Introducing The Jon Del Arroz Collection

I’m very pleased to announce my partnership with CryptoFashion to create some awesome swag to go along with my epic books. We’re working on producing a number of different designs, which will be trickling in through the first couple weeks of  the year. I’ll try to point them out as they go live.

The first item we have is a t-shirt with the Crest of Malaky, the symbol of the Grand Risladnian Army in my hit steampunk novel, For Steam And Country.

These turned out awesome, and I’m sure it’ll be a popular item especially as more books come out. On that front, I’m about two scenes from finishing the first draft of Von Monocle 2, which I should wrap up this week.

I’ve also had a number of requests for posters of the book cover, which CryptoFashion also is generously putting into production. I’m excited to see this cover art in a bigger form myself.

As I said, there’ll be more to come. I am actually working with someone right now to create a map of Rislandia — another item many readers have requested. Naturally these would make for a great poster-sized item as well as having for a book insert. I’m hoping it’ll be ready in the next couple months.

For now, enjoy these items!  This is a big step career wise. If you would have asked me a year ago if I thought I’d have a company licensing my work for merchandise, I would have laughed and said I wish! Well, wishes come true with hard work and great products. Thank you everyone for making the book successful enough to catch their eye. I’m still not tired of winning and can’t wait  to win even more in 2018.

Cool Cosplay!

This Halloween I was quite happy to learn I had the first cosplay (to my knowledge) based on my book. A reader sent me this picture of a dapper young gentleman:

Dressed as the astounding and magnificent Baron Theodore Von Monocle. I’d say he did an excellent job, a nigh perfect job of recreating the Baron’s look. Now it’s got me thinking about doing a Young Baron prequel series… hmm…

But that’ll have to come later.

‘For now, I’m hard at work on Zaira’s second adventure, Von Monocle 2. I’m about a third of the way drafting the book at 32,000 words right now for #NaNoWriMo, and it’s coming along quite well. I anticipate finishing the draft in December and having it for release sometime next year.

For now, you can check out book one here and maybe get inspired for your own cosplay. I’d love to see some folk try out the Wyranth soldier uniforms.

The Book 20 Years In The Making

Last night I finished up my edits on what will be the first in what I hope will be many space opera / military SF novels set in this particular universe. It’s titled The Stars Entwined and follows an Internal Affairs investigator for humanity’s Interplanetary Navy as he navigates a powder keg of a political situation with the neighboring alien Aryshans, and a parallel story of an Aryshan Commander who has her doubts about war with humanity being a good option for her people. As their lives cross path, the war escalates to new heights. These characters really shine for me, and I hope they will for you too!

In Jan-Feb I first-drafted a second novel which overlaps with this one, which I’ll hopefully get edited and ready for you all mid-next year so you can see other angles of The Aryshan Wars. Needless to say, I’m very excited about bringing you a space opera with 100% my own world-building, and keeping in the rich tradition I’ve created in bringing fun novels through Rescue Run and For Steam And Country.  

As the blog title says, The Stars Entwined has been in the making for about 20 years. It’s the first book I ever wrote, which started in a high school English class when I wrote down the opening volleys of what would have been one Admiral Conley’s perspective (you’ll hear about him in the book) in fighting a war against an alien species. That assignment sparked my imagination where I began writing. Over the next several years, I wrote in spurts, pinning down the origins of the conflict and how the war escalated. I don’t have the original paper with Admiral Conley’s epic battle anymore (and I would probably cringe if I saw it!). My story ended up with a completely different cast of characters, with a completely new angle on interstellar war which hopefully will be fresh for you when you read!

I finished my first draft of this book, which at the time I had titled These That Twice Befell, a line from an Emily Dickenson poem. I liked the poem and the line, but as a title, didn’t feel quite sci-fi enough for me. The poem is:

My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

The poem still fits the theme a little bit as you’ll see when you read the book. The book really has a lot of internal death and rebirth of the characters as their preconceived notions of their worlds and who they are get turned upside down.

I redrafted the book a second time in 2014-2015, still not quite there in terms of honing my work. At the time, I called the book Starcrossed — which felt a little better for sci-fi, but there’s a zillion books titled that. I set the book aside when I started writing for Doomtown: Reloaded, which eventually led into my Star Realms novel. For the time, I set aside my own worlds and works to focus on the game-related material. I learned a ton about writing in those years and pushed myself to the next level.

With Star Realms being such a huge success, nominated for multiple awards and having so many amazing reviews, I knew I wanted to stick with Mil SF/Space Opera as my primary genre for writing. Both because I grew up reading mostly this genre, but also because my fans already were acquainted with my writing in the genre. For The Stars Entwined, I definitely drew heavily on my influences: Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, Lois Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, and Sharon Lee. If you’re into their work, I know this will appeal to you, and hopefully I was able to come across in the same tradition.

After my game work was complete, I saw people finding me online and beginning to read the blog and my books regularly. I had a choice to make to try to get work out faster — did I rewrite what would become The Stars Entwined, or did I try to release a Steampunk book I’d drafted as well. For Steam And Country was much closer to being a complete, finished work. It needed a lot less overhauling than my space opera did to be worthy of your read. I knew I needed to get something out a little faster than working on The Stars Entwined would allow, and so I chose For Steam And Country, nervous about releasing a more YA Steampunk with my audience.

When I finished the book, I immediately started work on The Stars Entwined, which I retitled it during its third major overhaul around May this year — and I actually wrote most of it from scratch. I threw out almost all of the prose from the first iterations. The overall scenes changed by about 30% of the book, which is unusual for me as I usually have the plot points worked out very tightly by the time it gets out of outline form (I work hard on my outlines, which I’m doing for Von Monocle 2 right now!). I may one day show the first draft of this to let everyone compare but it was a ton of work to get this done over the summer.

While I was doing that, For Steam And Country ended up being a bigger hit than my first book. It’s a great problem to have, but I do have the issue now where people are waiting for a sequel on my Steampunk, and now I’m about to release yet another first book for a series. I didn’t plan it that way, but the cards fell as they did based on what I had ready.  At the time I was releasing my Steampunk, The Stars Entwined was my priority to get done. I wasn’t sure a steampunk would resonate with my crowd at all, and I wanted to wait and see before committing to a series there, especially as For Steam And Country works very well as a standalone. For those readers, fear not, I’ll be spending NaNoWriMo getting book 2 of Baron Von Monocle written for you with lots of updates on its progress on this blog. I did get a little bit distracted by my Deus Vult In Space concept, which I wrote because I had to get that out of my system when I had the idea, so I apologize for the delay there, but hopefully you’ll forgive me that one digression. 🙂  That book is going to be a ton of fun.

I finished this draft of The Stars Entwined in early August, and did a clean up pass on it during that month. It’s been with my editor since then, and I just completed fixing the notes he gave to me. I’m extremely excited to get this into your hands. It’s in proofreading and cover art design right now. I haven’t decided when to release it yet — it largely depends on those efforts and their timing.

But there’s a lot of stories to the background of this book, how it developed, and how it changed. I’ll share as much as I can with you in the coming months so you can see the process of how this evolved into the fun space opera story it is for you to read.

Right now the books release schedule is probably going to be this:

  1. The Stars Entwined
  2. Reach For The Stars (Overlaps with The Stars Entwined, needs an edit)
  3. Baron Von Monocle 2 / Deus Vult – depends on which is going to be faster/easier to edit as to which is first.
  4. Alt-Hero 1
  5. Alt-Hero 2

As I’ve committed to co-write those Alt-Hero books, I may need some time before I return to these universes. It all depends on speed and also my co-writer Vox Day’s schedule in working on those. But it’s going to be an awesome 2018 at the very least. I’m about one year being in this business, and it’s been phenomenal. I’m really grateful you’re reading and giving me time to do a few series (it helps from keeping things from getting stale on my end!)

That’s all for now. I could ramble about all this for hours, and I might on periscope at some point so stay tuned for in depth looks!

If you’re liking my releases so far, have you checked out my novella, Gravity Of The Game? It’s being talked about for Hugo consideration for best novella by many people. Read it now here! 

Steampunk Review: Tainted by Morgan Busse

 

Tainted is a Steampunk novel set in a Victorian-style fantasy world that doesn’t feel all too different from most London settings. Kat is mostly alone—with a dead mother and a mad scientist father who spends all his time away from her, on his projects, and she’s left raised by paid staff, a woman who ends up a relation to the other main character, who is a detective become bounty hunter after his life goes wrong.

Morgan Busse does about as excellent a job as possible as setting up sympathetic characters. Both are put into situations where they’re hurting immensely through betrayal within the first few chapters, a trick that the master of sci-fi, Lois McMaster Bujold oft uses in her books, a formula to put characters through the worst possible situations from their perspective and see what happens when they come out the other side. When writers do that, it makes it very easy to latch on and go through the rest of books, and Busse succeeded in this.

The story is billed as a Frankenstein redone steampunk, and there are some of those elements there, but this reads much more like a romance-fantasy than a horror novel, so I think it’s better to go in with those expectations. Kat goes to what basically amounts to a mad science school, and has these strange powers she can’t explain that she tries not to use because it makes her feel as if she’s losing a part of her soul. Stephen spends early chapters moping, but he eventually decides to help Kat in her quest to figure out what’s going on with her.

It eventually comes to a climax that is hard to put down in the last hundred pages as the pace picks up and the stakes keep getting raised. There’s romance, betrayal, and a cool mad science laboratory with Frankenstein-style experiments that I wish I’d seen a lot more of earlier in the book, as this is where the world becomes compelling. Naturally there’s an airship captain because it’s steampunk, and the set up there does play a useful part to the story. Busse does an excellent job with the Chekov’s gun and making sure everything ties in, and is foreshadowed ahead of time.

A couple of criticisms of the book are that it uses the standard “no women are allowed into _____” trope where it didn’t really seem to have much use to the story. It’d be nice to not see that in every book out there, but it’s what we have in the market currently. After the first couple chapters, this part of the storyline goes away almost completely so it doesn’t negatively impact the book too much.

Second, this is done by a Christian publisher and it falls into the small trap where the characters stop and pray every few chapters as if to remind a reader it’s a Christian book. World city, however, is set in a fantasy world, and the religion and who/what they’re praying to isn’t well defined, and doesn’t seem to impact the story. Again this is minor, as it happens periodically but doesn’t overwhelm the story, but might be something to look out for.

Minor elements that didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the story too much.

Overall this is a fine first steampunk outing. Fun characters, a well-paced story that’s on the run and doesn’t stop. The writing style is light and easy to read, good for a fantasy/steampunk set up. The heroes are heroes reluctantly, and the villains are certainly villains. The last third of the book is where it really shines after the set up. Tainted does not completely resolve, but is set up for a book 2 so be aware of that as well. It was a pretty natural stopping point for the story, however, and I did enjoy enough that I will read the second in the series.

https://www.amazon.com/Tainted-Soul-Chronicles-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01BTHEUWQ

For Steam And Country – Now on Kindle Unlimited

I had a great conversation with my publisher today and with the exciting news about the Dragon Award nomination for Star Realms: Rescue Run, we agreed it’d be a great thing to run a promotion for my other novel, For Steam And Country. If you haven’t checked it out, go do so! It’s extremely well reviewed and free!
https://www.amazon.com/Steam-Country-Adventures-Baron-Monocle-ebook/dp/B071JNR9HB

Geekchats: All Things Steampunk with Beth Cato!

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 11th at 12 PM PST, I have a very special guest on for Geekchats, author Beth Cato, famous for her Clockwork Dagger and Blood of Earth series, some of the best steampunk and alt-history around. We’re going to chat all things steampunk from tropes to alt-history to final fantasy and back again. Full disclaimer: I have never received any cookies or other baked goods from Ms. Cato.

Watch below:

 

Beth Cato: http://www.bethcato.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Cato/e/B006S84MNO

And note that her novel, Breath of Earth is my recommendation for the Dragon Award for Best Alternate History. Vote Beth here! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

Jon Del Arroz: http://www.delarroz.com
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jon-Del-Arroz/e/B01NBOZVCP

And my Star Realms: Rescue Run is making great traction toward best military science fiction or fantasy for the dragons as well. Only a couple weeks left to nominate! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

#SteampunkMonth Review: Everland by Wendy Spinale

I went into Everland not knowing what to expect. I saw steampunk wings on a cover, heard it was a Peter Pan retelling but Steampunk, and that was enough to get me in the door. It turns out it’s more of a “twisted fairy tale” which I found out afterward is a genre in and of itself. Some of the Peter Pan elements were there. You had Hook and the Lost Boys and crocodiles and the like, but it really was its own story. It’s got much more unique elements than it has retelling, so be aware of the going in. I find that a good thing personally.

London has been hit by some devastating weapon/virus that has turned it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The way they talk made the time period tough to pin down, but it seems like it was a WWI-WWII era type of event. At first I thought it was more Victorian than that, but there’s some technology and the way they talk that wouldn’t have fit for that time period. There’s no reference to Nazis or anything like that, it’s got its own timeline and own villains, including Hook’s mother who is a distant queen in Germany who apparently has been spearheading these assaults.

All the adults are dead, a trope we’ve seen before. And this one also has all the girls dead or dying, girls are a very rare thing in London. We have Wendy, who’s been renamed Gwen, taking care of her little brother and sister. They’ve been orphaned and Gwen is trying to just keep them safe – until they come across Peter and Bella (Tinkerbell, but just a standard girl with some wings steam-tech) who set them off on an adventure as Wendy’s sister Joanna is kidnapped by Hook. Wendy vows to do anything to get them back.

Over the course of the book we learn about the Lost Boys, where they hide, how they’ve survived and their dilemas, and a lot more about the virus. I was actually about to not buy the world because of a couple of things that get explained around 2/3 through the book in a little bit of a twist that I won’t spoil. It really makes the world work so if your’e having trouble with the disease and all that from suspension of disbelief point, it helps there.

I did have a little trouble in suspension of disbelief with the kids survival, especially the character Doc, with how much he was able to do, develop medicines etc. Seemed a little much for the age group, but this is aimed at middle grade who probably view later teenagers as their elders. A minor thing we can ignore.

Gwen was done great character wise. This is in first person present and actually there are chapters from Hook’s perspective, still first person present. Spinale (the author) does a great job of differentiating between these two perspectives and an A+ on characterization from that front. It makes the book worth reading.

The action really picks up toward the end, the pacing is absolutely execellent as well. There are some points where it’s just a little hard to suspend disbelief as it all picks up, but if you can get past that and just have fun, this makes for a good dystopia and good twisted fairy tale effort. The steampunk elements are pretty light other than some reference to zeppelins and a couple other things. I could have used a bit more worldbuilding across the board on that front to really get a feel for the differences for what’s going on. Some nice use of historical art and landmarks though make this worthwhile, especially for letting your kids read.

Overall, a fun and light outing, even in such a dystopian world. If you like Peter Pan, you’ll get a kick out of how Spinale twisted things, and if you enjoy dystopian YA, you’ll probably love this book.

8/10

#SteampunkMonth Review: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis is a Steampunk war story about a woman who, by luck and her willingness to fight, becomes an airship captain. She is set up by the general, with his nephew Bernat being sent aboard to report on her and provide evidence she’s incompetent.

After the opening battle, the first third or so of the book progresses naturally along these lines with Josette trying to establish her command, and Bernat attempting to foil that, until it gets into the thick of the book where a great battle is promised and then delivered upon.

The plot is pretty straightforward so it’s a bit hard to talk about that without spoiling it, but those who want an epic steampunk war piece will not be disappointed. The amazon listing states this is in the tradition of Honor Harrington, and I think that despite the setting change from space to airships, this book delivers on that about perfectly. Fans of David Weber should absolutely love this.

For my personal tastes, the Weber-esque aspects were the weakest parts of the book. It goes into hefty detail on the workings of the airship, the procedures of the crew, etc. Now this isn’t bad writing by any means, it was all very competently done, but those stretches of pages don’t appeal to me, and they occupy large portions of the book’s real estate in hefty detail. That said, it will likely appeal to every other science fiction reader out there big time, so it’s understandable why it was written that way.

Where Bennis actually does quite well that goes beyond what Weber’s done in my opinion is provide a very excellent dichotomy of characters. Josette is rough, rugged and a hard worker to root for. Bernat at first may drive you crazy, and you’ll find yourself agreeing with Josette’s internal and external assessments of him, but he grows on you as his intelligence and wit are revealed. The side characters like Bernat’s lordly uncle and Jutes are well done and memorable also.

The best part of the book, however, is the tone. It’s so masterfully done and multi-dimensional. While it’s a very dark story, really highlighting the horrors of war and making a very gritty environment, the sense of humor and sarcasm from the characters makes a wonderful balance to that. I laughed out loud at several points during the book, which is very difficult to make me do. And at the same time I felt horrible for the characters for what they were thrust into. Being able to achieve both of those moods simultaneously is an incredible feat in writing. This adds a layer to the characters where they don’t just feel like military grunts.

It’s paced very well, and the developments are very nice in terms of the war. I wish we’d see a little bit more of the personal side of the characters, as things are hinted at but the focus stays very much on the war. That’s natural given the crazed state they’re in, but there are points where we could have seen just a little bit more of a push in that direction.

On the war itself, I do appreciate the author’s subtle anti-war messaging to it, the way that Bernat as a lordling really can’t explain what the war’s about and why it matters, nor can the military in Josette. They try, but the reasons are thin. They just have to destroy the enemy because. And sometimes our real wars feel like that in earnest, especially in the last few decades.  Josette’s sense of duty despite this is both admirable in points, and makes you want to scream at her to do something else – but it does always come off well developed and natural. This message didn’t come across as preachy at all either, which is a bonus.

On the flip side, I didn’t feel much sense of progress from Josette or Bernat internally. The latter gave up on his mission to destroy her, but didn’t really change or develop in much of a sense. Josette by the same token had her command firmed up, but the same in terms of lack of much internal development. And I didn’t get a great sense of resolution of the war – now this is consistent with the worldbuilding as the war is talked about as a multi-generational thing that never seems to end, but I would have liked a clearer resolution in that regard where I at least felt some progress was made one way or another.

There is one other message of the whole women are oppressed and held down and everyone’s sexist which is not subtle at all, and while at certain points of the book it can get a bit burdensome, I don’t find it as overwhelming as I have in some books. Still at this point, there are far too many books with that monolithic message where it rings propagandic from publishers in our society rather than ringing true, and it’s not fun to read in the least. For the majority of the book though, it doesn’t have much of an impact or cause too much of a problem.

The prose is about perfect. I mentioned the wit and humor at points, but the descriptions of all the airship components and the workings are really marvelous. You feel very immersed in the world as a reader, it’s incredible. This is a great steampunk fantasy world that’s sensible in every regard.

I’ve put a lot of criticism in here but the real reason for that is I was so immersed that I care about the book, settings, and characters. It’s very few and far between that a book makes me care to that level of detail or that I can envision so much of it so vividly.  I found all of it memorable, and extremely well done. I’ll go so far to say that this is the best book of 2017 to this point about halfway through the year. Highly recommended.

9/10

 

#Steampunk Month Retro Anime Review: Steamboy

The first comment my wife made for this movie was during the opening crawl, where she said “why is it that all these take place in Manchester, 1866.” Too true. Then again, she watches primarily BBC historical dramas, which all seem to take place in such a setting. This took a different take.

I watched the dubbed version becuase I couldn’t resist Patrick Stewart, which I found to be good. It was weird hearing an english accent iwth translated dialogue and lips that didn’t move quite right, but I’ll forgive that as a necessity of the movie.

This is the story about a boy who gets a mysterious package of some steam tech that his father/grandfather were developing. People are chasing after it because it can be used as war weapons, and he goes on an adventure to a world’s fair kind of set up that it escalates further into people tyring to steal tech, automotons attacking, and a giant steam castle that moves through the air and causes all sorts of havoc.

I found it interesting how all the charactesr talked about science as relgiion, almost creepily so. They kept saying science shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, science would be gbest for humanity, this is the age of science! The mantra feels a lot like certain groups today, and it leads to the hubris and ultimate destruction wrought in the film.

The main character boy was cool. I liked everything about him, his initiative, his smarts, his willingness to defend himself. The O’Hara girl got kinda annoying at points, and the father and grandfather were downright stubborn. I’m still not sure what to conclude of it as the story while it follows a very linear path that’s predictable with the machinery, doesn’t really resolve the elements of the familial aspects that are inteesting at the beginning. They all kind of work together later, but the ultimate resolution is unsatisfying.

Overall, the pacing is pretty good, I liked the main character to watch all the way through, art was pretty decent, and I loved the steam tech all over the place–those concepts were awesome, but it was missing something that made it something to connect to in a big way like I had with Akira, one of Otomo’s other films. I know he took a long time to work on this, but the story could have been better honed. It’s worth a watch once, but probably not multiple times.

7/10