Welcome to the website of Jonathan Moeller!
If you are looking for the order of my series books, click on the Read More link!
Welcome to the website of Jonathan Moeller!
If you are looking for the order of my series books, click on the Read More link!
I’ve been half-heartedly experimenting with print books over the last year, and I now have eight books available in print. (DEMONSOULED, SOUL OF TYRANTS, SOUL OF SWORDS, CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, GHOST IN THE FLAMES, GHOST IN THE ASHES, GHOST IN THE MASK, and FROSTBORN: THE GRAY KNIGHT.) They tend to sell only a few copies a month, so I haven’t paid close attention to them.
But in December they’ve had a big sales spike. The logical conclusion is that people are buying them as Christmas gifts. Which is so nice! That means someone liked the book enough to give it to someone else. That doesn’t happen every day.
So, thank you, holiday gift shoppers! (Instead of thinking of the ebook version and the print version, I may have to think in terms of the “ebook version” and the “holiday gift version.”)
This week’s Free Fiction Tuesday story is actually two shorter stories bundled as one!
Featuring two short stories, KNIGHTS’ QUEST shows how far two men are willing to go to complete their quests.
In CRAVINGS, a knight undertakes a daring and bold quest for the sake of his wife, braving tremendous perils and dangers.
In CREATIVE PROCESS, an artist needs inspiration to create a masterwork – and exposes himself to tremendous dangers in a strange and twisted world.
I’ve been making good progress on GHOST IN THE SURGE. So let’s have a look at the Table of Contents!
Chapter 1 – The Lord Governor’s Ball
Chapter 2 – Disciple of the Moroaica
Chapter 3 – The Champion and the Gladiator
Chapter 4 – To End The War
Chapter 5 – Death Warrant
Chapter 6 – Puppets
Chapter 7 – The Renegade
Chapter 8 – A Dead Heart
Chapter 9 – A Mask of Scars
Chapter 10 – The Lord Ambassador
Chapter 11 – The Venatorii
Chapter 12 – The Great Work
Chapter 13 – Voyage
Chapter 14 – New Kyre
Chapter 15 – A Mask of Gold
Chapter 16 – Dark Dreams
Chapter 17 – A Mask of Mirrors
Chapter 18 – A World Reborn
Chapter 19 – Balarigar
Chapter 20 – The Golden Dead
Chapter 21 – The Gate of Hell
Chapter 22 – The Netherworld
Chapter 23 – They Shall Pay For What They Have Done
Chapter 24 – Father and Daughter
Chapter 25 – Storm
Chapter 26 – If Not For Her
Chapter 27 – Closed Circle
If you haven’t signed up for my new release newsletter yet, this is a great time to do it – I’m giving away a story for free to newsletter subscribers!
It’s fun to do, and a good chance for the writers to talk about themselves and their work. This week’s interview is with Steve Chapman.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m an engineer by training and a publisher of technical nonfiction by profession. I live with my wife and daughter at the New Jersey shore, and when I’m not commuting in and out of Manhattan I write fiction.
Tell us about your S&S 28 story.
”The Vine Princess” is my fourth S&S story about the trouble-prone Princess Shada of St. Navarre. This time around Shada’s pursuit of a dangerous assassin leads her to inadvertently conjure a murderous doppelganger – who seems rather better at being a Princess of St. Navarre than Shada ever has been.
Can you share an excerpt from your story?
She was staring at herself.
This second Shada wore an emerald-studded dress the color of her eyes. Her hair, brushed out and radiantly blond, fell perfectly to her shoulders. A necklace of violet gemstones encircled her throat. She was beautiful.
Shada stood frozen, as if in a dream. She felt a punishing wistfulness, like she was looking at something wonderful that had been hers, but she’d long ago mislaid.
Five young soldiers, joking and laughing, vied for her double’s attention. Shada knew all of them vaguely. They seemed to be having such a good time.
And if you see yourself, run.
This doppelganger had nothing to do with deGroat. Shada had created it herself, by staying too long in the Passages. It had tried to murder her and now it had taken her place.
A mixture of fear and anger rose like bile in her throat. She was going to make this creature terribly sorry it had chosen her for its game.
Bells chimed. Four soldiers headed through the opposite door, her double following. One boy remained. She tried to remember his name. Westin Charles.
She let the others depart then slipped inside. “Westin.”
“Princess?” He blinked in the direction her double had left.
She drew him away from the door, feeling acutely aware of what a mess she looked. “How long have I been acting strangely?”
“Strangely?” His gaze took in her clothes, her hair. “What happened?”
“The girl you were flirting with tried to kill me,” Shada said. “How long have I been dressing like my sister?”
Westin stared into her eyes. It was inappropriate and unnerving but she needed an answer.
“Since the Solstice Blessing.”
The vine girl had taken over Shada’s life for a fortnight and no one had noticed.
“It’s a changeling from the Passages,” she said. “Pretending to be me.”
“Princess Shada.” Westin looked at her too intently. “Forgive me, but how am I to know that she, rather than you, is the imposter?”
Shada registered this like a punch to the throat. “She’s that convincing?”
“Ask me about things we’ve done together.”
“She knows all that. We were joking yesterday about last year’s tournaments.”
Shada felt a new sort of fear, a fist of ice at the base of her spine. The vine girl had her memories as well as her aspect?
But Westin believed her, Shada realized, and then she understood why. “You like her.” Her laugh sounded like a sob. “You never liked me. That’s the difference.”
Would you say fantasy needs to reflect real life, or offer an escape from it?
Good fantasy provides the frission of coming at the things we fear or yearn for from an oblique angle. By making metaphors literal fantasy can dig beneath the surface of real life in unexpected – and pleasurable – ways.
What are your preferred tools and environment for writing? (Typewriter, computer, pen, coffee shop, and so on.)
I do most of my writing in my home office (MacBook Pro, coffee) or in hotel bars (iPad, wine).
How many drafts of a story or novel do you typically write?
I usually do only 2-3 formal drafts, but I revise constantly as I move forward, then take a break and do ruthless draft for length and logic at the end. I try to avoid doing that final pass in hotel bars.
Have you tried any self-publishing projects yourself?
I haven’t – at the moment the time commitment required to edit/layout/marketing would eat deeply into my writing time.
If offering advice to a new writer, would you suggest they pursue traditional publication or self-publication?
I think it depends both on individual proclivities (do you enjoy self-promotion? Do you have the time?) and on whether you can find traditional markets for your work. For writers whose work doesn’t fit into traditional slots, self-publication seems like the logical move.
Thanks, Steve, for the interview.
And the novel featuring my Sword & Sorceress character, spy and assassin Caina Amalas, is now available for free in all ebook formats: Child of the Ghosts.
Last year I wrote that the PROSPERO’S DAUGHTER trilogy, by L. Jagi Lamplighter, was one of the best books I read in 2012 (the other being WOOL by Hugh Howey), and so when she offered me the chance to read her new young adult novel, THE UNEXPECTED ENLIGHTENMENT OF RACHEL GRIFFIN, before it was published, I jumped at the chance.
THE UNEXPECTED ENLIGHTENMENT OF RACHEL GRIFFIN is a young adult novel targeted primarily at girls. The protagonist, one Rachel Griffin, is a twelve-year-old girl sent for her first term at a school for young wizards, run under the auspices of the Parliament of the Wise (what the wizards, rather immodestly, call themselves). Rachel has the good fortune of an eidetic memory and a constant thirst for secrets, which is both an advantage and a liability in a society of wizards. Rachel quickly discovers that all is not well in the world of the Wise, and soon finds herself dealing with a secret society of evil wizards called the Velterdammerung along with the normal concerns of a child.
Having never been a twelve-year-old girl myself, I suspect I am not quite the target audience for this book, but I enjoyed it, and I suspect the target audience would do so as well. Rachel spends a lot of time contemplating her feelings, as one would expect a twelve-year-old girl to do, but not enough to slow down the book. The parallels to Harry Potter are clear (children at wizards school, society of evil wizards, etc.), but this book’s setting has a good deal more depth than Harry Potter’s setting, since it is anchored in real-world history. Simon Magus and Aleister Crowley were among the society of evil wizards, for instance. Additionally, there is an intriguing scene when Rachel and her classmates puzzle over the meaning of the word “monotheism”, since they’ve never encountered the word before, which I suspect is a hook for the next few books in the series.
Beyond that, the characters are sharply drawn, and the book manages the trick of having the children be ignorant of their world without be idiots, and having the more gifted children (like Rachel) be intelligent without being unrealistically clever or precocious prigs. Not every writer can manage that.
Also, a big point in the book’s favor: no weird sex. Or any sex, which to be frank is a welcome change in a YA novel. The trend of SF/F brimming with weird sex while the author blathers on about gritty realism has quite overstayed its welcome.
To sum up: in THE UNEXPECTED ENLIGHTENMENT, a plucky band of children join forces to fight evil, despite the best efforts of incompetent adults, at a school for wizards. Recommended
Recently, Vox Day and Steve Rzasa were kind enough to send me review copies of their new science fiction novel QUANTUM MORTIS: A MAN DISRUPTED and its attendant novella, QUANTUM MORTIS: GRAVITY KILLS (published through Marcher Lord Press), so I settled down to read them.
Murder mystery with rayguns IN SPACE!
Both works are set in the distant future, and center around one Graven Tower, a military policeman in the Armed Forces of Rhysalan, an independent planet ruled by a Duke. The planet is a small power, neutral in the conflict between the imperial Ascendancy and the communistic, borg-like Unity.* Rhysalan’s neutrality is further enhanced by the planet’s status as a sanctuary – the Duke has an open invitation to any overthrown governments-in-exile to settle upon Rhysalan (so long as they can pay the fees). Tower’s job is to help police the various exiled alien governments and make sure they behave themselves, as governments-in-exile tend to get up to mischief on a regular basis. Tower has the assistance of an “augment” called Baby, a super-advanced artificial intelligence that acts as a personal assistant, research assistant, sounding board, philosophical ruminator, and targeting computer. Since Tower is a bit of a shell-shocked veteran and not particularly restrained with his use of his trigger finger, Baby also tends to act as his conscience.
But Tower also has a secret. And someone has figured out his secret, and is ready to use it to enslave him and perhaps start a new war.
Interestingly enough, the space-opera aspect of the plot is almost window dressing – the core of the books is the murder mystery, and a murder mystery set in a society where information technology and networking have permeated every aspect of that society. The book could just as easily have been set fifteen years in the future on Earth, once Amazon figures out its delivery drones. Of course, every good science fiction book has a speculative question at its core, and in QUANTUM MORTIS: A MAN DISRUPTED the question revolves around the dangers of the information technology revolution.
It has been interesting watching SF wrestle with the question of the ongoing IT revolution of the last few decades, especially since society as a whole has not yet figured out how to deal with the Internet. If you read older science fiction, the computers of the future were supposed to be the computer from STAR TREK, Wintermute, and Tron-style virtual reality. No one anticipated the banal reality of YouTube, Hulu, Internet pornography, and people Instagramming pictures of their breakfast toast. All of a sudden, science fiction novels have to wrestle with a future containing smartphones and the Internet, and this book does a good job of grafting the IT revolution onto a space-opera framework.
Of course, the book isn’t all deep thoughts – there are a lot of battles with particle weapons, lasers, missiles, more particle weapons, and flying cars. Graven uses a lot of guns – the book achieves the rare trick of writing gun porn about guns that do not actually exist. It is an interesting look at the IT-augmented warfare of the future (or the present, really), when attacking the enemy’s computer systems is just as effective, if not more so, as attacking his troops and food supplies.
Tower’s relationship with the attractive Detector Hildreth was an interesting note – the adventure kicks off when Tower, hoping to get a date out of Hildreth, agrees to help her with a case. (Naturally, things go quickly awry.) The trick to writing effective romantic relationships (or failed attempts thereof) is to grasp the psychological differences between men and women without holding the differences in contempt or denying that they exist – a trick that too many writers never manage to master.
To sum up, GRAVITY KILLS and QUANTUM MORTIS: A MAN DISRUPTED are good adventure SF novels with a lot of action and a compelling mystery at the core, and I am looking forward to future books in the setting.
This week’s Free Fiction Tuesday short story is actually a novella – MIRRORED KNIGHT. Links below!
Carradan was once a Knight of the High King’s Realm. But now the Realm lies waste and desolate, and he has pursued the demon that destroyed his home across the worlds and the centuries, coming at last to the city of Chicago.
But the demon has laid a trap for him, for the demon has many willing allies in Chicago…
Christine only wants to pay off her student loans. But when her magic manifests, she becomes an enticing target for the demon’s malevolence.
And unless Carradan and Christine can work together, the demon will consume them both…
One of the more interesting series of self-published novels I’ve read in 2013 was THE TERRARCH CHRONICLES, by William King. The series has four books – DEATH’S ANGELS, THE SERPENT TOWER, THE QUEEN’S ASSASSIN, and SHADOWBLOOD.
To sum up, the books are basically a cross between Glen Cook’s THE BLACK COMPANY and H.P. Lovecraft, set in an 18th century Europe if 18th century Europe were ruled by racist magic-using elves.
In the setting, the elves call themselves Terrarchs, and invaded the human world after their homeland fell victim to some mysterious catastrophe. A thousand years later, the Terrarchs still rule over the humans, but their empire has fractured into several competing states, all which regard humans differently – some treat humans as free albeit second-class citizens, while others regard humans as enslaved cattle. However, all the Terrarchs are starting to lose their grip, as the humans are simply outbreeding them, and developing technology is beginning to erode the edge the Terrarchs’ magic and longevity give them. Magic beats sword, but a cannon loaded with grapeshot beats both magic and sword.
The chief protagonist of the story is Rik, a half-human, half-Terrarch soldier. Since halfbreeds are despised everywhere, Rik started out as a thief, and then joined the army to escape his vengeful former associates. When sent to fight a gang of demon-worshiping rebels, Rik kills a renegade Terrarch sorcerer who had been aiding the rebels. Rik takes possession of the sorcerer’s spellbooks and tries to teach himself magic from them, failing to realize that a lot of very dangerous people, human and Terrarchs both, want the contents of those spellbooks.
The the books have a compelling plot, and does a good job of capturing the feel of Europe at the start of the industrial era, the poverty and despair alongside the wealth and the massive possibilities. When discussing fantasy, it’s useless to talk about historical realism, because if you have a setting where people can summon up giant spider-demons, you have taken realism out back to be shot. But you can talk about verisimilitude, and THE TERRARCH CHRONICLES does a good job with the verisimilitude of the setting. Naturally, the additional of sorcerous elves and otherworldly horrors to early industrial Europe simply adds spice.
It’s the rare writer who can create “morally ambiguous” characters without having them turn into, to put it simply, “unlikable jerks”, but Mr. King pulls it off. Rik, Sardec, and Lady Asea all have fascinating character arcs – Rik starts out as a soldier and a petty thief and becomes something much stronger and darker, while Sardec begins as an arrogant elitist and becomes something almost like a hero.
Definitely recommended, and I hope there are more books in the series one day.
I’m looking at some of the more interesting books I’ve read this year, and chief among them would be the SHIFT and DUST, the final two books of the SILO SAGA by Hugh Howey. Mr. Howey’s story is pretty well-known among SF/F writers and readers – the first book of the SILO SAGA, WOOL, started out as a self-published serial on Amazon, and eventually exploded from there. But in this post we’ll focus on the books themselves.
Put simply, the SILO SAGA is a uniquely American science fiction epic, touching on some of the themes that have defined American history – the common good vs. freedom, government corruption vs. one individual taking a stand, and the potential and dangers of technology transforming society and perhaps the world.
The premise is simple enough – some unknown disaster has ravaged the world, and the survivors of humanity huddle within a concrete “silo” (essentially a subterranean skyscraper), using advanced technology to survive. A webcam provides a view of the outside world, but eventually grime builds up on lens, and a criminal has to be sent to clean the lenses. Unfortunately, the criminal dies in the act of cleaning due to the corrosive atmosphere, which means the cleaning serves as sort of a ritual for the silo community, like a public execution in medieval times.
And then, one day, a cleaning goes wrong…and all hell breaks loose.
What follows is a well-crafted tale, populated by compelling characters, with well-hidden secrets layered throughout. Nothing is as it seems in the world of the silo, and those mysteries threaten to destroy everyone living within.
Definitely recommended – if you need something long to read over the holidays, the SILO SAGA is the way to go.