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?
Today is release day for Spell Blind, the first book in my new contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson. This release has been a long time in coming, and I really could not be happier to see the book in print.
To mark the occasion, I have a post up at Magical Words called “Release Day and Defining Success.” It’s about taking satisfaction in our writing achievements while also remaining ambitious and pursuing ever-greater goals. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you will go out, buy a copy of Spell Blind, and enjoy that, too. Thanks!
Spell Blind, Book I in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, my new contemporary urban fantasy series from Baen, will be released tomorrow in hardcover! I’m very excited, and I hope you are, too. Here, for your enjoyment and enticement, is the last in my series of teasers from the book. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you.
I made my way to the Z-ster, Antoine’s laughter still ringing in my
ears. I had been preparing myself all day, planning what I’d do if I felt
the Blind Angel Killer’s power again. But like an idiot, I allowed the
kid to throw me off balance.
And so, when the red sorcerer suddenly had me in his sights again,
I was utterly unprepared. I tried to ward myself, knowing as I did that anything I came up with he could defeat, knowing as well what he was trying to do with these teasing encounters. But I made the effort anyway.
The feeling was much more vivid this time. I knew he was close.
Too close. I turned a quick circle, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be
able to find him. The hairs on my neck and arms stood on end and
my skin grew cold, as if I was in shadow and the rest of the city was in brilliant sunlight. If he had wanted to kill me in that moment, he could have, though I would have put up a fight.
But he was toying with me. For a split second, I thought I could
hear laughter. Not ’Toine’s, though I heard that, too. This was deeper,
more menacing, more elusive. I turned again, trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. But it was everywhere. Around me, above me, below me. It was in my freaking head.
You’re mine now, I thought I heard someone say.
And then it was gone. The laughter ceased, the sun shone on my
face and arms, a warm wind touched my skin.
Three times. Once outside of Robby Sommer’s place, once outside
of Robo’s in Tempe, and now here, in front of Antoine Mirdoux’s
house. Was there a connection there, something linking the three of
them to one another and to this sorcerer with the blood-red magic? Or was it mere chance, the random choices of this bastard who was
I should have been concentrating on those questions, trying to
figure out what Robby, Robo’s, and Antoine had in common with the
Blind Angel victims.
But all I could think was that he’d done this to me three times now.
He’d touched my mind with his magic; he’d tested my defenses and
seen how I would respond to an attack, how I would ward myself.
There’s power in numbers. He knew me now. I was his. And the
next time, if he chose to attack, there would be precious little I could
do about it.
Spell Blind, the first novel in my new series from Baen Books, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, will be released the day after tomorrow. And in the meantime, here, for your enjoyment, is another teaser.
By the time I headed for the Z-ster, night had fallen and the moon
was up. It was well past a quarter full and bone white in a velvet sky.
And though we were still several days away from the full, I could
already feel it tugging at my mind, bending my thoughts, making me
shiver in spite of the warm air.
Describing the phasings to someone who wasn’t a weremyste was
like trying to describe color to someone who had been born blind.
Words weren’t adequate. The closest I’d heard anyone come to
getting it right was something my dad told me not long after my
mom died. We weren’t getting along at the time, and his grip on
reality, which had already become tenuous before Mom’s death, was
slipping fast. But what he told me then in anger still rang true to this
“It’s like somebody reaches a hand into your stinkin’ brain,” he
said, “and swirls it around, making a mess of everything. The thoughts are still there—your sense of who you are and how the people around you fit into your life—but they’re scrambled. There’s no order, no time or space or story line. The boundaries disappear. Love and hate, rage and joy, fear and comfort—you can’t tell anymore where one ends and the next begins. And the worst part is, you know it’s happened—you know that it all made sense a short while before, and that now it’s gone. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”
That was how it felt to me every time. You’d think after a couple
of hundred phasings—three days a month for half a lifetime—I’d get
used to it, or find some way to fight my way through. But each one
feels like the first. I’ve tried to brace myself, waiting for moonrise the
way I would a shot at a doctor’s office. It doesn’t do a damn bit of
good. As soon as the full moon appears on the horizon, I feel those
boundaries my dad talked about being sucked out of my mind.
That was the tug I felt now, with the moon shining down on me.
It wouldn’t happen until the end of the week, but already it was
reaching for me, testing my defenses and finding them as weak as
Another day, another Spell Blind teaser. Spell Blind is the first book in my new series from Baen Books, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson. It comes out on January 6, just a few days from now! Enjoy this newest installment.
I hobbled into the alley, glancing down at my bloodied leg and
swearing loudly. Robby backed away from me until he bumped into
the scalloped steel door of an old garage. He pulled something from
his pocket and fumbled with it.
“Stay away from me!” he said, waving his hand at me. It took me
a moment to realize that he was holding a small knife.
I stopped and considered drawing my Glock, which was still in my
shoulder holster. I’m licensed to own it and Arizona law allows private citizens to carry a concealed weapon. And though I hadn’t been on the job in some time, I still felt more comfortable with a weapon at the ready. In this case though, I figured I’d learn more from Robby if I got him calmed down.
“Put the knife away, Robby. You don’t want to get hurt.”
“I said stay away!”
I started walking toward him again. “You really are an idiot, aren’t
In a way I hoped he would try to cut me. My leg was aching and I
was itching for an excuse to kick the crap out of him.
“I’m smarter than you think. I know that you guys want to nail me
for dealing, especially now that Claudia’s dead.” His eyes were darting from side to side, searching for any way out of the alley. He might well have been desperate enough to attack me.
“Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m not trying to pin
anything on anyone.”
“I’m no cop.” He started to argue, but I raised a finger to silence
him. “I was when I busted you, but I was kicked off the force a while
“Yeah, right. What for?”
I wasn’t about to tell him that. “I beat a perp to death.”
His eyes widened.
“Put the knife away, Robby. I just want to talk. I’m a PI now. A
private investigator,” I added, seeing his puzzled expression. “I’m
doing a little work for the Deegans, trying to figure out what happened to their daughter.”
Fear and uncertainty chased each other across his features.
“The cops are after me, though, right?”
“I honestly couldn’t tell you. They know you didn’t kill her. But
they also know that you deal, and that Claudia had drugs with her
when she died. Lots of the Blind Angel victims did,” I added, eyeing
him as I spoke the words.
Robby seemed to sag. The hand holding the knife fell to his side.
“Shit,” he muttered, eyes on the ground. I’m not sure that he heard
my last remark. “I didn’t do anything.”
“No? What about Jessie Tyler?”
His gaze snapped back to mine. “That was you today.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Throw another spell at me and I’ll break your
The vision began as a thin gray swirl, like a wisp of smoke
embedded in the glass. Another appeared, and a third. Soon there
were a least a dozen of them chasing one another across the mirror,
reminding me of children skating on a frozen pond. The center of the
image began to glow, faintly at first, then brighter, until I could make
out the oranges and blacks and pale yellows of embers in a dying fire. And then a hand emerged from the cinders. It might have been dark red, the color of blood, but it was silhouetted against that burning glow. It wasn’t taloned or deformed. It appeared to be a normal hand, long-fingered perhaps, but ordinary except for its color. Still, I knew immediately that it was . . . wrong; that it didn’t belong here. For one thing, those wisps of gray smoke acted as though they were afraid of it. They kept as far from the hand as possible; when it moved, they did as well, matching its motion so as to keep their distance.
This continued for a while, the threads of smoke and the hand
gliding over the embers, until suddenly the hand seized the strands of gray, capturing all of them in one lightning quick sweep across the
mirror. The hand gripped them, the wisps of smoke appearing to
writhe in its grasp. When at last the dark fingers opened again, what
was left of the gray strands scattered like ash. And when those
remnants touched the embers, they flared so brilliantly that I had to
shield my eyes. By the time I looked at the mirror again, the image
was gone. All that was left was the inverted reflection of my office.
The runemyste was watching me.
“What the hell was that, Namid?”
“What did you see?”
“You know perfectly well what I saw. You always know. What did
“What do you think it meant?”
I shoved the mirror off my lap and stood too quickly; my vision
“Damn you, Namid! Can’t you answer a simple question? Just
“This is as much a part of your training as the summoning of that
image. Scrying is more than seeing. Scrying is understanding what
I hated it when he was right.
This was what made scrying so frustrating. The images came to me
easily. Even Namid, who was a miser when it came to compliments,
had once told me that the visions I summoned from my scrying stone
were unusually vivid. Interpreting them, though, was another matter. Scryings were never clear or unambiguous. Rather they were shadows, portents, hints at the future. Frankly, they were a pain in the butt.
“I don’t know,” I said, beginning to pace the room. “That hand
I halted, surprised by the response. This was as close to a hint as he
was ever likely to offer.
“Why, Namid? What does the hand mean?”
Before he could answer, the phone rang. Neither of us moved, and
it rang again.
A cold prickling on the back of my neck—premonition, or instinct
honed by years on the force—made me pull out my weapon. I eased
toward the door, holding the pistol in front of me. I also released the
spell, felt the warding settle over me like a blanket. I reached the door, stepped past it so that I could swing it open and enter the garage in one quick motion. That was the plan, anyway. I had forgotten about that vanishing money from Jessie’s account and the possibility that she was with a myste. Stupid of me. And nearly fatal.
As soon as I flung the door open, I sensed the spell. It wasn’t
particularly strong, but it was an assailing spell—an attack—and
whoever cast it had aimed it at me. I braced myself, hoped the warding would hold. It did, but the spell—it felt like an impact attack, meant, no doubt, to seem like I had been hit with a two-by-four—was strong enough to stagger me and to make the doorway shake. By the time I was moving forward again, I could hear footsteps retreating toward the front of the garage.
I followed, Glock ready, the power for a second spell already
building inside me. This time I planned to cast an assailing spell of my
own. I hate it when people use magic against me; makes me want to
I hadn’t taken five steps, before I slowed, then halted. The smell
would have been enough to get my attention—feces, urine, vomit,
sweat, fear, desperation—there could have been a body rotting in here.
It was hard to tell.
But what I saw was every bit as bad. Worse, really. At least twenty
college-age kids lay sprawled over the filthy cement floor, most of
them unconscious. At least half of them were emaciated, their cheeks sunken, as if they’d been prisoners in this hell-hole for months. Others—the newcomers, most likely—might have been marginally healthier. But all of them wore stained, tattered clothing; all of them looked like they hadn’t bathed in weeks or longer.
I spotted Jessie Tyler right away, but I couldn’t help wondering
how many of these other kids didn’t have anyone searching for them.
I heard a loud crash at the front of the shop. Another glance at
Jessie convinced me she wasn’t going anywhere. I eased forward,
gripping my weapon with both hands, considering what spell I ought
to use. Assailing spells worked best with a precise target. I didn’t have one, at least not yet, and I didn’t want to hurt one of those kids.
Unfortunately, the myste I was stalking didn’t have my scruples.
Again, I felt the spell as soon as he cast it—the air was electric with
magic. I sensed the heat before I saw the wave of flame rolling toward me. I backpedaled, scared, but also unwilling to ward myself and leave the kids to roast. Fire spells are rudimentary magic, but this myste, whoever he was, had poured serious power into this one.
The temperature in the garage jumped twenty degrees. The skin on my face and hands flushed, like I’d been sitting way too close to a
The flames were almost on top of me when I cast my spell. Three
elements, because that was how spells worked: the kids and myself,
the fire, and a wall of magic in between. I recited the elements to
myself three times, allowing the magic to build inside me. On the third repetition, I released it, the way I would a held breath.
The barrier winked into view and then shuddered as the attack
hit it. But like my earlier warding, it held. That wall of flame passed
over without burning any of us. There was nothing I could do,
though, to keep the guy’s magic from setting everything else in the
garage on fire.
So the release of Spell Blind (book I of the Case Files of Justis Fearsson) is just a few days off — January 6, from Baen Books — and I haven’t even offered a teaser yet!! Time to rectify that. This is the opening. More to come . . .
Ask most people to point at the moon, and they’ll lift their gaze
skyward, trying to locate it. Ask the same of a weremyste like me, and we don’t have to search for it. We know where it is. Always, and precisely. As it waxes full, we can feel it robbing us of our sanity and enhancing the strength of our magic. Like ocean tides, our minds and our runecraft are subject to its pull.
I was on the interstate cutting across the outskirts of Phoenix, and
already I could feel the moon tugging at my thoughts, subtle and light, but as insistent as a curious child. Three hours before today’s
moonrise, nearly a week before it would wax full, and its touch was as real to me as the leather steering wheel against my palms, the rush of the morning desert air on my face and neck.
I sensed the reservoir of power within me responding to its caress,
like water to gravity. And I felt as well the madman lurking inside my
head, coaxing the moon toward full, desperate to be free again.
I had five days.
And in the meantime, I had work to do.
Work for me means investigating. Once it meant being a detective
for the Phoenix Police Department, but those days are gone. I was on the job for six years and eight months. The day I turned in my badge was, next to the day twenty years ago when my mother died, the worst of my life. Still, when I look in the mirror, I see a cop, a detective. I’ve heard it said among cops that once you’re on the job, you’re never really off. Some things are like that, they’ll tell you. Some things get in your blood and that’s it. You’re never the same.
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.