The Cloud Riders: My Eighth Novel

Yesterday was the official book birthday of The Night Girl. Electronic copies officially went live on Amazon Kindle, and paperback copies should be available to better independent bookstores soon. If you want to order a paperback copy, go to your local indie bookstore and tell them to order The Night Girl, by James Bow, with the ISBN of 978-1942111634.

And if you like what you read, please say so. Leave a review on Goodreads or on Amazon, so that others can hear about this book and read it too.

Anyway, since restarting this blog after a long hiatus, it has been nothing but Night Girl, and I thought I'd change things up a bit by talking about other writing things that happened while I was blog-silent. The biggest news is that I have finished a second draft of my eighth novel, The Cloud Riders.

Cloud-riders-Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image.jpgI actually finished a draft of this story back in March and then, after initial feedback, revised it to fine-tune the culture clash and provide a more satisfying resolution. The third draft has been finished (barring tweaking) since July.

The Cloud Riders takes place in the same universe as The Sun Runners where, in the early part of the 24th century, problems with the Earth's ecology from climate change catch up to and overwhelms the technology that has kept Earth amenable to human civilization. The Earth collapses hard, leaving the colonies on the solar system's inner planets basically on their own. Mercury (in The Sun Runners) is nowhere near self-sufficient when it comes to food, so they face starvation. Venus and Mars, which have the benefit of robot shuttles to maintain a modicum of trade, fare slightly better.

The Cloud Riders focuses on Samantha Dekker, a police cadet working to join the Venusian Police and Rescue Forces on one of the Uber-Zeppelins that circle the planet 55 kilometres above the surface. She has to cope with living in the shadow of her famous police commissioner father. Six years before, she'd started a pen-pal correspondence with a young man from Mars named Pandorian Anastas, and they talked throughout their teenage years before Pandorian suddenly went silent. Then, without warning, Samantha and her fellow students are forced to rescue an incoming ship that's fallen into Venus's atmosphere, and inside is none other than Pandorian.

The Cloud Riders is a lot more light-hearted than The Sun Runners, but I think the story tackles some interseting issues about how loyalty complicates family, friendships, and love, and the whole thing is a Country Mouse/City Mouse exploration of life on Mars and Venus when the Earth isn't around to anchor things.

It's also my longest manuscript to date, clocking in at 116,000 words -- longer even than the Sun Runners' 101,000 words, and I hope to chop that back in subsequent drafts.

In the meantime, I am engaged in rewriting The Sun Runners, and am over 45,000 words into the new draft.

By the way, you can create your own pulp cover like I did, thanks to the Pulp-o-mizer. Just click on the picture, or visit this site here...

The Night Girl Cover Reveal

Night-Girl-Official-Front-Cover.jpg

Here it is, in all its glory, thanks to Ashley Ruggatello. The Night Girl will be available to order on Tuesday, September 10, 2019. I look forward to signing copies in Portland the following weekend.

Trolls Offer Solution to Toronto Transit Deadlock

Fictionally Speaking, That Is...

night-girl-map-thumbnail.jpg

Toronto, ON (September 5, 2019) - For years, Torontonians have suffered through commuter hell. The city was recently ranked the worst in North America for commuting thanks to underfunded public transportation and anemic rapid transit growth. But arguing politicians may have a solution at last: putting trolls to work!

No, not Internet trolls, although their labour may be woefully underused. According to the fictional world of The Night Girl, by award-winning author James Bow, actual trolls - large but docile humanoid beings - can dig tunnels better than tunnel boring machines and have put the city on the cusp of a subway boom.

Fictionally, that is. The map is available in the archive of the Transit Toronto website.

"The Night Girl is the story of a young woman named Perpetua Collins, who comes to Toronto looking for work and finds it as a secretary for an employment agency that finds jobs for goblins and trolls. They want her to be their human face - not literally, of course, as that would be messy and hardly an effective disguise."

"It's an excellent fantasy adventure packed with humour, unforgettable characters and more twists and turns than an underground amusement ride," says author Arthur Slade. "You'll never look at a gargoyle in the same way. Or the city of Toronto. So much fun!"

The Night Girl is an urban fantasy, set in Toronto, featuring faeries, goblins, and trolls living and working beyond the sight of most humans. "Many of them can be found on our rooftops," James explains. "Or in Toronto's PATH Network after hours. It can get spooky down there."

James Bow was born in downtown Toronto. When writing his novel, there was no question that it would be set in his hometown. "As a Canadian author, born in Toronto, I had to speak up for my city. In science fiction and fantasy novels set on Earth, a lot of the attention goes to New York, Los Angeles, or London."

"Toronto has a lot to offer as a setting for fantastic literature," says James. "There are futuristic buildings mixed with older architecture. There's Toronto's PATH Network, which is the world's largest underground city. It has a diverse collection of cultures. People from around the world come calling, so why does it have to be just humans who show up?"

The things Toronto brings to the table as a science fiction or fantasy setting will be discussed at a special author panel discussion held at the Merril Collection of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy on Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 2 p.m., at the Lillian H. Smith library at 239 College Street.

James Bow will moderate a discussion with science fiction, fantasy, and urbanist authors including the Toronto Star's Shawn Micallef, J.M. Frey, Phoebe Barton, K.T. Bryski, Ben Berman Ghan, and Mari Ramsawakh. It will be followed by questions from the audience, a reading from The Night Girl, and a chance to have authors sign copies of their books.

"It will be a fun event, and I hope it will help put Toronto on the map when it comes to settings in science fiction and fantasy literature," says James.

The Night Girl is published by REUTS Publications, and is available at better bookstores everywhere, including Bakka-Phoenix Bookstore. More information about the novel can be found at James Bow's website at www.bowjamesbow.ca.

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James Bow is available for interviews and can be reached at (519) 590-9640, or at james.bow@gmail.com

The Night Girl subway map is available at: https://transit.toronto.on.ca/images/toronto-subway-night-girl-map-reduced.pdf

This press release is available as a Word Document and as a PDF.

Perpetua's Underground City

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Perpetua's Toronto is slightly different from the Toronto we live in. For one thing, goblins and trolls live in it. And they both know how to dig down. Somewhere, I've posted a fantasy map of the new Toronto subway network, "if dug by trolls", and I'll post a link to it again once we have our cover reveal. However, the subway isn't the only thing to have seen expansion in this world. Toronto's PATH Network, aka the Underground City (I'm always going to call it that), has seen some expansion as well. Have a look at the map (click to show full size)! There are a few Easter eggs for the Toronto blogosphere...

How the Faeries Saved the Night Girl

toronto-path-underground-city.jpgThis photograph was taken by Damian Baranowski.

The Night Girl, as you may remember if you are a regular reader of this blog, took some time to get from initial idea to publication. Over sixteen years, in fact. At one point, I'd almost given up on the project. But something happened.

For one thing, some agents I talked to, including my rep for Icarus Down saw something in the work, and encouraged me not to abandon it. I obviously felt something too. So, in 2013, I went in and rewrote The Night Girl from the ground up. Many scenes I re-used whole hog, but lots of things were on the table: Fergus's job (going from barista to cab driver), Perpetua's relationship with her mother (her mother made appearances in the early drafts; no longer), and the ease with which Perpetua found a job and an apartment (she had an apartment in the first version, and needed to find one in the second).

But one of the biggest changes was the relationship between Perpetua and Earthenhouse, and one of the things that brought that about was the arrival of faeries into the mix of humans, goblins and trolls.

Faeries did not have a role in the initial version of The Night Girl, despite them being a part of the lore I dipped into when I crafted my tale of goblins and trolls seeking to eke out a living in the human economy of Toronto. They had used their beauty and glamour to marry themselves into the human race, assimilating -- not the best of fates, but better than the alternatives the goblins and trolls had to contemplate.

And in the first version of the story, that gave me no main antagonist except for Earthenhouse, who was also Perpetua's mentor. Now, I'm sure there are many good stories out there where the mentor is also the primary antagonist, but it wasn't working here. Despite Earthenhouse rocking the boat slightly to try and give the goblins and trolls more within the human economy, he acts as a defender of the status quo, determined that humanity should not wake up and see the goblins and trolls around them, lest bad things happen. When this fails, then he swings and tries to bring the status quo down around everybody's heads. In some ways, I think this is understandable, but it wasn't quite right. Why would Earthenhouse spend so much effort trying to maintain the status quo if he ends up deciding to destroy it?

That's when I remembered the faeries. What if we brought them back? Instead of assimilating in with the humans and disappearing, what if they didn't disappear? What if they were beneficiaries of the status quo, sharing Earthenhouse's fear of humanity waking up and seeing the mythological creatures around them, but still enjoying their positions of privilege?

Suddenly, Earthenhouse has something to fight against from the start, and his progression of revolting against the status quo gets a more natural progression by giving it a further starting point. He's rocking the boat, and he knows he's doing that. He's defying the faeries, but he has to do that to help his goblin and troll brothers and sisters get a better life. And when that fails, well, his act to bring down the whole rotten system is a mere escalation of what he was trying to do in the first place.

The faeries also gave me a new primary antagonist in the form of Christina Bell, the main advocate for the faeries but one who, like everybody else in the story, is not a true villain, as everyone is motivated by fear and misunderstanding, and a desire to both hold on to what is good, and to make things better. It was a lot of fun having Perpetua stand up and talk back to this woman; it had a lot more edge than her more jovial relationship with Earthenhouse.

The result was a significnat expansion in the word count, from 64,000 words to around 85,000, and a more complicated but, in my opinion, more complete story. And after sixteen years of shepherding its creation, one which I'm proud to finally see in print.

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