I’m exhausted after a great weekend at MarsCon. Tomorrow I leave Williamsburg to do a few stock signings in North Carolina and then two bookstore events later in the week: a signing at the Books-A-Million in Gastonia, North Carolina on Tuesday (4-6) and then a signing at the BooKnack in Rock Hill, South Carolina with Faith Hunter on Wednesday (5:30-8:00). I’ll be signing copies of Spell Blind, the first book in my new series from Baen, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, and also copies of my Thieftaker books (Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, and A Plunder of Souls) which I write as D.B. Jackson. Hope to see many of you along the way.
Panels on the best genre books of the past quarter century and overcoming writing blocks in our novels, readings and signings with the wonderful Alethea Kontis, David Weber, and Katherine Kurtz, countless conversations both serious and fun: Just another day at MarsCon 25. Still more to come this evening, including the masquerade and the charity auction, and right now I’m trying to grab a bit of down time. But it’s been a terrific convention so far.
One of my favorite things to do at any convention is take advantage of my down time by exploring the area in which the con is held. While in San Jose for a World Fantasy Convention several years ago I took an epic hike through one of the open space preserves in the foothills above the South Bay. When I was at EerieCon last year, Amy Lass Kauderer was kind enough to take me to a lovely natural area near the convention, and Kim Greyson has twice done the same for me during my previous visits to Calgary. (Kim be ready: I’m coming back in 2015!)
Well today, after a fun breakfast with the MarsCon staff, I drove out to the Colonial National Parkway, a gorgeous road that follows the course of the York River for a stretch. I did some birdwatching along the way, seeing eagles, ducks, loons, cormorants, and grebes, had a terrific lunch of clam chowder and fried oysters at the Yorktown Pub, walked around the Yorktown waterfront for a bit, and then headed back to the hotel. I have plenty to do the rest of the weekend, and I know that the folks here at MarsCon will take good care of me. But for a few hours this morning, I got away from work and experienced a small part of what makes this part of Virginia such a special place.
I have arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia for MarsCon 25, which begins tomorrow. I was literary Guest of Honor at MarsCon back in 2013, or maybe it was 2012. Whichever it was, I had a great time here, and when the folks who run the convention decided to invite back some of their former GoHs for this silver anniversary con, I was delighted to accept. Some of my favorite people will be here this weekend, and I’m looking forward to catching up with them, as well as meeting some new folks.
I spent the day driving from Richmond to the Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads-Newport News-Norfolk area, where I stopped in at several bookstores to sign stock. This after a wonderful signing last night with Bishop O’Connell at the fabulous Fountain Bookstore in downtown Richmond. The stock signings I did today went well — every store I visited had multiple copies of Spell Blind as well as copies of my Thieftaker books. And all the staff workers I met were friendly and professional.
The drive east from Richmond was beautiful. This entire area was hit by an ice storm yesterday, and this morning, with the sun struggling to break through a blanket of high clouds, the trees lining the highway were still glazed, so that their branches seemed to glow in the silver light. Gorgeous. Later, nearer to the ocean, I saw a Bald Eagle circling over the road, and then a Peregrine Falcon diving for pigeons just outside of Norfolk.
A good day, and, I’m sure, the prelude to a great weekend.
My friend Joshua Palmatier (aka Benjamin Tate) has interviewed me about the release of Spell Blind, the first book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson. We talk about pseudonyms, urban fantasy, and character development, and, of course, we do so with panache. So check it out. You can find the interview here.
So I’m about to begin a small signing tour, and I’m hoping to run into some of you along the way.
My first stop will be this coming Wednesday night, January 14, at 6:30 pm. I’ll be appearing with Bishop O’Connell at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, which happens to be one of my favorite bookstores in the world. Here are details on the event. Apparently, Bishop and I will be making your fantasies come true. As the announcement says, come restrictions may apply . . .
I will spend the weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia as a returning Writer Guest of Honor at MarsCon. It should be a great convention.
On Tuesday, January 20, I’ll be signing from 4:00-6:00 at the Books-A-Million in Gastonia, North Carolina. The folks at the Gastonia BAM have always been incredibly supportive of my work, and I look forward to spending some time with them again.
On Wednesday, January 21, from 5:30-8:00, my wonderful friend Faith Hunter and I will be signing at the BooKnack in Rock Hill, South Carolina. This is another of my favorite bookstores, and when Faith and I get together for an event it is always a hoot.
Finally, on Friday, January 30, from noon to 2:00, I will be signing books at the University of the South Bookstore in Sewanee, Tennessee. This is my home town bookstore, and my signings here are always well-attended and lots of fun.
Today I am blogging at the site of Stephen Leigh, who is a terrific fantasy writer and one of the nicest people I have met in my nearly 20 years in this business. Stephen invited me to his site to help me promote Spell Blind, the first book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, and he asked me to write about the differences between writing historical urban fantasy (The Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson) and this new contemporary urban fantasy. And so, we have a new post about point of view, character, and narrative. The post can be found here. I hope you enjoy it.
Today I have a post up at the website of my good friend Mary Robinette Kowal, as part of her “My Favorite Bit” feature. As I note in the opening, I have done several “Favorite Bit” posts in the past as my various Thieftaker novels have come out. Today’s post is about Spell Blind, the first book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, which came out earlier this week, and it discusses the twisted, even tortured history of the book as it went through rewrites and re-imaginings. I hope you enjoy the post, which can be found here.
I have just returned from what was a truly glorious weekend in New York City, where I attended the annual conference of the American Historical Association. Now, as a veteran of AHA conventions and someone who attended many of the conferences as a frightened graduate student interviewing for jobs and presenting papers in an attempt to make myself look more attractive to potential employers, I know that “glorious” and “AHA” don’t often appear together in a single sentence. But this weekend was very special for me.
I was at the convention to speak on a panel about writing fiction as a trained historian no longer working in academia. Our panel, which was chaired by agent Jennifer Goloboy and included Andrea Roberston Cremer, Laura Croghan Kamoie, and me, was tremendous fun. We had a large, engaged audience, and our discussion touched on matters of craft and business, as well as on ways in which we all use our history backgrounds to enhance our writing. (I talked about the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D. B. Jackson, and which are set in pre-Revolutionary Boston.) I also sat in on a career fair, where I spoke with graduate students and employed academics alike about ways in which they might incorporate creative writing into their careers.
Long ago, when I made the jump from academia to writing fantasy, I had no interest in maintaining close ties to the academy. I didn’t enjoy scholarly writing and I don’t believe I was especially good at it. I know that I was not yet mature enough to be an effective teacher, and I believe my lack of passion for history crept into my pedagogy. (I am a much, much better teacher of writing than I ever was a teacher of history.) I left the academy with an excellent academic job offer in hand, and I did it to pursue my true passion, a profession I love. It was the right choice and I have never had any regrets. And yet there was a part of me that felt as though I had “failed” at history.
So there was something redemptive about this weekend. It took going back to the AHA as a professional writer to make me realize that I hadn’t failed after all. I left on my own terms and as much as I enjoyed the weekend, I realized more forcefully than ever that my life would not be as rich as it is had I stayed in academia. More, the weekend affirmed for me something that I’ve come to realize as I’ve written the Thieftaker books. I still love history. I don’t want to be a historian, but I still enjoy the discipline, and in blending my interest in it with my passion for writing fantasy, I have, at long last, found a bridge between the two professional worlds in which I’ve lived. I suppose that was part of what this weekend was about for me: realizing that I can still call myself a historian even as I continue to be a writer of speculative fiction. It was a deeply satisfying experience.
Of course, the best part of the weekend was catching up with a couple of my closest friends from graduate school, and then spending a memorable evening with my two closest friends from college and their families. I also caught up with some cousins I hadn’t seen in years. Fellowship, love, laughter, and an exploration of history on so many levels — intellectual, personal, familial.
So, yeah. A glorious weekend at the AHA convention. Who would have thunk it?
I have a post up today at Magical Words — another in what I am calling the Unofficial Winter 2014-15 Spell Blind Blog Tour. The post is called “Taking Stock and Taking Risks,” and it is about the closing of this year and some of my goals for 2015. You can find the post here. I hope you enjoy it, and I wish you all a wonderful New Year.