0 Jeff Salyards | Monthly Archive | February
Archive | February, 2014

Crossing the Streams

Ari Marmell invited me to be a part of “Crossing the Streams 2014,” a flippin’ huge, multi-author book giveaway! With streams! Crossed!

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I, and a whole bunch of other speculative fiction writers–mostly novelists, but some short story and comic writers as well–have thrown in together to create something huge for you guys. Some writers, like me, will have appropriated Ari’s message on his site almost word for word. Because, you know, lazy. Others will have put their own individual stamp and flair on it. Because, you know, overachievers.

But across the board, this is how it basically works:

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Each individual author involved is running a contest on his/her own site. The specific details vary from author to author; the contest I run on my site might be very different than the one on James’s site, or Gabrielle’s site.

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However, despite some contest differences, there are a few details in common. Specifically, each of us will select two winners from the contest on our own site. Each of those winners will receive one signed book, free, from the author whose contest they won. So, for instance, if you’re one of the winners here, you’ll win one of my books. If you’re a winner on Paul’s site, you’ll win one of his, etc.

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But… that’s just the appetizer. Once the contests have ended, all the authors involved will get together and choose one single “super-winner” from all the entries on all our sites combined. This one lucky individual will receive a signed book, free, from each and every one of the authors involved.

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Yep. Somebody out there’s going to win around twenty free books. Free and clear. No strings, no kickbacks, no takebacks. You just win a bunch of books. Which is all kinds of awesome. And who doesn’t want to be a “super winner”? No one, says I.

You can only enter each author’s contest once, but you may enter multiple contests. So you could enter here, on Matt’s site, on Betsy’s site, etc. Heck, you can enter on everyone’s site, if you want. (And even if you aren’t selected as the “super winner,” you might win more than one of the individual contests. You never know.)

You can find a complete list of the authors involved, as well as links to their sites, below. But first…

How to Enter Jeff’s Contest:

Again, these are just the rules for my contest. The rules for entry on other authors’ sites might be very different. And probably cooler. (See lazy, above.)

But for me, it’s really simple. All you have to do is e-mail me at Jeffsalyards[at]gmail[dot]com (Of course, not being a nefarious machine or some slippery spamming program, you already know to change [at] to “@” and [dot] to “.” right?)

Your entry must come via e-mail. No carrier pigeon, no broke college kid looking for a buck as a courier, no wax tablets. You must add “Crossing the Streams” in the subject line. If you forget to do this, there is a very real possibility I will completely miss your email and your chance to win will be dashed. Even if you include it, there is a small possibility that still could happen, but fail to include “Crossing the Streams” and you are almost guaranteed of missing out.

In the body of the e-mail, all you have to do is name a favorite fight scene from sci-fi or fantasy fiction, and tell me what makes it memorable or kick ass. You don’t need to  go into much detail when you explain. It can be a single sentence, if that’s all you want to write. Or, you can write a few paragraphs. Whichever you prefer.

I will select two winners. One will be chosen completely at random, so even if you don’t think your explanation is very interesting, don’t worry, you’re still in the running. The other winner will be chosen by completely subjective, arbitrary, and somewhat draconian fashion, based solely on who I think included the best brief explanation and whether or not I shared your taste in what makes a great fight scene. Neither selection will be influenced by gifts, flattery, or food. Maybe alcohol. No, scratch that, not even alcohol. I am a rock. I cannot be bought.

And of course, everyone who enters is also in the running for the random “super-winner” selection (I just like writing “super-winner”).

Entries must be received between February 19th and March 19th 2014.

And at least for me, that’s it. Really. :-)  Easy, no?

Prizes: My two winners, and the super-winner, may choose one of the following prizes:

Scourge of the Betrayer (hardcover) 

Veil of the Deserters (hardcover) (NOTE: this book will be released in June, so delivery of this prize, if chosen, will be delayed a bit, but you will get it, and while I’m of course biased, I think it might be worth the wait.)

If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to ask via my contact page.

The Rest of the Gang

As I said, there’s somewhere around twenty of us involved in this. You can find names, and links, here.

But do me a favor. If you click on over to one or more of these sites, don’t just look at the contest page, okay? Everyone involved in this contest is a great author or artist. If you like my stuff, you’re sure to like at least some of theirs. So take a few minutes,  poke around, check things out. See if any of their work intrigues you. Maybe even buy a couple of books. I know they’d all appreciate it, as I certainly would.

Thanks, and best of luck. :-)

I Don’t Always Give Art Notes, But When I Do. . .




I’m a pain in the ass. There’s really no getting around it. Sure, sometimes I’m polite or diplomatic, but still, in general, a pain in the ass.


When Night Shade Books was in the process of commissioning the cover art for Veil of the Deserters, they told me they wanted the scene to be dynamic, a contrast to the moody, atmospheric cover for Scourge of the Betrayer. And they asked me for suggestions about what might appear.


Mistakes were made.


I wasn’t expecting to be consulted a whole lot in the design process, or even at all really, maybe just given the chance to offer some token feedback after the roughs for the piece were done. So I really appreciated the chance to weigh in, and figured I better make the most of it. While I have wasted many an opportunity in my life, I wanted to be sure to make the most of this one, recognizing that it was unusual and might not come around very often. So while the publisher probably only wanted a quick thumbnail synopsis of an action scene from me, I probably convinced them never to solicit again because I supplied extensive (and I mean voluminous, ridiculously specific, and probably gratuitous) thoughts, suggestions, and reference material to illustrate what I was hoping to see. In short, I was a ridonkulous pain in the ass.


I always wanted the Bloodsounder’s Arc series to be fantasy with an almost historical fiction feel to it, especially as far as the arms, armor, and combat were concerned, which I wanted to be realistic and practical. Armor was really expensive stuff, and while there are plenty of instances where classical, medieval, or Renaissance-era combatants were poorly armed or wore whatever they could pillage or scrounge together after bashing someone else in the head, many elite combatants—cataphracts, Varangian guard, fyrdmen, Hospitallers, etc.—wore the best they could afford. Because armor, by and large, worked. It didn’t make you indestructible or even necessarily a tank on the battlefield, but it sure as hell beat a loin cloth or chainmail bikini. And the Veil cover art seemed an ideal place to reflect and capture what I was going for.


In my head, I always imagined the Syldoon armament being closer to Mamluke or Ottoman in style than anything Western European, with a lot of scale armor and lamellar, sometimes worn in conjunction with mail, sometimes standalone. The Syldoon are a standing army, and considered the preeminent soldiers in the land. So they ain’t wearing potato sacks. Since Braylar was going to be on the cover, I gave Michael C. Hayes (Mr. Artist Man) plenty of visuals that would sync up with the scene I had in mind from the book: A mail byrnie. . .



. .  . with a lamellar cuirass over the top. . .




. . . a helm with an aventail drape covering the face. . .


I also gave some pics of reenactors and western martial arts groups in the middle of sparring, showing how flexible and fluid a combatant could be, presuming the armor was tailored to him/her. That whole tired myth of a knight being overburdened and awkward, or worse, as helpless as an overturned turtle if he got knocked off his horse—had no place here. I wanted the mail to ripple and flow and shift the way it does in reality. Sinuous, snakey goodness. I wanted the combatants to have range of motion, and appear competent and deadly rather than restricted and clumsy. 


I also offered some pics of a bronze Scandinavian mace as inspiration for the Deserter God flail heads—I wanted the faces to be tormented or filled with rage, and essentially blind, since they have a ring of spikes where eyes would ordinarily be. Here’s a sketch of one such head.



It looks a little Bart Simpsonish, so I asked the artist to not only remove the eyes and add the spikes, but to make the faces intimidating, and as you can see on the cover above, they have attitude in spades.  

The Brunesman Braylar is fighting is armored more like a mid-14th century knight or sergeant. Again, I bombarded poor Michael with reference material. A coat of plates over a hauberk, spaulders on the shoulders, elbow cops, steel vambraces and gauntlets, and a bascinet-style helm.



And Braylar’s sister, Soffjian, is more unusual. She is a war Memoridon—something of a mage or psionicist, but armored enough to be in the mix if she needs to defend herself physically. Given her role, I wanted to visually differentiate her—I didn’t want her quite as well-armored as the other two on the cover, as she isn’t specifically a front line fighter, but I also wanted to avoid the chainmail bikini at all costs.  So in keeping with the less traditionally western European vibe, I gave some samples of Byzantine armor from various collections.



I know this still didn’t go quite far enough for some readers, who like to see their women combatants in full plate, but they can throw eggs at me rather than the artist. I probably should have specified that you’d need some clothing at the very east under a scale cuirass like that to prevent chafing, but otherwise, she appears pretty much as I hoped—wearing functional armor that would certainly help her out of a scrape, but not designed to wade into the front lines for any extended period of time. Her strength is the kickass memory magic she wields, though she does acquit herself really well in some fights in Veil–she is pretty badass, and has a nasty ranseur. . .   



Just in case the artist hadn’t thought I’d gone overboard, I even gave some samples from a Russian Olympic pole vaulter as inspiration for Soffjian’s look/expression/physique—muscular, but lean and athletic; attractive, but more haunting than inviting or seductive.     



Again, I assumed that after I compiled all these images and offered all these notes, the publisher or artist would nod, and then laugh and laugh as they disregarded all of it. But while Michael didn’t try to copy every single element, he caught exactly what I was going for and did a marvelous job (in my opinion anyway) or capturing the appearance and feel I was after, and then adding his own flourishes and wow factor. The level of detail, the movement, the energy of the cover art is pretty dang sweet.


And the designers who took the art and ran with it did a great job, too. Most of that work happened after Skyhorse took over the show, so I wasn’t sure how receptive they would be to a pain in the ass like me, but they also incorporated my notes as much as possible.


I know some writers end up really frustrated with their cover art or designs, so I feel pretty lucky that my publisher(s) not only invited me into the process, but didn’t immediately kick me out once it was clear I had a lot of ideas and suggestions, and that Michael did such a fantastic job using what I supplied and making it pop off the page.  

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