Friday, November 30, 2012

Radovan & Jeggare Chronology Updated

Most of my recent work features Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard, Radovan. You can dive in at any point. While there is a "mythology" running through their adventures, each is basically a "monster of the week" episode, although there aren't always monsters, and the novellas and novels are more like mini-series.
Eric Belisle's depiction of
Radovan, from "Hell's Pawns."
©Paizo Publishing, LLC®.  

"A Lesson in Taxonomy."* While this is chronologically the first story, don't read it first. Read it after Prince of Wolves, or at least after "the Lost Pathfinder." Trust me on this. It's told from Varian's POV.

"Hell's Pawns." This novella originally appeared in the Council of Thieves Adventure Path. It's distinct from the other stories in that it's told only from Radovan's POV and in the present tense. It's the first story I wrote with "the boys."

"The Lost Pathfinder,"* The first installment of Paizo's free web   fiction feature. Each week there's another free story chapter, complete with a painting. You can also buy the older ones in ePub format for your library.

Prince of Wolves was the first Pathfinder Tales novel. Months after I wrote it, I realized just how many elements it has in common with Black Wolf. I won't spoil them for you here, but if you dug one, you'll probably dig the other.

"A Passage to Absalom"* is a mystery set aboard a sailing ship. It bridges the events of Prince of Wolves and "Husks." This one is told from Varian's POV.

"Husks" is another novella, this time from the Jade Regent Adventure Path. It's my homage to my favorite samurai and yakuza films.

Mathias Kollros created this gorgeous cover featuring

Count Jeggare.
©Paizo Publishing, LLC®. 
Master of Devils is my love letter to wuxia movies. If Prince of Wolves is "Indiana Jones in Transylvania," this one is "The boys vs. every Kung Fu Movie Ever."

"Killing Time"* is a nasty little tale set in Absalom, between the most recent two novels. It's not yet available in ePub format, but you can read it free like all the web fiction.

Queen of Thorns is the third Radovan & the Count novel, this time set in what Radovan calls "Elfland" and the count knows to be the elven nation of Kyonin. Even more than the previous novels, this one is inspired primarily by the Pathfinder setting rather than genre films.

* These stories are still available free at Paizo's web fiction page, along with many other stories.

The Next Big Thing

A few months ago, Steve Sullivan tagged me on this Next Big Thing meme. I started to answer but ended up busy and forgot about it after setting it aside “for just a day or two.”

More recently, Violette Malan did the same thing to me, I think as some sort of punishment. I don’t think I deserve it, but she strikes me as quite dangerous in her Spanish cape, so to be safe I guess I’d better follow through.

Originally I’d threatened to go rogue and rewrite the questions, but as it turns out I’ve struck out only one and left it visible, so you can see which it was.

Now I’m obligated to tag five more writers, but that’s where I will be disobedient. Link back to me if this looks like a fun exercise; otherwise, you’re free to go on living your life—perhaps to keep writing!

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

What is your working title of your book?
I’ve been asked not to reveal the title yet, but the previous volumes are Prince of Wolves, Master of Devils, and Queen of Thorns. If you’ve been paying attention and read the description, you’ve got a better-than-average chance of guessing it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Because the Pathfinder Tales line is still relatively young, we’re still experimenting with ways to attract different portions of the audience to the novels. I’ve felt for a while that the Pathfinder gamers weren’t showing up in droves, so I’ve been hoping for a chance to connect a novel more directly to one of Paizo’s Adventure Paths. That chance came with the announcement of the Wrath of the Righteous AP set in the Worldwound.

This novel takes place at the same time as the AP, and players of that adventure will gain a much fuller appreciation for the setting and the conflict around the Worldwound by reading the novel. Best of all, there are absolutely no spoilers for the novel in the AP and vice versa.

At the same time, readers who aren’t playing the game won’t notice any difference. It’s still a Radovan & the count novel whether or not you even know the game exists.

What genre does your book fall under?
All the Radovan & the count novels are sword & sorcery adventures with a healthy dose of humor and mayhem.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I recently answered this question in a Q&A at (check out the awesome desktop wallpaper with art by Mathias Kollros), but I love giving alternate answers. Jeremy Brett (of Sherlock Holmes) would make a splendid Count Jeggare, while Josh Holloway (Lost’s Sawyer) would be a terrific Radovan. For younger actors, I’d pick Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers’ Loki) and Chris Pine (the new James Kirk).

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Radovan and the Count go to Hell (well, the Abyss) on Earth.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How would you describe the Pathfinder Tales line?
One of the coolest things about the line is that every book is different, even moreso than in other tie-in lines. Of course part of that is because each author is an individual, but the line editor has allowed us a broader range of stylistic freedom than you often see in novels set in a shared world. Thus, books like Winter Witch and Plague of Shadows are a little closer to classical fantasy quests, while Death’s Heretic and City of the Fallen Sky have a more contemporary fantasy vibe.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ll let you know when I’m finished. I’ve written previous books of this length in anywhere from two to six months. This one will have been closer to two.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m probably too close to my own work to label it with direct influences, but I’d say the works of Leiber, Zelazny, and Asprin have all permanently altered the sword & sorcery portion of my brain in various ways.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Film and television often inspire my novels. For this one, I didn’t have any conscious cinematic influences, but I’ll be re-watching Band of Brothers and The Pacific as mood pieces as I continue writing. Ultimately, however, like Queen of Thorns, the influence for this novel comes almost entirely from the Pathfinder campaign setting and the background of the characters we’ve seen over the past few novels, novellas, and short stories.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
In Master of Devils I introduced a third, secondary POV character. This book also features a third POV character, but one who is equal to and completely different from the boys in ability and outlook. Those who’ve wanted to see Radovan and the count through different eyes will have that chance in this book.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Enjoy Black Friday from the Safety of Home

Paizo have launched their latest Black Friday sale, which lasts until Monday. Notable items include a fantastic deal on the first five Pathfinder Tales novels. Between that bundle and the discount on selected ePubs, you can start your own Pathfinder Tales library for a song.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Lion and the Aardvark hardcovers arrive

Long have I pined for hardcover publication. With the upcoming releases of Shotguns v. Cthulhu and The Lion and the Aardvark, I pine no more.

Along with two volumes of The New Hero, these handsome books mark an auspicious launch for Stone Skin Press.

Note: They're hoping for UK distribution before Christmas, North American next year. Those of us who backed the Kickstarter will get ours first.

You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down

Varian encounters an old frenemy in the library with the riffle scroll.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Queen of Thorns Events

Illustration by Carlos Villa
©2002–2012 Paizo Publishing, LLC®. 
The Reddit/fantasy chat went smashingly well. I would love to do that again in, oh, about six months and again in ten. What? No, no particular reason for that timing. I'd like to thank Steve Drew for making it so easy and fun, and Jaym Gates for setting it up.

Will Horner of Fantasist Enterprises asked me for a blog post, and here it is. I reference Queen of Thorns, but really it's about the difference between outliners and "pantsers."

Also, Paizo has unleashed the second chapter of "Killing Time." In it you can see how long it takes for Radovan to get into trouble when he goes for a walk. Also, you'll see some beautiful new artwork by Carlos Villa.

And just in case I've missed you with my shotgun blast of links, Mordicai Knode wrote the most flattering and comprehensive review of the Radovan and the count novels that I could wish for. Show it to everybody you know who hasn't already read the books.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy Humpday

In celebration of Wednesday, we've got two groovy Queen of Thorns events going on.

First, I'm taking questions and giving answers at my Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread at Reddit. If you participate, you have a chance to win one of several bundles of Pathfinder Tales ebooks or physical books. Come help make it a party!

Second, I'll join Perram and Ryan at the 50th episode celebration of Know Direction. It's LIVE, and I'm sure everyone will be drinking, so that's definitely a party.

For form's sake, yes, that's really me on this Reddit/fantasy thread.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Radovan & the Count: Sources of Inspiration

Rick Hellgeth asked me elsewhere about my influences in creating Count Jeggare and Radovan. These days I sometimes half-jokingly describe the boys in superhero terms: What if Batman teamed up with Wolverine? The truth is I’m most conscious of influences from movies, although certainly books and comics affect me as well.

Early on I described the boys as magic Holmes and Watson, but that was more an elevator pitch for James Sutter as I dusted off an unused outline and rewrote it for the novella “Hell’s Pawns.”  When I wrote the earlier outline I’d been re-viewing some of my favorite Hong Kong action movies. A recurring theme in those films is brotherhood between partners or rivals. So while I now joke about Radovan & the count as Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple, movies like A Better Tomorrow, Hardboiled, and Infernal Affairs were probably a stronger influence on their basic relationship.

Once James okayed the pitch, I made a few key changes to the characters to make them more firmly grounded in Golarion. The Radovan character originally had an Asian-influenced name, which James felt didn’t fit Cheliax. I perused the campaign guide and noticed that Ustalav was distant but not too distant from Cheliax. Later, renaming and relocating Radovan turned out to be a great choice.

Originally I planned to tell “Hell’s Pawns” from two alternating third-person points of view, but previous Pathfinder Chronicles had all been in first-person. Also, I’d been watching a lot of film noir in the months before I began writing, so Radovan’s tough-guy voice came first and easiest. Since I had a lot of story to tell in a relatively short space, I decided to make him the sole narrator. Later, I thought of Varian and Radovan less as Holmes & Watson and more as Holmes & Marlowe.

When James later wanted me to pitch a novel featuring the same character, Radovan’s Ustalavic roots made the decision for me. As a kid I was a fiend for what I then called “monster movies,” especially the Universal and Hammer films. Various Monster Manuals had made me a fan of non-European monsters, so I had to include a [SPOILER OMITTED] instead of the more traditional [SPOILER OMITTED] when Varian [SPOILER OMITTED] the [SPOILER OMITTED] [SPOILER OMITTED].

Movies continued to influence my writing. The more recent French thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf even had a noble/lowborn investigative pair, so it was a big stylistic influence on the first novel, and I was pleased to see how many readers recognized the influence.

By the time I outlined Master of Devils, I felt free to indulge another movie love: wuxia or kung fu movies. I also immediately thought of Barry Hughart’s brilliant Master Li and Number Ten Ox novels, but the real influence on my novel was about a hundred movies I re-watched or remembered loving over the past couple of decades. Count Jeggare is a little bit like the famous Judge Dee, a pulp fiction detective based on the historical character Di Renjie, recently portrayed in the wonderful Tsui Hark film Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

The original pitch for Queen of Thorns was “Aliens with elves.” The eventual novel departed drastically from the original concept, but if you squint you might see what I was going for: a team of highly competent individuals with conflicting agendas against an overwhelming horde of monsters. And that pitch had little effect on Radovan and the count; rather, clues dropped in earlier stories finally bring around big revelations about both the count’s and Radovan’s heritage.

As for the wise-cracking antiheroic bent of my characters, I have to credit Roger Zelazny whose novels more or less defined my taste in heroic fantasy, even after I’d come to love Howard, Tolkien, Leiber, Moorcock, and the other stars of my teenage years. It was in part because of Roger’s work that I became such a fan of Chandler, Hammet, and their contemporary descendants.

Ultimately, I can’t point to one source and say it was a principal influence on Radovan and the Count. Everything I’ve thought of along the way I used as shorthand to explain the basic relationship between Count Jeggare and Radovan to an editor or a potential reader.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Free New Story at Paizo

What do Count Jeggare and Radovan do between adventures? On the way back from Tian Xia they stop in at the Grand Lodge in Absalom, where each in his own way is "Killing Time."

Check out the gorgeous new artwork by Carlos Villa.