Welcome!

I'm James Maxey, the author of the Dragon Age fantasy series of Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed, the Dragon Apocalypse series of Greatshadow, Hush, and Witchbreaker, as well as the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Writer-space

I believe in alternate universes. Currently, I inhabit one. I’m in the middle of rewriting my novel Bitterwood. I spend a good deal of my waking life oblivious to the physical world where my body is located. My brain has taken residence in writer-space.

The landscape of writer-space changes with each visit. Sometimes I’ve gone there and spent my time weightless, stuck in a tin can on a journey between planets. Other times, writer-space is nearly identical to the world I ordinarily inhabit, but with some strange, dark twist. Creatures with mean eyes and jagged claws live beneath the floorboards of my house in writer-space. In writer-space, comets plunge toward the Earth, the ocean rises to swallow cities, and giants walk among skyscrapers.

Right now, I spend my time in writer-space watching the dragons that live there. These are marvelous beasts, half snake, half bird, with wingspans longer than school busses. I study their toothy grins. I note the way their ruby red, opalescent scales shimmer as wiry muscles coil and bunch beneath them. I watch them lick blood from their dagger-like claws in the aftermath of a hunt. I’ve gotten close enough to one to smell its carnivore breath, hot and humid. I’ve run my fingertips along its hide, hard and smooth and dry. The fine scales of the wings are light and long like feathers. I hold a feather-scale to the light; it’s translucent, with a hollow core. The beast’s serpentine tail twitches at the tip, like the tail of an anxious tiger. I look into its glowing, golden eyes. It stares back, inquisitive, bright, studying me studying it.

I feel quite small next to a dragon. But, that doesn’t stop me from seizing it by the nose and dragging it back home with me.

I am a hunter; a trapper. My job is to capture the beasts that inhabit writer-space and bring them back. I have to put them into the cage of a book, carving out a new habitat where they can survive, or even thrive. I build windows out of words to allow others to glimpse these creatures, so that anyone who wishes can appreciate them the way I do.

The journey back from writer-space is a treacherous one. There are many obstacles to be overcome. I must leap such pitfalls as phone calls and email. I must navigate the swamp of my day job, and swerve around unseen dangers like coming home to discover that a pipe has burst and flooded three rooms. I have to steel myself, drawing on every last ounce of will, to pull myself away from the siren call of computer solitaire.

Then, with the dangers avoided, I’m left with the long, hard slog of simply writing. One key is pressed, then the next, then the next, then the next, hour after hour, day after day. The pages fill slowly. Building a world a letter at a time is as tedious as building a beach by laying down each grain of sand individually. Yet, bit by bit, page by page, the writing gets done. A hundred words become a thousand. A thousand words grow to a chapter. The chapters multiply and grow, and, months later, a book is delivered from writer-space into the real world, pink and raw and still a bit gooey.

Later, I realize I left my wallet back in writer-space. Those damn dragons have my credit cards. But that’s another story.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"To Know All Things That Are In The Earth"

I got an offer from Intergalactic Medicine Show today for my short story "To Know All Things That Are In The Earth." Considering I just wrote the story in February and March, this is a pretty good turnaround. I wrote this story for a contest at Codexwriters. It's the third contest I participated in; the second story I've sold after writing it to fulfill the contest requirements. So, two out of three isn't bad, and I haven't given up on the third story yet. It's called "Echo of the Eye." It's a tough sell because it's not SF or Fantasy, and is actually a very rare story for me, icky-horror. I really don't know if icky-horror is an accurate genre label, but it contains a scene in which roasted eyeballs are devoured, so, ick. Yet, despite the cannibalism, the story is actually not terribly graphic; there's only a teeny bit of blood-splashing, which might hurt it in the gross-out horror market. I have it out now to an anthology called, "Until Somebody Loses an Eye." If they don't buy it, I don't know. The New Yorker?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Aftermath

Last week I got home and found that a pipe had burst in the ceiling of my apartment. The running water had filled up the plastic casing of my stereo and turned it on, full blast, to Prarie Home Companion. I walked up to the house thinking, "Why am I hearing Garison Kielor?" I'm lucky the house didn't catch fire. Then again, everything was pretty damp. Water from wall to wall.

A week later, the laminate floors are starting to warp, although not in an unsalvagable way. It's fairly mild, so far, and now everything is bone dry, so perhaps all the damage that will be done has been done. By running a dehumidifier and two fans I've got the carpets dry. There is a noticable watermark in the carpet showing the far reaches of the flood... if the water had seeped in a few more feet, you might not be able to tell they were damaged, since the color would be uniform all the way across.

For most of the week, the apartment has had a damp sour odor, not unlike sweaty gym clothes left in a locker for a week. But, either my nose has just stopped noticing the smell, or the fans have finally knocked the last of the stink odor molecules loose.

I find myself grateful for the oddest things. I've been happy all week that the pipes waited until Laura had been gone for a month to fail so catastrophicly. She'd been plagued by plumbing problems for years (or rather, her house had) and dealing with this mess would have been the very last thing she needed. Don't get me wrong; if she'd been given the choice to live another year and deal with replumbing the whole house or dying and avoiding the hassle, I suspect she'd have gladly made the phone call to the plumber. But, still, since she didn't get the choice, at least she avoided this unpleasantness. I won't exactly call it a silver lining to the dark cloud, but maybe it's a white, fluffy cloud in a dark cloud.

In the aftermath of the flood, I ran around picking up everything resting on the floor and moving it to the higher ground of bookshelves, tables, beds. Today, I've been cleaning and sorting. I found an old shopping list from Laura. She'd wanted a veggie loaf (fake meatloaf for vegetarians) from the frozen food section. I had this almost irresistable urge to go out and buy it. I felt very connected to Laura for a moment... more connected than I did when I visited her grave earlier today. I have a hard time looking at the patch of broken ground and feeling that it holds any relevance to Laura's life, or mine.

Speaking of broken ground, I live in Laura's basement, and there are no stairs connecting her house to my apartment. So, we had worn a path into the yard from my front door to her front door. No grass would grow there, even though I put down fresh seed the last two springs. This week, the grass has sprouted, and looks quite handsome, bright green and a few inches tall already.

If I were a writer, I might draw some analogy between the ruts we wear in life, and how new life springs up once we are prevented from walking the same path. It might be a good, symbolic way of illustrating new beginnings, or for making a broad commentary on the ceaseless turning of the vast wheel of life. Alas, I'm no good with words. Maybe someone else can do something with the image.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A warning to all mankind!

So, last night I stopped by the Dollar General and noticed they had two-liter generic soda called "Cloverleaf Cola" that was two bottles for a dollar and I thought, "Hey! How bad can it be?"

As near as I can tell, they flavor it with actual cloverleafs. The closest thing I can compare it to, taste-wise, is wilted celery.

I'm posting this in hopes that the youth of America may learn from my mistakes.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

One month


These photos are from four years ago. We were at my old house in Stokesdale, the Mountain Goat's "All Hail West Texas" was on the stereo, and the warm breeze blew sunshine through the curtains covering the open window. It feels like yesterday.

A month ago on this day, I stood by Laura's hospital bed, holding her hand as she passed away. It feels like a very long time ago.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Souls of Living Wood

I read "Souls of Living Wood" last night, the Eugie Foster story in Modern Magic. I hate singling out stories in anthologies I'm in, out of fear of offending other contributors, but, wow, this was a terrific story. I had high hopes for it, since Eugie was a fellow Phobos award winner. The story exceeded my hopes. It has the most unexpected character I've yet encounted in the anthology, or just about anywhere in a long time--a talking house. Of course, the house can't talk to just anyone, but there's a real estate agent who, without giving away too much of the story, has what I can best describe as the oddest superpower I've ever heard of--the ability to talk to houses, and have the houses talk back. It's ideas like this that draw me to science fiction and fantasy. I'm 42 years old; I've read, I dunno, a zillion stories in my life, and it's rare that I run into concepts that I've never seen before. I'm jaded. Finding an original idea gives me a buzzy, drunken feeling as my thoughts crowd around to examine the newcomer. It gets me excited again about the power of words.

Even better, Eugie takes this original idea and builds a terrific, moving story around it. Sometimes, great ideas get stuck in stories that don't live up to their promise, but Eugie follows through with lovely writing, a captivating plot, and strong performances from the other characters in the story, all of whom come to life with an amazing economy of words. The stories only five pages long--I'm guessing the word count is probably only 2,000 words. Quite an accomplishment.

Friday, June 02, 2006

NYC



Laura and I took a couple of great trips together. Very early we took a trip to South of the Border, the east coast headquarters for all things tacky. We had a mutual appreciation of low culture, which was good, considering out budgets made low culture much more accessible than high culture.

But, we did take one killer trip to New York City when my novel Nobody Gets the Girl was released. Phobos Books footed the bill for some train tickets, Orbit actually found reasonably priced rooms in a decent location, and when we got there, expecting to be broke within a day from the legendary high cost of living, we discovered that in the non-tourist parts of the city, prices were pretty much the same as they were in NC. So, we spent four days stuffing outselves with the best food we'd ever eaten in Little Italy and China Town, then walking it off by treking from one side of the island to the other in search of museums and other tourist stuff.

The one regret about the trip was that I was using my digital camera, but when we got home I discovered that somehow all the files had become corrupted. Of the hundred or so photo's I'd snapped, only one was even moderately recognizable--a photo I'd snapped of the two of us in a mirrored building, with a busy street scene behind us. The camera had only saved blue and red pixels, no green, so the color was completely messed up, and it had also only saved every other line of the photo, so the original was full of thin blank lines. Fortunately, I'm pretty good with photoshop, so a few paint filters and a bit of color restoration produced a photo that had a soft, watercolor feel to it, hazy as a memory, but still interesting in the details that emerge as I study it. For instance, is it my imagination or does Laura have exactly the same smile as the Mona Lisa?

So, I only had one hazy, off color record of the trip--until fellow Phobos author and Odyssey grad Matt Rotundo came to the rescue recently with a second photo, this taken in Sandra Schulberg's apartment on Halloween, I think. I've spent the evening in a frustrating trip between three stores tonight in search of a function photo kiosk to print the photos, but have returned home, finally, with pictures in hand. I've never in my life assembled a photo album, but I'm going to put one together now. I wish I'd printed out all these photos while Laura was still around to look at them with me... but, then again, when she was around, I wasn't interested in looking at photos. I could look at her.

I've never been the sort of person to sit around dwelling in memory. Other people I know remember the names of their teachers from elementary school. I can't even remember teachers from High School. And I'm not talking about not remembering their names--I have no memory at all of who I might have encountered back then. The VCR of my mind can only record about ten years before it starts overwriting. I've never had memories I wanted so badly to hang onto before. Hopefully, the photo album will help me overcome forgetfulness circa 2016.