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Posts Tagged ‘two serpents rise’

How To Convince Your Friends to Read My Books

I’ve frequently had fans (I have fans!) tell me “I love your books but I have a hard time explaining them to people.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this!  My books aren’t much like what people picture in their minds when they think “fantasy novel.”  I have skyscrapers and deathless kings and law wizards and offshore banking and jet pack dragonflies and zombie field labor and water utilities and all sorts of crazy stuff.  I wrote the Craft Sequence in part because I had ideas I didn’t remember seeing before, and I wanted to get those ideas out of my head so they could nest in other peoples’ brains and remake all their gray matter into juicy gooey Idea Stuff, I mean, um, hold on a second, I wasn’t supposed to write that out loud, I’m sure I left my notes around here somewhere.

Whenever I hear a fan say that sentence, though, I get a touch nervous—because in publishing you hear over and over again that “word of mouth sells books.”  Word of mouth is only part of the story, of course: money spent on good marketing sells books, innovative approaches to distribution sell books, booksellers sell books, etc.  But word of mouth does, certainly, work.  Now, the Craft Sequence is selling well.  It’s just that, if readers have trouble explaining to people what this book they’re excited about is, it might be harder for them to convince other people who’d like the books to read them!

Fortunately, I’ve given a lot of thought to this issue.  Fact is, back when Three Parts Dead first hit stands I spent hours pacing back and forth debating what I’d say when someone asked, “what’s your book about?”  I have one-line pitches and thematic notes.  I can talk about my books in front of a room of people and walk out with them excited.

So, at the risk of sounding like a goof—and why should that phase me, I write books with wizards in them?—let me share the stuff I say.


Basic: I say some version of this sentence at least once in every panel: “The Craft Sequence books are set in a postindustrial fantasyland: gods with shareholders’ committees, necromancers in pinstriped suits, and soulstuff as currency.”

For Law, Finance, or Business People: “It’s your job, only with wizards.”

For Hardcore Genre People: “Phoenix Wright (or Wolfram & Hart, or whatever your favorite legal reference is) meets The Dragons of Babel.”

For People Who Communicate Solely in Hollywood-esuqe X-Meets-Y Elevator Pitches: “It’s LA Law with wizards.”  (Or “meets Harry Potter,” for those with a more severe case of the condition.)

For Magic: the Gathering people: “It’s what would happen if House Dimir controlled the Azorius Senate.”

For People Who Dig On Theory: “Late-millennial market capitalism envisioned as a soul-siphoning necrocracy.”

Bonus: io9 compared the books to secondary world cyberpunk fantasy, which is pretty damn cool.


So far, none of my books has had a straight white male protagonist; the lead in my most recent book is transgendered.  I’m writing a world here; it’d be a damn limited one if all my characters looked, spoke, screwed, and identified like me.


Three Parts Dead

Basic — “A junior associate at an international necromancy firm is hired to resurrect a dead god.”  (Bonus points: this is the pitch that actually found me an agent!)

For Law, Finance, or Business People: “It’s about bankruptcy law, only the entity in bankruptcy protection is a dead god, and the attorneys are necromancers.”

Two Serpents Rise

For people who’ve seen Chinatown: “Dammit, Jake, it’s fantasyland.”

For people who haven’t seen Chinatown: “A risk manager for an undead utilities magnate tracks down terrorists poisoning his city’s water.”

(Also, politely invite them to a screening of Chinatown, unless of course either of you has a moral objection to Roman Polanski.  And honestly, if your only exposure to California water issues is Chinatown, you owe it to yourself to read more.  The early chapters of Cadillac Desert are a good start.)

Full Fathom Five

Basic — “There’s this island where they build gods to order—but the gods are dying, and a priestess wants to find out why.”

For LFB people — “Offshore banking as a professional mystery cult.  Plus there’s a really funny bit in here about The Economist.”

For Theology and Philosophy people — “There’s a long argument about creation myths and existentialism in the heart of an extinct volcano during a break-in.”

Choice of the Deathless

Honestly, this one seems to take care of itself.  “Interactive necromantic legal thriller—you’re not the bad guy, you’re just his lawyer!”  In the form of a Lone Wolf-style interactive choose-your-own adventure.


I’ve written screenplay-format trailers for Two Serpents Rise and Full Fathom Five.  Maybe these will be helpful to you, maybe not!


The covers themselves are excellent: here’s Three Parts DeadTwo Serpents Rise, and Full Fathom Five.

So there you go!  I don’t know if this will be helpful at all.  Regardless, now the resource exists!  I may add to this over  time.

In other news—the Ghostbusters post escalated quickly!  Among other things, there was a great conversation about it over at Metafilter—including an excellent post by Charles Stross on Lovecraft.  Stross observes that my representation of Lovecraft’s worldview along Apollonian / Dionysian lines doesn’t include HPL’s materialistic shock as a writer working at the moment science revealed the world to be much bigger, older, and more complicated than we’d ever thought before.  Go check out that conversation.

Also, there’s a good chance I’ll be blogging more frequently over at Tor.com in the near future!  Never fear—I’ll not leave you in the lurch.  My Big Scheme is to post a little more multimedia content on this site as compensation, although I’m not sure what that would look like.

One Year behind the Keyboard

It’s been a TARDIS of a year: fast-moving, far-traveling, yet much bigger on the inside than I would have expected back in Jan of ’13.

Three Parts Dead came out a little over a year ago; I didn’t know what to expect, and like a genius started writing my next book the day before Three Parts Dead hit shelves.  Because Essays!  Travel!  Reviews!  and Airplanes! are all perfectly conducive to the germination of a novel.  I put fingers to keyboard, sure, but I threw out the first 20,000 words I wrote, and the next 20,000 too.  But the third 20,000—those stayed up.

Mostly.  I still deleted half of those and added another 10,000 or so, but the point is, they worked for a start.  The ensuing book was one of the hardest drafts of my life, but  eight revisions later, I think it’s the best book I’ve written yet.  Different, but then, so’s everything.

Meanwhile Three Parts Dead was very well received, for which thank you all.  The book was nominated (or got me nominated) for a few awards, including the John W. “NOT A HUGO” Campbell Award; I thought I’d been to cons before but there’s no con quite like WorldCon.  I can’t wait to go back this year.

(Three Parts Dead, by the way, is now $2.99 on various e-Book stores—if you’ve wanted a copy for the e-reader of your choice, no time like the present!)

So, yeah.  Tours.  Awards.  Two Serpents Rise hit shelves back in late October, and people seem to like it as much as Three Parts Dead.  Excellent.

In terms of creative productivity, last year I wrote a bunch of stuff:

  • The next Craft Sequence novel, Full Fathom Five, coming July 2014.
  • The Craft Sequence novel after that, which I’m tentatively calling Last First Snow—this one isn’t under contract from Tor yet, which is completely fair since they have two unpublished books of mine under contract.  But I’m really excited about Last First Snow, and can’t wait to share more of the plot with you.  It’s a return to Dresediel Lex, yes, but to the DL of the past.
  • Choice of the Deathless, a novel-length choose-your-own-path type text adventure game available for iOS, Android, the Kindle Store, the Chrome Store etc. etc.  Reviews for this one have been very positive, and the title’s been a bestseller for the publisher.  If you haven’t played this yet, it’s only $2.99—follow this link to find the game on your platform of your choice.

I also wrote a number of blog posts, including this one about how the humans of Star Wars are actually ginormous bees.  I even received threats of fanfic written in Giant Bee Star Wars Universe.  No such fanfic has materialized, but I go to sleep every night with my fingers crossed.

‘Tis the season to make long lists, so let’s talk standout artistic experiences from 2013.  (If you don’t really care what art I spent this year consuming, just skip to the bold text at the top of the next paragraph!)  I wrote a lot this year, which means I spent a lot of time listening to music, specifically stuff with beat and without intelligible lyrics.  Nomad, by Tuareg guitarist Bombino, was a huge help; I wrote an entire novel while listening to Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for The Fountain.  Not to mention the Pacific Rim soundtrack—perfect for fight scenes.  As for video games, 2013 was the year I became a Mass Effect-er (approved term?), and also the year in which I started forcing people to play through the first 20 minutes of Saints Row IV, because fun.  I played catchup on reading for much of 2013: Wolf Hall, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Witches Abroad, Bleeding Edge (in which Thomas Pynchon decides that Neal Stephenson’s been horning in on his territory enough and decides to horn back).  Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts is the Mongolian fantasy novel that I’m so glad exists , and I have no idea how I’d never read Barry Hugharty’s Bridge of Birds before.  Movies and TV…  Well, if I pretended I knew what I was talking about in this realm I’d look like an idiot.  I saw the first episode of Breaking Bad over Christmas?  Um.  Oh, and I loved Iron Man 3, in which Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Shane Black fused with A Long Kiss Goodnight Shane Black and absorbed some superhero DNA.  And The Raid, oh my god.  Comics-wise—if you like comics and you’re not reading Hawkeye and Saga and Chew, please, why?  Do you have a reason?  You should have a reason.

So that’s enough plugging.  Here comes 2014!  What does that mean for me?  A few convention appearances, on which more soon.  I’ve spent the last two days breaking story for a self-contained novel and am STOKED—both by the novel and by the breaking process.  After I write that book I have another Craft book in mind (really I have another 10 or so Craft books in mind, but one’s front-runner), and Choice of Games is interested in another game from me.  I have a comic project inching toward completion, and I really would like to try my hand at a screenplay this year, to stretch my legs.  With luck this’ll be a growth year for me.  I’d cross my fingers but they’re still crossed for Star Wars Bee fanfic.

And speaking of growth, I’ve been debating what to do on this site.  I’ve tried  many times to adopt a 3x or 5x/week posting regimen, and what tends to happen is: I start, I’m going strong for a week or three, and then I disappear for several months until I return for some crazy neat announcement.  This is a Bad Practice.  Not fair to y’all, really, and psychologically problematic for me, since I keep thinking “damn Gladstone you should post something to your blog” at inopportune times, like in the middle of a fencing bout, while cooking dinner, or—and this is the real killer—while I’m trying to write a book.  That ‘post’ button hangs overhead like the Sword of Damocles, which is not comfortmaking.  So here’s my plan.  This year, I’m going to post on my blog once a week.  Every Wednesday afternoon, I’ll have something here.  Might be a cool essay.  Might be an announcement.  Might be a video.  Might be a magic trick.  (Probably won’t be a magic trick.)  I’ll have ’em up noonish, so you can go watch the week’s Zero Punctuation, then drop on by.  That way you get stuff to read, and I can use this blog as an outlet for everything I think about that isn’t wizard-lawyer-related, while at the same time robbing the “Max you really should post something to your blog” gremlin of its guilt-ammo.  Gremlins are helpless without their ammo.

So that’s me, and that was 2013.  Awesome year.  Thanks to everyone who moved through it with me.  And—onward into the new era!

Choice of the Deathless—in time for Christmas!

UPDATE: The game is out!  Download it here!

Unlike MC Lars, I have not been touring everywhere  to give this world joy.  To the contrary, I’ve stayed put with my nose to the grindstone for joy-generation purposes.  It’s been a fun grind though and fortunately I have nose to spare.

Here’s why I’m excited: this Friday we launch  Choice of the Deathless, the Craft Sequence adventure game.  Take on the role of a young Craftswoman or Craftsman in Tara’s world!  Deal with demons!  Depose gods!  Make partner!  Pay off your student loans!  If you dare.


This is your chance to see how the undead half lives.  I mean, it is technically possible to make it through the game without becoming an undead skeleton wizard, but why on earth would you want to?  You might miss glandular emotion a little, but let’s be honest here.  Unstoppable law-lich or fleshy human being with a chance of achieving love and redemption?  I know which I’d choose.

Especially since skeletons can still drink coffee.

Some specifics: this is a text-based choose-your-own-path adventure of the “You wake up naked in a trackless desert with a hangover.  You: (a) hunt for water (b) arrange stones into the shape of an S.O.S. (c) Call upon the Dark Gods and sell your soul for passage to safety (d) wait can you run option c by me again?” variety.  Each choice you make affects your character’s statistics, which are then checked to determine success or failure.  Some of you may remember game books in the Lone Wolf style—this is sort of in that vein only with necromancer lawyers.

The game goes live Friday, and don’t worry, you’ll be hearing plenty about it from me on that day.  But I wanted to give y’all a heads-up.  If you want an email reminder, may I suggest my (very infrequently used) mailing list, or the more commonly updated but less Max-specific list over at Choice of Games?

Some other news:

  • For those of you who want a more Tabletop-friendly game experience, I have good news.  A couple weeks ago at Anonycon in Connecticut we ran a number of Craft Sequence tabletop games, in Dogs in the Vinyard, Fate, and D&D Next.  Excellent times were had by all.  I should have some system-agnostic information about how to game in the Craft Sequence soonish, once I figure out the best way to represent the Craft itself…
  • Tabitha of My Shelf Confessions loved Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise—and today she finally succeeded in tying me up for an interview.  Read our chat-slash-torture session over on My Shelf Confessions!
  • SIGNED BOOKS: If you want a signed copy of Three Parts Dead or Two Serpents Rise, but didn’t make it to any of the signings, you’re in luck!  I’m working with Porter Square Books to sign books by mail-order—order from them and we’ll make sure a signed copy gets your way!

That’s it for now—but I’ll be back in the near future.  I have more chaos to inflict.  I mean.  Um.  News!  News.  I have more news to… provide.  Possibly.  Also chaos.

Reddit AMA Today!

Friends and neighbors: do you have some question you desperately want answered about me, my books, or the universe in general?  Swing by Reddit today and ask me anything!

How it works:  Click here.  Then type a question in the box and hit ‘save.’  (If you don’t have a Reddit account, you may be prompted to create one.  It’s not a difficult process, and they require no personal information, so hah.)  The rest of the madness will take care of itself!


Dragons! Cities! Two Serpents Rise Giveaway!

Some things for you today:

  • On ThinkProgress, I write about how dragons are fractal representations of the fantasies in which they appear.  It makes sense in context.  Trust me.
  • Over on Bastard Books, I write about the uniqueness of cities in fantasy.  Also, Bastard’s giving away copies of Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise!
  • Reviews for Two Serpents Rise have started to appear in the wild!  Fantasy Book Critic had this to say: “I love how organically all of these issues work in the social and political framework, the characters, everything. I love that there are no taboos on sexual orientation or on having sex at all. The characters are all riveting, even when I don’t like them — I particularly loved the Red King, who is creepy as anything and completely amazing.
    All this and I haven’t even gotten around to mentioning the whole story is built around economics and the logistical realities of providing water to an urban settlement in the desert and the risks of water conflict — I challenge anyone who thinks fantasy doesn’t deal with reality and is purely about escapism to take a harder look at this one.
  • TOMORROW, I’ll be doing an AMA on r/Fantasy.  Come by the r/Fantasy website around 9pm Eastern Time.  Ask me questions!  Ask me any questions you can possibly imagine!
  • November 9 I’ll be signing at Enigma Books!
  • And, on November 14, I’ll be part of Wellesley Books’ Breakout Author Evening—so come by if you’re in the neighborhood and see me break out of things.  I think that’s how this works.

Two Serpents Rise All Around the Internet

We had a great time at the book launch Tuesday!



Plenty of volumes sold, and great questions asked, including “Will you show the rural side of the coin in these books?” (Yes) and “What creatures won’t we see in the Craft Sequence?” (Elves.)

I’ve been hosted liberally around the internet in the last few days, too!  Consider the following essays a peek behind the curtain.  You may never recover!

For the next week, I’m also guestblogging over at ThinkProgress!  So far my posts have included:

Because when life hands you a platform, why not use it to promote work you love?


As of today, TWO SERPENTS RISE, my next novel, is available wherever books are sold.  I’m a bit overwhelmed.

I spoke with Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress about the book, magical economics, the Craft Sequence, and other insanity—the interview ended up being really great, and you should check it out!

I also dropped by SF Signal to write about how “You got your fantasy in my science fiction!” and vice versa.

Books, Bones, and Buffy came out with a great early review of the book, which I’ll stick up on the wall with PW’s Starred Review, the review where Locus compares me to Tolkien, and the bit where the RT called it a “stellar, engaging read.”  Because this process is scary, y’all, and it helps to be reminded that some folks think I’m getting it right.

So why wait? Buy the book today on AmazonIndieBoundBarnes and Noble, or Powell’s, depending on your personal preference.  And if you want a bit of a teaser, I assembled this TWO SERPENTS RISE TEASER TRAILER SCRIPT, which if you read it should give you a decent movie trailer’s worth of an idea what you’re in for.

Thanks so much, everyone.  Happy reading!


Greetings human beings from Planet Getting Ready For Book Launch, where we spend our days listening to Vienna Teng and Cake as we prepare for our book to come out NEXT TUESDAY AAAAH.

I am compiling schemes with regard to the plans I mentioned yesterday for Two Serpents Rise giveaways—expect more on that when I’ve assembled a sufficient lead time on my various guestblog posts and interviews.  In the meantime, I thought I’d fill y’all in on signing plans for TWO SERPENTS RISE, and announce an awesome sale Tor’s running for the rest of the month.


  • Tuesday, October 29: LAUNCH PARTY at Pandemonium Books and Games, 4 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA, 7:00 PM!  Come say hello, have a pastry, hear me read, recommend me books, grill me about magic systems, discuss your favorite Star Wars theories, communicate with me in Hawkguy-creepy-Russian-speak (basically you just say bro a lot), have a great time!
  • Tuesday, November 5: Reddit AMA at r/fantasy!  I did one of these super question-and-answer sessions last year, and it was a blast.  I look forward to even more blasting.
  • Saturday, November 9: New York City Signing at Enigma Bookstore, 33-17 Crescent Street, Astoria, New York, 7:00 PM!  I am informed that Astoria is actually within New York City, even though it’s not within New York County, which—awesome!  I’ll be signing with some other folks here—Laura Ann Gilman and Hal Johnson—and we should have an excellent time.
  • Tuesday, November 19: Signing at Porter Square Books, 25 White Street, Cambridge, MA, 7:00 PM! Back in the habit, just like Sister Act 2.  Readings.  Signings.  Possible performance art!  Probably no performance art.  But still, not an event to miss.
  • December 6-8: Anonycon in Stamford, CT.  Last year we ran a game based in the Craft Sequence world.  This year, possibly more games?  Also I’ll be there writing and hanging out and signing books, so come and say hi!

More madness will transpire throughout the next several weeks, but those are the in-person and / or live highlights.  However!  You may be interested to know, in case you didn’t already, that in preparation for the TWO SERPENTS RISE launch, Tor Books has cut prices on THREE PARTS DEAD ebooks down to $2.99 for the rest of the month of October.  Always wanted an electronic copy?  Get one now!  Available wherever fine ebooks are sold!  For example, available on Barnes and Noble! iBookstore! Those Guys Named After The River!  Other places too, I’m sure.

Time to run, but rock on folks!

ComicCon Panel Today, Signing Tomorrow!

I’ve been an absentee blogger for the last couple weeks, I know, but it’s been for a good cause.  If all goes according to plan I’ll have an Exciting Announcement or two in a few weeks.

Today, I break radio silence because I want to fill you all in on my New York Comic Con schedule.  Read on!

Myth and Magic in the City

Today (Friday Oct. 11), 2:45PM, Room 1A17

Speakers: Anna Jarzab, Anton Strout, F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Hirsch, Max Gladstone (that’s me!), Benedict Jacka, Tonya Hurley

What’s the deal: Alternate histories, parallel worlds, mages and saints shape modern day fantasy and new legends in the making. Join Max Gladstone (Two Serpents Rise), Anna Jarzab (Tandem), Jeff Hirsch (The Eleventh Plague), Anton Strout (Stonecast), Benedict Jacka (Chosen) and Tonya Hurley (Precious Blood) as they discuss the art of writing Urban Fantasy with F. Paul Wilson (Dark City), one of the originals of the genre.

(This’ll be interesting!  Once again it looks like I’m on the borderline, with Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise both set in fantasyland circa late-millennial capitalism rather than in, say, Kansas City with fantasy elements.  Should make for a great discussion.)

Also today (Friday Oct. 11), 4PM, Autographing Table 21

Right after the UF panel, everyone runs over and signs books at Autographing Table 21!

TOMORROW (Saturday Oct. 12), 5PM, Tor Books, Booth #2223

SIGNING (AND FREE BOOKS!) With me, myself, and I.

Tor has copies of Three Parts Dead, and we should have a few early finished copies of Two Serpents Rise for giveaway.  Come by, say hello, and let me scribble on your stuff!

Okay, I need to eat breakfast and then run off to this madhouse convention, but rock on, team internet, and I’ll see you soon.

Cover Proofs for Two Serpents Rise Are In!

I just got the cover proofs of Two Serpents Rise, and check it out.

photo (14)

Here’s a detail of the cover, complete with quotes from Carrie Vaughn and All Things UF:

photo (15)

And here’s the back cover, full of nice things people (including Elizabeth Bear, Tina Connolly, Publishers Weekly, LibraryJournal, Strange Horizons, and io9) are saying about this book and the last one:

photo (16)

Feeling pretty good over here.  Oh yeah.