0 Jeff Salyards | Monthly Archive | January
Archive | January, 2013

Unveil the Veil! Or Something!

OK, it’s time to unveil the cover art for Book 2, Veil of the Deserters. (Wow. That was so bad I’m going to keep it).

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I’ve had to keep this under wraps until I got publisher approval. And it was hard. Really hard. Because, frankly, I think this is splendiferous. Uber-awesome. Kickass. Insert other excessive adjective for overexcited celebratory crazy talk here. And I just wanted to share it soooo badly. The book itself won’t be out until the fall/winter, but it feels really good to finally reveal this bad boy.

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When Night Shade told me they were going to use a different artist for the second book, I was a little nervous. OK, a lot nervous. But they assured me that Michael C. Hayes was rock solid, and when I visited his site, I had to agree, though being neurotic, I was still a mite uneasy. And this didn’t disappear at all when Night Shade said they wanted this cover art to be a contrast to the first one. I liked the first one. It was moody and evocative and atmospheric. And cool. But then they said some magic words: “action”; “dynamic”; “fight scene”; and “input.”

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This last one was big. Typically, writers don’t get a lot of say in the cover art unless they are self-publishing or have last names like McBigshot. But Night Shade Books invited me to give some synopses from some heavy-hitting scenes in the book, and any other notes I wanted to add.

Mistakes were made. They really should have been more specific with their invitation.

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I described what Braylar, his sister, Soffjian, and Braylar’s opponent should be wearing and using in excruciating detail. Including tons (and still more tons) of reference pieces—photos from museums, sample images of various coats of plates, ranseurs, some Norwegian mace heads that were carved to resemble demonic faces, lamellar armor, Byzantine scale armor, the way mail isn’t opaque and allows light and shadow through, and rustles during movement. I included the caveat that, yes, it’s fantasy, not historical fiction, but I really tried to capture some realism in the combat scenes in the books, and most covers fail woefully in this regard, and have impractical armor that would be impossible to move in or offer no protection whatsoever. I argued that real armor could be attractive and eye-catching, even if it predated full on plate with all the artistic flourishes, and sent a ridiculous number of images to prove my case. Sure, maybe only purists will notice or care about some of these details, but it was important to me, so I described it in triplicate.

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And above all, I stressed about 33 times that Soffjian, while attractive, should absolutely NOT be cheesecake—no cleavage, no mail bikinis, no overt objectification. Her armor needed to be functional, and she needed to look athletic, proficient, dangerous, and no less badass than her brother.

Which is to say, I made a total nuisance of myself, and fully expected the publisher and artist to nod, smile politely, and ignore the hell out of me, all the while thinking, “Who the hell is this jackass? And why did anyone ask him what he thought in the first place?!”

But I was stunned and pleasantly surprised—they not only listened, but the artist totally nailed it. The whole thing. The colors, the way everything pops, the movement. And I’m so impressed with the level of detail Michael achieved I can barely put it in words—it’s phenomenal. . . the sleeves and aventail shifting and flowing, the tassel on Soffjian’s ranseur, Braylar’s splinted vambraces, the siblings’ matching long dagger/short sword (a staple of Syldoon and Memoridon armament). And on and on. He used plenty of what I sent as inspiration, and was truly inspired.

Yep, I’m biased, but I think it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s almost a shame we have to put a title and author name on there. Almost.

Get Off My Lawn!!

Today is my birthday (along with Elvis, David Bowie, Soupy Sales, R. Kelly, Shirley Bassey, Stephen Hawking, and my Grandma. That’s a lot of big hitters. Especially Grandma. She was a 6’ German woman—you didn’t mess around with her).

So, since my birthday comes right after a new year kicks off, this usually prompts me to get all deep and reflective about the last year or two that just passed and to plot the course ahead. Or drink egg nog that’s expired, gripe about my feeble mortality and impending doom, and scream at neighbor kids to get off my lawn.

This time two years ago, I’d been agent hunting for seven or eight months and exhausted more than three-quarters of my dream list. Based on feedback I’d gotten from a number of agents who requested and read the full manuscript, I was at a crossroads—make some significant revisions, or plow ahead querying with the manuscript as it was and let the chips fall. I’d already been working on and off on the thing for a decade, so I was pretty much burnt out. But my gut told me that given that the agents were echoing each other quite a bit (and were allegedly professionals who knew what acquiring editors were likely to pony up for), it was probably smart to reevaluate, make some pretty big changes, and then query the remainder of my list.

I tried talking myself out of this. More than once. It was going to require some big cuts and rewrites. Painful. Lots of dead darlings. Whole villages. Maybe an unincorporated city. It was going to make my eyes bleed. But I grudgingly admitted it was necessary. Or felt necessary. So I gritted my teeth and got to it.

And I’m glad I did, because almost immediately after finishing the revisions and sending a handful of queries out, I got a couple of offers from agents. After long conversations with both and some serious consideration, I chose Michael Harriot. Good choice. A few months later, we had an offer on the table from Night Shade Books. And last May, a leaner, meaner, tweener Scourge of the Betrayer hit the shelves.

I knew the book wouldn’t be for everyone, but initial reviews were generally positive. And in the tail end of 2012 and first week of 2013, I was stunned and thrilled (and you haven’t seen thrilled until you’ve seen a 6’4”, 225# bald guy jumping up and down like a 6-year-old on a Halloween candy bender) to see Scourge pop up on a good number of year-end lists:

Elitist Book Reviews: The Best of 2012
Barnes & Noble: The Best Fantasy of 2012
Battle Hymns: 2012 Books of the Year
A Fantasy Reader: Best New Author/Fantasy Debut of 2012
Fantastical Librarian: Favorite Debuts of 2012
Beauty in Ruins: Best of 2012 (Honorable Mention)
Bookish Mafia: Best Debut of 2012 and Best Fantasy of 2012
Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews: Highlights of 2012
Sense of Wonder: Top 5 Novels of 2012 (Honorable Mention)
Fantasy Book Critic: Top 10 Debuts of 2012
WordTipping: Favorite Reads of 2012
Only the Best of Science Fiction & Fantasy: Top 10 Releases of 2012 (Honorable Mention)
Courtney Schafer (Blog): Favorite Books Read in 2012

Now, I know this is totally subjective. And for everyone who loved the book or was intrigued enough to want to see Book 2 and to include it on a year-end list, there was someone out there who hated the thing and used the pages to line his ferret cage or wipe his ass (note: I hope he got paper cuts. The human, not the ferret.). But still, it’s more rewarding than I can say that some reviewers out there thought enough of Scourge to add it with the main entries or as an honorable mention. And it’s humbling to appear next to the likes of Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, Brent Weeks, N.K. Jemisin, Mark Lawrence, Stina Leicht, Saladin Ahmed, Myke Cole, Bradley E. Beaulieu, Courtney Schafer, John R. Fultz, Tim Marquitz, or Howard Andrew Jones. Even briefly. Seriously, those are some fantastic writers.

But even if making a cameo on some lists like that is validating or gives me the warm fuzzies, I know the book could have been better, tighter, richer. And the goal is to one up it with Veil of the Deserters. I want to make every 5-star review shine brighter, and convince everyone who gave Scourge 3 or 4 stars that it’s worthy or going up the scale for the sequel.

So, that’s what I’m shooting for in 2013. Submitting the manuscript for Veil of the Deserters in July (Crom willing), and seeing it come out in the tail end of the year. The book’s kicking my ass now. I really hope it kicks yours later.

Hugo Boss?

It’s award season. Red carpets. Plunging necklines. Sparkly pumps. Posh tuxedos. Up dos, down dos, Sumerian weaves. All kinds of glitz and glam and nuttiness. And, of course, the Hugos and John W. Campbell awards. For those unfamiliar with how things work over there, check out the Hugo Awards 2013 site for more info.

I always feel a little funny doing the promotional thing, sort of like a snake oil sales guy. But in this day and age, if authors don’t pimp themselves on occasion, there aren’t too many other folks who will step up to the plate. Well, there’s Aunt Bathsheeba. But we try to keep her under wraps as much as possible. Like, seriously hidden and restrained. But she is surprisingly wiry and strong, and sometimes gets out in the world to make mischief. I digress. The point is, I’ve got to beat the drum myself here. So, here are the awards I’m eligible for (or someone who worked on Scourge of the Betrayer could be up for):

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Yours truly (Note: this is not a Hugo award, exactly, but the nomination process is remarkably similar, and the form is part and parcel with the Hugo, available on the, you guessed it, Hugo page.)

Best Novel: Scourge of the Betrayer

Best Editor, Long Form: Ross E. Lockhart

Best Professional Artist: J.K. Woodward

And I’m also shamelessly ripping off (ahem, “judiciously appropriating”) Bradley P. Beaulieu’s idea here (it’s ok—he’s plotting to steal my mojo), but if you’re eligible to vote, and you’d like your very own voter copy of Scourge of the Betrayer, please email me (see contact page) with proof of eligibility (your name on the attendee list for WorldCon 2012, 2013, or 2014, the email confirmation or receipt for your membership, etc.) and I’ll be delighted to send you a copy of the book in the format of your choice (PDF, EPUB, or MOBI). Well, not papyrus. Or human skin. So, not any format, and not even any electronic one, but the three I listed. What do you want, it’s free?

Anyway, whether you take me up on that or not, if you are eligible, vote! This country is going to hell in a hand basket, and voter apathy is part of the problem. Don’t be part of the problem.

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