Names to Conjure Without

Names, especially for a writer of fantasy, are a constant source of peril.

Often, it’s people and places that cause the trouble. At this instant, however, I’m trying to name a thing.

We have a set of supernatural wards stretched across the forests. This vast, shifting field of sorcery is anchored to Creation at different nodes. Or possibly loci. Maybe nexuses. But they can’t be called nodes. Or nexuses. (Or noses or Lexuses).

I need something with roots. It may help if you follow me a little with this. Our wards are an ancient force. They were tied to the world by desperate people. The whole thing struggles to free itself like a lashing eel. Like the aurora. Maybe something from the world of shackles or nails, pins, stakes, or palings.

Nothing has presented itself.

On and off, I’ve turned to various species of thesaurus (there are some wonderful word finders out there) and weird old dictionaries. There’s a big book of forgotten crafts full of weavers and unusually shaped ironmongery.

From the shackle world, the word “gyves” had a promising rootedness–and a lovely “y” right in the middle. (All fantasy words since “wyvern” have wanted a strategic “y”). Then, sadly, I checked the pronunciation. (It’s possible that I’d been hearing people fussing about “.gif”), and I learned, to my horror, that we were going with a soft “j” sound with my “gyves”. My characters really couldn’t be walking from “jive” to “jive” with a straight faces.

Fantasy is, at the best of times, only the filmiest of gossamer thingamajigs from utter absurdity. At any moment, I might have to sell the existence of a gnome with a grim backstory and a secret burning love for justice. “Jive” might be pushing it.

I frequently convince myself that my search for the right name is a rabbit hole: a trap to catch the time and attention of the unwary writer. It’s *juste* a *mot*, after all.

But names do have a curious power. The wrong name is bad. It becomes part of the tone of a piece, clanging away every time you strike that note. Conjuring up unintended associations. (Moby Dick, I would contend, was a name to be overcome for old Herman M).

Another word from the chains and shackles world was “bilbo”, by the way. It’s a sort of an iron bar with sliding ankle chains. Very stylish. (I thought this word best avoided).

Bad names are bad. We can agree on that. But nameless things are even worse. They are boxes without labels, or suitcases without a handles. I’m sure that one might find science behind this. Somewhere someone will have put brain to scalpel the butter fingered lobe that cannot come to grips with the slippery nameless things.

(I’ll likely give up soon and throw in a placeholder. “Placeholder” Hmm. It almost works. Better than “loci” and “node”. Never mind).

Wish me luck.

That eel thing has me thinking. Maybe there’s something in a book of knots. That’s next.

(You think I’m joking).

Good Things Come in Threes

I’ve had a bit of surprise today.

It seems that Tor has changed its plans for my third book.

Originally, A King in Cobwebs, was meant to appear on its own next summer (July 2018, as I recall). And, I am afraid, it would have made a rather sheepish final entry in its trilogy, appearing several long years after books one and two were out of print.  (You might picture the book scuffling its toe in the dirt, afraid to meet the eye of other books).

It was, I should add, more than fair of the publishers. I had no cause to complain whatsoever.

Today, however, I learn that all three books are to be relaunched in 2018. There are even to be gorgeous new cover treatments (which must remain under wraps for the time being). 

As of this writing, publication dates are set as follows:

  • In the Eye of Heaven: 5/22/2018
  • In a Time of Treason: 8/7/2018
  • A King in Cobwebs: 12/11/2018

I cannot help but feel that this gives my poor efforts a new chance to find an audience among those who love a little harrowing medieval fun.

(I’m tickled).

King in Cobwebs Publication Date: 7/24/2018

IMG_2291I have a little news to share: We have a pub date!

My next book, A King in Cobwebs, is slated for publication on July 24, 2018.

As any under-the-radar writer will tell you, a book needs a lot of help if it’s to find an audience. (This one will need a nudge from each and every one of you).

I will confess that the book took a while for me to put together.  It has always been challenging for me to write around a full-time job, and as I worked on this particular project, my wife and I started a family. Time vanished.

The book was a labour of love (and bloody mindedness), but I suspect most books are.

More news soon.

Edits Complete


Curious Keck creatures consider Tor.

Your author considers Tor headquarters…

My third book, A King in Cobwebs, has come through a brief back-and-forth of the editing process over at Tor, and is now finding its place in the future plans of that illustrious publishing house.

Details will follow soon enough, but a cheque appeared in my mailbox this afternoon (hot on the heals of a rather alarming estimate from my local transmission shop).

In the meantime, I may have to think about a new author photo. The old one isn’t exactly an accurate representation of yours truly anymore….

MisCon Bound


This weekend, we’re heading off to the possibly magical land of Missoula Montana for MisCon 29 where my daughter is looking forward to making a tornado in a jar, building her own minion and creating a sock puppet. (She’s really excited).

We’re quite grateful to be going. My lovely wife is guest of honor (along with her author Terry Brooks and John Picacio, both of whom are quite ridiculously nice guys), and the convention organizers have volunteered to pitch in and help with transportation costs to get our whole little clan to Montana.

There seems to be niceness in abundance.

Me? I’m looking forward to playing writer, meeting a some nifty people, and reconnecting with at least one old friend. It might also be nice to see a few unpaved spaces. (It’s been a season or two since I’ve seen the great outdoors).

The organizers have kindly popped me on a panel or two, and I’ll do my best to bring something to the conversations. (Odds are that I’ll be the only one who knows my work in any given conference room these days).

Writing with the Burger Clown

Your friend and mine...

For some, it can be tough to sustain the necessary focus to get real writing done. (For me, it can be tough to sustain the necessary focus to get real writing done).
Sure, life gets in the way. (Life gets in the way like an angry glyptodon in a Hyundai). But, when I find a rare moment of peace and contemplation, I find that distractions come crowding in.
Captured time, I find, is invaluable. These are the chunks of time (stuck on a bus, crammed in a basement corner) that sensible people arrange their whole lives to escape. But, for me, there is nothing quite like the concentration I can achieve when I’m stuck wedged between strangers with a note pad. (There’s no where to go — but in).
A couple of mornings a week, our school starts a little later than usual. In those small chunks of time, I buy a cup of coffee and write with the burger clown.
It’s been very useful.
(Currently writing a new transition at page 534 of Dave’s 3rd Book).