Category: Extras

Possibly the Coolest Thing Ever

How cool is this? It’s the Chinese edition of Nightmare! I knew this was in the works, but I didn’t know when it would be finished. The Chinese publisher that licensed the Chinese language rights, “Gobooks & Sitak Group,” was kind enough to send me a copy of the finished book, and it looking through it is mind-blowing. (Click on any of these images for larger versions.)

Above you can see the cover. Chinese books are read in reverse order to how we read, so the spine is on the right instead of the left. Speaking of the spine, here’s a closer look.

And here’s the back cover.

First page.

Chinese readers read vertically, right to left. It’s fascinating to turn the pages and try to wrap my mind around reading this way.

Check out this closeup of a page. Instead of a straight line to divide up sections of a chapter, like what’s used in the English version, someone at the Chinese publishing house apparently had the idea to use the three alchemical symbols as section dividers. You can see them here in the center of the image. Genius! I wish we’d thought to do this in the English version!

Another interesting feature are the footnotes. Sporadically throughout the book are these footnotes for cultural references and other things that Chinese readers might not be familiar with. Flipping through the first few chapters, I see footnotes for “Grinch,” “cold spot,” “Agnostic,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Linda Blair.”

The Chinese publisher kept the formatting we used for the flashback chapters, with the surrounding journal-style page frames around it. They also used the opening pages of those chapters where there are photos and descriptions of the real-world locations described. Here’s how one of those pages looks in Chinese.

The one thing I can say for certain about the Chinese version of Nightmare is that it wasn’t easy to make. My thanks to Gobooks & Sitak Group for putting a tremendous amount of thought and attention to detail into this. I couldn’t be happier!

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Alchemical Symbols

Warning: there are minor spoilers for Nightmare in this post.

A number of people have asked me about the three alchemical symbols that play an all-important role in my novel Nightmare. I won’t reveal what that role is here, for those who haven’t read the book, but they’re real symbols from the ancient protoscience called Alchemy. And here they are.

The first symbol, as described in the book:

The first looked like a lower-case ‘m’ with a strange little curl at the end. “This one is commonly known as the Zodiac sign for Virgo. In alchemical terms, it essentially stands for distillation or separation,” he explained.

The second symbol:

He pointed at the second one, which was a circle with a vertical line running down its center. Breaking off from that line to the right was a horizontal line, which was looped with a second circle. “This one is less common than the other two. It appears to be a representation of lodestone. Lodestone is a natural magnet, so I believe that in this context, it represents the magnet’s ability to bind one thing to another.”

The third and final symbol:

Eccleston’s finger hovered over the final symbol. It was the simplest of the three, merely an inverted triangle with a horizontal line passing through it. “This is the alchemical symbol for Earth.”

Now to answer the inevitable question: No, I don’t have a version of the combined symbol as it’s depicted in the book. I did attempt to combine the three into one while I was writing Nightmare, but I couldn’t do it justice. In my mind, the combined symbol is a very elaborate, overlapping thing, that looks like a tiny, textured, three-dimensional labyrinth, and that’s beyond my graphical abilities to produce.

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Offworld Calendar

OFFWORLD Printable 2010 CalendarFree! This clean, modern, black & white 2010 calendar features memorable quotes from Offworld, Robin’s 2009 novel. Pages are standard 8.5″ x 11″ in size, so just download and print to use. (Cover stock paper recommended for best results.)

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Trivia

My original plan for the Dominion Trilogy book titles were (in order): Bringer, Guardian, and Oblivion. If you’ve read the books, you know that these are all titles applied to the main character in each respective book. But this plan was vetoed by Bethany House, who felt that Bringer especially would not grab enough attention on store shelves.

They suggested the new title for Book One, and I followed their lead by coming up with the new titles for Books Two and Three.

In Relentless, in the scene where Drexel is about to enter the interrogation room to talk to Payton, someone tells him that the FBI have an interest in the man they’ve captured (Payton) and want to talk to him (Drexel) about it. In a near-final draft of the book, the FBI agent was mentioned by name — “FBI Special Agent Ethan Cooke.” I stuck in this reference to add continuity for what would become a major character, but the reference was ultimately cut for space and relevance. Ethan went on to be properly introduced in Fearless and featured prominently both there and in the final book.

Every character changed and deviated from the original story arc I had planned for them, except for one. Payton entered my mind fully formed and never deviated from that original vision. The character who changed the most from my original plan? Daniel.

As many readers have noticed, there’s a printing error in Relentless. In Chapter 48 (page 324), there’s a scene where Daniel is chatting with someone online, and I alternated black-on-white text and white-on-black text to differentiate between Daniel and his friend. It didn’t turn out that great in printed form; the margins are all wonky, the black backgrounds run a little over the next lines of black text. The worst part is the end of the chat, where the last black background completely obscures the first line of the next paragraph of the story.

As it appears in the book, that paragraph begins mid-sentence with:

who was in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there all the same.

It should read:

Daniel pounded a fist on the desk. Lightly, so as not to alarm Lisa, who was in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there all the same.

To signify the culmination of the trilogy with the final book, Bethany House went to extra lengths to ensure it would have a unique presentation. The process used to create the dust jacket cover for Merciless was a first for the publishing industry, in the way it was achieved. Various color printing passes were applied onto silver foil paper, and the graphic designers and printers at Bethany House didn’t know if this would work until they tried it.

The original outline for the trilogy had Grant choosing to become evil in the third book, Anakin Skywalker style. After finishing work on Relentless, I realized this was no longer in keeping with the person he’d become, since he had basically overcome his personal demons in that book. Revisiting that inner struggle felt like it would just be an unsatisfying rehash (though I still featured him pushing back the negative internal influence of the Ring in order to create uncertainty around the “is he causing the global disasters?” question).

Rather than rewind the character this way, I wanted to turn the page and move forward with him, so I decided that the emergence of Oblivion would be yet another thing that happens to Grant that’s a manipulation by outside forces, and ultimately beyond of his control. Once again, the world pulls the rug out from under him just as he’s gotten his footing. This rang true thematically, and it gave me the opportunity to move Grant further forward than I’d originally imagined possible.

Grant is the underdog character I repeatedly did the most nasty things to — changing his identity, killing off people he loves, twisting him into something evil against his will — but what was essential to me (and what was one of the major themes of the entire trilogy) was how he chose to react to each of those things.

It was always part of the plan that Book One would be the “hero’s journey”/coming-of-age tale, Book Two would be a superhero story, and Book Three would be an end-of-the-world/”disaster movie” kind of thing. Each book had to achieve this while still maintaining the sense of continuity of telling one big story in three books.

Fearless was the toughest entry in the trilogy to write. It’s the middle of the story with no true beginning or ending, so there’s no real resolution to anything. Relentless kind of burst from my head in this steady stream of wild ideas; it was probably the easiest to write. Merciless was the most gut-wrenching, because I had to put these characters who I’d been with for so long through such hardships and darkness. I was more meticulous with the final book than either of the others, and it’s by far my favorite of the three.

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