems really really cool. I could never get my shit together enough to run something like this.

So! These are the only two copies of The Wooden Man I intend to sign, ever. One you can win by entering the lottery (Donate a small amount and you get a chance to win one of the many books being offered, at random).

The second copy will be available for auction in the next couple of weeks. I’ll post about it when it goes live.

Guys, it’s a good cause. Help them out if you can.

Reviews, Part 32

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1) David Marshall at Thinking About Books didn’t much care for Circle of Enemies: “However, there are so many people who wander in and out of view during this novel that there’s little time to get to know any of them and no incentive to invest any empathy in caring what happens to them. There’s a lot of action, as I said, but although we are advancing steadily towards the end, this book feels less satisfying than the other two.”

2) Martin Sutherland at Legends of the Sun Pig gives positive reviews to the entire series: “I love finding new series, and this was a winner.

3) Kate Shaw at Skunk Cat Book Reviews liked Twenty Palaces: “Like the other books in the series, this one’s a helluva ride. The action starts fast and doesn’t let up.”

4) Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings liked Twenty Palaces but was unhappy with the typos: “But Twenty Palaces stands right now as the most recent representation of Harry Connolly in the book market. It deserved more care in its presentation. Happily, the story is good enough to make it worth overlooking the vessel’s flaws.

5) Thomas Galvin at Book Club liked Twenty Palaces: “If you like stories about the world behind the world, Lovecraftian monsters, and the nigh-unstoppable badasses fighting against them, the Twenty Palaces series is for you.

6) Bethany Warner at Word Nerd has listed me as the 2011 Discovered Author. Thank you!

7) Screenwriter Bill Martell at Sex in a Sub liked Circle of Enemies very much: “Makes a great holiday gift for people who like twisted violent stuff!

The Urge To Please

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Quentin Rowan, the plagiarist author of Assassin of Secrets, apologizes and explains himself via email (posted online with permission) to one of the writers who blurbed his book. Rowan’s words continue through successive comments, so keep scrolling down.

Here are some excerpts:

But the minute I got an agent and started showing it to people who suggested changes, I began to distrust the quality of whatever real work I’d done on it. So I started ripping off passages from spy novels in my collection that fit. Somehow public scrutiny has always been the pressure point for me. Once I feel I’m doing the work for someone else’s eyes, I begin stealing, because I want to impress.

I just didn’t feel capable of writing the kinds of scenes and situations that were asked of me in the time allotted and rather than saying I couldn’t do it, or wasn’t capable, I started stealing again. I didn’t want to be seen as anything other than a writing machine, I guess. Some call it “people pleasing.” Anyway, the more I did it, the deeper into denial I went, until it felt as if I had two brains at war with each other.

I would say it was fear. Plain and simple. Fear that my own spy novel wouldn’t be good enough. That I just didn’t know enough about neat gadgets and missiles and satellites or government agencies to do it right.

There have been a lot of people talking about Rowan’s arrogance and contempt, about how sure he must have been that everyone but him was too stupid to realize what he was doing. If we can believe what he’s saying now (and I’ll tell you straight up front: I do believe him) it’s clear that he plagiarized out of insecurity, not arrogance.

And why do I believe him? Because I’ve felt all those same feelings. All of them. Just because I never turned to his self-sabotaging “solution” of stealing text from writers I admire doesn’t mean I haven’t endured all of these doubts.

The trick, though, is to keep in mind the one most important thing: You must fail on your own terms. You can’t cheat the process because of a deadline, or because a certain genre/tone is in style now. You can’t keep doing the same things all the time because that’s been successful in the past.

And even more importantly for someone like Rowan, you have to shrug off your early praise and criticism. Rowan had all this self-imposed pressure on him to amaze everyone who read his work, and where did it come from? He won a poetry award at 19, when he wasn’t mature enough to deal with it. The “Best of the Year” notice changed his self-image (he doesn’t put it in those terms, exactly, but it’s right there in his email) into a writer who had to impress people, and he didn’t believe he could live up to that self-image.

Now, I’m not going to go into Imposter Syndrome with regard to writing. Everyone covers that and if you follow writers at all you’re probably sick of hearing about it. I suffer from it, too, like everyone. So I’m going to skip the analysis and jump right to my own personal solutions to it, which comes in two parts.

First: write for a specific set of three people. When you’re writing a book imagine three people as your audience. Don’t tell them, don’t talk about it with them, nothing. You don’t even have to know them. Maybe one is your oldest pal. Maybe another is a writer you admire but never interact with. Maybe the third is an interesting genre critic, or your book-crazy hairdresser, or your snobby aunt.

The point is, you don’t want to write for an amorphous, undefined audience consisting of everyone in the world. You can’t amaze or astonish everyone and you shouldn’t try.

Second: You should dare to fail on your own terms.

Let’s talk about Game of Cages here. My editor hated the ending. That scene in the food bank? Written as one long sentence? She thought it was too dark, too down, and she wanted something more heroic in its place.

And I’m sure she was right. I refused to cut that bit and I’m utterly certain that it hurt sales. Thing is: that scene was right for those books. It was cruel as hell, anti-heroic, and deliberately tragic. I’ve been thinking of those Twenty Palaces books as action tragedies–full of the sort of thrilling violence that leaves you feeling sad at the end. To me, cutting that scene would have been cheating the whole concept of the series; the end of Child of Fire is pretty much a promise that this scene will be there.

So everyone, including my agent (no-god bless her for everything she’s had to put up with from me) explained that the scene would hurt sales. In response, I explained my own deepest fear: what if I change the scene to make it more heroic, and the book fails anyway? I wouldn’t even be failing with my own book.

I’ve seen a few responses to my end of the Twenty Palaces series that suggests I’ve “learned a lesson” about what makes a book good or bad, and that’s really not the case. I’ve certainly learned what makes a book popular, but good?

No. I believe the Twenty Palaces books were successful. I said so in that post. Commercially, no. Artistically? Well, of course I would like to go back and fix things, but not the things that would sell more copies. Artistically, I think the books work. I love them. And I don’t care if somebody on Goodreads gives them all one-star reviews. That doesn’t matter to me.

I am ready to fail in the market place. I am ready to never win any award, ever, within the genre community (frankly, I don’t expect to win any awards for the work I do and I don’t care–someone else would appreciate it more). I am ready to be laughed at and shrugged off and called boring. It’s true that I’m working on something that I hope will be successful in a commercial way–I have bills, after all–but I’m never going to write the farmboy-who’s-secretly-a-prince story just because that’s what people like.

A soldier goes into battle knowing he might die, but he goes anyway. Yes, he takes every precaution, but that is the risk he takes. If he can do that, I can take the meager chance of a bunch of one-star reviews on Goodreads, or even a complete lack of interest from publishers.

And now my son is up and wanting to get on the computer, so I’m closing out. See you all on the far side.

via GalleyCat

Reviews, Part 31

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1) Christopher Valin at Wax Tadpole thought Circle of Enemies was the best of the Twenty Palaces books: “If Circle of Enemies were made into a film and marketed by the wrong people, the tagline would definitely read: “This time it’s personal.” Still, in a nutshell, that’s what makes the third Twenty Palaces novel stand out from the other two.

2) Stewart at Flying Turtle really liked Circle of Enemies: “Note I originally gave this an 8.5 but then decided to switch to a less numeric system. It’s now under Books I Love.

3) Mark Stone at Slacker Heroes thought Circle of Enemies was a big step up from the first two books: “Ray remains a flawed and very human hero emotionally torn by the difficult duties he must perform on behalf of the world.

4) Garrett at The Ranting Dragon thought Game of Cages was even better than Child of Fire: “This is not a series any urban fantasy enthusiast should miss out on.

5) Kiara at Waiting for Fairies thought Child of Fire was terrific even if she didn’t much like the characters: “The language was great, with good imagery, and the pace was rocket-fast.

6) Bastard at Bastard Books really liked Circle of Enemies: “What has attracted me to this series, and what I’ve enjoyed the most, is how horrific and disturbing some of the events and situations are. They often feed off some of our inner most fears, and in Circle of Enemies it’s no different, though a bit more toned down from the previous two novels.

7) Bethany K. Warner at Word Nerd thought Game of Cages was good but hesitates to recommend it because the series has been cancelled: “Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series is like a cross between Jack Reacher and Harry Dresden — all the violence that Reacher can mete out with a hefty does of Dresden-esque magic.

I need to offer another thank you.

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The response to my previous post has been tremendous, both on my main blog and on LiveJournal, not to mention Twitter, G+, PMs, email, and Facebook. People have been very kind and enthusiastic about my upcoming works and hopeful for a return to the series.

I’m hopeful and enthusiastic, too. Thank you all for linking to that post, for commenting, and for general awesomeness. Once again I am humbled.

Now I have a bubbling crock pot, a skillet full of onions in the over, a living room that needs to be vacuumed, and a kid that needs to do some math. Plus, there are even more comments on that post that I haven’t responded to yet. (Which is why I’m turning off comments here.)

Thank you all.

It’s Official: The Twenty Palaces Series Has Been Cancelled (long)

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(Update to this post: I’m shutting down comments because it’s been over a week and they’re still coming. What’s more, I don’t really want to keep talking about it. Thank you.)

(Second update: Disabling new comments hid the old comments, which I didn’t want, so comments are back on again.)

Yep. It’s true. Based on the sales of Circle of Enemies, Del Rey has decided not to offer me a contract to write more Twenty Palaces books.

What? Why?

Well, Pretend Questioner, let me address that in a very long blog post Continue reading