Hearts of Iron released!

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By , May 15, 2013

It is the summer of 1035 AD and three sons of Tancred de Hauteville are in ambivalent service to Guimar, Prince of Salerno. The three men, who have been trained by their father in the art of war since childhood, spend the sweltering afternoons practicing swordplay, trading barbs, and thinking of how many men they would need to take the prince’s poorly fortified castle for themselves.

But when a mysterious agent asks the prince for the brothers’ services in obtaining a gilded chest, eldest brother William sees an opportunity to strengthen the Hauteville legacy. When he assembles a crew of skilled mercenaries, loyalties are tested and truths revealed. Among the group, there is a traitor, a spy, and the carrier of a long-held secret. The trust William places in each of his men will decide the future of his family.

Written by Scott James Magner, HEARTS OF IRON shows a different side of the middle ages, but with all the deft-sword play, historical accuracy, and political intrigue you would expect from the series that brought you The Mongoliad.

Hearts of Iron is out now from 47North. Get your copy here.

So you want to be an author…

By , May 2, 2013

Joe Brassey and I were occupying a corner at the Clang Kickstart Party last weekend and I was struck by a memory from a few years back of Joe and I standing on the fire escape outside our martial arts class taking a breather and discussing writing.  Joe was an un-published writer aspiring to become an author and I was an author that had given up on writing, or at least on the idea of writing and publishing fiction.  Yet here we stood, both of us now published and actively pursuing careers as writers.  I shared this with Joe and after the mandatory fist-bump we agreed that life is funny that way.

I am continually running into people that tell me that they want to be a writer.  I bite my tongue.  I don’t say, “No, you don’t.  If you wanted to be a writer you would be writing.”  Because let’s face it, all it takes to be a writer is to write.  That’s what writers do.   I’ve known a lot of writers over the years and we pretty much can’t help ourselves. I sold a couple of short stories in the early nineties, but told myself I didn’t have the drive to be a writer.  What really happened was that I had worked with people in publishing enough to see just how tough the game was and I got discouraged.  So during the ten years that I was ‘not a writer’ I  wrote online articles, magazine articles, a book about swords, automotive reviews, firearms reviews, political and social commentary etc.   I probably wrote the equivalent of a novel or two a year… but I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer.

Then we got the chance to write for Foreworld.  My wife and I co-authored ‘The Shield Maiden‘ on a somewhat compressed deadline, which got us used to writing every day and working together.  We turned in the novella, heaved a sigh of relief and went about our lives. But within days I was ‘jonesing’ to get back to the keyboard and start writing again.  I got started on a novel that I had been thinking about for a year or so and within a day Linda was saying, ‘I want in!’  Yeah, we had it bad…    Now we write practically every day on one project or another, whether it be our second Foreworld Saga Side-Quest (no,it’s not a sequel to ‘The Shield Maiden’) or other future project.

The thing is, if you want to be a writer sooner or later you’re going to have to sit down and write.  Then you will not merely want to be a writer, you’ll be one.

Set a daily goal for yourself.  Start with a block of time and figure out how fast you write, then set a’words-per-day’goalbased on a realistic estimate of how much you can reasonably write.  Then cut that in half and make that your daily goal.  You want your goal to be attainable even when things go sideways on  you.  Mind you this word count is for new content; it should not include editing and re-writing.



Editors: Your New Best Friends

HOI COVERThere are a lot of important steps involved in writing a story like Hearts of Iron, such as researching the setting, finding and developing believable characters, and weaving them all into a compelling story worth reading.

But finishing the manuscript was far from the end of the story’s journey into print. In fact, writing the text was possibly fastest part of the process. The real work in making this book happen was completed by its editors, and I’m happy today to tell you about them.

It all started with a conversation with the Foreworld’s Chief Creative Officer, Mark Teppo, in December of 2012.

Mark and I move in some of the same author’s circles, but his work with The Mongoliad wasn’t something we personally talked about. Similarly, my own fiction projects weren’t something I wanted to bother my more successful (i.e. published, best-selling, too cool for words) friends with at the time.

Over some drinks with those worthies, it came out that we’d been doing a lot of the same research, and Mark asked me if I’d be interested in pitching something to him. He described the SideQuest project to me, and I was both interested and nervous. Being the new writer on the block didn’t bother me half as much as the possibility of letting down my friends who already lived there, but a few writing samples later Mark sent me the email which ultimately led us to this article.

“Everything looks good. Let’s find you a plot.”

About a month after that first conversation, the two of us sat down with our brainstorming hats and developed a place in the Foreworld for my protagonist, William Iron Arm. Armed with a name and a location, I told Mark I’d have an outline for him in about two weeks.

Once I started really digging into the characters, the outline took four days, and the submission draft was ready a few weeks after that. It didn’t happen in a vacuum; Mark was very helpful in filling in the blanks on aspects of the Foreworld I was at the time unaware of and tirelessly answered a barrage of questions throughout my writing process. He shepherded me along with a light, but effective touch, just like a good Story Editor does.

Because although the term is more commonly used in film, that’s really what Mark does. He’s got to keep the entirety of the Foreworld in his head at all times, and all of us crazy writers on task. By default, he’s the final word on what is and is not suitable for the universe, and if one of us has a problem, he knows the schedules we need to hit, and how to help things along when necessary.

But Mark wasn’t the only person on my support team. Once he’d helped me massage the submission into a cleaner, leaner story, it was off to the next group of amazing editors. The first of these unsung heroes was David Pomerico, 47North’s Acquisition Editor. David and his team got to work polishing Hearts of Iron up right away, and it wouldn’t be nearly as shiny of a story without the comments and suggestions that came back from them.

From finding the right cover to finalizing the characters’ word choices, my editors really gave it their all. The next month was an amazing creative period, and each iteration of the manuscript brought it closer to its ultimate form. The day the product information page went up and preorders started, I was (and am) thrilled to have been part of such a well-executed team. A process that started months before with a conversation about variant forms of French in the middle ages ended with a book we can all be proud of, and I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve accomplished.

When I hear writers grousing about how an editor ruined (or wants to ruin) their story, I shake my head in disbelief. It’s true that sometimes changes are necessary to bring a story to its full potential, but a good editor doesn’t write those words for you. They help you to see the impact of the ones that are already there, or should be.

It’s a rare occasion when an editor’s name appears anywhere in a book, and like the Tooth Fairy if they’ve done their job right you’ll never know they were there. I, for one, am very happy with my shiny coins, and I hope you will be as well.

(Hearts of Iron releases May 14, 2013)

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