Book Five Preview

Hey! James here. Since we’re only a week out from the release of book 5 of Bulletproof Witch: Shadows and Revelations, I thought I’d give a little taste of what waits inside. I’m really excited to share this volume with everyone, as it has several events that I’ve literally been waiting three years finally get down on paper. I hope you enjoy the preview, and I hope you’ll also enjoy reading the rest when volume 5 releases on July 26th!

Chapter One

That’s the problem with reputations, Temperance mused to herself as she watched the men gathered across the table. Despite all our best efforts, they still have a bad habit of escaping one’s ability to control.

Take her current predicament. For so long she had been concerned about the attention her family name might bring her—and its association with her grandfather, the famous Brimstone—that it never even occurred to her to give her alias an equal consideration. Instead, she had continued blithely on, not realizing the name Alba was gaining its own brand of notoriety.

Thus, after she entered a dusty saloon in the town of Spooner Flats and offered this particular moniker, she had been caught more than a little flat-footed when it drew every eye in the building.

Shortly thereafter, Temperance found herself sitting across from not only the town’s sheriff and mayor, but also a dozen deputies, shop owners, miners, and ranchers—not to mention a few people whose place there she couldn’t have rightly said. They were all staring at her like they expected her to start flying. Or maybe grow an extra head.

The mayor especially was giving a look that didn’t bode well, no matter which way the wind ended up blowing.

“You really are Temperance Alba, the same as defeated the daemon wolf up north?”

“I am, though that wasn’t any daemon, it was a—” Temperance paused. “How do you know about that?”

“Hell, it was all over the papers weeks ago. Along with the story about how you single-handedly put down an uprising in Arkton. Saved us from another Pauper’s Rebellion, from the way I heard it!”

“You don’t say.” Temperance pressed a knuckle against her forehead, already feeling the start of a mighty fine headache building. Clearly her stance on avoiding anything to do with the world at large would need reconsideration.

Why do I suspect Uncle Stephen is behind this? Probably thought it was a good way to build up my reputation. He always did have my best interests in mind—although his attempts as of late seem to backfire more than they catch their mark.

“Miss Alba, I know this might seem rather sudden, but we were wondering—that is, I was wondering, if you might consider—”

“What exactly is your trouble?” Temperance cut in, already guessing where the man was leading to in his own stumbling way. “Train robbers? Horse thieves? Disgruntled miners causing mischief and mayhem?”

The mayor didn’t respond.

“Unusually large rodents?” Temperance tried. “Problems with the local gentry? I don’t charge for that last one.”

“Daemons.” The mayor’s voice was barely a whisper.

Temperance sighed. It figures. All the other problems already had an easy solution or two. No, the only reason for Temperance to deserve such an enrapt audience was for the sort of skills that were the purview and sole domain of one such as herself. A Pistol Warlock.

Or in her case, Witch.

“My services don’t come cheap, Mister . . . .”

“Hudson, although Jack will do just fine. As for payment, we’d be happy to provide you with room and board during your stay, along with provisions—”

“One hundred kos. Half now, half after I deal with your little problem. Sound square?”

“A hundred?” the mayor sputtered. “Surely you can’t . . . but even I don’t . . . isn’t that price a little high?”

“It’ll cost as much to replace the hexbullets I use to bring the creature to heel, Mister Hudson. Frankly, I’m only offering such a low price because you all seem like nice people.”

The Sheriff, who had been watching her silently this entire time, finally spoke up. “According to the stories, James Whiteoak never charged the towns and waystops who needed his services, no matter how dire their situation. What makes you think we won’t just find someone else to handle this matter, someone who isn’t dead set on robbing us blind?”

“If you couldn’t tell, Sheriff, I’m not the Brimstone, not by any measure of the imagination. As for finding someone else, well, I reckon if there was anybody willing to lend a hand out of the goodness of their heart, they would have done it already.”

That last comment elicited a grunt from the Sheriff, who leaned back to watch her but said nothing further. Mayor Hudson quickly filled in the space left behind. “We aren’t opposed to paying the asking price, Miss Alba, but how can we be certain you are who you say you are? Might be you heard about our troubles and thought to take advantage of us poor small-town folk.”

Temperance’s first instinct was to pull out her warlock soul symbol and toss it on the table. Only her quick memory and a bit of good fortune stopped her. These people thought she was an Alba, not a Whiteoak, and showing off that particular piece of jewelry would earn her a mess of additional problems she neither wanted nor needed.

Instead, she drew one of her revolvers.

The mayor’s eyes bulged out at the sight of the weapon. Next to him, the sheriff let out a curse and reached for his own firearm. Several deputies—all farmers’ sons, if Temperance had to guess, and newly sworn in from the way they held their weapons—made fumbling attempts to do the same.

Before they could even see fit to get halfway out of their holsters, Temperance flicked a hexbullet from her bandolier into the waiting chamber and took aim. Runes etched into the revolver’s wheel glowed with their own purple light.

Estalia Vos!

Everything in the room appeared to slow to a crawl as the bullet erupted from the barrel, leaving a line of silver hanging in the air, suspended there for a heartbeat that seemed to last days. Around her men dove for cover, their movements like swimming through honey, cries rumbling from their lips in rich baritone. A fly hovered before her, the slow beat of its wings even and melodic.

Then reality caught back up. The lance of quicksilver shot towards the ceiling where it embedded itself through a wooden beam, the force of the impact so strong it left a palpable tang in the air. Fleeing townsfolk froze to look up and gaze in wonder at the metal bar, which glowed dully under the light of the gas lamps.

Eyes slowly turned back to regard Temperance. She waited until she had their full attention. “Way I see it, don’t really matter if you think I’m the same Alba you read about in the papers. I’ve got hexbullets enough to take down a daemon, and the willingness to do the job. If that’s not enough, well, I’ll just be on my way.”

She made to stand. The mayor practically launched himself across the table to stop her. “Wait! I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement, Miss . . . Miss Alba.”

Temperance smiled and sat back down. “Why don’t you tell me more about this daemon, Mister Hudson?”

Read the rest on July 26, only on Amazon.

A Non-Writing Post

While I’ve been trying to get writing done, of course (see earlier post about reporting word counts, or the widget to the side), I must admit to having been somewhat distracted by other things lately. Of course summer comes with their fill of them: sunshine, and camping, and trips to the lake aside, there are also the very real responsibilities of children and gardens and anything else that is best accomplished while the sun shines.

Which is probably why I’ve also been developing a guilty little pleasure that is completely contrary to those things: Valheim.

What is that, you ask? It’s an open world Viking simulator, for lack of a better term (or perhaps Norse-mythology-inspired simulator would be more accurate, if not quite as poetic), where you harvest resources, build houses, raise pigs, and sail on the oceans.

Oh, and fight skeletons. And Trolls. and drakes. And trolls. And goblins. And trolls…

Also, sailing those oceans is somewhat plagued by man-eating sea serpents. But still, quite a fun game.

I haven’t been doing much in the game, even. I haven’t ventured far from the starting area, or fought any of the games bosses. Instead I’ve just been building houses, and hunting deer, and walking through misty forests as the rising sun dapples the trees.

It’s been nice.

I suppose I’ve also been doing a fair bit of reading too. Managed to cross a few books off my ever growing list. Probably not going to make much progress this week as I do the final readthrough of episode 5 before posting it on Amazon. But maybe after that I’ll get a chance to lounge by a pool and fully revel in a world that isn’t of my own creation.

  1. Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele
  2. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrel Drake
  4. Blood and Steel by Seymour Zeynalli (DNF)
  5. Six-Gun Tarot by RS Belcher (DNF)
  6. Volsyng by Set Sytes
  7. Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
  8. Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhter
  9. The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
  10. A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  11. The Lost Dawn by Dan Neil
  12. Cowboy Necromancer by Harmon Cooper
  13. Tower Climber by Jacob Tanner
  14. Godchosen by TS Snow
  15. Conquerer’s Blood by Zamil Akhter
  16. A Bad Rune at Angel’s Deep by Anthony Lowe
  17. Street Cultivation 2 by Sarah Lin
  18. Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
  19. The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins
  20. Untolled by JP Valentine
  21. The Black Shriving by Phil Tucker

Word Count Check In

Something new I’ve decided to start doing: posting the total words of my current projects. That way anyone checking here will know roughly how far along something is, I’ll have somewhere to check my progress, and it’ll serve to hold my feet to the fire and hopefully keep me both motivated and on track.

My current writing project is Conduit (sequel to Fatedancer), which currently stands at 36,831 words. I figure that project will end up similar to the first book at around 125k words, so basically 1/4 of the way there? Yay…

Further Reading Update

So I’ve made more headway in the books I’ve been burning through lately. With summer coming on I probably won’t find as much time to read as my evenings seem to get filled with other things, sadly.

  1. Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele
  2. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrel Drake
  4. Blood and Steel by Seymour Zeynalli (DNF)
  5. Six-Gun Tarot by RS Belcher
  6. Volsyng by Set Sytes
  7. Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
  8. Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhter
  9. The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
  10. A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  11. The Lost Dawn by Dan Neil
  12. Cowboy Necromancer by Harmon Cooper
  13. Tower Climber by Jacob Tanner
  14. Godchosen by TS Snow
  15. Conquerer’s Blood by Zamil Akhter
  16. A Bad Rune at Angel’s Deep by Anthony Lowe
  17. Street Cultivation 2 by Sarah Lin

I’m ready to admit my plan to read through 50 books this year was a bit ambitious (currently counting books on and off this list I’m at 17), but I don’t intend to stop plugging away at it. A well-read writer is a better writer, after all.

Oh, and speaking of writing, look what arrived in the (electronic) mail the other day:

Reading List Update

Hey all, I know it’s been quiet around here for a while. Don’t have much to say to that, other than I went through a bit of a roller-coaster emotionally the last few months. Fortunately things have settled down, and I feel like I have life a bit more under control. So I thought I’d update about the status of my TBR pile.

While I haven’t made as much progress through it as I’d hoped I would, being a third of the way through the year and all, in my defense I’ve also read a bunch of books along the way that weren’t on the list to begin with (curse you Will Wight and your surprise drop of Bloodlines! I mean, not really, but seriously that about gave me a heart attack when that suddenly popped up on my new releases list!)

I’ve also added a bit to the list as I’ve finished books.

  1. Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele
  2. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrel Drake
  4. Blood and Steel by Seymour Zeynalli
  5. Six-Gun Tarot by RS Belcher
  6. Volsyng by Set Sytes
  7. Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
  8. Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhter
  9. The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
  10. A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  11. The Lost Dawn by Dan Neil
  12. Cowboy Necromancer by Harmon Cooper
  13. Tower Climber by Jacob Tanner
  14. Godchosen by TS Snow

Happy to say I haven’t DNF’d on any of the above, though to be fair I didn’t expect to on any of those particular ones either. I think next up to read is a Shadow in Summer, but we’ll see what jumps out at me.

And yes, I will be back with some actual writing-related news shortly.

Review of Beneath a Brass Sky

So last month I mentioned that fellow author Eli Steele had put out a new story called Beneath a Brass Sky. I finally had time to sit down and read it, and let me just say that the book blew me away! If you have a chance you should check it out, the story reads like Cormac McCarthy without all the pretentiousness:

Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tamarisks and amaranth clustered around shallow depressions where maybe water once pooled. Maybe one day it would again. Or maybe they too would pale away. Here began a land of dead and dying things.

I don’t often have trouble describing a book that I’ve read in concrete terms, but for weeks now I’ve grappled with how exactly to put my thoughts about Beneath a Brass Sky into words. Was this literary fiction written with a brush of fantasy to it, or a fantasy novel written as an ode to the lyrical roots from whence the genre came? Was this a low-fantasy western without the guns, or a high-fantasy epic told so subtly that its magic and mysticism were but a hint upon a breeze that had already passed me by? Was this a good book? Was it enjoyable? Did it leave me changed in small ways that I’m only just beginning to comprehend?

Actually, I can answer those last three, because the answer to all of them is one and the same: Yes, yes, and yes.

This is the story of the mercenary Ulfric Halehorn, twice a deserter and far from the lands of his birth, and yet this story isn’t about him. This is the story of Spero, a banker who is both more and less than he seems, who tasks Ulfric’s company with transporting the bank’s interests across the great and savage Brasslands—but this story isn’t really about him, either. This is the story of the Huntsman, a peacekeeper who is the most dangerous, terrible thing in the world: an evil man who believes himself righteous. Though the story isn’t really about him either, of course.

Rather, this is a story where the journey is as important as the destination, and world itself is as much a character as those that live their lives upon its surface. The Brasslands, which appear modeled much after Africa and the Middle East here in our own world, have a personality that despite their inspiration is entirely their own, one that changes from moment to moment, page to page. Be it endless wastes of sand, or fields of fire and smoke, or places where short grasses and hyenas play, this is a world that felt as vibrant and real as the people crossing it.

And the characters truly were vibrant. Halehorn is driven by his past decisions, haunted by the tragedies that he’s witnessed, and guilt-ridden by the choices he did or didn’t make. With each step in their journey, some of his history or personality was peeled back, revealing another layer, and I was always eager to see what the next turn or bend brought for him and Spero. Sometimes danger, sometimes revelation, and sometimes—all too rarely—a bit of joy.

In the end, this book was not at all what I expected when I picked it up, but I’m so glad I did. It was dark, and brooding, and at times forced me to look at the most depraved aspects of humanity. Yet I wouldn’t give up that journey for anything in the world. This is a book for lovers of fantasy who demand more out of their stories than simply heroes and magics and warring nations. For while all those things are present here, they are subtler, more refined, more… real.

This is fantasy as I imagine Cormac McCarthy might write, though thankfully lighter on the symbolism and the endless description. Steele is not McCarthy; thankfully he is his own thing entirely, and his book is literary fantasy as I want it to be. This is a story of tragedy and triumph, of death and life and rebirth. This is is the tale of what it means to be Beneath a Brass Sky.

Where prayers go unanswered, and cries go unheard, and people deserve better, but never is it so.

My Current TBR Pile

So I know things have been quiet around here since Fatedancer launched. Part of that has just been me trying to catch back up on projects I left hanging to handle all of the aspects of publishing and promotion (like, you know, actually writing the next Bulletproof Witch book), but some of it has also been getting through the pile of books that I picked up on release day, had been planning to read, or stumbled across and sounded interesting. Here’s what my TBR pile looks like at the moment:

  1. Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele
  2. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrel Drake
  4. Blood and Steel by Seymour Zeynalli
  5. Six-Gun Tarot by RS Belcher
  6. Volsyng by Set Sytes
  7. Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
  8. Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhter
  9. The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
  10. A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham

Not gonna lie, I’ll probably DNF on a few of those (I’m rather picky about what I read, so if something doesn’t hold my interest I tend to move on) but for the moment I’m optimistic about the pile. Even though I’d like to get through these before 2020 ends (and a whole new slew of books starts coming out) that’s not going to happen unless I quit my day job and become a full-time reader.

Pity. That sounds like the perfect job, actually.