Coming in February?

Well, that’s still possible. Get back to me on that in a few weeks.

But that aside, this is what I’m working on now: the first of the six planned Fathomless Abyss e-books.

I’m calling it Devils of the Endless Dark, and the story picks up immediately after the end of my short story, “The Lioness of God, Daughter of the Peaceful” from the anthology Tales From The Fathomless Abyss.

Here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter, with a bit of a spoiler warning. If you haven’t read the short story yet . . . well, shame on you, first of all. I mean, really?

If that’s you, you should follow one of these links and get the Kindle edition or the Nook edition, read at least my story, then come back to this post.

While we’re waiting, here’s the amazing cover art for Devils of the Endless Deep by Mats Minnhagen:

I love how this turned out.

Okay, now you’re back, having read “The Lioness of God, Daughter of the Peaceful” and you’re ready for an excerpt from Devils of the Endless Deep:

It went on forever in one direction. The fact that Guillermo Francisco Manuel Ortega Cordova had lived for three years so near the top only made it seem that much deeper. He looked down over the edge of the wicker basket suspended beneath the hot air balloon, the words of a wildly-shrieked curse still hanging in spittle from his lower lip. Below him was a forever of godless aliens and feral monsters, of ragtag villages of the damned and outposts of scavengers. The Sunstrip fired up into the overcast, and Guillermo briefly hoped that the balloon would drift into its path and be shredded. For the space of a heartbeat, he wanted to fall back in, and keep falling, forever and ever, until he died, screaming, falling for day after day.

But there were scores to be settled, vows to be kept. He needed to live.

His hand went to the lamp that poured hot air into the balloon. If he had to guess, he thought he was a hundred feet above the rim of the great hole, two miles in diameter, that fell away into eternity beneath him. The rumbling of the Crown closing had already begun.

The air itself shook from the noise. It began at the rim, the enormous black circle growing smaller and smaller. He wanted to scream out another curse, another vow of revenge, but all that came out was an incoherent, squealing shriek. His eardrums rattled at the onslaught of the thundering closure of the Crown. His hand twitched at the lamp and he almost extinguished the flame entirely. A light but steady wind pushed the balloon farther from the Sunstrip—farther from the center of the Abyss. The rim folded up under him and he no longer hung over endless nothing, but bobbed gently in the air a bit less than a hundred feet over gray-brown rock.

“No,” he whispered when the last of it closed and the Sunstrip went out.

Oh, that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Starting out? As I pretty ham-handedly “hinted” at the start of this post, I’m behind schedule with this one. Truth be told, I should have been done already. The other Abyss authors should have had a chance to read and comment on it. It should be in a last proofreading stage, ready to be posted no later than next week.

But then I started and finished a whole book I wasn’t even planning on writing when I volunteered to write the first Fathomless Abyss book, and that knocked me off schedule. And I finished that other book right at the start of the holidays. And my consulting business has seriously picked up steam since the first of the year—I’m busy!

But am I too busy to write?

Nonsense. That will never happen. And, yeah, man, I was writing. Again, I wrote a whole book in there somewhere! So there.

Anyway, I wrote a lot about how the Arron of the Black Forest project that I undertook with fellow Abyssal Mel Odom helped me recapture the pure joy of storytelling. I can’t wait for Mel to finish the next chapter in Arron’s story, and I’m already overflowing with ideas for my next Arron book, even while continuing to spread the word on Pulp Ark Award nominee The Haunting of Dragon’s Cliff. (See how deftly he inserts that bit of shameless self promotion? Poetry!) Then we fell into the Fathomless Abyss and that pure joy stayed with me—and I still have it . . . when I actually manage to sit down and write Devils of the Endless Deep.

As of right now, I’m about 8000 words in, through chapter 4 of a planned 21 chapters—and that’s not good. I should be lots farther along, even if the whole “done by the end of January” ship sailed a long time ago. But I’m working on it, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only author who has trouble, sometimes, getting started.

I don’t even open a blank file until I have the first sentence. In this case, it was two sentences: It went on forever in one direction. The fact that Guillermo Francisco Manuel Ortega Cordova had lived for three years so near the top only made it seem that much deeper.

That came to me late this time. I scrawled it in red pen on an early draft of the outline, and still waited a long couple weeks to actually get started.

But here’s the good news: That (Those) first (two) line(s) came to me, and it (they) came to me like first lines always do: entirely unbidden from the ether. You might think it came from God. Okay, but if so, you should watch this video:


He’s right.

But that aside, I’ve got it: that feeling you get when you know the story, can hear the characters and see the landscape, when you’re not building a story one painful letter at a time but hurriedly typing as fast as you can, oblivious to one typo after another, feverishly describing what you see unfolding before you.

I don’t believe in magic, except maybe in those moments.


—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. John Hooper says:

    Hi Phil:

    Like the excerpt. I think you’re walking into a minefield of Spanish naming traditions. Three unrelated “nombres” (given names–i.e “Guillermo Francisco Manuel”) seems really unlikely to me. You rarely meet anyone with more than two given names. If a man were to have three, chances are that two of them would be a biblically-derived or otherwise traditional couplet (like “Jose Maria” or “Juan Carlos”).

    • Philip Athans says:

      Ack! The constant danger of too little research. I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the court for this one and challenge myself to figure out how to explain it somewhere along the way. Watch me work my magic!

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