I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. 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.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Off to Dragon con

i've inched my way down the eastern seaboard
i am coming to Atlanta again
yeah i came to the gates of the fabled pink city
hungry, and tired, and mad as all hell
swing low sweet jewel-encrusted chariot
make me young again make me well

Jaipur--the Mountain Goats, the opening song on "The Coroner's Gambit."

I love it when my life and John Darnielle's lyrics overlap, which is a disturbing thing, when I think about it, given that his lyrics are frequently so dark and sinister. But, I feel truly blessed as a human being in knowing that I have found my life's soundtrack artist and it didn't turn out to be something like, I dunno, Fleetwood Mac or some other tripe. Finding your soundtrack artist is a bit like finding true love. I remember how lost and alone I could sometimes feel, back in the eighties and nineties when my soundtrack was full of REM and U2 and I kept feeling this hunger, this nagging suspicion that there must be something more to life. I could never be faithful to my old soundtrack artists. The idea of growing old with, say, Thomas Dolby or even the Pogues is absurd. They were merely youthful flings. I didn't know any better. But I feel like I'm going to be listening to the Mountain Goats fifty years from now, when the world is a post apocolyptic wasteland and I'm stumbling through the rubble singing, "I am the white sky high over Tripoli... I am the landmine hidden in the sand. "

Hmm. I've digressed wildy from what I sat down to type, which is that I'm about to leave for a six hour drive to dragoncon. Ah well. These things happen.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Naked Monkeys

Last week, fellow Codexian Helena Bell asked, “Just curious: how did the monkey thing start?”

To those unfamiliar with my larger body of work, the question might come across as a non sequitur, or perhaps as some sort of prod designed to push me into a rant about evolution versus creationism. However, readers who’ve been following my writing for a while have started to notice a trend: There are a lot of monkeys in my stories.

It’s time for confession. Some writers use booze or drugs to loosen themselves up to allow the words to flow onto the page. Some writers are blessed with deeply traumatic childhoods or serious mental illnesses that allow them to sit and scribble out prose with such ease and beauty they seem to be channeling the voices of angels. Then there are unlucky writers such as myself who had the misfortune to be raised by kind parents in stable environments. Robbed of the writer’s birthright of mental trauma, we muddle along as best we can, praying we will one day discover some secret magic formula that allows us to compete with our more twisted brethren.

About ten years ago, at the Odyssey Fantasy Writers workshop, I found that magic in the word “monkey.” I was starting a story called “Earl Billings and the Angels of the Lord” when I wrote that Earl was angry because his daughter’s social studies textbook had an Incan monkey god on the cover. Earl wasn’t paying good tax dollars so that his daughter could go get brainwashed into some damn monkey cult, and so he had decided that the only sensible response was to buy a bunch of propane tanks and… well, I won’t get into the details here. The point is, when I reread the sentence with the phrase “Incan monkey god,” I suddenly had the revelation that it was nearly impossible to write a boring sentence with the word monkey in it. (Go ahead and try it yourself in the comments section if you feel up to the challenge.)

Now, when I sit down to start a story and find myself stuck, I ask, “How can I get a monkey in here?” Once I figure it out, I’m fine I got into Orson Scott Card’s Writers Boot Camp with a writing sample from “Little Guilt Thing Goin’ On” that included the phrase "gilded monkey skull." That story later was published at Abyss and Apex. When pressed to write a story in a single night at Boot Camp, I crafted a tale about a man shouting at invisible monkeys. (“Pentacle on His Forehead, Lizard on His Breath”--it saw print in the Modern Magic anthology.) I've written a long list of stories where the word "monkey" appears on the first page. The monkeys are seldom anything other than props, and frequently vanish after the initial scene, but the little nugget of monkey holds readers sufficiently to get them to the second page, by which point the plot and character are kicking in.
I acknowledge this monkey thing is just a crutch. I frequently use monkeys in stories I have to write in very tight turnarounds. Sometimes I use a monkey to get me typing on the first draft, then cut the creature out on the second pass. Monkeys aren't my only crutch, by the way, or even my most successful one. I've also discovered that scenes are much more fascinating if at least one person is naked. So, “Pentacle on His Forehead, Lizard on His Breath”-naked black magic. “To Know All Things That Are In The Earth”-naked angels. “Little Guilt Thing Going On”-naked preacher and naked demoness. “To the East a Bright Star”-protagonist rescues a naked woman. Bitterwood-naked people all over the first chapter, and not one of the dragons wears pants.

As far as sales go, I've earned more money from naked people than monkeys. It's not even close. I’ve also tried writing stories about naked monkeys, and they just never earn me a dime. Although, “Naked Monkeys” strikes me as a good title for a story. No one will be surprised if one day, I write it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Wow, 16 days without a post here. What can I say? I've been furiously typing away on the new novel, plus setting up multiple promotional events for Bitterwood. See the sidebar for a link to the dates and places. Also, I put my house on the market and have been tinkering with it, fixing a dozen small items. I had it professionally cleaned the the other day. I don't know what they did to the fixtures in the shower to make them shine like they do, but the first time I pulled the shower curtain back I wished I had been wearing sunglasses it was so bright. Also nice: Being able to sit on my couch in dark pants and not stand up covered in cat hair.

So far, the house has only had a few showings. I'm pretty sure my decision to sell caused the recent collapse of the mortgage market... that's just how these things go. Fortunately, this time I'm not under any real pressure to get out of the house quickly. If I have to wait things out until the housing market improves, I can. I have a feeling Hillsborough is going to really boom next year when the Weaver St. Market opens downtown.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This weekend I'll be a guest at Trinoccon in Raleigh.

Here's my schedule:

Fri. 6 PM, Ballroom I: MOD Age & Longevity in SF
Fri. 8 PM, Ballroom I: Meet the Guests
Sat. 11 AM, Oakwood: Reading (w/ Kessel)
Sat. noon, Ballroom I: MOD Politics in SF
Sat. 1 PM, Ballroom I: Religion/Spirituality in SF
Sat. 5 PM, Dealers: Signing (w/ Wold)Sun. noon,
Ballroom I: Building Bridges

I'm reading at the same time as GOH George R.R. Martin, so I may be playing to an empty room. Still, I'm anticipating it being a fun con. I'm on panels about politics AND religion. Chairs may be thrown. Good times.