Magic. Mayhem. EPIC.

The first in a new fantasy trilogy by USA Today bestselling author Edward W. Robertson, THE RED SEA is a tale of warfare, wizardry, and friendship through the darkest times.


The Red Sea

Available at:

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iBooks | Kobo | B&N Nook | Google Play




The same day I posted about the March 19 and May 3 changes to Amazon’s popularity lists, I summarized those changes on Kindleboards as well. One of the questions asked repeatedly there and elsewhere was, Why? Why is Amazon switching things up? Why would they make changes that would deliberately harm authors in their Select program?

The short answer is: We don’t know.

The long answer is: Well, we just really don’t have any way to know. But they probably didn’t change things with the goal of hurting Select. That was probably a casualty of pursuing other goals. Maybe they have found that so many free books have hurt their overall sales. Maybe having a constant churn of free-driven books was preventing bestsellers from taking root. Maybe these changes had nothing whatsoever to do with Select. Phoenix Sullivan thinks they’re in anticipation of the fall of the agency model, and I’m looking forward to her more detailed explanation. Maybe, as several people on KB suggested, there were just too many poor-quality books being rewarded through the free process, and customers weren’t happy with the books that were often most visible to them.

I don’t know. I still don’t. And the thing is, I didn’t make any assumptions about Amazon’s motives when I was looking at the data we used to draw our conclusions about the mechanics of Amazon’s lists. Data first, then theories. Entering with a theory is a good way to misinterpret what you’re looking at to fit that theory.

After all, we have no clue what Amazon’s goals are. Assumedly, they are trying to make as much money as possible, but even that–our safest and best assumption–isn’t a certainty, and in any event can be heavily qualified. They’ve already shown a willingness to take losses in the short-term to try to build the long-term. Their original Kindle strategy wasn’t to immediately profit from Kindle sales, but to get enough ereaders out there that the ebook market could flourish. Hell, maybe Jeff Bezos doesn’t ultimately care about money at all! Perhaps Amazon is his stab at creating an AI capable of guiding us through and settling us in space! Like he’s been dreaming about since he was a child!

So we don’t know their goals. And whatever their unknown goals may be, we don’t know whether they’re using rational methods to achieve those goals. Amazon’s smart, but they’re not infallible. Any attempt to deduce their motives through a process of figuring out what’s logical is faulty by virtue of assuming the new algorithm wasn’t put in place by madmen, or by a guy with a gnarly champagne hangover, or by a team of very smart people who, just once, reached a faulty conclusion about how to sell books. Or by someone who personally hates us all.

Speculating about Amazon’s motives is fun. In its way, it is more fun than looking at one number and comparing it to another number, and then repeating that comparison five hundred times until you have a strong enough pattern of results to be confident in. (I know. Hard to believe anything could be more fun.) But unless Bezos himself comes forth to announce what they’re up to, and is meanwhile attached to a device that can flawlessly detect whether the wearer is telling the truth, all our speculation is just an assumption built on a foundation of other assumptions.

So: I don’t know why Amazon changed things. I can make guesses. But all I can tell you for certain is they made a set of changes. Does the why matter? What will understanding Amazon’s motives help?

I’m presently sitting at just past 125,000 words on the sequel to The White Tree. My outline’s changed here and there in the actual writing of it, but The Great Rift has more or less stuck to my projected word count. That means I’m about 2/3 of the way through the first draft. If I can maintain this pace–which has been fast, but not breakneck–I think I might be done with it by the start of June.

From there, it’s dicey. I think I can revise it in a couple months, but progress on revisions is far less predictable than declaring “Today I shall write 3000 words” and then writing those 3000 words no matter how much crap they may be. Still, if you walked in with a gun and demanded me to put a timetable on it, I would say, “Hey, that’s not very civilized,” and then I would say, “Early August? I hope?” And then you would put the gun away and replace it with a cake that we would both enjoy.

Thanks for the cake. Back to writing.

From the product description:

“In New York, Walt Lawson is about to lose his girlfriend Vanessa. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia James are about to lose their house. Within days, none of it will matter.

When Vanessa dies of the flu, Walt is devastated. But she isn’t the last. The virus quickly kills billions, reducing New York to an open grave and LA to a chaotic wilderness of violence and fires. As Raymond and Mia hole up in an abandoned mansion, where they learn to function without electricity, running water, or neighbors, Walt begins an existential walk to LA, where Vanessa had planned to move when she left him. He expects to die along the way.

Months later, a massive vessel appears above Santa Monica Bay. Walt is attacked by a crablike monstrosity in a mountain stream. The virus that ended humanity wasn’t created by humans. It was inflicted from outside. The colonists who sent it are ready to finish the job–and Earth’s survivors may be too few and too weak to resist.”

Breakers is available for $2.99.

What’s it about?

Well, read the description you apparently just skimmed! It is about the end of the world. Via plague. I love apocalyptic virus stories. This is a new one. It’s about the end of the world, how two different people from two different places react to it, and how they respond when they discover they may be able to do something about it.

Where’s it available?

I’m beginning to suspect you are just messing with me, as that information is also in the title. It’s out for Kindle. Why Kindle-exclusive? Well, it probably won’t always be that way. But because of the various benefits involved, I wanted to make it a Select title, meaning that, for either 3 or 6 months, it’ll be Amazon-only. After that, I expect to release it through Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, etc.

If you are an interested reviewer, however, or anyone else who really, really, really, can’t wait, email me (edwrobertson AT gmail) and we’ll work something out.

Who did the cover art?

Foldout Creative, a Los Angeles-area book cover boutique. I don’t think their website has launched just yet–think it’ll be up any day now, though–but they’re great guys, easy to work with, happy to take requests, and very thoughtful about making the right cover to represent what’s inside. Oh, and did I mention generous? I won my cover through a contest they put on to meet a few authors and help support the local indie author scene. I give them a thumbs up. No wait, I have two hands. Make that two thumbs up.

What inspired the book?

This could be a pretty long list. To be honest, I doubt I would have written this if I hadn’t read Stephen King’s The Stand. And then reread the first third, where Captain Trips wipes out the world, like three or four times, because man, that grabbed my imagination. I haven’t read it in over a decade, but I can still remember the descriptions of dead men behind the wheels of their cars, their plagued-out necks so swollen they looked like the tires on the vehicles they’d died in.

I had a different idea about where the virus came from, though. And while the scope is similar–the fate of the world–I think the approach is pretty different, too. I hope Breakers can be a part of the subgenre The Stand helped define while being something of its own.

Structurally, I was actually inspired by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. This may come as a surprise, considering I’ve written and commented at length about how I think the series sucks, but it’s a little more complicated than that inflammatory headline. I could rant about this for thousands of words, but in short, I both love and hate Martin’s ongoing cliffhangers. While I found them so compelling I kept reading the series a full book and a half beyond the point at which I started to hate it, I also wound up feeling so manipulated by them–and rewarded with so few payoffs when the plot finally returned to whichever character was last in peril–that I’m still bitter to this day.

Still, there’s no denying they’re kind of great writing. I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to slash out the negatives from those techniques, making the plot (ideally!) very hard to set aside while quickly and regularly rewarding whatever cliffhanger I’d left out there a few pages earlier. That was my intent, anyway. I would be overjoyed to someday read a blog post from an angry un-fan tearing into me the same way I did Martin. It would mean the work got out there.

Also, I’m pretty sure every single book I’ve written has been from a single perspective. I’ve been trying to practice different structures recently, so I wanted to tell this story from two different characters’ points of view.

The major settings were an easy choice. I lived in New York during college and moved to the Los Angeles area a couple years ago. Little-known fact: they’re both huge. Also interesting. Full of very unique neighborhoods, styles, and people. I really like it here in LA, and I really, really liked it in New York. That makes them pretty easy to write about.

The characters come out of questions I’ve been interested in for a long time: what happens when you lose everything? What should you do to hang onto it? Is there any limit?

Also, I didn’t realize this until a few days ago, but there must have been some subconscious influence from Breaking Bad, because the book is called Breakers (for the breaking of the world, mostly) and one of the main characters is named Walt. Then again, everything should be influenced by Breaking Bad, because it is awesome.

There’s probably some other influences at work here, too, dating all the way back to my earliest reading days. The Tripod books, definitely. Maybe a bit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide and the two Red Dwarf books, which I loved loved loved and are probably the main reason I expect every book to be at least a little bit funny. A little bit of John Gardner, as always (which he would probably find weird and possibly offensive, but what can you do). Other stuff I’m definitely forgetting. I always find it disingenuous when an author or artist tries to claim their work came out of nowhere–that much like ODB, there is no father to its style. There were dozens of works that influenced Breakers, and not just books. A lot of movies and TV shows, too.

That was really long. Could you shut up now?

Yeah. In exchange, please check out the book.

Lightless is a fantasy novella, a story of wizardry, monsters, and a world with no concept of days. From its Amazon description, where it’s available for Kindle for $0.99:

“When daytime lasts for 16 years, so does the night–and even if you survive what lurks there, stay too long, and you can never come back.

The king’s daughter Dalia has gone missing. He fears she’s fallen into the Lightless. Tasked with getting her back, Chief Tracker Vickory Carroway recruits roguish wizard Tom Raquepaw, the only man known to have traveled to the Lightless and lived to return. With days to spare until Dalia’s lost for good, their investigation leads them into the darkness–a nightmarish world of monstrous creatures and equally monstrous men.

Lightless is a novella of 60 pages / 17,000 words.”

Yes, a novella. Too short for book publishers, too long for (almost every) magazine, ebooks have once again rendered novellas a viable format. If you buy it, anyway. If you don’t, novella writers around the world will continue starving to the point where their ribs are classified as lethal weapons. What I’m saying is I’ll die if you don’t buy this. Hope you’re okay with that, murderer.

Meanwhile, I continue to be deep in the throes of NaNoWriMo, where I’m currently a few days behind schedule. For now, back to my groundhog hole.

Well, not quite. But the fine man over at Free Book Reviews did give The White Tree a very, very nice writeup. Seriously, the first sentence of the review proper includes the word “masterpiece” and that’s not preceded by the words “not a,” anti-“, or “what in Bizarro World would be considered a.” Give it a read.

It’s been a while now since I finished or reread The White Tree and it’s been very cool to see the odd review roll in and remind me of what’s between the covers. Like that main characters Dante and Blays get into and perform an awful lot of trouble. The review puts it better than I could when it says, in reference to the two, “not all heroes have to always do the right thing to do the right thing.”

One of the main things I wanted to do with that book was write an epic fantasy where the heroes are very rarely faced with obvious choices between good and evil, leaving them to make a lot of decisions that are questionable, amoral, or outright wrong–but without making them antiheroes, exactly. I’m hardly the first one to do that, but it’s still gratifying to read about someone else getting the same kick out of that as I did.

Incidentally, The White Tree‘s still available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

There are a lot of artificial intelligences running around in The Roar of the Spheres. They act a lot like humans. There are reasons for this: for one thing, it’s fun. But realistically speaking, I think AI will end up being a lot like us.

The thing about intelligence is it always arises from a huge collection of stupid actors. I’m not talking about movies here. Schools of fish and flocks of birds don’t move in those beautifully choreographed movements because somebody at the front is bellowing at them through a bullhorn. Neighborhoods and districts in cities, for the most part, don’t arrange themselves because somebody’s planning it. Maybe the most famous misinterpretation of intelligence is that of bee hives and ant colonies: the queen is not ordering her thousands of offspring around. She makes zero decisions about the colony’s behavior. The decisions to forage, relocate, or war are all determined by the collective conclusion reached through thousands of beings laying down their individual pheromone trails.

Brains are similar. Brains are composed of neurons, each of which is capable of no action more sophisticated than saying ON or OFF, TRUE or FALSE, SALT or PEPPER. It’s the interaction of billions of these stupid actors arranged in various networks that lead to sapience. It’s kind of amazing.

Neurons are bits. They have the exact same properties as computers. If you want to create an AI, I don’t think you look to high-level, individually powerful processors. I think you combine billions of very stupid, very simple processors that, when networked with each other, are capable of unintuitive outcomes.

That’s how you build a brain. If you model a machine after our brains, you might create intelligence. If you model an intelligence after ours–with the same unpredictable, bottom-up networks–you’re going to have beings capable of emotion and irrationality.

In other words, if we design AI in our own image, based on billions of stupid actors acting in concert, I don’t think they’ll be the logic-machines we often imagine, incapable of feelings, inhumanely rational. They might end up an awful lot like us.

Uh oh!

Finally got my copy of The Aether Age: Helios in the mail today. It’s a gratifying experience to have your work between the covers of an actual hardcopy book. I’m glad I’m around right before ebooks have the chance to push paper books toward obscurity.

I’m going to read the hell out of this in the next few days.

C.J. Cherryh’s Down Below Station and Merchanter’s Luck. I’d read exactly none of Cherryh’s work going into RadCon, but after two and a half years cataloging used copies of her books at my last job, I was well aware that a) she’s a huge figure in the field and b) she’s written a shit-ton of stuff. I’m not sure just how many books–30? 40?–but enough that I had no idea where to start.

So, after seeing her be all funny and brilliant and knowledgeable on two different panels, I followed her into the hall and asked her where I should dive in. Observing the first rule of fandom, I shut the fuck up while she told me about those two books. Very cool woman. Looking forward to picking those two up. If they’re at all as good as she is in person, I won’t regret it.

Kevin Shamel’s Rotten Little Animals. An underground animal film crew dodges human discovery while filming a zombie cat flick. Bizarro fiction–was vaguely aware of the genre before repeatedly colliding with it at RadCon; now here I am covered in all this freaky literary goo. Thoughtfully, Kevin drew a zombie cat on the title page for me.

Jeff Burk’s Shatner Quake. A disruption in reality forces William Shatner to battle an army of his fictional personas, from Kirk to T.J. Hooker to Rescue 9-1-1 Shatner. Good. Times.

Carlton Mellick III’s The Menstruating Mall. Ten stereotypes–a yuppie, a housewife, a jock, etc.–get stuck in a mall. That drips menstrual blood down its walls. And is inhabited by a serial killer. I’d say you can’t make this stuff up except he totally just did.

Ellen Datlow’s obviously pretty brilliant, too, so I should snag one of her anthologies one of these days. But those were the ones where I didn’t have a choice. As soon as I’m done with my own damn novel, I’m looking forward to reading again.

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