EDIT: Well, as always, it’s a little more complex than I’d thought. King’s Blood is out today in the UK. The US, a little less certain. Let’s call this one Real Soon Now and celebrate accuracy over precision.
Well, it looks like The King’s Blood: Book Two of The Dagger and the Coin is out in the UK tomorrow and in the US the day after that. This is that nervous part where I’m right on the edge of the diving board. By about this time next week, I’ll have the first week sales figures, a handful of the first reviews, and a better idea of whether the project’s taking wing.
I started working on The Dagger and the Coin pretty quickly after I finished the Long Price Quartet books, but I didn’t just sit down and start pounding out words. I spent a lot of time talking to my friends and colleagues here in New Mexico about what epic fantasy is, what it’s strengths are, and how to engage with them. I had a day-long meeting up at Melinda Snodgrass’ place with folks like Ian Tregillis, S. M. Stirling, Walter Jon Williams, George RR Martin, and Ty Franck where we pretty much sat around and chewed over what these projects are. Then I had a massive plotbreaking session at my place with some of those folks and also Carrie Vaughn which was especially remarkable in that the house was struck by lightning in the middle of it. On the up side, no one died.
The Dagger and the Coin was and is a difficult and rewarding project for me, because I’m trying something really difficult. When I wrote The Long Price Quartet, I wanted to do something really original. Something that I hadn’t ever seen in the genre. Or anywhere else, really. I’m very pleased with how it came out, and the folks who actually managed to track down a copy of Price of Spring and read the quartet all the way to the end have tended to be very positive about it. (For those of y’all that haven’t, Tor will be printing up an omnibus trade paper edition later in the year, so Price of Spring is about to be a lot more available than it has been before.) The Dagger and the Coin wasn’t about striking out for new territory. It was about taking something familiar and making it feel new, and I took my lessons from Babylon 5.
I am a massive Babylon 5 fan, and two things I admire the most about that series were that it knew it’s own structure — if you finish the series and then go back and watch the pilot episode, almost everything that plays out over the next five years is laid out right there at the beginning — and that it took whatever it thought was cool and stole it, and most of the time, it didn’t even bother to scrape off the VIN number. Psicops from The Demolished Man? Cool, and what’s more, name the main guy Bester. The evil place where a character falls into a pit and is reborn more powerful than before? Well, Gandalf fell into Khazad-dum. How about we drop Sheridan into a pit on Z’ha’dum. Sounds almost the same. I had never seen anyone steal so blatantly or so successfully. Yes, okay, some of the scripts weren’t great, and some of the acting was among the most painful ever put to film, and you pretty much need to get through the whole first season tipsy and fast in order to stand the worst of it. When I got to the end, I felt satisfied.
I was talking with Ty the other day about a short story we’re working on, and what he said was that those moments of satisfaction, of coming to the end of something and feeling that what you’ve just been through meant something, that it have you what you were looking for from it, is the gold we’re mining for when we do this. I managed with the Long Price books. I hope I will with The Dagger and the Coin. I like how it’s going so far. I’ve done what Babylon 5 did and taken things I thought were cool, even though my list was a little different. I took Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen and Walter Tevis’ The Queen’s Gambit and Tim Park’s Medici Money and Macbeth and Firefly and Babylon 5. I got my magic system from Joseph Gobbels and Karl Rove. I put in the players from Hamlet. I put in Torve the Trog in different drag from Panshin’s. I made a whole range of exotic races and a world with the bones of dragons and great cities and strange ruins. I put in people had no reason to like and made them likable. I put in violence and sorrow and adventure and sex.
I’m finishing up the third book in the series right now, so the things that happen in The King’s Blood, I’m seeing bear fruit. And I hope, hope, hope that people enjoy this. Because I’m having a blast.
So if you’re interested, come check out what I’ve got so far. If you haven’t gotten it yet, there’s The Dragon’s Path ( amazon | BN | indiebound) and The King’s Blood ( amazon | BN | indiebound ). Also the first omnibus of the Long Price Quartet’s out ( amazon | BN | indiebound ), and the second one’s coming.
And then, because you’re on a roll:
You can thank me later.