By the end of 2009, I had already decided that I was going to publish The Voyage of the Minotaur myself. I had three fairly popular free books out there– His Robot Girlfriend, and the two Eaglethorpe Buxton stories. So I thought, what I really need is a prequel to distribute free that will drive interest for The Voyage of the Minotaur and subsequent books.
Brechalon was a difficult task, because I was trying to set up what would happen in a year or two before the action really starts. Two of my main characters were at this point fairly uninteresting children and a third was in prison. I decided to focus on the others, so I had the Iolanthe-Terrence-Yuah story line, the Iolanthe-Zeah story line and the Augie story line. In addition I followed Zurfina into the prison. Those decisions brought out a couple of other weaknesses. The most interesting thing about Terrence is his drug addiction, but I couldn’t show too much of it without giving it away, and the most interesting thing about Zurfina is her magic, and she was in an anti-magic prison cell. In the end, I was pretty happy with the story, though I don’t think it does much more than hint at what really is to come in The Voyage of the Minotaur.
One of the big inspirations for Augie’s part of the story, as well as the battle scenes in The Voyage of the Minotaur was the movie Zulu starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. I think Augie and Terrence probably owe a lot to the characters in the movie (loosely based on real military heroes.)
Of course, it hasn’t been nearly as popular, even given it’s free, as His Robot Wife or Eaglethorpe, but I have had more than one person tell me they’ve read The Voyage of the Minotaur because they first read Brechalon, so it is serving its purpose.
I really like the new cover. I designed the covers for the series myself, so I take all the blame or credit such as there is.
I had finished Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess and had a lot of fun writing it. I was still busily trying to find a publisher for Senta and the Steel Dragon, so I decided to spend my free time writing a second Eaglethorpe book.
A few years ealier, I had written a little play, which was performed by the Brown Junior High Drama Club to great success, and I decided that this play had been written by Eaglethorpe. The play involves characters from his world– specifically the parents of the Queen of Aerithraine, so it fit. Incidentally, there were two showings of this play, which went really well, and I taped one of them using a big old VHS camcorder. About two years later, my wife taped over it. I don’t remember what show she taped now.
I was watching lots of Shakespeare at the time I was writing Eaglethorpe and you will see a lot of not so subtle nods to the Bard. The third part of Eaglethorpe (which is in The Many Adventures of Eaglethorpe Buxton) is really a continuation of the story in Sorceress.
Another bit of trivia: In the old D&D game that I played with my kids many years ago, Myolaena, the sorceress in this story, had a sister– Zurfina, whom you’ll recognize from Senta and the Steel Dragon.
It was 2009 and His Robot Girlfriend was being dowloaded by the tens of thousands. I had just finished editing The Voyage of the Minotaur and was entering it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. (It made it to round two.) So what to write next?
I wanted to do something short and fun and I decided on a fantasy comedy. I had read an enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, particularly the character of Lemony Snicket who is narrator and somehow involved with the characters and frequently hints at things outsidet the story. I decided that my hero would be a story-teller who changed the story to suit himself. Eaglethorpe Buxton was born.
I set the story in (sort of) the world I had created for my D&D campaign. My kids still have fond memories of some of the settings in which the stories take place and even met some of the characters when they played– notably Queen Elleena of Aerithraine. I had a lot of fun writing EBEP and many people have written to tell me that they like him. I’ve heard a few negative comments too, but that’s okay.
The book is very short and was always intended as a freebie, but there are a very few paperback copies around.
The Voyage of the Minotaur was actually the second novel that I wrote– sort of. As I mentioned the other day, it was originally the first part of a very long novel– almost 400,00 words, about 850 pages. I was almost done with this book before I even had a working title, but settled on The Steel Dragon, and this of course later became Senta and the Steel Dragon. The three parts were originally called– Expedition, Colony, Dominion.
After the book was done and had gone through editing, I decided that it was just too big and had to be split into three parts. So part one became The Voyage of the Minotaur.
Several things influenced me to devise this story. A friend had encouraged me to self-publish Princess of Amathar, and the success of that book, minor though it was, encouraged me to write a second. Lord of the Rings had just come out and so I was already thinking of a three part fantasy story. I had also just read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and remembered his notes about it being his Lord of the Rings. Finally, I had recently watched James Michener’s Hawaii. Putting this all together with several non-fiction books I had recently read about colonial imperialism (particularly Britain in Africa), I came up with the story outline for Senta and the Steel Dragon.
I wanted a story that told about colonialism over a long period– in this case about ten years. I had thought about how badly native people were treated by the colonial powers and wondered just how much worse it would have been if those natives were an entirely different species. I already had a world map that I had created a few years earlier when I had toyed with the idea of writing a role-playing setting. All of this went into the mix. I also used the setting I had created twenty years before for a few fantasy vignettes I had written– the otherworldly place that people visit when they use the magic drug opthalium. Throwing all this into the mix, I just started writing. It took 14 months to write the drafts for what became three books.
It was 2008, and I had just finished writing the first draft of a massive fantasy novel that I was calling The Steel Dragon. This would eventually become The Voyage of the Minotaur, The Drache Girl, and The Two Dragons. I printed up 10 copies and handed them out to friends to read and edit over the summer. Each one was a 4″ thick notebook. I had also just self-published Princess of Amathar.
While I was waiting for the editing to be completed, I thought I needed something to post to Feedbooks and Manybooks to get my name out there. I had written some sci-fi flash fiction a few years earlier and thought I could piece them together to make a novel. This became the first half of His Robot Girlfriend and I wrote the other half over the summer (while teaching summer school). I published it online and was astounded at the interest. At one time, it was the third most downloaded book on Feedbooks.
His Robot Girlfriend succeeded in getting my name out there. It’s been downloaded almost 500,000 times, has been reviewed numerous times, and I get many emails and notes from people that enjoy it. That being said, I think it’s far from my best story.
One comment that detractors frequently make about His Robot Girlfriend (feedback is overwhelmingly positive) is that Patience has no will of her own. She is a robot, duh! But this gave me an idea for the new book– His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue. It shows a bit more from her point of view and we find out that not everything is as Mike thinks it is.
The newest edition of the series will be His Robot Wife: A Great Deal of Patience, and will be the first full-length novel featuring the characters. And as they title suggests, it will feature a great deal of Patience.
I began writing Princess of Amathar so long ago, it’s really difficult to remember what I was thinking at the time. It was about 1980 and I was just about two years out of high school. I began writing several stories in short chapters, rotating between them. One was a fantasy story about an alternate world, one was a fantasy story set in a dream world (which I later used as the white opthalium drug-induced world for Senta and the Steel Dragon), but most of them were fan fiction sequels to Edgar Rice Burroughs Books. Finally there was Amathar.
My idea behind Amathar was to write a book that ERB might write if he was still around at the time. In that way, Princess of Amathar more than any of my other books, was written as a book I would really want to read. As the years passed and the story was revised, it became more of a love-letter to the fond memories I had reading John Carter of Mars, Pellucidar, and Carson of Venus as a kid.
I still have the original first chapter draft and the story is quite different than the final version. Our earth hero arrives mysteriously in Ecos, though he doesn’t have the same name and he doesn’t meet Malagor. Instead he immediately finds a family of neo-luddite Amatharians whose daughter has been captured by Zoasians. The book changed again and again over the years. Alexander got his first name after I wrote a college paper on Alexander the Great, and his last name from a girl I worked with at Kmart.
By 1994, when I started teaching, the book was only half done. I worked really hard to finish it and did so about 1997. Many of the characters and alien races were named after kids in school, though in revision they were usually changed. It went through many revisions after that and it got many rejection letters from publishers, before I finally published it in 2007. The ebook came out in 2009.
Princess of Amathar has sold a little over 1,000 copies– not one of my best-sellers. Still, it holds a special place in my heart as the beginning of my writing career, and I still enjoy reading it.