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Codexian Writing Quotes: James Maxey


Continuing my series of quotes from writers I know through the online writing group Codex, here are some memorable thoughts from James Maxey, author of the Dragon Age trilogy and the superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl. James’s latest feat, which floored a number of us at Codex, was writing the first draft of a novel (the sequel to Nobody) in a week. The resulting book, Burn Baby Burn, can be read in its first draft form as a series of blog posts on Maxey’s Web site. More on this particular accomplishment will show up in a week or two in my “Brain Hacks for Writers” column on Futurismic.

James is quoted often on Codex, so I’ll be breaking up the large selection of his quotes I put together into two or possibly three posts.

Swagger when you lie.

If the WRATH OF GOD couldn’t make this character give a sh**, I don’t know what might.

The worst novel you ever put onto paper is better than the best novel you are walking around with in your head.

On the other hand, I may be underestimating the appeal of my main character, a homosexual, drug-addicted, Republican, vivisectionist zombie. Sweet merciful Jesus, I wish that last sentence was a joke…

Momentum matters!

I can’t sing, play an instrument, dance, paint, sculpt, or act. So, in my early years, I drifted toward writing as my claim to some sort of creative ability simply because it seemed like the easiest talent to fake.

But a completed novel is always going to be haunted by the novel it might have been.

If you have affection and enthusiasm for your characters, then the readers will follow you into some very dark places.

If you and your partner find yourself co-owners of a project that gets optioned for a motion picture and I hear you complain about it on this forum, I will personally drive to your house and slap you about the head and shoulders with a rubber monkey until my envy is abated. And I can be very, very envious.

If anyone wants to power a time machine, the deadline for the first novel you ever sell from a proposal has amazing time acceleration properties. I can only imagine that committing to a whole series must propel you straight into old age.

My motto is, little by little, the writing gets done.

Is Batman really making the world a better place by wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants and clobbering muggers with boomerangs? I think that having your characters learn the wrong lessons from their private tragedies is the key to making them interesting.

… the key to writing a good novel is to first write a bad novel. You’re just piling clay onto the wheel at this stage. You aren’t spinning the wheel to turn it into something until the second draft.

But, I don’t yell. I write. I turn our presidents and judges and televangelists into dragons and I send heroes (or, more frequently, anti-heroes) out to slay them.

Look, I’ve had it up to here with people dismissing all Yellow-Eyed Beasts from Hell as “evil.” The idea that Judea-Christian labels for morality apply to creatures from the pit is an outdated, human-centric view of the world that I hope we, as a society, are finally outgrowing. Baby-eating and stabbing people with pitchforks may seem taboo to most Americans, but what right to we have to impose our values on the denizens of the underworld?

For me–and I can’t speak for anyone else–my formula was stupid stubbornness. I kept plugging along despite rejection letters and harsh critiques because I was too dumb to understand that I really was no good at what I was doing and it was time to give up and move on to something else.

The one thing you can do is buy a lot of lottery tickets, metaphorically. Every short story you write might be the one that wins you an award. You never know. Any book you write might be the exact book that a publisher is dreaming of publishing. Productivity is key.

If Jesus himself were to tell me the sky is blue, I’d argue the point. I mean, sure, sometimes the sky is blue, but a high percentage of the time it’s black, or gray, or white, or any of the zillion shades of pink or purple you find in the bookends of day.

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Codexian Writing Quotes: Eric James Stone and Helena Bell


Here’s the latest in my series of writing quotes from members of Codex, the online writing group I founded seven years ago; I hope you’ll find them entertaining and–who knows?–even pithy. On the other hand, it’s possible that I enjoy them so much only because I have so much context. You’ll have to decide.

Previous posts have featured the ever-sparkly Alethea Kontis and Joy Marchand, who loves filling the silence with paranoia. Today’s features recent Nebula winner Eric James Stone and talespinner/poet Helena Bell.

Stone's new book of short stories

Eric James Stone‘s recent Nebula award win for his novelette “The Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made,” is almost boringly predictable for those of us who have known him for years and had to put up with his repeated winning of Codex short story contests. His work has appeared in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and other venues; he is a Writers of the Future winner and a Hugo nominee; and he’s on the editorial staff at Intergalactic Medicine Show. Here are a few of his pithy remarks over the last few years. He can be found on the Web at

Unfortunately, too many people try going directly to procreating without having spent enough time amateurcreating.

I’m not sure how many hours of daylight you Arizonans have foolishly wasted over the years, but I’m sure it’s a lot. One of these days, the sun’s going to fail to rise in the morning, and you Arizonans will all be stuck in the dark while the rest of us use the daylight we’ve saved up.

If you can see an advantage of a worst-case scenario, it is not a worst-case scenario.

I generally time my public announcement of sales to when they will do the most psychological damage to Scott M. Roberts.

I have long been envious of Hel Bell’s name, and would probably have changed mine to that long ago if I had the face for it. Her work has appeared in venues like Strange Horizons, Ideomancer, and Pedestal and appears with titles along the lines of “A Face Like an Imperfectly Shaven Tennis Ball” and “[Insert Title Indicating This is a Poem about Bluebeard the Wife Murderer, not the Pirate].” Her Web site is

I don’t kill my characters. I just find them that way.

“And the stab wounds?”
“There was a bee.”

There is just something awesome about eating beignets at 1 o’clock Sunday morning and then having a heart to heart with a drag queen.

I think I could make a living selling t-shirts with the stuff that James [Maxey] says on them.
Note: She’s probably right, and note that James Maxey will be featured in future posts.

In general I like to be positive, but that’s because I’m a good Southern girl who only talks bad about people when there’s little chance they’ll find out about it.

… No, it was not immediately obvious that the killer whale was autistic.

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Codexian Writing Quotes: Joy Marchand


Joy Marchand is a writer, poet, and editor. I met her at the 2004 Writers of the Future workshop, where her terrific short story “Sleep Sweetly, Junie Carter” (written as Joy Remy) won her a spot in Writers of the Future XX. My “Bottomless,” a story of a young man exiled from his village located deep within a bottomless pit, appeared in the same volume, but Joy’s story of a woman trying to cope with more time than any human is made to handle may well be my favorite in the book.

Joy’s Web site, with a bibliography of her short fiction, is at (although it hasn’t been updated for a while). Her blog, which is very much up to date, is at . Below you’ll find some of her sayings from Codex that I’ve found most pithy over the last few years.

I’m sure folks don’t mean to be a bundle of insecurities and make asses of themselves on an ongoing basis; I’ve certainly tried to cut down myself.

People do bad things, have naughty sex, make terrible decisions and sometimes hate their parents.

I’m a writer, after all. I have a great imagination and love filling the silence with paranoia.

Boring sex is boring sex, no matter who’s having it.

If the back story doesn’t influence a character’s entire world view, then I think it’s the wrong back story …

…we’re all here to produce pages. Some of us do it for love of language, for glory, for groceries, for attention, for love of hearing ourselves talk. Some of us have noble motives and social awareness, and some of us are navel-gazing solipsists, and we really don’t care about anybody else out there. Some of us use transparent prose and sell to Analog, and some of us are stylists and sweat to get our stuff published anywhere, including Bobby Joe’s Navel-Gazing Gazette if it’ll get us a little love. Some of us write from a place of peace and light and hope and puppies, and some of us hitch our gnarled demons to the plow and make those useful bastards work the back 40. And the only thing that glues us together is a smattering of markets we all submit to, and a vow to produce pages on a regular basis.

Asking me to write Patterson-esque potboilers would be like making a dog wear spanky-pants. Entertaining, but it pisses off the dog and ruins the pants.

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Codexian Writing Quotes: Alethea Kontis


Codex is an online writing group I founded in 2004 that currently has about 200 active members, most writing science fiction or fantasy and all in the early stages of their careers, from some who have written a lot but not yet made their first pro sale to others who are seeing their third, fourth, or fifth novel coming out from a major publisher. Since the founding of the group, members have won major awards like the Campbell, Hubbard, Hugo, and Nebula, made hundreds (and possibly thousands) of short story sales, gotten top agents, sold their first book (or pair of books, or trilogy), made the New York Times bestseller list, achieved consistent financial and literary success with self-published eBooks, and so on. Some have transitioned to full-time writing careers, though most still write only when they can.

But I love the group not because of the amount of success of its members (which tests my envy tolerance on a regular basis) but because of the flood of wisdom, intelligence, kindness, encouragement, and enthusiasm that wells up every day through posts, e-mails, discussions, critiques, and in-person meetings. And while I can’t share all of that material, I can and will share quotes that have cropped up on our forum, with the permission [I originally wrote “position,” because my mental typing buffer is auditory … but I digress] of the originators.

So with this post I begin a series of Codexian quotes, which I hope you will find as entertaining, illuminating, and/or perplexing as I have. This first set is all from my friend Alethea Kontis, whose work includes a persistently delightful picture book called AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First (with illustrator Bob Kolar), the New York Times bestselling Dark Hunter Companion (with Sherrilyn Kenyon), an upcoming fantasy novel, and much else.

Alethea’s Web site and blog are at

Never underestimate the value of Butt In Chair.

[on getting fit] “I’ve decided that every freaking day is just Day One all over again, so why bother numbering them?

I had a great time whipping 16 7-year olds into a complete frenzy. We ended up on the playground, drawing all over ourselves with Sharpies.

We are writers. We are meant to see and feel everything, the good and the bad, the best and the worst. We are meant to cut ourselves and bleed our souls onto paper and share them with the world. We breathe life into impossible cities and create alleyways of escape. We dredge up things that aren’t discussed at the breakfast table and serve them as entrees. We are creators whose purpose in life is to balance out the entropy.

[At the time of this quote, Lee worked for a book wholesaler] 1:30 p.m. — Weekly Staff Meeting. We decide it should be spelled ‘e-books.’

I smile at a baby in red socks and listen to Chris Martin from Coldplay tell me how beautiful I am. I know he doesn’t mean it, but it’s still nice to hear.

[in 2009] Imagine a world with 24356424 bazillion books and no brick-and-mortar stores, because everyone can publish their own grocery lists and advertise it on the internet (and then download it to folks’ PDAs). How will anyone be able to find a good book anymore? How do you find them today? That’s the part the publishing industry needs to focus on.


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