Today the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour returns to Magical Words with a post about what it’s like to publish two series, under two different names, with two different publishers. We are a little under two weeks away from the July 21 release of Dead Man’s Reach, book 4 in the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I publish with Tor Books under the name D.B. Jackson. And we’re a little under a month away from the August 4 release of His Father’s Eyes, book 2 in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, which I publish with Baen Books under my own name, David B. Coe. Hence the post, which you can find here. I hope you enjoy it.
Today, I begin my 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour, with a post at the Magical Words blog site. Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth and final volume of the Thieftaker Chronicles, will be released in nineteen days, on July 21. His Father’s Eyes, the second book in The Case Files of Justice Fearsson, drops two weeks after that, on August 4. This first post is about how different books fit into a series (or two . . .) in different ways. You can find the post here. I hope you enjoy it.
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when I start showing up at other people’s websites, talking about myself and my work. Also known as the blog tour! This year’s 2015 Summer of Two Releases Tour will begin later this week with a post at Magical Words, which is, in many ways, my “home” site. Over the next two months I’ll be visiting lots of sites — probably twenty or more, before all is said and done — and putting up more than thirty posts. The full schedule can be found here, and will be updated as needed. Hope to “see” lots of you along the way.
One of the first rules of writing etiquette — I mean really “How-to-be-an-Author 101” type stuff — is never respond to reviews. We have our say with the books and stories we write. Our readers get to comment on them in reviews, blogs, etc. And at that point we’re really best off keeping our virtual mouths shut. In fact, most of the time we’re better off not even reading our reviews. I know this. I understand the reasoning. I get it.
I just came within a hair’s breadth of violating that “Don’t respond” rule. Why? Because there are now two reviews of SPELL BLIND on Amazon that accuse me of “blatantly ripping off” the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. I have, I assure you, done no such thing.
First of all, Jim Butcher is a friend, and I wouldn’t do that to a friend.
Second, with apologies to Jim, I’ve only read the first two Dresden books, and that was back in 2004.
Third, from what I know of the Dresden books, I have to say that the Justis Fearsson books are not really all that similar. They’re darker, the weremyste element of my series is quite different from Harry’s magic, and the plot lines of all three books in my series (SPELL BLIND is out, HIS FATHER’S EYES will be released in August, and SHADOW’S BLADE is written and in the early stages of production) are, from my perspective, pretty original.
So what has these reviewers so outraged? Well, they don’t like that my character is also a male private detective with magic. I wonder, if I had made my protagonist female, if they would have accused me of ripping off Faith Hunter or Patricia Briggs or Kim Harrison or any number of other incredibly talented and successful female authors, or if they’re just protective of Jim and Harry. I wonder as well if I had left out the magic, whether they would even have picked up the book.
One of them complains that I use “internal monologue.” So does every book with a first or close-third person point of view. ‘Nuff said.
They also don’t like the fact that a higher up in the Phoenix police force (my books are set in Phoenix; Dresden lives in Chicago, I believe) has it in for my main character. That, of course, is a trope that goes back well before the first Dresden book. It is, in fact, something that you find in nearly all great private eye stories. That’s what makes it a trope. Same with the friend on the police force. I don’t apologize for either of those devices — tropes are tropes for a reason. We authors use them, we play with them, we make them our own.
While we’re talking about tropes — the spirit guide who helps the magic wielder with his spell-work is one readers will find in almost any urban fantasy. Yes, Namid’skemu in my books falls into the category. He is really nothing like the talking skull I remember from the Dresden books, but his mere presence seems to be enough to tick these guys off. Again, I refer them to other authors who write in the genre. We all use this. I’m allowed to as well.
Magical serial murders? Jim was not the first to do this, and I am certainly neither the second nor the last. Another trope.
One of the reviewers objects to the fact that my hero’s mother died a mysterious death and that this is similar to Harry Dresden’s personal history. To be perfectly honest, if I was in his position, I might object to this, too. It is a striking similarity, one of which I was not aware until I read his review. If this is mentioned in one of those first two Dresden novels, it had not registered with me in a meaningful way. I swear it was not something I “copied” from Jim’s work. It’s probably too specific to call it a trope, but I will say that in fantasy novels of all stripes, it’s not at all uncommon for the protagonists to lose one parent or the other under mysterious circumstances. It’s a useful plot seed for later volumes. And I think that Jay’s relationship with his father, which is one of the strongest themes of the Fearsson books, sets it apart from Butcher’s work and that of others in the genre.
Look, I’ve been writing fantasy professionally, under two names, for nearly twenty years, publishing 16 novels — 18 by the end of this summer — earning a Crawford Award, excellent reviews, good enough sales to survive in a tough business, and the respect of my peers, which I value above all else. I would not rip off the work of a friend or a colleague. I don’t need to. I have plenty of good ideas on my own, thanks very much. Are there superficial similarities between my urban fantasy and other urban fantasies out there, including the Dresden Files? Perhaps. But read the books. Really read them. Jay Fearsson is very much my own creation. So are the characters surrounding him. So is my magic system.
If you don’t like the books, fine. I can live with that. If you like Jim’s more, also fine.
But don’t accuse me of plagiarism. Don’t impugn my professionalism and my integrity based upon your reading of one book. It’s not true and it’s not fair.
I have a new interview up — my good friend Diana Pharaoh Francis, a wonderful writer in her own right, asked me some questions about writing Spell Blind, the first book in my new series, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson.
I turned in a book today. Shadow’s Blade, the newly titled, third installment in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, is out of my hands and with my editor at Baen Books. That’s kind of exciting. I read it through this week, and though I struggled with it when I was writing the first draft, I’m very happy with how it came out.
And, of course, at pretty much the same time I turned that book in, I received the galley proofs of Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth volume in the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson. So I know what I’ll be working on for at least the first part of next week.
After that, things get a little murkier, and far more intriguing. It’s time for me to start a new project. I have ideas, but nothing firm. Once those proofs are done, the brainstorming and worldbuilding and plot construction begins. I don’t know yet where it all will lead, but I’m eager to find out. Stay tuned. . . .
My Facebook page was hopping today, because I asked for people’s opinions on the title for the book I’ve been working on. The book is the third in my new series from Baen, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson. The first two books in the series are called Spell Blind (released earlier this month) and His Father’s Eyes (coming out in August). The list of possible titles from which I asked people to choose included:
The Pale Blade (or Knife), The Stone Knife (or Blade), The Lost Blade (or Knife), The Necromancer’s Blade, The Killing Blade, The Blood Blade.
And the responses I got were fascinating, and made me think about what goes into a title, what makes a title work or not work.
First let me say that I’m grateful to all who have offered opinions thus far. I really am paying close attention to responses, because I want to get this right. Over the years, I feel that I’ve done pretty well with my book titles. There are one or two that I think could have been stronger, but generally speaking I feel good about the titles I’ve chosen. (Among my favorites: The Outlanders, Seeds of Betrayal, Weavers of War, The Sorcerers’ Plague, A Plunder of Souls, Dead Man’s Reach, His Father’s Eyes)
But, of course, it’s entirely subjective. Others might not like any of those I’ve just listed, and might feel that one of the titles I didn’t mention as a favorite is better than all of them.
As an author, I want a title that sounds cool, whatever the hell that means. I want it to have a certain poetry, a cadence that rolls off the tongue. I also want it to conjure imagery that is both intriguing and representative of some key element of the book. But again, even these criteria are subject to personal taste. Today alone I’ve had someone tell me that he/she loves the title The Pale Blade because of the repeated long “a” sound. And I’ve had another reader say that the title doesn’t work for him/her for the exact same reason. Some folks love the word Necromancer, and others feel that I should avoid it at all costs. The Pale Blade emerged as a clear favorite, but it also elicited the most forceful negative responses. “It’s mysterious.” “It sounds cool.” “It’s boring and plain.” “It’s weak.”
Now, one might think that all these contradictory opinions would cloud the issue for me and make what will ultimately be my choice that much harder. But the fact is, the feedback is valuable if for no other reason than because I react to these arguments in a visceral way. And my responses give me a sense of where I’m leaning, what direction I think I might want to go.
I haven’t come to a decision yet (so feel free to weigh in on the discussion). Right now I’m thinking strongly about Pale Blade (without the “The”) and Lost Blade. But that could change. It’s possible that something will come to me that I haven’t even considered yet. So stay tuned. And again, thanks for the input.
Last week at the Magical Words blogsite, which I helped found so many years ago with Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, and C.E Murphy, I posted about plotting versus pantsing. For those not in the writing profession, plotting refers to setting out an outline at the beginning of a project and allowing that outline to guide us through the process of crafting our novels. Pantsing — as in flying by the seat of one’s pants — refers to winging it, essentially writing a novel without having a clear idea of where it’s going.
I am have been, throughout much of my career, a dedicated plotter. But with the third book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, I was unable to come up with a decent outline, and so I dove in and just wrote the darn thing. That’s what the post was about (you can read it here).
Well, as I always do with a book, upon finishing the first draft, I put it away with the intention of coming back to it several weeks later in order to revise and polish before submitting it to my editor at Baen. Today, five weeks after completing the book, I began to read through the manuscript, unsure of what I would find.
I’m a little more than a third of the way through the novel. I’ve found some things that needed changing, and I’ve refined my wording here and there. But so far, overall, I like the book very much. In this case, it seems, pantsing was the write approach. We’ll see if I still feel that way when I’m finished reading it.
It’s late on a Friday, not the best time to be making public service announcements. But I am very excited to say that I will be signing books in my home town of Sewanee, Tennessee, a week from today.
Friday, January 30, from noon to 2:00 I’ll be in the University bookstore signing copies of Spell Blind, the first book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, as well as copies of all the Thieftaker books. So, Sewanee, hope to see you there!
Today’s installment in the continuing, unofficial Winter 2014-15 Spell Blind Blog Tour (which is way too much of a mouthful) can be found at the Magical Words blog site. The post is about plotting and pantsing — the age-old tension between wanting to outline our stories before we write them so as to keep our narratives clear and coherent, and wanting to let our narratives flow “organically” in the moment of creation. You can find the post here. I hope you enjoy it.