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.
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’ve debated back and forth about writing this post. Even now, as I type it out, I’m not sure I’ll ever actually put it up. Honesty wars with pride. Fear of revealing weakness and saying “the wrong thing” strives against the notion that reading this post might help others struggling with similar demons.
This has been another of those days — I seem to be having quite a few of them right now. By “those days,” I mean the ones that are filled with doubts and frustrations, stretches of idle time during which I do nothing but stare at a blank screen, getting nothing done and feeling like a lump.
But worse, I find myself falling into all sorts of old, bad habits, things that I have posted about, glibly telling aspiring writers “don’t do this and don’t do that.” And now here I sit, guilty of all the sins at which I’ve railed.
“Success,” I have said in recent posts, “must by self-defined. Don’t look to others for affirmation, find it within yourself.” But I feel myself surrounded my mirrors, as if I have stepped into an erroneously named funhouse. These mirrors are distorted, farcical. And yet I look at myself as I appear in them, and I wonder, “Is that really me?”
“Be ambitious! Ambition is good!” But my ambitions mock me, daring me to reach for them again, to risk falling short of them. Again.
“Don’t write to the market. The market is a moving target. Write what you love, the story that is burning inside of you.” But that story feels elusive right now, and I am constantly second-guessing myself, wondering if I am on the verge of writing the “wrong” story, the one that won’t take my career where I want it to go.
“Don’t read your own reviews.” “Don’t obsess over your numbers.” “Don’t lose sight of the fact that to succeed in this crazy business one must understand that its ultimate reward is love of the craft and passion for the act of creation.”
Don’t, don’t, don’t.
And yet, I do it all.
Because as much as I love this business, as fortunate as I am to be a professional writer, I’m always mindful of the precarious nature of success, however it is defined. I am flying without a net, unsure of what I am going to write next and where I might sell it when it’s ready to hit the market. And that uncertainty terrifies me. I have ideas, but they have yet to coalesce into a vision for a new project.
A voice in my head says, “But they will, they always do.”
To which another voice — a voice that has plagued me all my life, as such voices do all of us — answers, “You mean, they always have. Perhaps this time they won’t.”
I really hate that fucking voice.
There really is no answer to that voice of doubt, at least none that is solid in its certainty. The answer to doubt has to be faith, and faith can be a shaky foundation on which to build confidence. Do I think that I’ll find an answer, that I’ll emerge from this dark, unsettled place? Of course. But I don’t — can’t — know. Belief is all I’ve got, and while I can hope that eventually it will be enough, right now my confidence seems threadbare and worn.
I have no answers for you, no note of redemption on which to end this post. Hence my reluctance to start it in the first place. I’m struggling, as we all do from time to time. And all I can do is contend with my demons again tomorrow and hope that in the light of the morning they seem a bit less formidable.
Today I finished reading through the first pass galley proofs of Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth and (for now) final book in the Thieftaker Chronicles (which I write as D.B. Jackson). There is really nothing left for me to do in terms of production for the novel. It will be released on July 21, 2015, and I really can’t wait. It is my favorite of the Thieftaker books and it may well be the finest novel I’ve ever written.
And it also sports the best cover of the series, which is saying something because ALL of Chris McGrath‘s Thieftaker art has been magnificent. I mean, really: check this out. Amazing, right?
This is one of those announcements that I just love to make: I am very pleased to say that I have been invited back to DragonCon as a guest (as D.B. Jackson, but I’ll be there promoting work under both my writing names). I will be speaking on panels, (perhaps) reading from my latest work, and selling books in the exhibitor’s hall in the Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair booth.
DragonCon is one of my favorite conventions, and each year a centerpiece of my event calendar. I am grateful to the folks at the con for having me back again this year. It offers me a chance to catch up with friends, interact with fans, and see all sorts of stuff I don’t see anywhere else — the weird, the impressive, and the unexpected. (As in the Chick-Fil-A zombie cows in this photo from a few years ago. . .)
So, I’ll be in Atlanta the weekend of September 4-7, Labor Day weekend. Hope to see many of you there. For more information about my 2015 appearances, please go to this page.
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.
I’m 51 years old — nearly 52 — and I have never made a Martini. I’ve drunk a few. More than a few, if I’m going to be honest. But I’ve never made one. I don’t know how. I know what’s involved — gin, vermouth, olives, Aston Martins — but I don’t know the exact recipe. For that matter, I also don’t know how to make a Manhattan, a Mojito, or a Mai Tai.
I think it’s about time I learned. My wife agrees. And so, inspired by a purchase I made over the holidays for my nephew, I have recently purchased a bartender’s recipe book. It’s a nice one — well-illustrated, pretty comprehensive, and cheap, because it was used. It has just arrived.
I have some studying to do.