Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Feast #153

Describe a toy you remember from your childhood.

I was obsessed with G.I. Joes. Had at least 20 and played with them for hours on end.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest) how observant are you?

If I set my mind to it, I'm a strong 9. After all, I was a journalist for 25 years. But I can get lazy and fall to a 6 or so, if I'm not careful.

Where would you rather be at this very moment?

I would rather be on an expensive cruise in the Caribbean with just my wife -- while my kids remained at home with a dependable babysitter.

Main Course
When was the last time you learned something new?

I learn something new every time I write, which is every day.

Fill in the blank: I have ____________ but I haven’t ____________.

I have a bright future as a novelist, but I haven't made it yet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On Oct. 27, St. Pete ... here I come!

I received exciting news tonight via email. I have been invited to speak and do a book signing at the prestigious Times Festival of Reading in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Oct. 27, 2007. I lived in St. Petersburg for more than 40 years and worked at the St. Petersburg Times for 25, so I'm no stranger to the area.

The nationally acclaimed festival attracts more than 15,000 book lovers, and each author typically speaks for 25-30 minutes. This is followed up by a Q and A session and then a book signing.

A lot of big-name authors attend this event, so this is huge for me as a debut novelist. If you're going to be in St. Pete on that Saturday, please drop by and say hello!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The proofs are here

Rain has sent me the proofs, at least a week earlier than promised. I'm looking at them now. This is fun! And I should be seeing the cover by the end of the week. Tick ... tick ... tick ... It won't be long now.

Killer cat update

For those of you who have been following the tale of the killer feral tomcat that's been attacking our cat Woody (and breaking into our house in the middle of the night), I have news ... potentially, big news. After at least a month of no recorded attacks, my cat was chased into our house by the beast just after dusk last night. An hour or so later, I put out my shiny Ace Hardware animal trap baited with a fresh can of tuna and then went back inside to continue my editing of Book Five. When I checked back on the trap around midnight, I amazingly found a scraggly tomcat locked inside.

My wife and I are 90 percent certain that we've caught the culprit. The only thing that confused us was that he was quite calm in the trap, not the snarling monster we have battled (while in our underwear) in the past. This morning, we took him to our local humane society, where we were told that he appeared to be diseased. Despite all the trauma this cat has caused our family, it still was sad to leave him there. His future isn't bright, to say the least.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It won't be long now

For me, the long wait (though in the world of publishing, very short wait) is almost over. The editing is completed on Book One, and it is scheduled to go to the printer the first week of August. I'll be seeing a cover and proofs soon. Then, if all goes as planned, Book One should be available on schedule in early September.

As my wife will tell you, I'm not always the most patient person in the world. The only thing that's kept me sane is that I'm still working so hard on the editing of the series. I'm 100 percent finished with Books 1-4 and have written the first drafts of 5 and 6, but the last two books still have a total of 12-15 weeks of editing/revising to go. If this were a marathon, I'd just be hitting Mile 24. (Somebody give me some water!)

More to come!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What are you reading?

Here are the last five books I've read or re-read: Midnight Tides, Steven Erikson (four stars); Word Wars, Chris Stevenson (five stars); Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (three stars); The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (five stars); The Children of Hurin, Christopher Tolkien (two stars).

Here are the next five books I own and am planning on reading: The Bonehunters, Steven Erikson; Flight of the Nighthawks (Book One), Raymond E. Feist; Song for the Basilisk, Patricia A. McKillip; Dragon Bones, Patricia Briggs; Sword in the Storm (Book One), David Gemmell.

Anyone else care to share? Five or less is fine! Also, I'd love to hear comments on any of the above books, good or bad.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Magic, magic ... everywhere

I'm not sure what percentage of all readers enjoys fantasy, but it's obvious that there is an entrenched community of fantasy lovers out there. Within that community, there is even more segmentation. Some prefer Harry Potter, others George R.R. Martin. Some prefer G-rated fairy tales, others R-rated violence and sex. Some like things realistic and/or gritty, with just a tantalizing hint of magic; others want magic bursting off every page, almost as if the book were on fire.

Depending on my mood, I can enjoy reading all of the above, but there's no doubt that I lean heavily toward series in which magic and descriptions thereof play a varied and vital role. This is the main reason that Steven Erikson is one of my favorites. Overt displays of magic are everywhere in his imaginative series. And I love it!

The same goes for The Death Wizard Chronicles. Though soldiers, weapons, and armor play a role in the power struggle between good and evil, it is magic that is by far the overriding factor, and it is magic that makes one side more dangerous than the other.

If it's to be interesting and the least bit believable, magic needs a source. You can't just have people walking around bursting with magic, for no reason. My series delves deeply into the sources of magic, which in my world are paradoxically symbolic. The sorcerer who is attempting to rule all in Hitler-istic fashion is termed Akkinitha, which in the ancient language means Highest Power. Through long and detailed explanation, Invictus derives his powers from sunlight. Stars are the creators of all life, in terms of the elements that make up our physical forms. As the late Carl Sagan liked to say, "We are all made of starstuff."

On the other hand, Torg, the wizard who battles Invictus, derives his powers from death. Torg is called a Death-Knower, because he is able -- through intense concentrative meditation -- to commit a sort of temporary suicide, whereupon he feeds on death energy. This creates a paradox: The major symbol of life is evil, while the major symbol of death is good. Herein lies the crux of the series.

Throughout The DW Chronicles, which is 2,700 pages long in 12-pt. double-spaced Times New Roman, magic is abundant, and each magical creature has its own source that, of course, is symbolically interconnected to the life/death paradox. But even if you don't get or even care about the symbolic elements, the series still is a fun read, especially if you like books that are packed with action, violence, and ... okay, I admit it ... high-octane sex. My wife keeps blushing as she reads my sex scenes, which amazes me. When you're writing about sex, it's not the least bit of a turn-on. But, as we all know, words are powerful.

In closing, here is a passage from book one (The Pit):

With one final surge of mindful concentration, Torg willed his heartbeat to stop. When Kasina finally arrived, his temporary suicide began. What the wizard experienced next happens to all that ever live — from the simplest bacterium to the most complex animal.

And that is what made Torg so special.

Only a Death-Knower can know death.

And survive.

Only a Death-Knower can return from death.

And remember.

Only a Death-Knower can tell us what he has seen.

Not all care to listen.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Taking the fun out of it

Man, publishing a book or a series of books is not all fun and games. For every person out there willing to congratulate you, there's another who's quick to tell you that your books are no good, or your agent's no good, or your publisher's no good ... or some combination of all three. Then if you respond, they (figuratively) raise their arms, roll their eyes, and accuse you of having a thin skin. They do all this under the guise of wanting to help you and others like you, but I'm not so convinced that's their true intent

Regardless of their intent, it takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. I guess that does mean that I have a thin skin.

Sorry, this is just a bad day. I know that most people have problems far worse than this. But even a blog can be a little depressing now and then, huh?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Will all the hard work pay off?

With help from friends such as Chris Stevenson and Bob Andelman, I have been doing my best to create online interest for my fantasy series. This involves spending a lot of time doing interviews, posting on writers sites such as AW, blogging, and otherwise spreading the word as many ways as humanly (or maybe I should say, computer-ly) possible. Any of you who has done the same knows what I'm talking about. For the most part it's fun and you meet a lot of intelligent people, but it is very time consuming -- as in, the more you do it, the less you write.

Unless you've signed with a major publisher that has its own built-in mega-marketing machine, self-promoting is an integral part of the game. But the writer walks a fine line between building interest and becoming annoying. I'm doing my best to stay away from the annoying part, but I doubt I've been entirely successful. If I've already turned anyone off, I apologize.

What will be the end result of all this? I'll begin to find out in September when Book One makes its debut. Until then, I can only hope for the best -- and continue to work my ass off.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Length matters

Depending on the editing process, my six-book series will publish somewhere between 700,000 and 750,000 words. Considering that the average novel is around 90,000 words, you can see that my series is quite long.

However, when compared to what's really popular today in the fantasy genre, The DW Chronicles is more like a novella. Check this out:

Steven Erikson is through Book Seven of his highly popular Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I don't have any official numbers, but I can guesstimate that Erikson already has surpassed two millions words -- and he still has at least three books to go!

George R.R. Martin's megahit series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is published through Book Four and already is well past a million words, and Martin is showing no signs of winding things up.

Stephen Donaldson's third and final Thomas Covenant series will be four books long, with each book in the 250,000 range.

And those are just three quick examples. So, it appears that readers of fantasy like things long. I might need to go in and add a few hundred thousand words just to stay in the ballgame!

-- Jim


The Death Wizard Chronicles is a sexy, action-packed six-book epic fantasy series: Book One (Forged by Death), Book Two (Chained by Fear), Book Three (Eve of War), Book Four (World on Fire), Book Five (Sun God), Book Six (Death-Know).

The DW Chronicles is not for children and teenagers -- or the faint of heart. But if you like graphic fantasy that is bursting with excitement yet still has a lot going on between the lines, I think you'll love my series.

In a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative -- death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken will take your breath away.

In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a "temporary suicide." Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath with incestuous cravings.

Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The DW Chronicles carries readers on a journey they will never forget.

Do you fear death? The Death Wizard does not. Find out why.

-- Please go to for more details.

About Me

My photo
Clemson, SC, United States
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. I now live in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and I currently work at the Charlotte Observer. I am married with five daughters.

The author

The author
Jim Melvin, a veteran journalist, debuts as novelist.