Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Emerald City Comicon!


That’s right, from April 7th through April 10th, I’ll be hanging around, doing thangs and generally being a total jerk!  YOU SHOULD COME SAY HELLO!

Here’s where I’ll be:

ORBIT BOOKS PANEL: Friday, April 8th.  2:45-3:45 PM.  

Room W603

Come hang out with me, Seanan McGuire, Brent Weeks and Gail Carriger as we talk about all things Orbit books!  Do you like books?  Do you like my books?  Do you like someone else’s books who is at Orbit?  Come.  YOU BETTER COME.  YOU BETTER SAY HELLO.

Signing: Friday, April 8th.  4:00 PM – 5:00 PM.

Signing Area

I will sign your books right after this panel!  HOLY CRAP, HOW LUCKY CAN YOU GET?

BADALI JEWELRY SIGNING: Friday, April 8th.  4:30 PM to 5:30 PM.

Booth #111

So, the time on this is a little janky, because it turns out I accidentally can’t schedule things worth a DAMN.  But please follow my twitter and I’ll be posting frequent updates as to my location and time!

WORLDBUILDERS CHARITY EVENT: Saturday, April 9th.  7:00 PM.

Room 2AB.  Convention Center.

Come play games and raise money for charity with me and a bunch of other awful authors!  Sponsored by Heifer International, you can do a good deed and come fucking LOSE YOUR GODDAMN SHIT WHILE PLAYING BOARD GAMES, HOLY CRAP.  BUY TICKETS HERE.  GO NOW.  GO.

And if you can’t find me at one of these places, I’ll be posting my location frequently on twitter, because I am easy to stalk and make bad decisions!


WonderCon & Mysterious Galaxy Signings!


We’re a little over a week out from the release of The Mortal Tally!  If you liked The City Stained Red (and presumably you did, if you’re at this blog), then you’re probably as excited as I am for the release of this book!  Maybe even more excited since you don’t know who dies!


…er, forget I said that.

Anyway, as zero hour approaches, let’s talk about some cool stuff that’s happening!

If you’re going to be in Los Angeles for WonderConThursday 24th through Sunday 27th, you’ve got a deal of a god damn lifetime going on!

My appearances are, as follows:

Panel: Getting to the Point

Getting to the Point—SF/F authors Carrie Vaughn (The Kitty Norville series), Peter Clines (The Fold and the Ex-Heroes series), Arwen Elys Dayton (The Seeker Series), Sam Sykes (Aeon’s Gate Trilogy & Bring Down Heaven’s Gate series), and Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series) discuss the pointy strategic bits of weapons and battle tactics as their characters battle for causes from the mundane to the sublime. Moderated by Maryelizabeth Yturralde of Mysterious Galaxy. 

Los Angeles Convention Center.  Room 151.  Friday, March 25th.  12:00 PM to 1:oo PM.  Signing to follow!

Signing: Badali Jewelry Booth #1103

More details here!

I’ll be signing copies of my book, any book, you show up with!  You need a ticket, but the ticket is FREE!

In addition, I will have a very limited number of copies of The Mortal Tally to giveaway.  It’ll be a first come, first serve situation, so HUSTLE THERE!

Booth #1103.  Saturday, March 26th.  3:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

And then…the big one…the super important date…


That’s right!  I’ll be at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego next Tuesday to sign copies of The Mortal Tally!  (Preorder link included so that you can take advantage of this coolness!)

Mysterious Galaxy have been steadfast supporters of mine for a long time and I’m super pleased to be able to see my newest book released into the wild under the loving care of their fancy-ass bookstore.

There will be books!  There will be sass!  There might even be some fancy authors you weren’t expecting to see there!  Holy crap!  I hope you’ll come by and see us!

March Appearances!


February is almost over!  Your opportunities to buy discount chocolate hearts before they’re melted down and reformed into discount chocolate bunnies is quickly closing!  But do not fear.  There is no cause for alarm.

Because you’ve got Sam Sykes.

That’s right.  It turns out March is going to be a busy-ass month for your favorite author who can also beat up one of every bear*, and I’d like to let you know what’s going down in the coming days!

MARCH 3rd, 7:00 PM: Signing at The Poisoned Pen!

I’ll be interviewing Rae Carson and V.E. Schwab at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale!  In addition, I will also be signing books.  I will be putting my signature in the book and then you will be forcing the book into your eyeballs.  This is how the digestive process works, as far as words go.

Both of these very talented authors are a joy to interview and I dearly hope you guys will come by to see them and maybe me.

MARCH 12th – 13th: Tucson Festival of Books!

The Tucson Festival of Books is a literary festival that’s near and dear to me.  Seeing such a wonderful festival in my home state promoting literacy, authors and a love of books and seeing it so well-attended…it fills me with determination!

Here’s my schedule!

Saturday 12th, 4:00 PM : Tough Guys of SF/F

Sunday 13th, 11:30 AM: Generations of Sword and Sorcery

Sunday 13th, 4:00 PM: My Hero Can Beat Up Your Hero


This will be my first time at WonderCon, but it will not be the first time I have roamed the streets of Los Angeles, shirtless and drunk and screaming at police!  You don’t have to come for that latter bit, but you should come see me there:

Friday, 12:oo PM – 1:00PM: Getting to the Point – Discussing the Strategic Bits of Weapons and Where to Stick the Pointy End

Saturday, 3:00 PM: Book Signing at Badali Jewelry Booth!  I’ll be signing copies of The City Stained Red, and whatever else you might have for me to sign that doesn’t bite, burn or sting, at the Badali Jewelry Company booth!  Badali Jewelry is a company I am very proud to say has launched a line of The City Stained Red-inspired jewelry!  Pick one up while you’re there, why don’t you!

MARCH 29th, 7:30 PM: THE MORTAL TALLY Launch and Book Signing at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, San Diego!

This is it!  Culminating in all of this, The Mortal Tally will finally launch!  Please don’t forget to preorder it, if you’d like to take advantage of our fabulous giveaway!

And at 7:30 PM, I will be doing a book signing event at The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego!  If you are there, please consider stopping by!  I will doubtlessly not yet be drunk and we will have such a great time, I literally won’t be able to stand it!

See you there! 08-B

Answer the Companions: Lust & Rust






“Ugh.  My back is killing me.  My head feels like it was stomped on.  What the hell happened last night?”






“You realized what we had to do today and tried to drink yourself to death.  Normally, I applaud that sort of behavior, but when I started criticizing your technique, you just threw a bunch of bottles at me.”






“Well, clearly, if your technique was worth anything, you’d be dead by now, wouldn’t you?  And since you aren’t, neither am I, which means we’ve got to do this shit again.”






“Oh, come now.  Let’s have a bit of a positive attitude, eh?  One should savor these rare opportunities for sentimentality and romance.  After all, it won’t be too long before we all find ourselves too busy for simple whispers in the dark and roses left on bed and we’re forced to pay people to slap us in the face and call us filthy names just to see if we can remember what it feels like to be in love again.”






“…what the fuck happened last night?!”






“Our first letter comes from Carl, who asks…”


Catch 22. Rock and a hard place. Chocolate … It’s always the damn chocolate!!! So, my lady is perfect in my eyes. But not in hers. She seems to believe that she is getting a little too round. Pfff whatever, right? She wants to lose weight for HER. Excellent I say. She’s become much more picky about what she eats. Chocolate is on the nope-not-eating list. Chocolate is what I have given her every year for some time. If I don’t do it this year I might somehow send the message that her fears about her self body image are correct. If I don’t, all of a sudden I don’t listen. I don’t really KNOW her. Either scenario could start a fight. What do I do?






“There’s your first problem: chocolate is full of sugar.  Makes you slow, weak.  A good relationship is a partnership.  And if she’s going to provide, you need her lean and angry.  Try giving her meat.  Chicken or other fowl is best, for efficiency.  Cow’s too domestic.  If you want something hoofed, turn to venison.  That’s the good stuff.”






“However insane it might sound–and I beg you, gentle reader, don’t turn away at my next words–I agree with my…company, I guess you’d call her.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of benefit to lying to just about everyone: the authorities, the merchants, the girl at the tavern down the street who’s always wanted to ride in a carriage so you stole one and said it was yours…but rarely to someone you’re hoping to court.  Trust is paramount is any relationship.  And if she says that she’d rather not have chocolate, then you should listen to her.

“That said, you’ll definitely want to escalate things elsewhere.  Consider taking her out for a nice meal or, perhaps, even cooking something for her yourself.  Even if you’re terrible at it, she’ll appreciate the effort because you’ll have listened to her and, trust me, she meant what she said.  Women love that kind of crap.”






“And if she doesn’t like the meat, well, she won’t complain if she gets chocolate next year, will she?  Anyway, our next question comes from Cam, who asks…”

Dear Compainions,
I would like to know which is the best way to propose to a women and with what.






“What do you mean with what?  You use a ring, obviously.”






“What?  Why a ring?”






“To show your dedication and affection, of course.  It’s a timeless piece of artistry that symbolizes–”






“Do you eat it?  Is it made out of something?”






“No.  It’s usually gold or silver and set with a gem that–”






“Oh, I get it.  The gem’s sharpened to a fine point and when you get in a fight–POW!  Suddenly you’re throwing fists and people are losing eyes.”






“That’s not it at all, you backwater barbarian.  The ring is a symbol of perpetual and undying love, the suggestion that, even though our mortal frames will one day give out and turn to dust, the loves we forge never shall.”






“So, you can’t eat it, can’t hunt with it, can’t use it to defend yourself.  But you keep it around to remind yourself of how quickly you’re dying and how your love was summarized by a shitty piece of metal that’ll probably be melted down and turned into coin for some shithead to buy something useful with.”






“Look, you’re giving him the wrong impression, it’s more–”








I have an absolutely awful question about love. How do I court my mailman who looks like a fucking angelic model from heaven? Thanks






“This isn’t too hard.  Humans always think their fancy mail protects them, but I haven’t seen a human problem yet that the right arrow couldn’t solve.  First of all, get a little closer than you normally would.  The arrow will have more impact and you can see if the man is wearing anything under the mail.  If he is, your best bet is to aim for the unprotected parts, like the eyes or–”






“That’s not what a mailman is.”












“A mailman is a guy who delivers letters.”






“Like the one who brought these to us.  So, yeah, shooting still seems like a good idea.”






“…anyway, dear reader, you’re not giving us a lot to go off of here.  Has this mailman introduced any feelings towards you?  Does the conversation come freely?  Stiffly?  Approaching people in a professional capacity is always risky–if you go looking for romance on the job, you usually end up with a knife in the gut.  Metaphorically or literally, depending on your line of work.  If you’re intent, though, and have reason to believe that your feelings might be reciprocated, just be straightforward.  Go take him somewhere and nurture whatever feeling he’s put out there.”

Dear Kataria,

I’m running into a peculiar issue while adventuring that perhaps you can help with. It doesn’t really matter if I’m killing horrific beasts, helping the common man (for a price – look, a girl’s gotta eat), saving the innocent, you know, *doing important things* – everyone keeps assuming I simply don’t exist. And by that I mean they pretend I’m not there at all.

Except “him.”

And whenever *he* talks to me, do you think I get a thank-you for saving his ass? Nah, we’re talking about the peculiar and beautiful luminescence of the moon or some shit. Do I get any credit for lopping off that bedazzled eight-foot land shark’s back left fin so it didn’t, you know, consume half the party and that random group of lumberjacks that just wanted to “hang out”? Nah, we’re talking about my eyes, or how we “feel,” or more specifically how *he* feels about *me*. Do I get to discuss how maybe I deserve just a little more pay for almost losing my finger garroting the latest assassin? Nah, let’s talk about “us” instead.

Weirdly, this seems to apply to everyone else in the party, too, by which I mean every time they talk to me, they’re talking about him. And how it’s so nice he’s found someone, by which they mean me for some reason, although I’m not quite certain how he’s “found” me as I’ve been standing here the entire damn time (except for that one time where I was standing behind them and jamming a mechanism for an avalanche that would have buried them all alive – long story).

It seems as though this malaise has stricken everyone we encounter as well. They spend an inordinate amount of time pointing out that it’s “so sweet to see him with someone” and “I’m really good for him” and “you two look so good together” as well as something about ships that I’m reasonably certain has nothing at all to do with the business of sailing. Merchants don’t ask me what I want, they just throw out a collection of dresses, paint for my face, jewelry and noxious perfume, and look at me oddly when I tell them to show me their selection of daggers, swords, explosives and other assorted weaponry.

I’m not sure where they have gotten this impression, because I’ve certainly never said anything of the kind. It’s beginning to feel like I’m in some sort of bizarre alternate universe in which I am destined to be bound to this idiot forever, which is certainly not my intention at all. I can’t get a sentence out of another person without them mentioning it. I can’t have a reasonable conversation with anyone without them saying something about it. But “it” doesn’t exist. And apparently *I* don’t exist without *him*, according to everyone else.

So my question is: Do I just kill him and take back my own destiny, or should I be looking at the entire party instead? And is it considered poor etiquette if I just, you know, take their stuff? I mean, they aren’t going to be using it.

Destiny can go hang itself





“The moon?  Feelings?  What the hell does he think you’re doing out there?

“Here’s the problem with humans–and I assume you’re surrounded by them, since your friends sound like idiots–they don’t want to work for anything.  They built their big stupid cities and sprawled out their big stupid farms so they could grow their big stupid vegetables and now they don’t appreciate what goes into hunting and hurting anymore.

“Destiny is just a word they made up to justify that laziness.  Funny thing is, people only seem to recognize destiny in hindsight.  No one ever thinks it’s their destiny to be eaten by wolves, but it happens, anyway.  Remind your dumb friends about that.

“Sure, let them fawn over you, give you stuff, whatever.  But then just let them handle themselves for a bit.  Hang back, see how they deal with stuff on their own.  With him, though, you might need to take a more active role: shove him into a pit or drop a rock on him or some shit.  Make him appreciate that it’s not destiny that keeps his ass out of trouble, it’s you.  He’ll either toughen up or die.  Either way, your problem’s solved.”





“There’s something inherently romantic about struggle, isn’t there?  Back in the day, you’d need to work hard to woo someone: bring them tributes of gold, kill a monster, find a rare flower on top of a mountain.  Nowadays, everyone just sort of gets drunk and slaps ass in an alley.  While charming, it doesn’t really make things endure.

“I’ll agree with our shictish friend.  But I’ll add that you should always keep an eye on their shit, in case the going gets good.  After all, if they didn’t appreciate their loot enough to protect it from you, it couldn’t be that important, could it?”

Dear, Kataria

What is the best way to earn a women’s respect, kindness, kill her enemies, defeat a beast or craft her a fine weapon.






“What?  Why does everyone assume I know this stuff?”






“I mean, whatever the rumors say, you are a woman.”






“So?  I’m not the only woman.  There’s Asper, Kwar, Blacksbarrow, Xhai…I mean, a lot of those guys want to kill me, but you get my point.

“I don’t know what you do to earn a woman’s respect.  Probably you start by realizing she’s not just a woman, she’s…you know, her.  Does she want you to kill a beast?  Did she say she wants a nice weapon?  If you’re just doing stuff in hopes of winning her affections, then you’re probably just going to annoy her.

“…wait, what kind of rumors are there?”






“Moving on.”


Dear Kataria,

My boyfriend ate the last of the curry. Where should I dump his body?


Hungry Girl





“All right, this one I understand.”






“Yeah, who would have thought you’d be able to answer a question about inappropriately retaliating for someone taking food like a gods damned animal would?”






“You’re just mad no one wrote you anything.

“Anyway, dear whatever, if you gut him, you don’t have your curry back and the guy who took it isn’t getting you any.  Presumably, since he’s your boyfriend, you can count on him to do stuff for you.  So, the law’s pretty simple: he took your curry, he either gives it back or you get to take something of his.”






“That’s not the law.”







“You want my advice, though, I’d take something of his just on principle.  Something dear to him that’ll make him think twice about taking your stuff next time.  You can always make more curry, after all–it’s a human recipe, so it can’t be that complicated.  And if you do that, he won’t take your stuff anymore and you’ll have more curry and his stuff.

“Also he’ll learn empathy or some shit.”

Dear Kataria,

What do you do when sex in your relationship becomes soul-crushingly dull and utterly predictable? When 9:17 is go time, and 9:23 your partner is snoring in satisfied contentment?

Thank you!






“Have you tried hitting him?”






“Why you got so many letters, I’ll never understand.

“Not that anyone asked my opinion, but if I had to weigh in, I’d probably say that you should only be forthcoming with information at three times in your life: on your deathbed, when you’re writing your will and when you’re about to go to bed with someone.

“Communication is what’s key.  People are always so proud of the idea that they’re fantastic lovers or so terrified of the idea that they aren’t that no one ever tells anyone anything.  It’s a conspiracy of silence between both people when it should be one of the most honest times in their lives.  If the sex has become mind-numbing, then the first step should be to bring it up to your partner and ask for their help in progressing forward.

“All the toys, tricks and techniques in the world won’t save you if you can’t be honest with your partner.  Let them know and work from there.  It’s not like it could make things worse.”






“And if it does, just hit him.”


Dear Kataria (and Denaos I suppose, but mostly Kataria),

I’ve been a lone Shict for years now, but every now and then, I tend to yearn for someone to have a good tumble with; However, there are a couple problems that arise from this yearning.

First and foremost is that I have been burned too many times and have learned to not trust others. In fact, I don’t really like other beings at all. I just sometimes want someone there as another sexual being to connect with from time to time. I know it doesn’t make sense. Of course, as you well know, Kataria, the anger can definitely increase the fun and pleasure, but it still tends to leave someone with unreal expectations, thinking that they can continue to talk to me and be in my presence. Annoying.

Second, I love myself a lot. Like A LOT. To the extent that I wonder if loving someone else, even temporarily, would put me in the middle of a love triangle with myself. Let’s be honest, no one knows how to make love to me better than myself, so sometimes I wonder why I even bother looking for someone else, but I guess it comes down to the fact that touching yourself will always feel slightly different than being touched by another.

So, I guess my question is, how do I stand someone long enough to make love to them, and how do I do it without making myself jealous of myself?

Lone(ly) Shict






“Makes perfect sense to me.  You want someone sometimes, but not all the time.  You hunt alone, but eat in a group.  Don’t beat yourself up too much over wanting to sleep with someone from time to time.

“As for making yourself jealous?  Well, that’s just overthinking it, isn’t it?  Same concept applies here.  You hunt by yourself because no one else can keep up with you.  You eat in a group because it’s lonely eating by yourself.  Different needs, different people.  Loving yourself is something you’ll always do, no matter who you get together with.  No need to worry about that.  You’ll always be there for you.  Letting someone else in just lets you have a break now and again.  You kill the meat, they strip and prepare it.”






“That’s actually rather insightful.  Why all the references to meat, though?”






“I am hungry.  All I had last night was a bunch of grilled leeks.  That’s not even real food!  I think they just made it up!”






“Well, fortunately for you, that was the last letter.  So I’m sure we can go root around in an alley and find a rat for you to eat or something.  But before we do, I’d like to extend our thanks to our gentle readers for thinking us worthy of answering your queries.  As ever, you make this time of year precious.”






“Wasn’t there supposed to be a book given out or something?”






“Oh, for fuck’s sake, there’ll be a message sent out about that to the winner.  Do you want to eat or not?”


Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Ask the Companions III: Shot Through the Heart

It’s February!  And that means it’s almost VALENTINE’S DAY!

That’s right, motherfuckers!  The day when homes are raided, people are dragged out of their beds and screaming into the night to be rounded up in pens and summarily judged to see if their obligations toward their romantic partners are met or face oblivion.

So yeah, it’s pretty hot.

But if you’re a reader of this blog, you might know that Valentine’s Day has a different tradition around these parts.

That’s right, you sassy sasquatches!  It’s time once again for…



We’ve done this a few times before on the blog and it remains a fan favorite.  And an anti-fan favorite.  And an aggressive guy who lives in my dumpsters behind the alley favorite.

The concept is very simple.

Do you have a question about romance?  Dating?  How to catch the eye of that self-absorbed fella at work?  Where to take that sassy gal with a spunky attitude and a fresh new perspective on life?  Who should have the dominance in a relationship after the ceremonial fistfight to establish it ended in a draw?  What to do about that funny smell coming from under the basement door and why your significant other is always dragging wet, sopping bags down there?

Ask the companions!

Just send in an email using this contact sheet here.

Title it “Dear Kataria,” or “Dear Denaos,” or “Dear Companions” or dear whatever, we’ll get the idea.

Then write down the question you’d like to ask Denaos or Kataria.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, they’ll go through your terrible questions and give you equally terrible answers!  What a treat!

You can read the preceding years’ entries here and here!

Please don’t hesitate to send in any questions you might have!  You have until February 14th!  And since we’re all having fun, what the hell.

The most interesting question will receive a signed copy of The City Stained Red (North America only; sorry, shipping’s a dick).


The Mortal Tally: Kill Demons, Get Money

The time has come, friends.


In a little over two months, The Mortal Tallythe second book in the Bring Down Heaven trilogy, will be available for purchase.

And that means it’s time to PREORDER!

As an author, preorders are pretty great for me.  My editors are able to look at it, see that people are excited for my book to come out, and then they quietly take the shells out of their shotguns and put them back under their desks for another day.  I really can’t overemphasize how important and great it is for you to preorder books from authors you love and support.

But, as you know, before I was an author, I was a big, weird nerd.  And amongst my many nerd hobbies, I was that most insidious breed of geek: the gamer.

Preordering has a special correlation to people who play video games.  Showing dedication and support is all well and good, of course, but what’s even more important than that is PREORDER BONUSES.

Back in the day, I would preorder merrily, whining to my parents that I absolutely, simply had to have such coveted prizes as cloth maps, limited-edition figurines or soundtracks to the game’s score which I would later play when I was in a car with a girl I liked and that’s why you don’t have grandkids right now, mom.

Now, admittedly, it’s pretty expensive to make cloth maps and figurines, and since this is a book, the only soundtrack it would have is the sound of my screaming.  But I can do the next best thing: artwork!

Here’s the deal my friends.

1. Preorder The Mortal Tally from your favorite outlet.  

We’ve got a bunch of links to help you do that right here!  If you’re on Amazon, you can find it here!  And if you’d rather support an independent bookstore, consider placing at an order for a signed copy from The Poisoned Pen!

2. Take a screenshot or show evidence of it.  Perhaps put it in a tweet?

3. Mail it to me using my contact sheet here with the subject title: “I PREORDERED AND I AM A GOOD PERSON”

4. I will email you back an astonishingly awesome wallpaper, done by the amazing artist, Chanh Quach!

A tantalizing hint of that awesome wallpaper, you have already seen above.  I guarantee that the final edition is even more incredible.

You have until March 29th to let me know!  After that, you’ll have to settle for my regular ol’ undying gratitude.  Like some kind of chump.

Chanh, bless her, put so much amazing work into this wallpaper.  I’m so immensely pleased that people love my work enough to help me out in such astonishing ways.  And I am very keen to share her majestic prowess with you, my gentle readers.

So I hope you’ll take advantage of this!  It is the only way to keep me from haunting your dreams!

Opportunity is knocking.

It’s me.

Buy my book.

The Gate Opens

Since the arrival of The City Stained Reda lot of people have expressed an interest in reading my earlier works: Tome of the Undergates, Black Halo and The Skybound Sea.

And for that, I am perpetually grateful.  I absolutely adore the enthusiasm and exuberance for all my work.

So it has routinely irritated me to have to tell people that the books were difficult to find.  For many months now, I’ve had to request that people be patient and that their desire to see how the adventures of Lenk, Kataria and friends began would be sated.

And today, I am pleased that I can finally tell you to stop waiting.

Please join me in welcoming the rise of a new book: An Affinity for Steel!


Pretty radical, right?  Dig that Brent Weeks blurb!

There will be a print version available later in 2016, but for now, the entire trilogy is available in eBook format!  Here is the Amazon link, but you can find yours in alternate formats, as well!

Those of you who loved The City Stained Red will no doubt also love this book.  It has all the heart and soul, as well as the violence and emotionally maladjusted people, of City while also having…






Semnein XhaiSM



All art done for the Lost Pages by the amazing Michael Lee Lunsford.

The holidays are upon us.  You’ll no doubt need new books to read while you avoid relatives and get blitzed on ‘nog.  This is your answer.  This is your call.  Buy it.  BUY IT OR I’LL SLAP YOU!


Hey guys! I write comics, too!

So, from my various rants on superhero costumes to my occasional comics depicting a sexually-inappropriate Spider-Man, you probably realize I love comics.  And if that wasn’t evidence enough, there is the fact that I had one made for my very own story with the insanely good help of my friend, Ashley Cope.

Flesh and Blood, Steel and Gold was made for three reasons: one, because I love working with Ashley; two, because I really wanted to see a comic of my work; and three, because I wanted to see if I liked writing comics.

As it turns out, I do.  I do a whole lot.

Which is good, because the good people at BOOM! Studios have asked me to contribute stories to their amazing series of Munchkin comics!


Woah there, Sam Sykes.  That’s a lot to take in!  What the heck is Munchkin?

What?  Seriously?  You don’t know?  You’re here on this blog, so you must be a nerd of some variety.  And if you’re a nerd of some variety, you must know about this awesome game.  But I guess if you don’t…

Munchkin is a tabletop game by the good folks at Steve Jackson Games in which several players take the form of aggressively belligerent adventurers out to kill monsters, get loot and backstab each other in the most wildly imaginative and bloody ways.

Sounds pretty good, but why’d you want to write comics about it?

…because it’s about aggressively belligerent adventurers out to kill monsters, get loot and backstab each other in the most wildly imaginative and bloody ways.  Sheesh.

Well, that’s it!  I’m sold!  Where can I get it?

The issue in which my story is featured will be out on November 25th in this, the year of our lord, 2015.

Please support your local comic book stores by going there and requesting it for your pull list!  Or, if you’re a digitally savvy fellow, go out and find it on places like Comixology!

I’ve had an amazing time working with BOOM! and Steve Jackson games.  I think you guys are really going to like what I came up with.

See you then!

New York Comicon 2015!


It’s almost October!  Which means it’s almost time for New York Comic Con!

I’ll be there again this year, doing both panels and giveaways!  And you can come see me!  YOU BETTER COME SEE ME!

My schedule as such for this year is…

Fantasy Draft League: Thursday, October 8th.  4:15 PM – 5:15 PM.  ROOM 1B03.

Four authors (Eleanor Herman, Sarah Beth Durst, Bradley Beaulieu and Zac Brewer) will put together their own dream team of fantasy heroes from across literature!  Naomi Novik and myself will judge them all and see which one of them cuts the mustard.

…cutting the mustard is a football term, right?  This is all like football.  What is football.

I hope to see you there or at the autographing session to follow!

But if you don’t make it, you can also find me at


At the Hachette Booth, my publishers will be giving away free a whole mess of copies of The City Stained Red!  Come get one!  COME GET ONE OR I WILL BURN YOU.

And of course, you can find me all over the show floor!  If you follow me on twitter, I’ll be posting my location pretty much all the time.  So please feel free to approach me at your leisure with questions, signings, high-fives or anything that is not licking me on the face.  I’m not falling for that one again.

It’s in one more week!  Looking forward to seeing you there!

Unshaken, not Unstirred

Hey.  You guys want to talk about heroes?

I’ve been attending some cons lately–San Diego Comicon, New York Comicon next month, and most recently GenCon, which spurred this blogpost–and I’ve been on a few panels in which authors, editors and audience members alike have been voicing a common thought on a singular sigh.

I miss heroes.

Me, too, friends.  Me, too.

If you’ve been around fantasy fiction for the past few years, you might have noticed the phase where we all decided to paint our nails black, shop at Hot Topic and post moody poetry to our LiveJournals known as “grimdark.”

There are plenty of debates on what this is defined as, so I won’t waste much time discussing that, but it is usually hallmarked by characters who lack heroic qualities.  They are often practical to the point of cruelty, cowardly to the point of irredeemable, vicious to the point of sadistic in the name of a world that demands such of them.

You can see why people weary of this.

But what people often forget is that they came about as a response to extremely sanitized fantasy stories of the bygone day where you had a triumphant hero chosen by destiny who sets out with his companions–the funny guy, the serious guy and the girl–who will probably kill a race that is all irredeemably evil as a matter of narrative so don’t waste time looking for deeper characterization there seriously stop it, kill an enemy with an unambiguously evil title like The Destroyer, The Annihilator, The Scourge, or Jeff, and then get the girl in the end (because why else would she come along).

…and I don’t think we want to go back to that.

There are some people who call for a return to the morally pure, ethically flawless hero.  I can’t get behind that.  Besides just being dull, there’s always the matter of realizing that ethics and morals are subjective and forever changing.

But I do think we crave something from our fantasy that we’ve been missing in grimdark.  And it is this.

The core of the character.

It’s a tall order, being a fictional character.  People want you to be flawed, difficult and broken so that they can sympathize with your struggle and see their struggles in you.  But people also want you to be flawless, always right and never hesitant so that they can see something to aspire to and take comfort in escaping their problems.

You could be forgiven, as an author, for viewing this as an impossible task.

But you could also be forgiven, as an author, for being frustrated when an audience doesn’t understand that characters change: they grow, they think, they evolve.  They have bad opinions, they sometimes change them and sometimes change back.  They are brave until they’re scared, they are strong until they fail, they are weak until they fight back.

All good characters should do this.

But some good characters…shouldn’t change.

Not completely.

We talk occasionally about character-driven stories: stories where the decisions made by the character are what makes things happen, rather than the plot aligning to give them something to do.  But how do we make characters who drive the story?

We make a character with a core.

Some characters need to have, at their very center, something unshakable in them.  Something that can’t be broken, that can’t be destroyed, that can’t be altered.  Their outer layers can be filled with doubt, with fear, with lust and all sorts of things.  But when those are stripped away by conflict and loss, there is something at their core that keeps them going.

The plot is a lake.  And there is a huge stone thrown in the lake–it can be another character’s decision, it can be an event, it can be an unknown disaster or just an unfortunate twist of fate.  The events of the story are the ripples across the water that go until they hit a rock jutting out of the middle of the lake.  Then, the force changes and those ripples turn away from that rock and radiate out from it.

That rock is the core of the character.

It can be a concept.  It can be a feeling.  It can be a message.


In The City Stained Red, Lenk is the character with the core.  He is the one that suffers a lot.  He is the one that does a lot of fighting.  He is the one that fails the most.  But he is also the one that continues to get up.  He is the one that never gives up.  His core is that he can’t stop fighting, no matter what.  And the plot resonates from this.

But let’s look at some other examples.  Here’s one you might be familiar with.


Captain America is a character that actually might be mostly core.  His entire concept is that he is uncompromising, unwilling to budge (as you can see from his dialogue there), and unwilling to yield.  Sometimes this is simple: bad guy wants to blow stuff up, Cap says no.  This can sometimes cause some problems, such as in the Civil War arc (before it got stupid).  But the concept is the same: the plot bounces off of Captain America and then he drives the action.

Or you might recognize this example here.


You might be thinking: “How did this guy affect the plot?  He’s dead.

I refuse to apologize for spoilers.  There’s a statute of limitations on these things.  And besides, his death doesn’t change the fact that Ned Stark was the guy in Game of Thrones that exemplified what I’m talking about best.  He refused to compromise, refused to forsake honor or what he knew was right for the sake of making things run smoothly.  Even when he knelt, he did so because he had a core within a core: above even honor, he held his family as his most important thing.

And, like the waves rippling off the rock, pretty much everything in Game of Thrones is a reaction to Ned Stark’s death.

These are all fine examples.  But in my opinion, no one in American fiction exemplifies the concept of a character with a core more than this guy.



Homer Simpson is the unshakable moral hero.

He is greedy.  He is slow-witted.  He is gluttonous.  He is cowardly, scheming, quick to anger, slow to reason, strangles his kids now and again, does a lot of terrible things.

And Homer loves Marge.

This is the core of his character.  Homer loves Marge and would never violate that.  When he hurts her, he makes it right.  When he’s gone too far for her, he dials it back.  He does misdeeds to accomplish what he thinks will please her and tries his best to keep her happy.  And no matter how much shit can happen to him in 30 minutes, that core can’t be altered.

Or can a core be altered?

…yes.  Despite everything I told you about how a core can’t be altered, that’s just one rule of writing.  And writing is about breaking rules.  But to break them, you must know them.

And when a character’s core is altered, it’s a big fucking deal.  Or it should be.

That’s why Ned Stark died shortly after his core was shattered.  There was nothing left to him.  And I hear they’re splitting up Marge and Homer in the newer seasons of The Simpsons, so that’s why that show still sucks.

But you get what I’m saying.

Consider this in your writing: who, in your story, has a core?  What is that core?  When they’re up against the ropes, what will that core do?  What effects will that have?  And what effects will that effect have?

You don’t have to plan out every reaction for this to work.  You just need to know what happens when the hero gets back up when he should stay down, what happens when Captain America won’t compromise, what happens when Ned Stark won’t forsake honor, what happens when Homer goes too far.

Consider this in your writing.  But also consider it in the writer.

What’s your core?  When you’re rejected by publishers, when you’re shit on by reviews, when sales are shitty and no one seems interested in you, when a horde of angry internet users decide you’d make a fun punching bag, what will be left after you get beat up?

Find that core.  Know it can’t be broken.  And all those tragedies won’t matter.

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