Rime is a wild mage. She can bend the very fabric of reality, but at a cost – a cost to her health and her sanity. Her power is unstoppable but it leaves her empty, weak, and often unconscious. Jonas is a squire on the run – running away from the shadow of murder. They travel together to find the one person that can save Rime from the wild magic, from the inexorable madness and death that comes to those who are born to ignore the rules of the universe. The Gray Witch of the Wheelbrake Marsh, a creature out of a fairy tale. The anti-epic fantasy, the nascent genre of SWORDPUNK: Fantasy Action A La Carte. Earnestly written in the shadow of Lieber and Moorcock. Love the book/ hate the book? www.spell-sword.com
The above passage is a book description on Amazon.com of my friend Derek’s new book. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a book description up on Amazon. I’ve known Derek for 13 years and the fact that he wrote a book doesn’t surprise me in the least. He needed to write a book. The world needed to hear his voice. Super-bright, ridiculously funny, and multi-talented, Derek lives in Athens, GA where he reigns with an iron fist. Or, something like that. Look for him over at his blog spell-sword.com and please consider purchasing his book. The dialogue is electric and it is such a fun read. I couldn’t wait to read more of his writing, so I asked him to answer 13 questions for FTTDWYW.
1. What is it like being a first-time author in 2013? Specifically, looking at things like ebooks, kickstarter, social media, all the ways in which you can expose people to your work that didn’t exist a few years ago?
It’s exciting and terrifying. We’re in the Wild West of Content Delivery —- traditional publishers are slowly grappling with the concept of digital product, and while they make their slow transfer to embracing it…the tools are all just laying around. I may not have access to a true copy editor, a marketing department, or an elaborate network of suppliers and distributors. But by the Winged Shoes of Hermes I can start a blog and write a snappy Facebook post. And now with services like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace there is absolutely nothing preventing me from banging on a keyboard for a while and unleashing my id upon the masses.
It’s liberating and empowering. There’s nothing stopping me from putting out a book.
The scary part is that many, many people have arrived at the same conclusion. And with our constant immersion in social media the hardest part is making it through all the background noise. Major brands, your mom’s church BBQ, that guy down the street making handmade moss bunnies — all vying for attention on the crowded screens of the populace.
For someone like me, who is self-publishing, I have to accept that this is going to be a long, frustrating process with little chance of success. Got to keep sending out the signal, and hope people pick up on it.
One advantage that the rise of the e-book has given me is that it’s much, much cheaper to take a chance on an unknown quantity. The Kindle version of Spell/Sword is only 2.99 – free to Amazon Prime members, and is completely DRM free. And absolutely anyone can go on Amazon and read the first couple of chapters using the See More function. It’s all about removing hurdles. SHAMELESS PLUG.
2. What exactly IS swordpunk? And, how does it differ from your traditional fantasy/sci-fi genres?
The short version? It’s a silly name for a silly idea. But it sounds good.
The medium version. I’m completely sated with epic fantasy. Every part of the genre is crammed with it, every writer’s iteration of Tolkien or Martin or Jordan. I love it, I’ve read it all my life, but I’ve had enough. I want to write fantasy that doesn’t take itself so seriously, that doesn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel.[‘No, no, no — I don’t have a wizard in my book. Mine are called Magodar’Sh!!! They’re very different.] And most importantly, doesn’t devote any more time than necessary to clogging up the story with backstory and extensive world-building. I just want to read about people punching dragons, not pass a history test about your imaginary version of Renaissance France.
Action, character, pie fights, poetry, impromptu elf ninjas, madness. Swordpunk.
The long version: What is Swordpunk?
3. You’re a big reader. Who have been some of your bigger influences?
Oh, mannnnn. For this nebulous idea of Swordpunk that I’m dancing around with mainly Fritz Leiber, author of the wonderfully insane Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.
For just really excellent writing in the fantasy genre – Pat Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynchl.
Influences far and wide – Stephen King, Jim Butcher, Neil Gaiman, Tycho Brahe [Penny Arcade], Truman Capote, William Faulkner.
So many more, so many more — The terror is I probably don’t even know who I’m copying.
4. Describe your writing space? Physically, meta-physically, or both.
Ha, most of the rough draft of Spell/Sword was banged out during breaks at work – my comfy island in Cubicle Land. But a fair amount got done on a laptop perched on our coffee table. Even a few major sections I wrote on my smartphone when the occasion demanded it.
I don’t believe in ritualizing art. You make it when you have time, every moment that you have time or it will never happen. And with that super-pompous pronouncement I will flounce off into the night wrapping my voluminous silk cloak around me.
5. Who would you cast in a movie version of Spell/Sword? We’re you thinking of anyone in particular when you wrote these characters? Or do you not want anyone to pre-conceive your characters before reading?
I would never presume to dictate to the reader what they should see. Jonas and Rime would be very difficult to cast true to the book, because neither of them are particularly attractive. I can see them very clearly in my head and I like to think through the wonders of Collective Unconscious that many readers will see the same thing, but only if I don’t pollute it too much with over-description.
But hey, if the money’s right…
6. If you had to describe Spell/Sword as a meal, how would that go?
You take a sip of your cherry limeade. The condensation slides down the side of the Mason jar, drops falling unnoticed on your favorite pair of slacks.
You know the ones. The ones that make you look good. The ones that are always comfortable. The ones that you wear when you feel like the Main Character of your world.
An extremely attractive person brings you a sandwich. Not just any sandwich. The Sandwich. It glistens with all the promise that Dagwood ever salivated over in four color glory. It looks like a TV Sandwich, like a fever dream of a Sandwich, like a Sandwich crafted in the Kitchen of Hephaestus then stolen by Zeus to stuff in his brown paper bag for a big day of philandering.
You take a bite. It’s not what you expect. It doesn’t have your favorite condiment, it’s some weird European thing. You consider putting the Sandwich down, but the lettuce is so crisp, the cheese so tart. You take another nibble, and realize that the bottom slice of bread is a little burnt.
Another bite. There’s really too much meat in this sandwich. Unless you’re a vegetarian, then there’s too much avocado. And why is the tomato slice blue? Who ever heard of a blue tomato?
You set the Sandwich down. Wait, holy shit. There are hot peppers on the Sandwich, tart and alive. And someone put your favorite chips on the plate. You smile and cram them under the top slice of bread for some extra crunch. You take another bite, another, another.
One bite left. You are sweating. Not with exertion, with emotion. This Sandwich means something, it means something to you. To your life, to the mistakes, the that song you keep trying to remember the second verse to, to the combination on your bike lock. You take a long swallow of cherry limeade and try to collect yourself.
The attractive person returns. They want to hang out later. But you know, only if you’re not busy. They have an old VHS of the ‘Deadly Mantis’ episode of MST3K and they think they can get their player to work if they jiggle the cable just right.
You smile, and go to take the last bite.
But it’s gone. You ate it and don’t remember. It’s gone and you don’t remember finishing.
It’s gone. You eat the last chip and sprout wings. Feathered wings, dragon wings, wings of steel and guitar wire. The attractive person is really impressed and immediately begins to paint your portrait on the side of a 1978 Chevy Astro Van.
7. In addition to being a writer, you are also an extremely active director and performer at Town & Gown in Athens, GA. How did your theater skillz affect your writing?
Well, I have some theories but their unverifiable until more people read the book.
I’d like to think that it gave me a better ear for dialogue, pacing for a scene, narrative structure in general. Only the readers can truly be the judge of that.
I do know that as a director I’m totally driven by the visual impact of a show — movement and color are my drugs of choice. Colors have meaning! COLORS. When you read the book, just start a running tally of how many times I draw attention to color as the dominant adjective.
8. First Pippin goes back to Broadway, and now August: Osage County is being made into a movie. These are both shows you have done within the last year. Co-incidence? Should this be taken as a prescient sign of your good tastes?
Also, I directed Jesus Christ Superstar last year, days before the remount on Broadway! I don’t know why New York keeps biting my style, but it must mean something.
9. Nerd cred: What is your thac0?
Did you just call me out? DID YOU?
Cue the Bulleted List.
Fully Certified Dungeon Master, specializing in Pathfinder. I’ve run several campaigns on the Obsidian Portal, one of which was honored as Campaign of the Month in 2011. Lodestar.
I’ve played Captain Hammer in a live production of ‘Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog’. I also wrote some new lyrics for it. In Latin.
As a young nerd I successfully submitted a story idea to Piers Anthony for his Xanth series, and my name can be found in the credits of Demons Don’t Dream.
I still have my Power Glove.
I will get in a screaming match with anyone who questions the quality of the cooking mini-game in Suikoden II
I’m secretly a member of the Shadeaux Bros. A grimdark pop duo who only releases Christmas Albums.
Always save Mog. The Golden Needle accessory is nice, but you get another one just a few hours later.
I’ve read the entire ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series — all the way through Rilla of Ingleside.
I have a long running, well-documented feud with Kevin Sorbo.
Neil Gaiman has a recurring dream where I fix him an omelet. This is especially impressive because he has no idea who I am.
I will never forgive DC Comics for what they did to Impulse.
I lost my virginity during an episode of Hamtaro.
10. What are you reading/listening to/watching right now?
I’m currently finishing up The Winter King by Bernard Cornwall. It is absolutely amazing stuff. Can’t recommend it highly enough to fans of the Arthur-mythos. Lyrical and dense and strange and funny and dark and wonderful.
I also just read the new Lemony Snicket, Who Could That Be At This Hour?. It is also the hotness. I have a huge mystery itch, so a clever, quirky noir mystery featuring Snicket’s tone and dry humor is right up my alley.
I’ve been consumed with editing over the last few weeks, so my reading intake has really dropped. I’m excited about having more time for it — find me on ‘teh Goodreads’ if you want to play along.
Awesome shows? Elementary, Breaking Bad, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, Twin Peaks, Bones and of course, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.
11. What do you want to see more of on FTTDWYW?
I really dig the recipes and various life hacks. Maybe some more games and time-wasters?
12. Are there any people to whom you would like to give a shout-out?
Oh, so many. Mike Groves/Poopbird for the amazing cover art. Margaret Poplin for the wonderful cover layout and design. The many amazing friends who held my hand and plowed through the early drafts, tearing away at the crap, the poor grammar, the shoddy, shoddy writing.
And a big shout out to anyone crazy enough to read Spell/Sword.
13. Is there anything else we should know?
If your car’s battery connections are corroded, a great way to clean them off is with Coca-Cola. It’s a low grade acid, perfect for stripping the contact points.