Publishing Fantasy: Release Day!


Hi all,

David here. In our continuing attempt to keep the content here at MW fresh and exciting, we are introducing a new feature today. To mark the paperback release of A.J.’s first fantasy novel, ACT OF WILL, A.J. has written today’s post in the voice of his lead character, Will Hawthorne. In the future, you will hear from other characters, sometimes in the form of Q and A’s, sometimes in the form of rants. It should be entertaining.

But there is more to this exercise than just fun and variety. As Faith explains, fantasy writers are often asked by publishers to come up with promotional pitches, pieces that will go out to book buyers, or be put on the publisher’s website, or perhaps appear in a small promo booklet to be distributed at Book Expo of America or a similar venue. They want clever and cute, and they want these pieces to be plot or character driven. Writers are often hard pressed to come up with something, especially that first time, and so we thought we would share with you one such approach.

And so, without further ado, we present to you Will Hawthorne . . .

My name is Will Hawthorne. I live—or lived until very recently–in
Cresdon, a walled city in the mountains of Thrusia which the people who
live there think is, on the whole, not a bad place to live. They think
this because none of them have been anywhere else. Cresdon is actually
the armpit of the world, doubly so in summer, and—oddly—triply so
when you’re trying to get out of it under the watchful eye of a
battalion of Empire archers. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I don’t know if some kind of power or intelligence governs the
universe. Most of what I’ve seen suggests either that there isn’t
or that there is but it has a warped sense of humor and doesn’t like
me very much. A case in point: I grew up a theatre orphan, earning my
keep by playing walk-on roles in consistently dreadful plays,
surrounded by giftless actors all making real money while I worked my
tail off for the chance to finally get out of a dress (boys my age
generally had to play women: don’t ask.) I kept my nose clean through
my apprenticeship till my eighteenth birthday, which was when the
company would decide whether or not to keep me on salary, and then the
universe woke up and said “Looks like things are going well for
Hawthorne: time we stuck the boot in.”

The form the boot took in this case was the
Empire’s almost comically ludicrous decision to arrest me for
sedition and immorality. I say ‘almost comical’ because there’s
not much to laugh at when you’re dangling from the end of a rope with
your entrails roasting to the delight of the crowd (executions draw as
many spectators as plays). Not being keen—for once—to give the
audience what they wanted, I opted to run. This was smart in some ways
(because it avoided a nasty death) and deeply, profoundly stupid in
others (because it removed any doubts about my guilt and set me up for
a still less pleasant, less speedy and infinitely more public death
when the Empire finally caught up with me, as they inevitably must).
Long story short, I took refuge with a group of adventurers: principled
sword-wielding idiots who—it turned out—were almost as likely to
slit my throat as were the Empire.

Still, I had to get out of Empire territory and
my new “friends” looked like my best option, so I tried to prove
that I might be useful to them, concealed my impulse to a) turn them in
and b) seduce one of their tastier ladies, and managed to get through
several sunsets without losing significant organs.

So far so good.

But things took a turn for the worse once they
took a real job, and it turned out that in addition to their homicidal
tendencies they had some pretty impressive suicidal ones as well. The
“job” involves the identification and defeat of an army of
mysterious horsemen who show up out of the mist in the hundreds,
butcher everyone in sight and then, when the mood takes them, buggar
off again. Bear in mind now that our little party of adventurers
numbers six, including one (me) who has the weapon skills of a slower
than average squirrel. In other words, a total death trap.

My part in this fiasco? Help out with the things
I’m good at: acting, audience manipulation, and general purpose
lying, while keeping lengths of shiny metal out of my spinal column. No
mean feat. Then there’s the things I’m less good at: shooting the
occasional crossbow bolt in the general direction of the enemy, and
waving a sword about in the vague hope that said enemy will laugh
themselves to death.

But maybe, just maybe, I might actually contribute some much needed
common sense to the proceedings. Because one of the other delusions my
adventurous pals hold close to their hearts, something at least as
preposterous as their self-sacrificing nobility, is that they believe
in magic. Seriously. Not rabbits out of hats and pick-a-card,-any-card
type of magic, but mystical swords and vanishing armies type magic.
They don’t talk about it much, but I have a gift for sniffing out
stupidity and the stench around these guys is like diving headfirst
into a Cresdon privy. They reek of it. What that amounts to, of course,
is that my friends (and I use that word not so much loosely as wildly
inaccurately) who are supposed to be protecting me are only
fractionally less lethal to my survival chances than the ruthless
crimson-cloaked army we are supposed to be stopping. Another shrewd
life choice made by Will “Deathwish” Hawthorne. The only question
now is whether I’ll live long enough to make any more.

Act of Will is available in paperback from today, June 29th. If you can’t find it at your local bookstore, please ask for it. It is also available in paperback from Amazon. A.J. (who is immensely grateful to all at MW for the chance to plug his book) will respond to comments on Will’s post, and promises to go back to more conventional MW posts next time. Thanks, guys.


40 comments to Publishing Fantasy: Release Day!

  • Mikaela

    Ooh. This was really intresting to read! The book looks like a fun read. Guess I better go to the bookstore this week. I would go today, but according to their webpage their copies haven’t arrived yet. ( Yes, I have checked. Three times the last week.)

    I am looking forward to more posts like this.

  • Ha Ha. Great stuff. Thanks AJ and David. *goes to adjust TBR pile*

  • Nicely done, Will. And congrats on the release, AJ. Best of luck. BTW, thought you’d like to know that I saw Act of Will at my local B&N….yesterday! Either the bookseller was a bit excited to get it on the shelves or they read the 29 as a 28. Either way, it was there. 🙂

  • Mikaela,
    glad you liked the feel of it. And yes, unless you’re J.K. Rowling distribution can get pretty odd in terms of where new books show up, when and in what form they are displayed. I’m just glad to hear they are getting it.

    thanks, man. As I said above, I’m delighted to hear your local B&N has the book. There was some confusion as to which would be carrying it and I still don’t understand how those decisions are made or by whom. Suffice to say, I’m just glad it’s where people can get it.

    thanks. I appreciate making it into the TBR pile. Let me know what you think when you get to it.

  • Deb S

    Good stuff, AJ. I’ll go adventuring with Will. *Dons sword…and reading glasses.*

  • Deb, I’d go with either the reading glasses or the sword. Together… expect badness.

  • AJ, I was asked to do one of thes not too long ago by ROC. I had no idea how it was done, and muddled through with very little success. Thank you so much for providing the character’s eye view. I’ll know next time I’m asked — assuming that day comes.

    And now to call the BookKnack and ask if my copy came in!

  • Happy Release Day, AJ! I’m headed out to the bookstore this afternoon, so if I see it, I’ll let you know.

    I’d go with either the reading glasses or the sword. Together… expect badness.

    This is why I wear contacts.

    As for my adventuring weapns, I usually do the most damage with my zills and asaya. Not on purpose, but I’ve clocked more than one unsuspecting drummer in the head.

  • Quote: “Not on purpose, but I’ve clocked more than one unsuspecting drummer in the head.”

    I’ll make sure that if I’m ever drumming in your vicinity to wear headgear. 😉

    @AJ — Yeah, I think you picked up at least a couple more readers here with that. The actor thing was throwing me a little, but this reminds me of my AD&D bard I played a while back. Sounds like fun. I’ll be picking it up as well. Although, for some reason while I was reading it I was hearing Michael J Fox’s voice…strange…

  • I don’t know who this A.J. guy answering all the comments thinks he is, but I have a question for Will. How can you be so bloody sure that your new “friends” are wrong about magic? What if you’re the one who’s wrong, eh, mate? What then?

  • That’s one of the things I want to know too. Is he right or wrong? Yep, gonna have to buy it alright.

  • Well, if I’m wrong, then the world no longer makes any sense and we’re all screwed, aren’t we? But I’m not wrong. I’ve BEEN wrong–frequently–usually about other people’s capacity for idiocy (which can never be over estimated), whether I should risk one more pint and my chances with the bar maid, but not this time. Magic is appealing in a vague sort of way because it might make the world a bit more shiny and interesting, but it’s like the giant Alastrian Snow Toad or world peace: strictly for the birds and the very, very stupid. Magic? Trust me, David, you don’t want to waste any more thought on this. Would I lie to you?


  • Hmmm. Think I’d better buy the book. Because yes, Will, I think you would….

  • Hepseba ALHH

    And my favorite part, of course, has to do with foggy-brained, weapons-wielding squirrels. Thank you for this lovely bit of lightness to my day.

  • And if you take nothing else away from this, Hep, remember this: never trust a squirrel with a crossbow, no matter how slow he looks. Tell your friends.

  • Interesting outlook Will, and congrats on the release A.J.!

    Over lunch I walked to my local Barnes & Noble here in downtown D.C. and was excited to see a copy of Act of Will, which I snatched up! Ever since you posted the analysis of the battle scene a while back I’ve been waiting for the release of the paperback.

  • Multiple thanks, Alistair, for the book-sighting and the purchase. I hope it measures up. Fantasy–I’m learning–seems more reader-driven than other more widely selling genres, so individual sales are huge in sending a message to book sellers (and publishers) to get more out. Thrillers, I think, take more of a scattershot approach: end caps, window displays, grocery stores etc. Partly as a result, a thriller which isn’t selling gang busters within 3-4 weeks of release is considered dead. But I think–OK, hope–that fantasy is allowed a little longer to build interest, and that’s driven primarily by word of mouth. If you like it, spread the word. If you don’t… er… have you considered moving to Lithuania? I believe it’s lovely this time of year.

  • Nice! Somehow I doubt moving to Lithuania will be needed! I’ve already read a bit of it over lunch and loved the writing–very engaging. I wish I had more time to read over lunch!

    That is an interesting point regarding the selling of thrillers vs. fantasy. I think what you wrote about fantasy building an audience via word of mouth has a lot of merit. I buy a lot of books based on word of mouth rather than displays and huge marketing hype.

  • I have ACT OF WILL in my hot little hands! Whoowhoo! And the hardback, thank you very much! I will start it this evening, whilst sitting in a hot tub with a glass of something lovely at my side.

    And David — I agree. I, too, think Will would lie to me with utter sincerity and ernest eyes, and I would fall for it, not even caring that it was a lie because it would be delivered with such aplomb.

  • Alistair, it would be nice to believe that this means that fantasy reaers have more control over the market than do books aimed at a wider demographic. I don’t know if that’s true, but we should probably act as if it is.

    Faith, so glad you got it. I hope it bears out what you’ve liked about it so far. And yes, will would have all kinds of nice things to say to you, esp. if he cought you in the tub, glass in hand 🙂

  • Ooooooh A.J. What a SCATHINGLY BRILLIANT idea for a post…… @Will. Whatever else you do don’t give those squirrels coffee!

  • Widdershins. Caffeinated, crossbow-wielding squirrels?! We have created a monster. Or maybe a manga.

  • Mikaela

    I have a bunch of characters that demands the novelette they are starring in, becomes a novel. So I think I’ll borrow the Caffinated Crossbow wielding squirrels. 😀

  • Bill Hause

    AJ this is really cool, I will have to make a trip out to the B&N at carolina place to get this book. Will seems like a trip…though I wonder how he knows that home is an armpit if he has not been beyond either…

  • Mikaela, best of luck with those characters. Keep ’em on a tight leash.

    Ah, Bill. Some things one just knows 🙂 Hope you enjoy the book.

  • Fun stuff A.J. Enjoyed it a whole lot. The UPS man delivered a copy of the book to my door this afternoon. We’re driving up to Maryland for the weekend and I plan on making my wife drive the whole way so I can read.

  • Excellent. Thanks Ed. I’ll be interested to hear your verdict; go easy with the eagle eyed editorial critique 🙂

  • Mikaela

    60 SEK( 7-9 dollar)?! For the hardcover?! …. Forget about the paperback. I am getting the hardcover, before Bokus realise their mistake 😀

  • Mikaela

    Hm… Looks like they have a sale on TOR hardcovers…. So I’ll buy a couple of David’s books too 🙂

  • Mikaela,
    as I always say, I don’t care in what form you buy it–hard, soft, kindle or other e-format, or whether you buy at your local independent store (my favorite route), B&N, Borders, Books A Million (who always look after me at signings), Amazon or whatever. So long as it’s not pirated or otherwise stolen, have at it. I’m glad and grateful.

  • In 3-8 business days I shall be reading to see if Will’s pulling our leg. And to see if he manages to actually hit something with the crossbow. 😉

  • Ryl

    Okay, I *have* to read this one, now,…

  • Thanks Ryl. Hope you like it.

  • I am well into your novel now, Love, and am laughing so hard at some passages that my eyes are tearing up. So far, my fav is with the ax. (I’ll say no more. No spoilers.)

    Having read one of your thrillers, I knew you could write action, but action with humor takes a deft hand and skillful word-smithing. Go YOU!

  • That’s kind, Faith. Thanks. After all this hooplah I’m glad you’re enjoying it. You’ll have to e-mail me which “ax” part you’re refering to.

  • Alan Kellogg

    I’m getting a game fiction vibe from the snippet; what level did Will reach before retirement?

  • Alan,
    That’s interesting. There was a game from which parts of the plot evolved (long, long ago) but Will was not actually a character in tehat game. I invented him for the book.

  • Alan Kellogg

    An adventuring party sort of clued me in. 🙂

  • YAY! The book’s in me grubby mitts today and I’ll be delving into it tonight! 😀

  • Excellent, Daniel. Let me know what you think. And wash your hands 🙂