Category Archives: behind the scenes

Skyblade’s Gambit: FAQ time!

Skyblade’s Gambit, unlike the Monkey Queen books, doesn’t lend itself to a “behind the scenes” blog post, mostly because it’s not jammed with pop culture references the way Michiko and Beth’s adventures are. I did have some observations, though, along with a Big Secret to reveal about the Skyblade Saga. So, I decided to write an FAQ about this first adventure for Annabel and Victorie. No spoilers this time, but if you were to read Skyblade’s Gambit first, I wouldn’t mind (and if you missed it, head to Amazon and get your copy!).

So, me fine pirate lads and lassies, hoist the mainsail, load yer pistolere, and find out more about the makin’ of this fine pirate treasure of a novella…after the cut! Yarrrr! Continue reading

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Behind The Scenes: Redblade

Here’s the latest in the series of Behind The Scenes posts, focusing on the fifth Monkey Queen book, Redblade! This one is long, and there are spoilers a-plenty, so read on after the cut! Continue reading

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Behind The Scenes: Best Christmas Ever!

As promised, here is our Behind The Scenes look at “Best Christmas Ever”, the Michiko and Beth holiday short story! If you haven’t read it yet, scroll up; if you have, it’s been revised, so you may want to read it again! There are spoilers ahead, so read on after the cut! Continue reading

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Behind The Scenes: A Tiding Of Magpies

It’s Monkey Queen anniversary week! We’ll be celebrating all week with a look behind the scenes at all four Monkey Queen novels and much more, and we’ve reached the fourth and most recent book, A Tiding Of Magpies!

I had been toying with when to make the Big Reveal that happens during this book when the idea for the story came to me. At first, I thought it would wait until later in the series, but I felt it wouldn’t be fair, and it was limiting my plans for further books. Then one day, I happened to be poking around the TV Tropes web site, and I wound up on the Tanabata (Qixi) page and read about the cowherd and the weaver. Story ideas started bouncing around in my head, but I was reluctant to act on them at first, because Barry Hughart had already retold the story in Bridge Of Birds, my all-time favorite novel. I then realized that he’d published the book thirty years earlier, there was plenty of room for another re-telling, and it was a perfect place to put the Big Reveal.

I mentioned earlier that I try to get each Monkey Queen book up to 40,000 words or more. This one was falling short, until I decided that to help the plot make sense, I needed to tell the story of Qixi/Tanabata as it happened in the Far Lands. Thus, “The Author, The Archer And The King Of Magpies”, which you can read here. Both the author and the archer are based on real people, but I am sworn to secrecy about who they are.

Other notes: I was glad to bring back Glien and show he was more than a one-joke character after all. Beth’s wand was supposed to be more traditional looking, but I liked the design Willow came up with for the cover and ran with it. I still love the scene in Wonderland – I wanted to show that, in a way, the regulars and staff there are an extended family, and if you mess with one of them, you mess with them all. The kitsune was inspired by Willow’s many drawings of them, and I hope we get to see more of her and Toyotoki. And Auntie Ting was one of my favorite characters to write ever. I want to bring her back someday.

Favorite Line (taken out of context): “I don’t want to lose you.”

Favorite Reference: Beth geeking out over Bridge Of Birds. She has excellent taste in books.

Most Obscure Reference: Beth’s t-shirt in the first chapter. If there’s any justice, though, fame will soon come for…SPACE CATS!!!

The BAKA! Slap: Technically, I know it’s Japanese, and the Far Lands are more Chinese in spirit. But I knew that I needed a painful way for Auntie Ting to make a point, and this isn’t Earth anyway, so I went with it. And I’m still amused by the fact that the only character who gets the baka slap twice in the book is…Michiko.

And I do have something to say about the Big Reveal: It’s for real. It’s not a dream, not a hoax, not an illusion. And it will continue to affect Michiko and Beth down the road.

Did you know: When I came up with the idea for the 2015 April Fool’s joke – give three short story titles and make the readers guess which one was real – “A Game Of Scones” was one of the joke titles, and an obvious one at that. So naturally, my brain came up with the plot the next day. I’m quite fond of this one; it’s a bit different, it’s sweet (no pun intended), and I like how Beth is the one who comes up with the solution in the end. (And FYI: I may still write “Hound Of The D’Ubervilles” someday.) Read it here, or click the “short story” tag to read them all!

Saturday: A surprise!

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Behind The Scenes: Under The Stars Of Faerie

It’s Monkey Queen anniversary week! We’ll be celebrating all week with a look behind the scenes at all four Monkey Queen novels and much more, and we’re up to book three, Under The Stars Of Faerie!

This came about when two different plot ideas merged together. One was the concept of a mad gremlin kidnapping Mandy, and Mec coming to the rescue along with Michiko and Beth. The other was inspired by my fondness for the Northern California Pirate Festival, and earlier ideas I’d had but never used for stories about airships. I was lucky enough to figure out how to blend the two, and I’m happy with the result.

I’ve become quite fond of The Blade Of The West Wind and her crew. They may not be quite piratey, but they were still a blast to write. If I can ever perfect the 48-hour day or get my hands on a TARDIS, I just might write more with them. And I was quite happy with how Mec developed as the story went along; he is definitely one of my favorite supporting characters.

Favorite Line: Beth’s comment, “Time may heal all wounds, but chocolate can make a great bandage.” It should be a t-shirt, shouldn’t it?

Favorite Reference: I wrote the bit with Beth running back to grab a towel on March 11, 2014…Douglas Adams’ birthday. Second is a tie between Rosie (look up “Rosie the Riveter” sometime) and Old Fred (who apparently changed jobs after helping to save Pepperland).

Most Obscure Reference: As I was working on this book, some friends of mine on Facebook were posting weird album covers. One of them (actually an EP) was by a 1960s Swedish instrumental band, who were depicted as astronauts. The EP title was… The Impertinent Spotnicks in Jazzland. I could not resist.

Did you know: “Best Christmas Ever!” probably deserves its own Behind The Scenes. Look for it on Black Friday. Read it here in the meantime, or click the “short story” tag to read them all!

Tomorrow: BAKA!!

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Willow Wednesdays: Behind The Scenes!

Welcome to Willow Wednesdays! We’re featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut! Continue reading

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Behind The Scenes: The Brigadoon Boondoggle

It’s Monkey Queen anniversary week! We’ll be celebrating all week with a look behind the scenes at all four Monkey Queen novels and much more, and we’re up to the second, The Brigadoon Boondoggle!

The basic plot for this was inspired by some long-ago ideas I had for a science fiction comic with political overtones. The two sides competing over the meadow were a more rat/mouse like species and an avian species, both of which figured in the sci-fi comic, but after a draft I changed one, then the other. The bawsons were originally more like badgers than raccoons, but I changed them for a reason I’ll explain when Redblade comes out.

Musgrove was originally intended to have a partner called Hess, as a tribute to two characters in an older unpublished work, but I realized it was excess baggage. I did find a use for the name, and HESS does actually stand for something. Someday, I’ll figure out what that is.

The dedication came about because I was feeling guilty about using refugee spokesman Neil Gaiman as a basis for a comic relief character in a book about two groups of refugees that were in conflict. I’m glad I did it, especially now that things have gotten so much worse…

And the fight scene with the Jakes was largely taken from another comic script I had written back in the day, as a one-shot introductory special. I still love Little Jake’s “Oh, I think I’ll just lie here until the pain subsides” line.

Favorite Reference: Beth’s reading material during her recovery includes the latest Maggie MacKay book. Maggie’s adventures are written by one of my favorite writers and inspirations, Kate Danley. Go read them!

Most Obscure Reference: Miraculous Ladybug. It won’t be when the show actually premieres in October (December in the US), but for now it counts. But I’m still glad I did it; if there was ever a TV show that would inspire Michiko to Beth-like levels of geekdom, this will be it.

Did you know: The short story “Three Women In A Stew (To Say Nothing Of The Guinea Pig)” takes place between the last two scenes of The Brigadoon Boondoggle? You can read it here, or click the “short story” tag to read all the Monkey Queen short stories to date!

Tomorrow: Willow Wednesdays!

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Behind the Scenes: Of Introductions And Abductions

It’s Monkey Queen anniversary week! We’ll be celebrating all week with a look behind the scenes at all four Monkey Queen novels and much more, starting with the first book, Of Introductions And Abductions!

I’ve told the story before, but I’ll summarize it here: I originally created Michiko, Beth, and many of their friends and foes for a proposed comic book series many years ago. I rediscovered the work I had done on it in March 2013, and the basic plot for the first story translated from comic to prose nicely.

I know the Monkey Queen books are shorter than many, but I’ve always tried to get them up to 40,000 words or more. To do that for this first book, I ended up adding an entire chapter, which wound up as Chapter Seven. I’m glad I did; as it turns out, it was the perfect time to show Michiko doing something heroic. And her line when the troll threatens to eat her and the baby – “Oh, I am so not buying your diet book” – is one of my favorites in the whole series so far.

One example of how things can evolve as you write a story: In the Wonderland scene, I decided that I needed a character to help explain the Puck-Wrexham relationship. So, I worked up this quiet faerie with her nose in a book. Then, I needed someone to put the Jakes in their place. Then, I realized how well she played with Windsor. And by the time I got to the climax, Scylla had gone from mousy bookworm to exiled rebel. Someday, I hope to expand on that more; there’s a lot of her story still to tell.

Favorite Reference: When I decided that Michiko’s ring tone HAD to be a Monkees song. I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t.

Most Obscure Reference: There was a restaurant in San Francisco my pal Barry and I went to in the 1980s for breakfast a time or two. Instead of hash browns, their potato side was big pieces of spuds fried with onions and maybe peppers. They were called…”Hot Potato Chunkies”.

How to subtly tie things together: Robyn’s reference to Wrexham persecuting the spriggans was added at the last minute, after I’d finished the first draft of the second book. And when I redid a certain scene in Chapter Two, I was able to sneak in an early reference to Beth’s love of airships.

Did you know: Although “Curse of the Werecorgi” is set after Under The Stars Of Faerie, it was technically the first Monkey Queen story to be published. It was mostly written as a parody, but the last scene, where Beth gets to totally geek out, is one that still makes me grin. Oh, the author’s name “Rosie Darniels”? This story was written a month or so after John Travolta butchered Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars. Some wiseacre created a “John Travolta Name Generator” soon after that. Guess what name came out when I typed “Robert Dahlen” in there? Anyway, if you’ve never read it for some reason, click here, or use the “short stories” tag to read them all!

Tuesday: The con is on!

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