“Like a book already written, turn a page forward or back, read a line or a page, yet all the words in that book exist at once, unchanging; is this how you see it? Like fate? Do we fall no matter what I do?”
Future generations will mythologize Duke Lenn Wancyek, but he is a person like any other. He feels hope, worry, loss, pain, and the weight of a kingdom on his shoulders. When his responsibilities place him in a catastrophic situation from which he may not escape, his values will resonate through his actions more thoroughly than any speech he could ever make.
You will meet everyone who looks to him and you will see their struggles which run concurrent with his: a friend and adviser who wishes to steer him right; three musicians who think they have landed the greatest job in the kingdom; a gardener who does so much yet asks so little; a woman who works to free her people. The list goes on, but time grows short.
You will meet the man who becomes the legend. You will know the fate of Lenn.
The city of Port Selumer springs up from the one large accessible beach to be found amidst rocky terrain and old cliffs. To the side and up those cliffs is the home of Emperor Maximian and his daughter, Alathea. Further to the east of that, and best accessed by an easily defensible causeway, is the territory of the old palace and village of Eirinikos.
It’s a city of tiers that gets divided by class along the upward slope. People at the bottom can live off the fruits of the sea and anything that might be desired for trade further up the city. North of the city, pastures and vast fig orchards exist to serve upper class feasts.
North of farms and orchards, you find some wilderness, most notably a sumac-dominated forest in which lurks a northern clan adept at stealth. And north of that, clan territories: different peoples who are alternately swinging deals and temporary alliances with the Port Selumer based empire or openly fighting against it, or settling disputes with each other, or just living life in a manner that’s most meaningful to them.
South of the city and a cross the water lies a more familiar world, but this novel isn’t directly concerned with that.
A writer who can’t really draw for the life of him can picture what he wants in fragments but not render it the way he likes. An artist is capable of rendering such visuals but doesn’t have direct access to the writer’s mind. That’s the first challenge with me.
I start with drawing a mockup map. Here I try to remain cognizant of what exactly I don’t know how to do well with it so I can communicate the difference to the artist later. I also make frequent use of words to describe anything I want placed in a general location but don’t know how to draw. It’s a step up from a completely word-based set of instructions because at least I have tried to visually arrange where things should go relative to each other.
Scale is a greater challenge to me on a regional map than on a world map. A building only appears on a world map to show where a landmark is, but we don’t expect it to-scale.
When I had to mock up this regional map after only ever having done the world map, I was left with vast pockets of empty space because the city was too small, and conversely, too much attention was being paid to the world-map shape of coastline around it. I was automatically focusing on something irrelevant to the story, which means it doesn’t need to be on the map.
A professional map artist might have clued into that on his own, but they don’t know what I mean until I spell it out. Unfortunately, they are probably used to clients who have made them guess, only to say, “No no, that’s not what I had in mind,” without being particularly helpful to the artist. You will generally have a better time working with artists when you figure out how to avoid doing that, or at least how to be mindful of their challenge in not being able to read minds.
That said, I prefer to listen to the artist on matters of making geographic sense. In the world map, not every border could be a mountain range, and most divisions between land and sea for an entire continent weren’t going to be cliffs (if you will, is that an active fault line? Are some of the mountains on the range sandwiched against the sea/ocean going to be volcanic?). If you want something to be prohibitively inconvenient to navigate, consider other reasons why ships might pass an area by for a more convenient port, like swamps, dense mangrove growth, shallows, for example. If you want a village best accessible by causeway, perhaps there should be a reason visible on the map for people to go to all that architectural trouble.
At the end of the process, I feel that I considered exactly what I needed to have on a map for the purpose of the story. A touch of realism to the lay of the land is appreciated, but I’m also not attempting to map out a product of our planet’s specific environments, plate tectonics, and eons of geologic time. If you require a deeper level of detail than I do, or a harder realism, then you’re the one who decides that for your project.
“She despised her father’s world. Why couldn’t sorcery be true? Would that world not be better?”
Alathea was raised to rule, but the benevolent and deranged forces that hope to prepare her for the throne may create a monster. She’s torn between her father’s reign of empty order through terror and violence, and a magical path that could be completely illusory. She can’t live one exclusive of the other, so she lives both.
Her father is bent on protecting his daughter from the same fanatics who killed her mother, but far too often his desire for revenge takes him away from her. His yearning to raise a strong and steadfast heir compromises what little time they do spend together.
Her tutor intends to help her be better than her father, more sensible and knowledgeable, in control of her own story and the narrative of the empire just as her mother had been. But he isn’t raising her alone and can’t predict how his teachings will be used.
Her nurse subtly coaxes her toward a path of faith and enlightenment according to the nurse’s secret masters, believing that Alathea can be saved and in turn save the empire. But the Seers have grim plans that they would never reveal to their minion.
This tragic story touches on loss, the insatiable hunger for control, the way people live stories and narratives, the innocence and danger of dreams, the follies of love, the deep hatred and rage dwelling within people, and the dangers of using conquest to strive for peace.
Embattled by all the forces hoping to shape her to their whim, Alathea takes a piece of everything they give her and becomes something never before seen in the land. Goddess. Empress. Monster.
Villains and Mental Health Depictions
To my knowledge, no protagonist or antagonist I have written is a bad person because of a specific mental health issue per se. Every developed character I have is struggling with something deep and personal; for example, as I understand it, Derek has in common with his author that he’s autistic and that he gets to be under pressure from some of his peers and society for staying true to his demisexual nature, and also a deep dissatisfaction with his life at many points. He’s also not the main focus of this post, just an opening thought.
With my villains, their villainy tends to stem from imperialism, monoculturalism, a need for stifling control over everything, a refusal to collaborate with or listen to others about what their goals are and only letting people have input in order to use them for a personal goal, exaggerated vendettas, and a privileged detachment from countless human lives affected deeply by antagonistic actions every day. Lords Merton and Belheff are less-developed characters who have very specific agendas and treat human lives flippantly in order to pursue grandiose goals, and we can see how little they care about people of the land even if they claim everything they do is to strengthen and secure the future of that land. Merton and Belheff aren’t the focus either because they are pawns, and they’re getting about as much focus here as they do presence/relevance in the trilogy.
This is about Alathea, because I decided she’s important enough to have an entire new book written about her. This is also more within the trilogy context because that’s where she’s acting as primary antagonist. The new book doesn’t even go to the same places that the trilogy does because it’s focusing on a formative stretch or cycle of her life, though it sure doesn’t hide the aforementioned laundry list of villain traits either.
This is about her trademark mask. Everything she does that makes her an antagonist, she does whether the mask is on or off. It is never about being pleasant or charming when the mask is off, then a cruel dictator when it is on; she’s capable of being intimidating and mean without it.
The mask is specifically there because of an inner revulsion at having to perform violent acts against any other human being, even one who poses a threat to her, and a traumatic incident involving her father who believed she would need to have to kill someone some day for the sake of power and wanting a controlled learning experience of this for her. She’s convinced of what she needs to do according to his instruction, but feels utter revulsion that someone else couldn’t just do it for her, so her father’s mask is like something she can have with her that enables her to do what needs to be done.
After his death she likes to imagine it is him, and is a way in which he can be with her whenever she needs him, instead of constantly going away to fight battles that in her view he could always have gotten someone else to do, ultimately depriving her of his valued presence. She even likes to imagine having a conversation with him via the mask as a way of processing ideas which she may not like but she imagines he might have made her consider anyway.
None of which touches on why she is seen as a villain. It’s not wearing a mask that suddenly makes her an ultra-controlling imperialist warmonger, etc.
The original intent of the mask is also to intimidate, which her father used it for, which a key ancestor of theirs used a mask of his own for, so she can use that functionality as well. You wear it to battle so that no matter how you feel inside, no one should have to see you concerned or afraid. Just an intimidating entity to which one must surrender or die.
But she doesn’t have to wear the mask to send armies off to wars of aggression, nor order people tortured and/or killed, nor desire revenge against Chandra Kenderley, nor do any other terrible thing, except if she might have to take a life with her own two hands or do something very in-person and direct that doesn’t sit well with her.
Absolutely nothing about Alathea’s character arrived as a result of any study of clinical psychiatry, psychology, or any understanding of that nature, but everything I do certainly reflects long-standing tropes in fiction that I have read and any leaps of imagination resulting from that and everything is certainly up for discussion.
I felt the need to write this due to a broader discussion of mental health, its depictions in media, and especially cases where antagonists/villains are portrayed as having their villainy/antagonism directly caused by an unfair/inaccurate depiction of a mental health situation. I thought I should spell out my approach just for the record.
Do you own a first edition? Here’s how to tell
I streamed a YouTube video today to talk about the easiest ways you can tell whether any of your paperback copies of my Gift-Knight trilogy are first editions.
Hello. I’m Dylan Madeley, author of The Gift-Knight’s Quest, The Crown Princess’ Voyage, and The Masked Queen’s Lament.
And I’m here to talk about the unofficial “first editions” of my work compared to books that will be available on Amazon and other platforms going forward.
Now, let’s start chronologically. The [Gift-Knight’s Quest], the first editions were done in a print run via Matador which is an imprint of Troubador Books over in the UK.
So first off you’ll know if you have a first edition of my book because it will have the Matador imprint on the back and it will have the price of the book listed in Pounds Sterling, not US dollars or Canadian dollars or anything like that.
And it will be about what, 10.99p?
And I no longer really have a working business relationship with Matador or Troubador, whatever you’d like to call them, we amicably parted ways as my contract ran out, so therefore they no longer handle ebook versions of this either.
I don’t know how well you’ll be able to tell first edition ebooks or whatnot, let’s keep it to paperbacks.
So, Gift Knight’s Quest is, not only does it have the Matador imprint and the Brit pounds price, it has a full bleed artwork cover. You know what I mean if you’ve compared The Gift-Knight’s Quest to The Crown Princess’ Voyage, where the artwork looks like a box on the cover with a black border around it. That’s a CreateSpace/Amazon/KDP, you know, they didn’t, I didn’t have the same luck doing a full bleed cover on either of my sequels. So the formatting’s entirely different.
So then when The Gift-Knight’s Quest becomes, joins the others as books I have entire control over even the paperback version, there will not be full bleed covers anymore.
Let’s move on to The Crown Princess’ Voyage, because this one has always been done on my own with CreateSpace/KDP, so the differences are rather minimal. The first big difference you will see is actually the finish of the cover.
What I mean by that is, most of these books have a gloss coating, gloss is traditional, for the first edition Crown Princess’ Voyage I went with matte. That probably means that if you have a first edition Crown Princess’ Voyage, there is a scuff mark somewhere on it because, as I realized, the matte was trash. It was just very easily damaged, merely upon transportation. Before I even had all the copies they already had little shiny marks where the matte had been worn off by being in the box with other books, jarred.
So, differences in the text, as well, I mean I skipped that for Gift-Knight’s Quest so I don’t even know if I want to go into that, very miniscule. They’re important, but, the changes are important and they matter but I won’t get into that today.
Now, Masked Queen’s Lament. Because it’s so recently released, it has that gloss cover, it’s on CreateSpace/KDP so it’s not a Matador book at all. But, without even knowing the different things I did with words, you will be able to see on the back of the book whether you have a first edition or not. Okay.
The difference is, if it’s a first edition, the opening quote will be something about how, “Alathea was enjoying the feeling of all her weaponeers watching her and hanging on her every word, and it felt a lot like control.”
And I chose that initially because yes, it encapsulates the character’s big issue: want for control. Control of life, control of absolutely everything, because she didn’t have control as a child.
But, over time, I looked at it and I thought it was a bit hammy, I was already doing edits on the interior having found a bunch of typos upon a casual reread, and some of which were just brutal, so I thought okay, I need to fix these.
So, second edition, if we can even call it that, of The Masked Queen’s Lament, will not have the same rogue’s gallery of typos and errors, but also the back of the cover will instead quote her saying, “Has this been one bitter lifelong lesson of what little love can accomplish?”
And I chose that because it’s a Lament being made by the Masked Queen. So then, it’s the masked queen’s lament. It’s the title of the book, it goes back to that. So it’s very on the nose in making sense.
And so that’s how you will be able to tell if you have one of the rare first edition copies of any of these books, because all of them will be different. I mean, if you ask me, the interior copy’s only gonna be better over time. The ebook edition of Gift-Knight already makes certain better adjective choices when describing characters because I was really really irreverent back then in all that I did, and I kind of cringe at it now like, you know, you don’t need to be like that all the time.
Crown Princess interior words, I mean, I edited the original when I was heavily medicated, and I occasionally encounter a passage where I go, yeah, was I even reading it? So the ebook editions now and the available KDP version now, with its gloss cover, will have better words.
And The Masked Queen’s Lament, it was really important to me that I nail it, I did my best with the second editing run, and the back cover is how you will be able to tell, whether it’s one of the upwards of 40 copies that I printed before realizing I needed to fix the whole thing, which if you bought you likely bought at Ad Astra in 2018 or at Toronto Pagan Pride Day 2018 [Harvest Festival] where I made most of my sales.
So that’s that. I thought it’d be neat to get into the different editions that have sprung up this early on in the game, although in terms of my first book it’s been almost five years now.
See ya next time.
The Masked Queen’s Lament available once again
After a necessary editing run, The Masked Queen’s Lament has returned to Kindle/Kobo ebook retailers and to Amazon in print-on-demand format. I had been casually re-reading through my proof copy and found a critical mass of errors that turned up in the print copy as well, including one puzzling misgendering that ultimately pushed me to decide another editing sweep was warranted; not to catch everything, because self-editing a 128,000+ word document will have its limitations for me, but not to let so much through the editorial sieve.
One major benefit of self-publishing through an easy platform, especially using print-on-demand, is the ability to revise a manuscript and put it up again. Ebook platforms will, as far as I know, let the reader update to the latest ebook edition; it costs nothing to fix the digital reading experience that way.
Things get complicated with print runs and print-on-demand. The “first print run” of The Masked Queen’s Lament consisted of 40 author copies created through Amazon’s print-on-demand service. They print it in the USA, and I live in Canada. Some copies didn’t actually make it across the border without being destroyed, but I got refunds for those, and I believe they were actually the 20 new editions of The Crown Princess’ Voyage I had ordered just in case things sold wildly well at Ad Astra 2018.
Really, that means there is no mass print run here, but the same rule applies: if it’s in print, there’s not much editing I can do. I urged first edition buyers on my FB Author Page and Instagram to turn to page 269 and cross out the simplest yet most offensive error that found its way in, the one that made me decide to yet again sweep the whole manuscript from beginning to end. There are still two spelling errors if you know where to find them, but the most confusing word omissions (i.e. omitting “not” from a sentence that is still grammatically correct without it, yet inverting the intended meaning of the sentence), word inclusions (i.e. artifacts from previous editing runs that should have been erased during a rephrasing but somehow were not), even an outcome in the end of the plot from first draft that I believed I had revised.
All of these things will still be in first-run print copies, but I’ve done my best to get them out of what you can buy from Amazon and Kobo going forward. I am happy to have the book available again.
My will to self-edit future books unassisted is completely broken. Editing has never been one of my favourite activities to begin with, but it is certainly something people paid me to do, to gain a valued role in publications that I value just as much, and to fix some clients’ English in very short documents in return for money that could get me beer or a transit pass. I feel that I did things the way I had to do them, resources being constrained as they are, but I will have to think a lot about how I proceed with future publications.
Anyone who has a paperback copy for the collectability, and also reads Kindle ebooks, should know that this title is subscribed to the Kindle MatchBook program and you should be able to get the Kindle edition free if you own the paperback. You would then get an edited version to read, without paying for another copy, and without me puzzling over the logistics of replacing your already autographed copy. I have never personally used this MatchBook program, so you’ll have to let me know if that’s not how it works.
One of my ongoing projects has released a new issue! Yes, some people wondered where we went, but it was just a hiatus for much needed personal reasons; Auxiliary Magazine is still here, and the Fall Issue for 2018 is now released. I’ve copied the release statement below:
AUXILIARY MAGAZINE FALL 2018 ISSUE OUT NOW!
The Fall 2018 Issue of Auxiliary Magazine is out now! It is available in a Print Edition and a Digital Edition. A Preview Edition is available online, to get a small peak. Information on purchasing the Print and Digital Edition can be found at www.auxiliarymagazine.com.
The Fall 2018 Issue is the fifty-first issue of Auxiliary, a magazine dedicated to alternative fashion, music, and lifestyle. This issue features Miss Rockwell De’Vil on our cover and as our PinUp. It features an interview with Adam Bravin about Cloak & Dagger, an interview with Kevin Haskins about the book Undead: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus, an interview with ESA, Nina Kate, many fashion and beauty editorials, a Runway to Vanity feature. It also features Anissa Aida, Artifice Clothing, Chromat, Corset Connection, Devoid and Deveil by Chris Carrillo, Gothfox Designs, Isabella Corsetry, Jane Doe Latex, RFD by Rachel Frank, Sourpuss Clothing, Wigs and Grace, and more. Plus photography by Le Mew Photography, Brett Stoddart, Saryn Christina, James Hayden, Laura Dark Photography, Tyler Curtis, and Myles Fearnley, media reviews, music reviews, and more!
Banner graphic for Fall 2018 issue of Auxiliary Magazine.
Upcoming: Toronto Pagan Pride Day 2018
At the end of September, my last vendor outing occurs. It’s the last opportunity this year for people to see me in-person and get autographed paperback copies. It’s the TPPD Harvest Festival.
My usual big day of the year has become Ad Astra, which happened back in July. That’s my ideal time to release a new book and have a more narrowed-down/focused audience for my written offerings. When offered a spot at the Harvest Festival, I decided to try it as a second vendor outing of the year. In past years, I tried The Word on the Street with limited success; it’s big and cool and also easy for me to get lost in right now.
I intend to go over what connections my books have with the Pagan community in Toronto, since it’s not really something I focus on during my usual vendor pitch, nor in blog posts.
They’ve supported me from the beginning, and still do
All the first edition book covers and interior artwork (world map) of the Gift-Knight trilogy came from artists who are situated somewhere within the broad umbrella of the Pagan community. They’ve designed banner layout for vending events and background graphics for book trailers/supporting artwork for the original Kickstarter. They’ve been letting me read aloud at their events, allowing me to host nights such as Danced To Life in their space, hosting the website you’re reading this blog post on right now. Their music made it into my writing playlists. They are my friends.
You might not have gleaned from the text that they’ve had a hand in it since the beginning, but this behind-the-scenes information isn’t always spelled out.
No culture, religion or spirituality in the Gift-Knight trilogy is directly based on any non-fiction analogue. At the same time, most of the names and naming conventions in the story come from our world, and it follows that when coming up with cultures and faiths for the different peoples of the Continent I drew from inspirations. I felt better equipped to provide glimpses of their lifestyles inspired by an amalgam of things I had seen and experienced, than to try and fabricate entire religions and cultural practices in intricate detail.
That’s why we have a variety of things on the Continent of the Gift-Knight trilogy. Derek’s people have seasonal festivals of their own, and mythological/legendary notions of what the omnipresent elements they experience every day must mean; Alathea’s people are comparable, their beliefs would be as different as their geography, and the clans to the north of her empire had completely separate gods before her conquest. There are a couple of notable monotheistic cultures presented, because why not?
These faiths and cultural frameworks are how characters view their world. It’s how they make sense of things they can’t immediately explain, like the seemingly convenient circumstances that set Chandra on a throne she couldn’t otherwise have reasonably expected. Magic is a thing constantly implied or hinted to the believer but not directly or definitively measured, which echoes my personal experiences with faith of various kinds.
Diane Donovan is a senior reviewer at Midwest Book Review and this review appeared in the August issue of that publication, but this particular cataloguing of the review allows the link to take you directly to it instead of anybody having to scroll. That’s why I waited for this version to become available before blogging it.
Readers receive a satisfying blend of social and political confrontation that pairs a quest with new discoveries about different factions operating in the kingdom.
While prior familiarity with the other books in the series will make for a better appreciation of the setting and history of The Masked Queen’s Lament, it’s not a requirement in order for newcomers to gain a sense of what is going on, why, and how Chandra and Derek have their hands full even after an apparent victory.
Of particular note and strength is how the perceptions of the people juxtapose with those higher-ups who have special interests and influences on the outcome of the battles.
The result is an action-packed quest story that goes beyond clashing encounters to probe the roots of power, manipulation, social forces, and individual strength. The Masked Queen’s Lament is a solid addition to the series as well as a good stand-alone read especially recommended for fantasy fans who like their plots multifaceted and well-detailed.
Seeking an author logo with a bit more longevity, I worked with Justin Minister. Well, to be fair, he did most of the work!
I have previously designed new banners and graphics (rather, asked artist friends for help in doing so) that relied on the newest release. I like the results, but such banners may also become obsolete the moment a newer book is released, or once the book advertised as “new” isn’t so new anymore.