Released: October 2005
Xoriat, the realm of madness, a plane of existence far beyond mortal comprehension. The last time Xoriat touched the world, years of warfare and death erupted. Unspeakable terrors and vile monsters wandered free until the Gatekeepers managed to close the passage to Xoriat. But a new portal to the Realm of Madness has been found —a fabled orb, long thought lost. In the final days of the Last War, the Orb of Xoriat was used only once. Now it had been stolen.
The back cover copy (above) says it all. A powerful artifact has gone missing, and there are those who want it back. Unfortunately, the ones sent to recover it each have their own ideas of what to do with the Orb, and they must decide exactly how far to trust each other.
Author’s Notes and Spoilers Below!
• Teron appears in The Orb of Xoriat.
• Cimozjen appears in Bound by Iron.
The kernel that came to be Jeffers started with a computer game I played a long time ago. Some slightly insane character had a zombie named Jeffers that served as his butler. Dialogs went something like this:
“Fetch me that carafe, will you, Jeffers?”
Like many other things, this stuck with me. I liked the dichotomy of a proper servant with a proper name and an entirely improper story.
Jeffers became a very compelling character, and many people like him more than anyone else. In fact, he may be the most popular character in the book. But yes, he is dead. Praxle ensured that he was. Not very forgiving, that gnome.
Let’s start with some basics. I hate gnomes. So does my editor, Mark Sehestedt. They just aren’t seem dangerous. I mean, sure, they have that whole cosa gnostra thing going, so they should be fearsome, but so often it’s just... hard for me to take them seriously.
So I took it as kind of a personal challenge to make a believable gnome character that served as... well, not an antagonist or a protagonist, but as more of a counter-tagonist.
I patterned him from Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless of Wild Wild West fame. Clever, arrogant, often smiling, but dangerously intelligent and ultimately ruthless.
Praxle is a sorcerer, which enhances his arrogance, and, being a gnome, an illusionist, which allows him to play mind games to fake out those less intelligent than him (which, in his opinion, is darned near everybody).
The Title went through many changes. Eye of Madness was one that I recall. In the end, I wanted to use Sphere of Xoriat because the word “sphere” encompassed both roundness and area of influence, but I was overruled. Primarily because I came up with it late in the process. I should have thought of that name earlier.
And then, one week after the book released, I finally dreamt up the name I really wanted the book to have. Argh.
Oh, well. I’ll save it for the sequel.
The scruffy cat is one of two characters that garnered a surprising amount of
fan support. I say surprising, because my editor strongly advised that I remove
the cat, saying,
“After spending so much time in the story with the cat, it turns out to be just a
cat. No payoff. I think you’re being self-indulgent with the cat. There either needs to be a payoff
—the cat needs to be integral to the plot—or you should cut it. As it is, it’s just a distracting detail.”
But… I like distracting details. It bothers me when everything you encounter in a book is integral to the plot. “Oh, look. A key, lying in a field a hundred miles from nowhere. I’ll keep it.” Bleah. Some stuff just happens.
To my editor’s defense, the first draft of the book did not do enough with Flotsam being his familiar; I enhanced this aspect heavily during the rewrite. On the other hand, he was against the cat from the start, by which I mean the outline phase. Ailurophobe.
Flotsam came from two cats that I had the pleasure of knowing. The name and role come from the best cat I have ever had, or ever hope to have, in the world. I found him in the gutter, hence his name. He was small enough to fit in the palm of one hand. And he was smart; I trained him to use the litter box while I brushed my teeth, and he did it on his own the third day. He was affectionate without being needy, despite his abandonment. He slept on my pillow beside my head. He slept on the armrest of the chair while I read. He greeted me on the front step every day after work.
And he died of an illness when he was roughly six months old.
The good Lord knows I miss him. Someday I hope we are reunited.
The ugly description comes from an orange tabby named Boxes that my roommate had. It took this cat over two years to enter puberty (most toms go through puberty by the time they’re one). And when he did, he did it just as described in the book. First his nose got wide, then his head became oversized, then he hit the hyena stage. A month or few after his hindquarters had finally caught up, I kid you not, I ran my finger down his tail. Thick bones, corded muscles … until the 2/3 point, whereupon he still had his kitten-sized weenie build. A month later, and the last vestiges of his youth were gone. Wish I’d taken photos.
He was a good cat, very affectionate and gentle, though judging by his occasional scratches no one ever bested him in a fight. And he liked nothing more than to lie on the table and chew on green grape stems.
Yeah, I’ve known some odd cats.Bad Timing
This book released opposite two eagerly awaited books by other authors, specificallyPromise of the Witch-King, a Forgotten Realms book by R. A. Salvatore; and Sanctuary, a Dragonlance book by Paul B. Thompson and Tonya C. Cook.
Needless to say, this meant that this paperback book by a comparative unknown got no marketing support whatsoever. No interviews, no wallpaper, nothing.
[Insert whining noise here.]
About the only upside to this arrangement was a comment made by “Sturm Jaeger” on a forum I frequent: “Edward Bolme isSerenity to R.A. Salvatore’s Episode III...”
Okay, I’ll accept that.