Catalyst by Brandon Crilly (Atthis Arts, October 11, 2022). Cover artist uncredited.
Hello, Black Gate folks! Normally I spend my time here raving about other people’s books, but this time I’m in the very weird position of talking about my own. Yikes. Catalyst is my debut fantasy novel, releasing in October from Atthis Arts, and John has graciously invited me to talk a bit about the world of the book.
Catalyst centers on three estranged friends: Mavrin, a street magician who doesn’t believe in real magic, other than what the Aspects provide; Eyasu, labeled a heretic by the Aspects’ followers but determined to prove a secret history everyone else rejects; and Deyeri, a retired soldier whose adopted city is threatened by forces tied to that history. They begin the story in different corners of Aelda, a world that split apart at its core a little over three centuries earlier, and would have been destroyed completely if not for the intervention of the Aspects: massive, cephalopod-like beings the people of Aelda believe to be their gods, who have been circling the planet ever since providing atmosphere and holding what remains of Aelda together.
JB: Who in the Nine Circles of Hell do you think I am? Quasimodo? Doctor Frankenstein? You mean you don’t know who I am? Have you never heard of me? Why, I’m famous the world over! Joe Bonadonna, I am. (I could never settle on a pen name, so I stuck with the name I was given at birth.)
[Aside by SE: To clarify, he often writes about Quasimodo and Dr. Frankenstein for Janet E. Morris’s Heroes in Hell series (Perseid Press). Here’s Joe Bonadona’s official Bio.]
Tune in Tomorrow (Solaris, August 23, 2022), and the author
The pandemic was really quite good to me.
Don’t get into a snit – there are caveats: The horrible ongoing forever pandemic was terrible for everybody, including me. Millions had their lives wrecked, or died, and if the “quite good” experience I had could be swapped for a retcon in which “Covfefe” was as close as we ever got to saying “COVID,” I’d do it in a hot second.
Since that isn’t happening, let’s start again.
The pandemic was actually quite good for my debut novel, Tune in Tomorrow. See, back in 2020 I received an email from my agent saying that a publisher was interested in publishing the book, with a few alterations. Was I game?
As someone who struggled for decades to get a damn novel published, the answer was a quick, “Hell yes!”
Gen Con just announced that legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore is the 2022 Author Guest of Honor!
Thirty-four years ago, he created the character of Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf who has withstood the test of time to stand today as an icon in the fantasy genre. With his work in the Forgotten Realms, the Crimson Shadow, the DemonWars Saga, and other series, Salvatore has sold more than thirty million books worldwide and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list more than two dozen times. He considers writing to be his personal journey, but still, he’s quite pleased that so many are walking the road beside him!
He will be participating in severalWriter’s Symposium events (click to browse and register via the GenCon portal) during the convention, including book signings and appearances.
Harlan Ellison speaking to the audience at the Los Angeles
Science Fantasy Society, May 1982. Photo by Pip R. Lagenta
Harlan Ellison published three novels early in his career, and spent the rest of his life trying to complete another1. Despite a large and successful body of work, and the willingness of publishers to pay large advances for a novel, he never succeeded.
Returning to the novel form was important for Ellison; he announced the titles of works in progress as “forthcoming” in the front matter of his short story collections, ghost titles that would appear in successive volumes, sometimes for years, then vanish to be replaced by new ones. In 2010, when he was 76 and announced he was dying, Ellison said that he was working on a new novel, The Man Who Looked for Sweetness;2 and in 2014, shortly before he suffered the stroke that ended his writing, he returned to an earlier project.3Completing another novel was a dream he never relinquished.
They’re exactly what you think they are; novels written and published on the internet, free to read. They’re more common than you think. What may surprise you about this community of writers and readers is not only the writers themselves, but the abundance of readers who support them financially.
I think many folks here have probably heard of places like Wattpad, the web publishing platform where writers post their novels — though over in that corner most of the content is YA and romance. I can’t say much about Wattpad because I’m not a reader or writer over there, though I know agents crawl around looking for new authors to publish in traditional media.
I’m here to talk about a different platform, and more specifically, the modern pulp writers who publish there. It’s called Royal Road, where writers publish fantasy novels.
This January, Black Gate highlighted the Rogues In the House S&S podcast. This round we highlight the So I’m Writing a Novel (SIWAN), a podcast chronicling author & freelance editor Oliver Brackenbury’s journey of writing an S&S novel, discussing craft and building community with a focus on the genre.
Ernest Hemmingway is attributed with the quote: “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” Whether he said it or not is open to some debate, but there’s no doubt the sentiment is shared among most, if not all, writers. For me, the blood from my seven opening words pours directly from my sense of self. This is the first time I have referred to myself as a writer, as I have nothing published, though my first novel has received some surprisingly supportive editorial feedback. ‘Writer’ is a title I wear uncomfortably, as do a great deal of us who remain without a writing credit, I would suppose.
It’s the final two words in that sentence, however, that really strike home. Long Covid. I fear these two words are beginning to define who I am, as a writer and as a person. I’ll spare you the implausible story of my battle with the Dreaded Virus, and try my best to focus on what I have become in the aftermath.
In an attempt to embrace change and personal growth, I’ve decided to challenge myself, and so my next project will be an edgy cyberpunk novel. This will allow me to plumb the darkest depths of cynicism, as well as the steep cliffs of optimism by which one must escape. Accordingly, I have delved into the technology of tomorrow, studying it while it is just a looming threat, and have also fixed on a number of social ills that I plan on putting front and center in my worldbuilding. I am virtually quivering with excitement! Virtually? Ha ha!
In order to leaven the darkness with a touch of whimsy, I have decided to code-name this project Mirrorball. Though, now that I write it, this may be a bit retro-techno, with sinister undertones, and far too close to serve as a working title. I shall just have to learn to enjoy the subtle frisson this name evokes within me. Can you say “Hello, world!” Mirrorball? I knew you could!
And more good news! The realtor’s sign is gone from the house next door. I eagerly await the arrival of my new neighbors!
Techno-Inspiration: Google Time Crystals, of course! …
As soon as the bag was swept off of my head, I knew that I hadn’t been taken to Black Gate‘s legal department for a refresher in corporate espionage. Rather, I was in a clean, well-lit room, circular in shape and towering in height. Wide windows let in shafts of morning light, filtered through the vines and flowers that hung in streamers from planters at intervals, and trellises rising up the walls. I hadn’t suspected a place like this existed outside of the Editorial Spa, and found it to be a pleasant surprise.
The man who had removed my hood, however, shoved me backward as I got my bearings, and I fell unceremoniously into a massive beanbag just behind me. As I struggled to sit upright once more, a woman took a position across from me before a plush divan, and while her dusky Mediterranean skin contrasted with the sharp white of her suit, her cool gaze contrasted with literally every other emotional cue in the room. She sat.
“You’re not with Black Gate, are you?” I ventured.
“No, Mr. Starr. I’m with the Office of Regionally Generated Attitudes.”
“Am I in some sort of trouble?” I was suddenly a lot less comfortable sprawled out in the beanbag, but all efforts to sit straight and match her bearing failed. I slumped back.
“Oh, no. Not yet. We are simply here to review the situation, before it gets out of hand.”
“Your current project. It’s a diversity issue, you see.” …