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.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Squidoo: The Dragon Age

I was contacted over the weekend by a fellow named Mike Moore who has created a Squidoo "lens" on my Dragon Age novels. I confess, I had never heard of Squidoo before. Apparently, it's a site where users can create articles around very specific and focused topics, called "lenses." It differs from wikipedia, I think, in being less rigid and encyclopedic in its approach.

Anyway, here's the link to Squidoo: The Dragon Age. Mike just posted an interview with my earlier today where I discuss my favorite characters from all three books, as well as give some insights as to my creative process, and reveal why the third book of the series may or may not bring peace to the middle east.


John Brown said...

Dragonforge was FAR superior to Bitterwood in my opinion. James, how common have you found this reaction? I found it interesting that how ever far superior it might have been for this reader, Bitterwood was good enough to make him buy book two. I find that a hopeful thing for writers. Or was it that your blasted monkeys wrote book two and he's the first to catch on?

John Brown said...

BTW, the italics are quotes from the squidoo article.

mikemoore1 said...

Hi John. Thanks for reading my lens. I thought I'd stop by James' blog and have a look. Actually, I bought both books at the same time. I read a lot, so I usually pick up one or two books from a series at a time. ometimes I don't even read the second book though, if the first one wasn't any good in my opinion.

James Maxey said...

Mike, thanks again for the lens. John, most of the feedback I've gotten has been that readers have enjoyed Dragonforge more than Bitterwood.

I have several theories why. The monkeys, as you note, were more involved in Dragonforge. In some ways it's a more playful book. Since I sold the book before I wrote it, I was free to let the wierder bits of my imagine roam, leading to funny little bits like the scene where Graxen is caught looking at dragon porn.

Second, Dragonforge has much better pacing than Bitterwood. The first book jumps around in time with events covering three decades. Dragonforge takes place in the span of a month or so.

Third, I think Dragonforge has better villians. The goddess is a far more menacing villian than Albekizan could hope to be. He had big teeth and sharp claws; she can command the very fabric of space. And Blasphet is mostly toothless in the first book. We see him kill a few people and dragons, but his body count is low. He really cuts loose in Dragonforge, showing that there's a reason other dragons whisper his name.

And, in contrast, the villians are up against better heroes. Bitterwood is all angsty and hateful in the first book, but I think he really comes to life for me as a character in the second book when he beats the fallen long-wyrm rider to death. We know in the first book that he's full of hate, but I think it's the second book where I really explore the price he pays in order to be an effective killer.

Jandra spends a lot of the first book running around and getting herself in danger, then having someone show up to rescue her. In Dragonforge, she gets to do the rescuing; she's stronger and more mature.

Pet is kind of annoying in the first book, but in the second book he loses everything that defines him--his luxuries, his charm, and his looks--and his false transition to hero in the first book is actually played out for real the second time around.

The new protagonists, like Graxen, Hex, and Burke are also more likeable than my original cast.

None of this is to say that Bitterwood wasn't still (in my humble opinion) a pretty good book. For instance, if I were a director looking to turn a book into a movie, I think that Bitterwood would be much better suited for this than Dragonforge. The story is more primal, and I think the slow unfolding of the mysteries of the setting gives the book a layer of intrigue that Dragonforge lacks, since the true origins of the world have already been revealed, or at least hinted at.

Finally, I think that Dragonseed, the third book, is even better than Dragonforge. I just have to wait a few more months to put this hunch to the test...

Mr. Cavin said...

Wow. I guess I disagree with nearly every single statement in this thread. I am a little surprised about that, too. I am especially surprised that you, James, seem to be advocating the superiority of the second book based on the waning centrism of the series.

Sure, the highs are higher, the teeth bigger, the evil eviler, the explosions hotter. Heck, the left is even lefter. But I like the characters when they are grayer, the events less polarized, the stakes more personal and intimate. There was nothing for me to relate to in the character of the goddess, not compared with Albekizan or Zanzeroth who could plainly be mistaken for the heroes of the first story--at least when they are, in turn, compared with the equally gray and possibly more amoral humans of the piece. I think the galvanization of these guys, plus the sequel-sized emboldening of all points thrilling, render the second book far more typical of the mainstream, well within comfortable expectations of mainstream fantasy readership, and therefore inferior to the first book. Not to ruffle any reader's feathers, mind.

I think this is a frequent problem with sequels, this trend toward polarization. But the real reason I like the first book better is this, since you asked: for Bitterwood, you wrote an eighty thousand word book that you then added thirty thousand more words to for publication. Those last thirty thousand words were texture, they built a fantasy world at the character POV and they enriched it. They ruminated about things not wholly concerned with the surgical application of a plot that was, admittedly, the bastard love child of Machiavelli and Goldberg. But for the second book, you rolled up your sleeves and you wrote a hundred twenty thousand word novel with a hundred twenty thousand word plot, and all that frivolous texture and world-building was subordinated to the practical considerations of getting from point A to point B. So, while Dragonforge is perhaps a more streamlined book, it is that much less wonderful to me. Because not only does it’s headlong momentum lack the whimsy of that extra texture, but since that texture is tantamount to a magician's patter, I tended to pay far more attention to what your hands were doing while you were telling me the second story.

Mr. Cavin said...

Oops. Readers: I find myself regretting my use of the word "inferior" after hitting send. So please mentally alter my terminology and tone to reflect that I consider the first novel better, rather than deploring the second as worser. Thanks. Love, Cavin.

James Maxey said...

Mr. Cavin, your points are good ones, and I sort of feel bad to express in print that I like one of my books more than another--it feels (I imagine) like picking which child is my favorite. The truth is, I don't believe that there is a single clear standard what constitutes a good book for everyone. All of my books have strengths and all have flaws. But, all were labors of love, and I'm proud of all of them, and feel that each is the sort of book that can and will be enjoyed by people who enjoy that sort of book, if that makes any sense.

Right now I'm hot for Dragonseed, but that makes sense, because it's the last book I finished. It's the one that most closely reflects my current tastes and thoughts. Bitterwood is full of stuff I was thinking about ten years ago. I'm a different person now than I was when I wrote it. Hell, I had a whole marriage/divorce cycle in between the writing and the selling, then fell in love again, and found out what it really felt like to have someone die while holding her hand. It's impossible for me to remain static; the 35 year old me would probably think Bitterwood was my best work. The 40 year old me thought it was Nobody Gets the Girl. 45 year old me likes Dragonseed. None of them are wrong.

The key reason any of my stuff works is that I just try to write a book I'd enjoy reading. (Deja vu... I was saying this on a completely different forum earlier.) There is no right or wrong way to like or dislike my writing. Read what you love, write what you love, and the world will just spin on, spin on, spin on.

(No substances were abused in the composition of this message.)

Mr. Cavin said...

Speaking of that other forum (and RE: the next post)--bravo to me and my impeccable deja vu that I've managed to chime-in with criticism at the same time you were actively and tastefully fielding something with at least surface similarity elsewhere.

Sorry to have been a coincidence in this way.

(I think today's word verification was particularly fine: dentally.)

Izgad said...

"Mike just posted an interview with my earlier today"