Sneak Peek: Duneman (Dawning Age Book 1) Epic Fantasy WIP

All right, here’s a confession. Yes. I’ve become a very bad blogger. Whereas for two years I posted twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, with regular aplumb, I now find myself posting every other week at least once, two if I’m lucky. So I apologize. Amazingly, the audience for the blog remains steady, even when I don’t post. Some of my posts continue gaining new views regardless, so it’s encouraging that my content matters. But still, my drain creatively from being so busy with editing and writing has hurt my blogging. I am just not thinking up ideas or having creative energy for it like I used. I’ve failed to do some interviews too and had to back off on others. Sincere apologies for that. But I also do not want to be one of those people who posts boring blog posts just to post.  You don’t care if I bought new socks, changed shoe sizes, or what I ate. This blog is about writers and editors and helping the same. So I need content that’s appropriate with substance.

So, I hope this will be a worthwhile post. Those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know I have been working on my first fantasy novel, Duneman, since January2010.  Well, it’s finally done, four drafts later, and four agents are considering it for representation. In the meantime, I have started work on book 2 of that cycle, called The Dawning Age, which I expect to be 4-5 books total. Yeah, that’s right, I’m not sure. I’m a discovery writer, a pantser. The only reason I have an idea I can’t do it in three is because the agents asked for synopses of the next two books, so I had to throw something together. I did a pretty good job with Book 2, I believe, but I was totally lost on book 3…because book 2 isn’t done yet.

So meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek at my first fantasy novel. I hope you enjoy it. It took a while to write but I enjoyed every minute.

DUNEMAN

(Dawning Age Book 1) 

CHAPTER ONE, Scene 1

He gained consciousness sweaty and hot, lying on his back. It took a moment for the black spots to fade, replaced by the blinding sunlight and white sand stretching as far as the eye could see. Where am I?

The sandy landscape reflected sunlight and heat back at him as he sat up, shaking off the sleep. Scattered belongings—clothes, canteens, a shattered barrel and trunk, torn saddlebags—

stretched off into the distance toward the remains of a wagon. Footsteps led toward him, smeared and uneven as if perhaps he’d stumbled to where he lay. Sunlight glinted off flesh atop a nearby dune. Was someone else alive? Scattered severed limbs—an arm severed at the elbow, the hand still attached, fingers stiffened like claws, a leg severed mid-thigh, another cut off mid-calf—provided the answer.

His back ached as he examined himself.  Tattered brown pants stretched down to just below his knees where threads of scattered lengths were all that remained. He had no shirt or shoes or socks. The skin of his feet was sunburned cherry red. No wonder his body felt aflame. How long had he been there?

And then it hit him like a stone from a slingshot: Who am I? He searched his memory but no name would come. His mind was like an unpainted canvas or a new fence awaiting its first coat of color.

His left shoulder cried out with every movement of his arm, so he reached back to examine it with his right and found a long, scabby cut running in an arc down his back. Had he been in a fight? Who did this to him? He checked himself again for cuts and abrasions. His forehead hurt, and dried flakes of blood came away on his palm and fingers. He had a large bruise on his abdomen and small ones on his chest and stomach. Pain flared as he moved his right ankle, but he couldn’t tell if it came from sunburned skin or a jagged cut, scabbed over now from the heat and sun.

He stood and his feet cried out in protest. He wobbled, losing his balance and forcing him back down to his knees. He buried the pain in the back of his mind and turned slowly in a circle, looking around him. Scattered, thin cumulus clouds filled the clear blue sky overhead. Thick sandstone walls and clay-tiled roofs topping white stone buildings rose in the distance, a few spires and towers looming in their midst. A trail of smoke curled into the sky from behind them. A city!

Water!

Wait! Why didn’t he hear anything? A few sheep bleated from the west, their cries mixed with scattered insect chirps and bird calls, but there were no sounds of people, wagons, horses, tools. Maybe when he got closer. Ignoring his feet’s protests, he stood again and stumbled across the curved white dunes toward the sandstone walls.

Ahead, beside the city walls, a boy herding sheep stopped a moment to use the untucked tails of his loose-fitting light blue shirt to wipe sweat from his darkly tanned forehead. His boots stretched up over his brown pants well past his ankles, and he held a tall, curved wooden staff in his right hand as he watched the desert grassland and the herd around him.

Drawing near, the man called out to the shephard. “Ho, neighbor!  A fine day for herding.”  His chapped lips and parched throat hurt from the effort, reminding him how much he longed for water.

The boy nodded, staring at him with caution, his left hand wrapping firmly around the staff just below his right.
“What city is this?”  The man smiled, not blaming the boy for his wariness. I must look a fright.

“Chyllos, stranger.” The boy’s voice cracked in the way that occurs when one transitions from a boy to a man.

He must be older than I thought. “What day is it?”

“Third day.” The boy spoke with a gentle, plain accent, his words slow and deliberate.

Orean Midlands? The question popped into his head along with images of the Lands, his home. Multiple states, the Elbian pass and mountains, the mighty Esos River, source of water for much of the inlands. Then: I remember seven day. Could I have been unconscious that long?  “Do you know where I might get water?” He hocked, trying to call up enough saliva to wet his cracked, painful lips and throat, but none came. The boy carried no canteen, and there was no sign of a well.

“There’s a well in the square.”  The boy nodded toward the city walls.

The man limped past the first of the sheep, the boy shrinking away as soon as he moved. “Thank you kindly.”

The boy turned his body to keep the stranger at his front, and the man continued feeling the shephard’s gaze on him as he waded through the grazing herd and on toward the city. A wide, wooden gate stood open to one side with no one standing guard.

The stranger entered through the high stone walls, moving along a sandy street past shabby, rundown houses packed in side-by-side. Their second floors projected out over the boardwalk and into the street where crude signs dangled from creaking rusted hooks. The city appeared to be on the verge of collapse. What city would be this deserted at mid-day?

He hurried up the street, garnering surprised stares from a couple shopkeepers sweeping the wooden boardwalk in front of their stores. Ignoring them, he continued toward a sign labeled “tavern” at the far end, then stumbled up onto the wooden boardwalk. The tavern stood along yet another sandy street which wound off into the distance in both directions. A quick search revealed no currency in his ragged pockets. For a moment, he considered passing by to look for the public well, but the sun continued its baking blare and surely a tavern had water. He grabbed the door handle and swung it open, assaulted immediately by the smell of sawdust and smoke. Stepping inside, the scent of stale ale filled his nose as he waited while the door shut behind him and the sunlight faded away.

The tavern seemed typical for a small city, dimly lit with torches spread evenly around the room on hooks attached to the white plaster walls. The bottom half of each wall consisted of wooden slats hung side-by-side, the floor of matching dark wood with a thin layer of sawdust. As his eyes adjusted, he spotted a bar across the room beyond scattered round wooden tables and chairs. A bartender eyed him from behind the worn, polished surface with the same wary look as the shepherd boy.

“Good afternoon, neighbor,” the man said. “Can you spare a cup of water for a stranger?”  For a moment, he wished he could ask for clothes, too.

The bartender was large and muscular, his skin dark like the shepherd’s, a brown leather apron tied over the top of a loose fitting white shirt and brown trousers.He scowled as the stranger approached. “How did you get here?” he demanded in a scratchy baritone, as the stranger sat on a tall stool in front of the bar.

“I don’t really know. I’m told this place is Chyllos, but I’ve never been here before.”  He shrugged.

“What happened to your clothes?” The Bartender said, staying put at the far end of the bar.

The man shook his head. “I awoke on the dunes. The sun is brutal today. Can you please spare some water?”

The bartender grunted and turned to a large wooden barrel in the corner, reaching into it with a long metal ladle and pouring water into a wooden cup. Setting the cup on the bar, he slid it down to the stranger, watching as water splashed out onto the scarred surface.

The stranger drank eagerly. The fresh water cooled his mouth and throat. Even as he finished, he longed for more. He held out the glass to the bartender and croaked: “More please?”

The bartender grunted again, approaching with the metal scoop and pouring its contents over the wooden cup on the bar until he’d filled it once more. The man noticed the bartender held the scoop as far from the cup as he could manage so they didn’t touch. He drank again, smiling. Water had never tasted so good. He sighed, wiping his dry, cracked lips on his sleeve. “Thank you very much, neighbor.” His voice was louder and warmer now as the water lubricated his throat and the pain faded.

The bartender glared at him. “Okay, now be on your way.”

The man nodded. The bartender must not care much for nonpaying customers. “Can you direct me to an inn?”

“There are no inns available here for the likes of you,” the bartender said, ending the conversation.

“If I have offended you somehow—”

“You offended me the day you were born—you and all your kind.” The bartender’s eyes narrowed, cold and flat. The stranger finished drinking and set the wooden cup back on the counter. What have I done to deserve his wrath?  The bartender motioned to the cup. “Keep it. It’s worthless to me now.”

The stranger nodded and grabbed the cup off the counter, stumbling toward the door.

Sunlight blinded him again as he stepped back out onto the street. He looked around for an inn, searching the creaking wooden signs hanging from the buildings but seeing none in sight. He had to find some clothes and shelter. He limped west along the street past startled citizens sweeping storefronts or moving along the boardwalk with parcels. They hurried out of his path as he passed, scowling at him much as the bartender had. What have I done?  He couldn’t remember ever being in Chyllos before, and, the further he went, the more the silence bothered him. Where were the people who patronized these establishments?

At the end of the boardwalk, he turned into a dirt alleyway between buildings and bumped into a well-dressed woman in a lacy, silk dress who’d just emerged there. “Excuse me,” he said, stepping away from her.

Her brown eyes went wide and she stared at him in horror. “Get away from me!”

The stranger turned, confused, as she ran away down the street, startled by her fear and hostility. How could someone who’d never been here before be so disliked?  What was it about his kind that made them react with fear?

The bartender stood on a boardwalk, chatting with neighboring store owners and pointing at him. All three frowned, squinting angrily. Down the street, dust flew from wagon wheels as a large, dark-bearded man steered his team up the street in the stranger’s direction.

The stranger ducked into the alleyway, hearing the braying of donkeys and whinnying of horses ahead. At the end, he passed a stack of hay bales and moved onto another sandy street beside a large wooden stable. Maybe he could at least get shelter from the sun there.

As he turned right, onto the street, he saw the bartender and several others appear from an alley further down and hurry toward him up the street. Why are they chasing me?

Ducking back into the alley, he turned right again at the main street. Chattering voices came from behind and he glanced back over his shoulder as the frightened well-dressed woman pointed at him, jabbering to several men.

Quickening his pace, he looked for another alley or a good place to turn. He heard shouting and looked back to see the men following him now. The bartender and shopkeepers swooping in from the same alley the stranger had just used to join them.

Turning onto a narrower side street, the man hurried on past storefronts with faded paint fronts and a rotting boardwalk of crumbling wood. Where could he go? Then he heard whinnying and felt the dirt street vibrate as the dark-bearded man in the wagon turned onto the street, following him.

The stranger started running, his burned feet aching from the effort, but then the wagon was passing him. The driver looked down, whistling and motioned toward the wagon. “Get in, stranger!”

The man shot a questioning look. “I didn’t do anything to anyone, sir, I promise.”

“Get in unless you want to explain that to them,” the driver said, slowing his team to a crawl. “Trust me.”

The man could never outrun them. He sighed and jumped onto the back of the wagon.

“Cover yourself quickly!” the driver instructed as he spurred his team forward again.

The man slid down into a bed of straw and pulled the old blanket the driver had indicated over himself. The wagon increased its speed, bouncing harshly up onto cobblestones now as it turned sharply around another corner. What am I doing here?

He stretched out his arms, bracing himself against the slat sides of the wagon as best he could and ignored the outcries of his aching body as the wagon continued racing along, then slowed. Shadows fell over them as he heard the crunch of straw or hay and felt the wagon lurch forward and then stop again, suddenly.

It wobbled as the driver hopped down and the man heard creaks of hinges and the sound of wooden doors sliding together and a bolt snapping into place.

He slid the blanket back, his eyes struggling to see through the darkness. Whinnying and braying came from animals other than the team somewhere as the smell of smoke, hay and manure made him wince, then he realized he probably didn’t smell much better himself.

As his eyes adjusted, he focused on a metal stand nearby containing rows of horseshoes, expertly crafted. Then sat up, blinking.

“You plan to stay there all day or come out a greet a man properly?” the driver’s baritone voice asked.

The stranger brushed hay from his worn clothes and crawled toward the back of the wagon, spotting the driver waiting there with a pensive look. “Who are you and why are you wandering the streets scaring women?”

The stranger sat on the back of the wagon, gathering himself to hop down and fumbled for words. “I didn’t mean—”

“Come now, I’m only jesting,” the driver said with a laugh, wiping his hands on the dark apron covering his brown cotton pants and loose fitting tan shirt. Even his boots resembled those of the shepherd boy. The driver reached out a thick, muscular arm, extending his hand.

The stranger clasped it and slid down, his feet thumping onto the dirt floor as the driver stepped closer and got a closer look at the man, his face a mix of wariness and concern. “Why are they after you? Did you give them a reason?”

Fire raging in a nearby stove cast dancing orange and yellow flames across the walls around them. “What is this place? A smithy?”

The driver laughed. “That’s what they call me around here.” In the light of the fire, the blacksmith’s skin appeared lighter than the other residents the stranger had encountered. His eyes narrowed, locked on the stranger’s face.

“I just asked for water. That’s all. The woman bumped into me by accident.”

“What happened to you?” The smith looked him over, examining his clothes and face.

“I don’t really know.” The stranger leaned against a wooden pillar beside the open fire. “Is it a crime to be a stranger here?”

The blacksmith nodded. “Only if you’re a wizard.”

“Wizard?” the man asked. Is that what I am?

The blacksmith nodded. “You’re from the east, aren’t you?  People around here don’t have such light skin. From what’s left of your clothes and your accent, I’d guess one of the cities along the coast.”

The man shrugged. “I can’t remember.”

The blacksmith seemed puzzled. “You must have come here for a reason, although I’d dare say it appears you’ve had a rough time of it.”

The stranger sighed, nodding. “I awoke on the dunes under the brutal sun.”

The blacksmith nodded again. “The summer sun is harsh in the desert. You look exhausted. What’s your name, stranger?”

The stranger searched his mind, but still had no idea what his name was. “I can’t remember that either.”

The blacksmith raised his eyebrows. “How did you come to be here, then?”

The stranger shook his head. “I don’t know. I think I was attacked in a caravan. The town’s not friendly, is it?”

The smithy shrugged. “After what we’ve been through, some are a bit fearful around strangers, especially those from the east. I prefer to judge men on their actions rather than assume they mean ill. You don’t look like a wizard or a bandit to me.”

The stranger groaned, putting his face in his hands as if he could wipe the frustration away. “I don’t remember anything.”

“Well, if you try anything, you’ll wind up on the wrong end of a hammer, my friend,” the smithy’s eyes narrowed with warning, then he smiled. “Perhaps some rest might help you remember. I can’t offer you much, but you’re welcome to rest for a while in one of the empty stalls. This late in the afternoon, I have few customers. We can talk more later about who you are and how you got here.”

The stranger closed his eyes, sighing. “Thank you so much, Smithy, for your kindness.”

Smithy motioned toward the row of stalls down a corridor to the right. “There’s one or two empty down there. Help yourself.”

The stranger stood and moved down the corridor, forcing his aching feet and legs to take the steps one at a time. It felt like he’d forgotten how to walk. He found an open gate three stalls down on the left and braced himself on the gate post as he stumbed inside. The stall floor lay covered in clean hay. He found a large pile in the corner under the shadows and sank quickly down to his knees. His back cried out as if it were on fire. He lowered himself slowly onto his stomach, the smell of fresh hay filling his nostrils and soon fell asleep.


The Returning Cover front onlyEditor Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction including the novels The Worker Prince and The Returning, and the children’s books 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (Flying Pen Press, 2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun (Fairwood, July 2013), Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age  (Every Day Publishing, November 2013) and Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek (Baen, 2014). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and can be found via Twitter as @BryanThomasS, on his website at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bryanthomass?ref=hl.

Project Status Updates

Well, I’m a bad blogger. I have not been taking my own advice and keeping my regular blog days lately. I have a good excuse. I’ve been sick on and off for the past 10 days and I’m so busy with creative projects, it’s hard to think of blog topics that are fresh and worthy of your time. But some of you do follow this blog. I get enough traffic even without posting, that my numbers hardly drop, so that’s encouraging, and I’m grateful.

But here, at least is some news.

Beyond Sun Cover.inddWe released the cover for Beyond The Sun in its final incarnation. I am finishing manuscript prep on that now and will turn it in tomorrow to Fairwood for July release. I’ll have Advanced Reader Copies in April. Hard to believe. What a ride it’s been since I dreamed this up in August, and here it comes! There are some truly great stories in this, though, so I can’t wait to get it out in the world. In case anyone missed it, the cover is included here. A full Table Of Contents can be found at http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/01/toc-beyond-the-sun-edited-by-bryan-thomas-schmidt/.

Also, Abraham Lincoln Dinosaur Hunter: Land Of Legends, the first chapter book in my fun new scifi alt history series for young readers released after a delay on my birthday, February 13, 2013. The day after Lincoln’s birthday, by the way. So far sales are steady and I know they’ll only increase when reviews pour in.  That cover and more info can be found here: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/writings/childrens-books/.

I have started the first novel in a new scifi series. Garret Hawke, Lunar P.I. is a detective noir set in colonies on the moon. The first story has Hawke’s young neighbors’ baby murdered and the parents accused, when he sets out to clear them. This is a world of A.I.’s called Synthetics, where humans live underground because of radiation and Synthetics cover the above ground work. Colonies have only existed on the moon for 15 years, in this 22nd Century setting. Each book will stand alone but there will be some through arcs to the storylines that continue in each consecutive book. Again, illness has slowed me down, but I’m hoping to get this done by April 1st.

After that, I have to write the next Abraham Lincoln Dinosaur Hunter, and then, depending on response, perhaps start book 2 in The Dawning Age. (see next paragraph). Plus, I have the May issue of Blue Shift to turn in this week. And I have 3 other partial novels I can resume work on.

I have agents looking at Duneman, Book 1 in my epic fantasy/steampunk mix, The Dawning Age. Excited to see what comes of that.

Raygun Chronicles is 1/4th funded in Kickstarter, but hopefully the next 15 days will turn that around so I can release that. There’s some awesome writers attached. I’d hate to see it fail. But Kickstarter is a giant waiting game. The t-shirts though are awesome and to die for. I think people will really want those!

Jennifer Brozek and I also signed a contract with Baen Books to edit what we hope will be series of military fantasy anthologies, called Shattered Shields. Coming in 2014, you can find details on writers, etc., here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/601968027/raygun-chronicles-space-opera-science-fiction-anth/posts/405709.

And I also have a YA reprint anthology in the works and so far have Cory Doctorow, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Jay Lake, EC Myers,  and several others committed to that.

So, as you can see, I have a good excuse for being too busy to blog but I will be doing another Write Tip later this week, and I hope to get more active again soon.

Thanks for following and cheering me on!

Bryan

 

 

Stories In, Kickstarters Out, and More News

Well, I’m getting a slow start on blogging in 2013. In fact, I was so busy the last half of the year, it was hard to stick to even my steady schedule of two posts per week (Mondays and Thursdays). But 2012 ended with the sale of another children’s book and 3 anthologies to publishers, including 2 which involve Kickstarters, and the marketing of several more anthologies and a fantasy trilogy. I’m still working on prepping the fantasy trilogy for agent queries, in fact. Just a few more polishes. Add to that steady editing and blogging work for a number of clients, and I was pretty exhausted.

AbeLincolnDino_CoverV2But at this point, some of that is moving to the next stage, which is a good thing. Abraham Lincoln Dinosaur Hunter: Land of Legends, the first early reader chapter book in a new adventure series is due out this month (delayed due to cover art issues), and stories for Beyond The Sun, the colonist SF anthology I funded on Kickstarter, are rolling in (with the January 15th deadline fast upon us). So far I have great stories from headliners Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, along with stories from Jamie Todd Rubin, Jennifer Brozek, Autumn Rachel Dryden, Jason Sanford and Maurice Broaddus. In the queue awaiting decisions are stories by Cat Rambo, 2012 Philip K. Dick Award nominee Jean Johnson, Dana Bell and Anthony Cardno. It looks like I’ll have a harder time choosing whose stories to reject than finding good ones to fill the remaining 9-10 slots here. It’s a nice problem to have, as they say, but I hate rejecting writers, especially friends. Comes with the territory though.

The Kickstarter for Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age is supposed to launch next week, and we are working on the Kickstarter page now.  That will run for 6 weeks with hopes we can start finalizing story contracts and get the headliners working on some great new tales. Plans include an OryCon 35 launch this November, and it will be my first hardback release. Some great writers involved (see the link under the title).

Additionally, Jennifer Brozek and I are awaiting a contract on a military fantasy anthology which sold to one of the big pro publishers. We can’t announce until the contract is final, but for me, it’s my first pro-qualifying book sale, and we have some amazing authors involved. Can’t wait to get that going. It will be turned in by December and released in 2014.

I also am getting gamma comments in on Duneman, my epic fantasy, book 1 of The Dawning Age trilogy, and I am going to do some clean up and polishing and query agents later this month. One of my writing heroes, AC Crispin is kindly helping me polish my query, so that’s also a thrill and quite good fortune. I’m hoping to enter the next phase of my writing career quite soon.

Triumph Over Tragedy cover

I have a story out tomorrow (1/08/13) in Triumph Over Tragedy, which is raising funds for Red Cross efforts to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. An ebook only release, it will be available for only a limited time but has stories by Robert Silverberg, Timothy Zahn, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Elizabeth Bear, Michael J. Sullivan, yours truly and 20+ others. Some great stuff in there. I was one of four editors helping put the project together. My story is titled “Duncan Derring & The Call Of The Lady Luck” and is a tongue-in-cheek science fiction story about a demolitions expert who must help a starliner escape space tumbleweeds. Originally written for Wandering Weeds, which came out in November, it’s an updated, more polished version. My first resold story.

The Exodus, Book 3 in The Saga Of Davi Rhii, is 3/4ths done first draft but I’ll have to get back on that as soon as Duneman is finished. I may not send it out to a publisher if I can get a mass market deal explored via agents. That all has to wait on that process. I had already decided, for various reasons, not to go with Diminished Media Group for this one. I have interested from another small press, but since The Returning is not selling very quickly, it may just have to wait a while so I can focus on that.

Speaking of The Returning, I will be doing a review blog tour for that soon. I really need more reviews on Amazon to boost sales. Book 1, The Worker Prince, is getting regular sales via Amazon now because of it’s 24 reviews, and so I need to catch up The Returning and get that moving as well. The more people who discover and like The Worker Prince, the more likely it will be to sell, of course, so I’ll be continuing to promote that as well.

Last, but not least, I am marking a future Olympics themed anthology called Galactic Games, which the publishers I approach all seem to like but which no one has bought yet. It’s headlined by Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Esther Friesner and Robert Reed. I’m hoping to push it out for release during or just after the 2014 Winter Olympics, but for that to happen, I suppose I’ll need to find it a home first.

In any case, lots going on here. I’ll do my best to get the first Write Tip going for 2013 on Thursday. And be sure and check Finish The Story, my editing site, where we have new 2013 rates and some specials going on, including a nice coupon or two on our Facebook page for $100 off. Three published authors and editors at your service with a good track record and developing client list. It’s what we do to support ourselves while writing, so we’d love to help you if we can.

Thanks for checking in.

Bryan

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing Authors logoThe idea behind The Next Big Thing meme is pretty simple: another author tags you, you answer ten standard questions, and then you tag five other authors, propagating the meme through the interwebs like some sort of virus. So R.T. Kaelin tagged me in his post, and well, here I go spreading the infection:

1) What is the working title of your next book? 

Duneman.

It’s book 1 of The Dawning Age, my first epic fantasy trilogy.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book? 

In part, it was inspired by two of my favorite fantasy reads: Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg and Lamentation by Ken Scholes as well as Walter Miller’s classic A Canticle For Leibowitz. The first chapter started as what I thought was a short story but clearly revealed itself to be much longer when it was finished.

3) What genre does your book fall under? 

Fantasy for sure.

Epic Fantasy more specifically, although some will label it steampunk or even science fantasy because I employ airships, guns and electricity in the setting, which is a world transition from an age of faith and magic to that of technology and science and all that entails.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

I’m gonna skip this. For one, I never think that way. I almost hope Hollywood never adapts my books. I went to film school and spent years working in movies and television. Hollywood loves to screw up other people’s stuff. If I got as popular as JK Rowling and could get creative control, I might change my mind but otherwise, I’m not interested, sorry. I will say that the role of Smithy is very much inspired by John Rhys Davies’ performances as Gimli in Lord Of The Rings, Sallah in Indiana Jones, and Rodrigues in Shogun.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

In  a world transitioning from an age of faith and magic to one of science and technology, an amnesiac man launches a quest to recover his kidnapped wife and son and rediscover his past.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

As soon as the gamma reader notes come back and my synopsis is finished, I am querying some top agents, thanks to intros from writer friends who are their clients.

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

Nine months. January through September 2010.

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

I’m not a big fan of self-comparison. It comes across as either pompous or self-serving. But I did aim to be family friendly and fun in the vein of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria books. I mentioned the influence of Scholes and Silverberg. I think fans of David B. Coe’s Lon Tobyn and Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer would enjoy it as well.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

I love epic fantasy. And after spending so much time on my space opera trilogy, The Saga Of Davi Rhii, it seemed natural for me to try my hand at fantasy and expand my writing palate, so to speak. Plus, the amnesia thing, which Silverberg did so well in Lord Valentine’s Castle, is a great device, and I wanted to see if I could take it further than he did and stall the reveal of past and identity in many ways that would be compelling while still keeping readers guessing.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? 

A traditional fantasy setting with airships and steamships, guns and more mixed with swords, horses, and the classics. Trolls, dwarves (little humans not the Tolkien kind) and women who fight alongside the men. A story of a man discovering himself along with us, with lots of intrigue, mystery and twists and turns. Some surprises, too. And a story about loyalty, honor, family, and friendship. All of these and more.

AbeLincolnDino_CoverV2My next book release is coming this month from Delabarre: Abraham Lincoln Dinosaur Hunter: Land Of Legends, a early readers’ adventure about young Abe traveling back in time with Davy Crockett and learning to survive amidst dinosaurs. Full of humor, action, dinosaurs, bears, sabretooth tigers, and more,  it was as fun to write as I hope it is to read. Abraham Lincoln is a timeless character and I find adults get as excited about this one as kids. You can read an excerpt at the link from the title.

Every person below has proven to be both a good writer and very nice. I am glad I have gotten the opportunity to know them all. They may have done this before. I had a hard time finding people who haven’t, but if they haven’t and want to here they are:

Guy Anthony DeMarco
Claire Ashgrove
Robin Wayne Bailey
David B. Coe
Linda Poitevin

 

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends from Delabarre Publishing.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Write Tips: Writing The Short Query Novel Pitch

Query letters and synopses are the bane of so many authors’ existence, aren’t they? I dread them and find them quite frustrating. They never seem to elicit the kind of enthusiastic response equal to that I get from my writing itself. It’s always disappointing when readers are loving a manuscript but you can’t agents or publishers to take a look. Yes, I know it’s all about numbers (i.e. percenatages) and finding the right match, but still, it’s so much easier when you can let the writing sell itself, but that’s not how the industry works.

Now, there’s good reason for that. By sheer quantity alone, agents and editors just can’t read all the millions of words that people try and put on their desks. A weeding out of wheat from chafe is necessary and there’s not a perfect way to do that. So query letters and synopses remain key elements of getting professionally published. I don’t see this changing for the foreseeable future either.

That leaves writers with one option: we must learn how to write queries and synopses. So I decided to do a series of Write Tips on related topics as I prepare for my latest round. This first one is going to deal with one of the most important but challenging: writing the short query synopsis for your book. You have to hook them in 100 words and get them to want more. It’s really tough to sum up a 130k novel in 100 words. 90k novels, too. But one of the first paragraphs and key paragraphs of any good query, research says, is the synopsis of the book. So, here’s the one I am working on for Duneman, book 1 of my epic fantasy trilogy The Dawning Age.

The Terran Lands, ravaged by wars brought on by men of faith and men of magic. As science and reason replace the now outlawed beliefs, a struggle for control of the new technologies and discoveries threatens the peace again. In the midst of this, a man of faith, Kaleb Ryder, awakens in the desert, left for dead, only to be told his wife and child are missing along with his identity and his past. Determined to save his family and recover who he is in the process, Kaleb soon finds that things are not what they seem—from himself to his world and his relationship with the kidnapped woman and child. With the child’s fate tied to the peace of the Lands, Kaleb’s life is on the line, and he must rescue the woman and child to protect their future and uncover the truth about himself. Duneman, Book 1 Of The Dawning Age, an epic fantasy trilogy.

But before we talk about that, here’s where I started and some Facebook comments that helped me get where I am. (And I am still not done.)

In a world transitioning from a war torn age of faith and magic to a peaceful age of science and reason, a man awakens in the desert, left for dead. As he begins piecing back together his identity and his past, he sets out to rescue the kidnapped wife and child who hold the answers he needs. But soon he discovers things are not what they seem—discovering skills he hadn’t imagined he had and evidence that the wife and child are not who he thought. Others are hunting them with nefarious goals and the race is on to see who will get there first. With his life on the line and the peace of their world in danger, he must rescue the woman and child to uncover the truths about himself and his past and protect his future.

Duneman, Book 1 Of The Dawning Age, an epic fantasy trilogy by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Here are comments from my Facebook page a couple of months back when I posted this.

    • Tim Ward I’m not really one to judge query letters, but it looks like a story I’d want to read.
    • Charles P. Zaglanis I would suggest using their names. Even as an introduction, I want to get a feel for the people in the story. Also, maybe excise the bit that sounds like Total Recall, the movie didn’t do well.
    • Chelvanaya Gabriel Ooooh – I really like the sound of this! 🙂 Might I suggest: “In a world transitioning from a war-torn age of faith and magic to a peaceful age of science and reason, a man awakens in the desert, left for dead and his wife and child kidnapped/missing/lost/gone/taken. Setting out to rescue them, he soon discovers things are not what they seem – his family may not be who he thought, others are on the hunt for them and he possesses skills previously unknown to him. With his life on the line and the peace of their world in danger, the race is on for him to rescue his wife and child, protect their future and uncover truths about himself.”
    • Cindy Koepp Neato! That sounds like one I’d want to read.
    • Jay Werkheiser Here are a few tweaks I might recommend, but bear in mind that I’m no expert on writing query letters! I’d drop “back” from piecing back his identity. You use forms of the word “discover” twice in the same sentence; I would change one of them. Also in that sentence, I would drop “he had” after skills he hadn’t imagined. In the next sentence, I would drop “with nefarious goals” and “to see who gets there first;” I think both are already implied by the context. Like I said, take my suggestions with a large grain of salt; use what you like and ignore the rest! In any case, it sounds like a cool novel!
    • Bryan Thomas Schmidt Jay, Chelvanya, helpful thanks. Thanks Tim and Cindy and even Joe. Charles, honestly, which part sounds like Total Recall? I am missing it…
      Also the problem with names is his identity changes over the course of the story. So it’s hard to know which name to use.
    • Chelvanaya Gabriel I like the idea of using his name but I can see why it would be tricky. If you want to use a name, maybe you could use whatever name he starts out with? I feel like using a name works best when the name is unique (even if it is going to change). OR maybe to get that same connection to the story via a name, why not give us the name of the world?
    • Guy Anthony De Marco Any time I see “In a world”, the voice switches to the guy who does voice-overs for movie trailers and I get distracted 🙂
    • Ann Leckie Ditto on using names, at least your MC. I have the same problem with my MC, and I chose one for the query. Which was very successful. I’m in agreement with the “In a world where…” being maybe not the best approach. I also think that “transitioning from a war torn age of faith and magic to a peaceful age of science and reason” is a bit awkward–I had to take a couple runs at it to separate it out. And I’d suggest that it’s information that doesn’t need to be in the first sentence. It should be there, just not right up front like that, IMO.
    • Bryan Thomas Schmidt ROUND 2: Kaleb Ryder awakens in the desert, left for dead, his wife and child missing along with his identity and his past. Determined to save his family and rediscover who he is in the process, Kaleb soon finds that things are not what they seem—from skills he hadn’t imagined to questions about his relation to the kidnapped woman and child. The Terran Lands have transitioned from a war-torn age of faith and magic to one of science and reason where the former are now banned. Now, with Kaleb’s life on the line and the peace of their world in danger, he must rescue the woman and child to protect their future and uncover the truth about himself.
    • Lauren ‘Scribe’ Harris his wife and child missing along with his identity and his past. Determined to save his family and rediscover who he is in the process, Kaleb soon finds that things are not what they seem—from skills he hadn’t imagined to questions about his relation to the kidnapped woman and child. <–there’s a contradiction here. You tell us his wife and child are missing, then he has questions about his relationship to the kidnapped woman and child…but you’ve already told us what that is. I’d recommend introducing the kidnapped woman and child as unknowns (and telling us why he cares about rescuing them), then raising the question of how they might be related to him. I think we need to know more specifically what the conflict is and how it relates to the peace of their world and Kaleb’s personal quest to find out who he is.
    • Bryan Thomas Schmidt The challenge is he starts out believing one thing and so do we as readers, but it gets twisted and changes over the course of the story. How to convey that in a way that won’t have someone who accepted a query feeling deceived is difficult.
    • Bryan Thomas Schmidt ROUND 2b: Kaleb Ryder awakens in the desert, left for dead, his wife and child missing along with his identity and his past. Determined to save his family and recover who he is in the process, Kaleb soon finds that things are not what they seem—from himself to his world and his relationship with the kidnapped woman and child. The Terran Lands have transitioned from a war-torn age of faith and magic to one of science and reason where the former are now banned. Now, with Kaleb’s life on the line and the peace of their world in danger, he must rescue the woman and child to protect their future and uncover the truth about himself.
    • Lauren ‘Scribe’ Harris I’d say “apparent relationship with the kidnapped woman and child”, and make the things he discovers about his world and himself a little more apparent. Also, if he doesn’t remember who he is, how does he know his wife and child are missing? Is there evidence that’s been planted to make him think that? If he doesn’t remember and doesn’t feel anyhting for them because of that lack of memory, why does that draw him through the story? (these are just questions I’ve got, which an agent might also have. I’m still trying to figure out why his quest has anything to do with the conflict between magic and science, war and peace. Can you tie that more solidly together? At the moment, I can’t figure out why he cares about the woman and child or the transition of the government from magic to science, because what you’ve given is still a bit too vague.
    • Lauren ‘Scribe’ Harris I’d also just say that all your secrets don’t have to be saved until later. Sometimes you have to spoil the plot a bit in order to show off the main conflict.
    • Bryan Thomas Schmidt The Terran Lands, ravaged by wars brought on by men of faith and men of magic. As science and reason replace the now outlawed beliefs, a struggle for control of the new technologies and discoveries threatens the peace again. In the midst of this, a man of faith, Kaleb Ryder, awakens in the desert, left for dead, only to be told his wife and child are missing along with his identity and his past. Determined to save his family and recover who he is in the process, Kaleb soon finds that things are not what they seem—from himself to his world and his relationship with the kidnapped woman and child. Now, with Kaleb’s life on the line and the peace of their world in danger, he must rescue the woman and child to protect their future and uncover the truth about himself.
    • Lauren ‘Scribe’ Harris I like that a lot better! I think it explains more. What’s still missing is what this has to do with the peace of their world. What role will Kaleb play?
    • Bryan Thomas Schmidt The Terran Lands, ravaged by wars brought on by men of faith and men of magic. As science and reason replace the now outlawed beliefs, a struggle for control of the new technologies and discoveries threatens the peace again. In the midst of this, a man of faith, Kaleb Ryder, awakens in the desert, left for dead, only to be told his wife and child are missing along with his identity and his past. Determined to save his family and recover who he is in the process, Kaleb soon finds that things are not what they seem—from himself to his world and his relationship with the kidnapped woman and child. With the child’s fate tied to the peace of the Lands, Kaleb’s life is on the line, and he must rescue the woman and child to protect their future and uncover the truth about himself.
      Duneman, Book 1 Of The Dawning Age, an epic fantasy trilogy.
Okay, that gives you a sense of where I started and how it evolved. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear in comments. Next we’ll discuss the rest of the query before we move on to the big synopsis.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

WriteTip: Diligence Pays Off-Success Equals Talent Plus Work

Okay, this isn’t the usual steps process for sure, but I still think it’s appropriate for a write tip. A few months back I posted about the power of diligence quoting from a Steve Martin interview with Charlie Rose where the comedian/actor talked about how importance diligence has been to his success. Pretty much everyone in the entertainment/media business I’ve met who’s had a career of more than a decade has mentioned the importance of diligence to me, and, in an age where e-publishing has become the rage and feeds our cultural fixation with instant gratification, I think a reminder about diligence is important. In fact, the key lesson is in bold later in this post, but first a little about how diligence has paid off for me.

I started writing fiction prose in summer 2008 with a love story about a divorced couple who fall in love again. My first novel started as a novella then grew. I finished it at around 65k words but it sucked. Or at least, it was’t ready for prime time. So, I went back to school, reading, studying craft, learning, practicing, and about a year later, I started writing my first science fiction book–a Moses-inspired space opera I’d dreamed up as a teen. The Worker Prince, as it’s called, was my debut novel, released in October 2011 and made Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011, quite an honor for a micropress book. Sales are steady but slow and I’ve earned back my advance or am close at around 650 copies. Book 2, The Returning, came out last month and now I’m writing Book 3.

But those novels are far from the only thing I”ve had going on. In 2008, when I started writing fiction, I knew no one writing books besides an old friend, a historian named Leon C. Metz. Now Leon is no slouch. He’s published over 20 books on history, his most famous being a biography of John Wesley Hardin, famous gunfighter. But I didn’t know anyone in science fiction, had never been to a convention, had not taken writing workshops and no one knew who I was.

Now, to be fair, I had been writing nonfiction, screenplays and plays for twenty years, since high school. I’d had some limited success with a script in development at Disney that never got made and a couple of co-written produced plays. I’d sold some nonfiction articles to magazines and such. And I’d had devotionals published. But still, I was unknown in most regards, particularly in the area of fiction books and especially in science fiction and fantasy.

But as I met writers, Ken Scholes being one of the first and I met him on Facebook after reading his wonderful Lamentation,  they always talked about how important it was to write every day. If you get stuck, write anyway. If you’re frustrated, try something else i.e. switch projects for a bit or give yourself permission to write crap just to get words down and exercise the writing muscles. As my friend and fellow novelists John A. Pitts says: “Concert pianists at the height of fame have to practice every day, why shouldn’t writers?” And that’s the truth of it.

So I wrote. I worked on a few novel ideas. I wrote a lot of short stories. And I rewrote The Worker Prince, also starting two fantasy novels, including Duneman, which is in beta reading right now and will hopefully land me an agent and traditional publisher later this year. The main thing was that I wrote, continued studying craft, read a lot, and started going to Cons to meet writers and others. Now, I have a huge network of contacts and friends, and looking at my Goodreads and Amazon author pages, there are 7 titles listed. By the end of the year, there will be 8 and maybe 9. Of those, only 2 are self-published: The North Star Serial, Part 1, which collects a series of flash fiction episodes I wrote for Digital Dragon Magazine and Rivalry On A Sky Course, which is an ebook only release of a prequel story to The Worker Prince which first sold to Residential Aliens before I released it as an ebook. Everything else has been paid for by a publisher and put out, including the anthology I edited and others in which I have stories appearing. (Wandering Weeds comes out any time now.)

What’s my point? Well, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to writing. I’ve treated it like a job, even though it doesn’t pay the bills yet. And I’ll tell you that my total income for writing expenses last year was close to $2000 when you add print cartridges, Cons, travel, paper, supplies, postage, etc. But this year, my expenses are going to be less, but my income should be close to $3000. It remains to be seen and that estimate encompasses four book advances (two pending) and some sales income (still coming in), as well as a few sales, but it’s definitely progress in the right direction. And last year I only attended 3 Cons and 1 Workshop. This year I have attended 4 Cons with 2 more planned, done 4 signings so far and have 4 more planned–all of which involved at least some travel (shortest 10 minute drive, longest airplane, including a couple 6+ hour drives). What’s my point?

I am acting like a full time writer even though I am not one. I am also spending several hours a week on blogging, social media marketing, networking, promotion and reading and running #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat, Wednesday at 9 pm EDT on Twitter). I typically spend 2-3 hours a day writing, 2-3 editing (mostly for other people) and 2-3 on blogging and social media, plus any other work I need to do. (I am seeking full time employment and do freelance gigs from time to time.) Once I get a full time job, my goal will still be to do the 6-9 hours a day devoted to my writing career.

Why? Because I am getting somewhere, not just with the earning income progress but with the amount of material published. My third Davi Rhii book will come out sometime next year and I hope to sell a couple more novels, including Duneman. My first kid’s chapter book is going to come out this Winter (late 2012 or early 2013). I just got asked to do more joke books after my first released today which means nice advances, and I have a celebrity bio contracted, two half novels done, and several short stories, including 10 more North Stars to finish the cycle left to write.

Diligence.

Diligence matters.

dil·i·gence

   [dil-i-juhns]  Show IPA

noun

1.

constant and earnest effort to accomplish what isundertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.
So if your passion is writing, storytelling, etc., be diligent. Make the effort to do what you love and follow your passion. Treat it like work, without discipline it won’t happen. But know that if you have the talent and you apply the work to it, things will happen. After all, talent is like 2×4 boards, it takes some tools, nails, effort, etc. to build something with it. But it can be done and will be done if you’re diligent. You may not get rich. You may not become that famous. But you will become very satisfied and you will have a body of work that shows you’re more than just a person who dreams of being a writer. You’ll be a real, published writer, and whether that ever pays my bills fully or not, to me that’s saying something.
For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.