David B. Coe won the William L. Crawford Memorial Award for best new fantasy author for his The LonTobyn Chronicles back in 1999. Since then he’s gone on to publish the Winds of the Forelands and Blood of the Southlands fantasy series with Tor Books, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson (SPELL BLIND, HIS FATHER’S EYES and SHADOW’S BLADE) with Baen Books and his Thieftaker historical fantasy series described as “Sam Adams meets the Dresden Files” under the pseudonym D.B. Jackson (also Tor). Kirkus Reviews calls his work “innovative and engaging” as well as “thoroughly engrossing”. His work has also been called “amazing” (Kat Richardson), “evocative and captivating” (AuthorLink) and “a tour de force” (Faith Hunter). I could, of course, go on and on.

David and I have worked together for lo these many years, and he’s recently come full circle with his very first novel, CHILDREN OF AMARID, just reissued and the sequels, THE OUTLANDERS and EAGLE-SAGE also in the works. Thus, I asked him, as a veteran of the industry, what he’s learned between then and now, and he’s here to share his insight!

__________

children-of-amerid I have recently edited and reissued my very first novel, Children of Amarid, the opening volume in my LonTobyn Chronicle. I call this reissue the Author’s Edit (like the Director’s Cut of a movie) because I took the opportunity to fix many of the first-novel flaws I saw in the book and have wanted to edit out since its publication. It’s not that the book as originally written was bad. Children of Amarid established me commercially and critically, and the series won me the Crawford Fantasy Award. But still, those rookie mistakes bugged me; fixing them has been great fun, not to mention satisfying. The Author’s Edits of the second and third books, The Outlanders and Eagle-Sage, will be released in October and December.

Children of Amarid was first published in 1997, which is a really, really long time ago. The person who wrote that book must be, you know, old. Not “Rime-of-the-Ancient-Mariner” old, but at least venerable. Perhaps even vintage. Certainly grizzled.

I’m not sure I was ever the Hot New Thing in Fantasy, but if I was, I’m definitely not anymore, and haven’t been for a while. On the other hand, at this point I’m a Survivor, someone who’s Been Around Forever and Seen It All. And I suppose that’s kind of cool.

The fact is, I have seen a lot. The publishing industry isn’t known for being particularly quick to change, and yet over the course of my career I’ve seen remarkable transformations touching on everything from stylistic norms of writing, to genre and subgenre categories, to the way books are sold and read.

I started writing Children of Amarid in 1993 and sold the novel to Tor Books in the spring of 1994, based on five chapters and an outline. (Because the book wasn’t finished, needed a good deal of editing, and then had to be slotted into Tor’s publication schedule, it took another three years for it to be published.) I bring up these dates because 1993 and 1994 were significant years in publishing in general and speculative fiction in particular.

But let me back up just a bit. When I first published my LonTobyn books, I did what every writer would do automatically today: I created a website. The thing is, when I did it websites were a big deal. I would tell people I was a writer and would get in response the 1990s version of “Meh.” But when I then added that I had my own website, people would be, like, “Oooohhhh! You have a website?!” As if I’d said, “I have a unicorn.” But already the world was changing. In 1994, as I was signing my contract with Tor and finishing my book, some guy out in Seattle was starting an online bookstore unlike any we’d seen before. The guy’s name was Jeff Bezos, and he called his store Amazon.

The LonTobyn Chronicle is alternate world epic fantasy, because back in 1993 when I started it, that’s what I loved to read and that’s what I assumed people meant when they talked about “fantasy.” But that same year a book came out that would change “fantasy” forever, and would influence profoundly the course of my writing career. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures, the first of her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels, ushered in a new trend in speculative fiction, introducing readers to what we now think of as urban fantasy. Hamilton’s books combined horror, noir detective stories, and romance in a way that made possible the novels of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Faith Hunter, Patricia Briggs, and so many others, including my Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series that I write as D.B. Jackson, and my Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy that I write under my own name.

What about those stylistic changes I mentioned? When I got into the business, editors and writers were just moving away from two things that authors used a ton in the 70s and 80s and use very little now: omniscient point of view and said bookisms. The former is a narrative voice in which the author gives readers access to the thoughts and emotions of several characters at a time, something we now refer to, and not kindly, as head-hopping. Said bookisms are those words we use in dialog attribution instead of “said” or “asked.” “He opined,” “she growled,” “he hissed,” “she inquired,” etc. Again, in today’s market, these are considered a sign of poor writing, of “telling” rather than “showing.” Looking through books published in the 80s and 90s, you’ll also find far more adverbs than you would in a book published today. Literary style, like car design and clothes fashion, changes over time.

In the early 2000s, bookstores decided that they wanted to fit more books on their shelves and keep book price points at a certain level, and so they told publishers that they preferred shorter novels. My first five novels — the three LonTobyn books and the first two volumes of my Winds of the Forelands series — each came in at over 200,000 words. Now my publisher wanted to know if I could cut the remaining two Forelands books in half. I couldn’t, but I was able to find a way to turn the two remaining novels in the series into three somewhat shorter books. My Blood of the Southlands books came in at 140,000 words. My Thieftaker and Fearsson novels are all between 100,000 and 110,000.

Of course, with the advent of ebooks, book length has become less of an issue. Big books are back in style — ask George R.R. Martin, or Patrick Rothfuss, or any number of others who are writing novels to rival the length of the epic fantasies I remember reading in my twenties. In many respects, digital books have brought on a publishing revolution that goes far beyond book length — widespread self-publishing, e-readers that can hold entire libraries and fit in a pocket, a resurgence in short fiction markets. And yet, in other ways, digital books have had less impact than one might have expected. According to some forecasts made a decade ago, paper books were supposed to be extinct by now. Just like vinyl records . . . Yeah, just like. Instead, they continue to make up more than half of all book sales in the United States. People, it turns out, like to read traditional books. Most readers are hybrids, using ebook readers for convenience, but maintaining a paper library for those books they truly love.

Charting the changes that have overtaken the publishing world in the past twenty years could fill a book of its own — a big one. And this post is already long enough. But I would leave you with a couple of thoughts. Despite the evolution of — and revolution in — publishing that we hear so much about, notwithstanding predictions of doom and gloom for the written word, several essential truths persist: Good stories continue to sell; compelling, well-conceived characters continue to drive every good story; and previously unpublished writers continue to fascinate us with new, exciting characters.

Books can take us everywhere, and with ereaders, we can do the same with them. But the written word isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay.

*****
 GIVEAWAY!

David is giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner’s choice), or one of two copies of CHILDREN OF THE AMARID. Open to US residents only. Click here for the Rafflecopter giveaway!

FOLLOW DAVID!

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Due to an insanely busy schedule punctuated by my son’s bronchitis, I failed to blog last week (bad agent, no cookie), though I did manage to tweet, Facebook and almost the whole nine yards. So this week I’ve very excited to wish one belated and two on-target happy book birthdays!

Last week saw the publication of HARSH GODS by Michelle Belanger, sequel to CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS, which Laurell K. Hamilton called, “A singular reading experience.”  This week (today, in fact) we have the release of the US edition of Genevieve Cogman’s acclaimed novel THE MASKED CITY, which both Barnes & Noble and Amazon have named to their lists of Best SF & Fantasy for September and also the wonderfully inventive and unique middle-grade novel UN/FAIR by Steven Harper.  More on all of these books below.

A few quick things first:

-Big shout out to Faith Hunter for BLOOD OF THE EARTH and Christie Golden for Warcraft: DUROTAN, both on Audible’s list of Five-Star Favs, this month’s top rated SF/F!

-Another big shout out to Amy Christine Parker, whose novel GATED (about a girl who grows up in a cult) made B&N Teen’s list of the 10 of the Best First Lines in YA thrillers.  I agree and have also added to my teetering TBR pile due to this list and others like it. Booksellers, you’re certainly good at your jobs!

-Alert! Now is your chance to win a copy of Barbara J. Hancock’s BRIMSTONE SEDUCTION over on GoodReads before it releases on October 4th!

And now…

harsh gods HARSH GODS by Michelle Belanger (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million)

“A darkly vivid world… Her characters are intriguing, her pacing swift. More, please!”—Jim Butcher, creator of The Dresden Files 

The last thing Zack Westland expects on a frigid night is to be summoned to an exorcism.

Demonic possession, however, proves the least of his problems. Father Frank, a veteran turned priest, knows Zack’s deepest secrets, recognizing him as Anakim, an angel belonging to that hidden tribe. And Halley, the girl they’ve come to save, carries a secret that could unlock a centuries-old evil. She chants an eerie rhyme, and she isn’t alone…

“HANDS TO TAKE AND EYES TO SEE,
A MOUTH TO SPEAK. HE COMES FOR ME.”

As Zack’s secrets spill out, far more than his life is at stake, for Halley is linked to an ancient conspiracy. Yet Zack can’t help her unless he’s willing to risk losing his immortality—and reigniting the Blood Wars.

Masked City US.jpg THE MASKED CITY by Genevieve Cogman (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million)

Librarian-spy Irene and her apprentice Kai are back in the second in this “dazzling”* book-filled fantasy series from the author of The Invisible Library.
 
The written word is mightier than the sword—most of the time…
 
Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.

Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.

But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear….

“A dazzling bibliophilic debut.”—*Charles Stross, Hugo Award-winning author of the Laundry Files

unfair.png UN/FAIR by Steven Harper (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million)

It’s difficult enough to live in the neighborhood “freakazoid” house. It’s even more difficult when you’re autistic and neither your family nor best friend really understands you. So when Ryan November wakes up on his eleventh birthday with the ability to see the future, he braces himself for trouble. But even his newfound power doesn’t help him anticipate that the fair folk—undines, salamanders, gnomes, and sylphs—want him dead, dead, dead. Ryan races to defend himself and his family against unrelenting danger from the fairy realm so he can uncover the truth about his family history—and himself. Except as Ryan’s power grows, the more enticing the fairy realm becomes, forcing him to choose between order and chaos and power and family. And for an autistic boy, such choices are never cut and dry.

 

 

fifth season First of all, the most tremendous of all shout outs to N.K. Jemisin for winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel this past weekend for THE FIFTH SEASON. This is such an amazing novel and you’re such an incredible writer.  I’m thrilled to see you getting the recognition you deserve!  And readers, check out this great list of nominees! I can’t claim to have read every one, but I’ve read at least one other novel by each of these authors and can highly recommend them for your teetering TBR piles!

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)

Need more books for those TBR piles? (Sure you do!) Amazon has posted their buzzworthy books for fall, and lists THE MASKED CITY by Genevieve Cogman, CURSE ON THE LAND by Faith Hunter and THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin among their top reads in science fiction and fantasy!

inkandbone_FINAL And more? How about 13 Books Like Harry Potter for Adults from Early Bird Books, including INK AND BONE by Rachel Caine?

Conspiracy of Angels harsh gods

And don’t forget that HARSH GODS, the sequel to Michelle Belanger’s CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS will be out next week, but is available for pre-order now!

Finally, in the category of books I’ve read and loved but in which I have no stake – Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER.  Read it. Seriously. This is not a drill.

 

So excited about today’s new releases: THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin and THE SIGHT by Chloe Neill, coincidentally both on this month’s list by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books of exciting August releases! As a quick intro, THE OBELISK GATE is the sequel to N.K. Jemisin’s THE FIFTH SEASON, which had been up for a whole host of sf/f awards and is a current Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award finalist!  THE SIGHT is the sequel to THE VEIL, the first in bestselling author Chloe Neill’s Devil’s Isle series.  Want more? Here you go!

obelisk gate THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million, Powells)

“VERDICT Jemisin’s follow-up to THE FIFTH SEASON is exceptional. Those who anxiously awaited this sequel will find the only problem is that the wait must begin again once the last page is turned.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

“In this compelling, challenging, and utterly gripping work that combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, Jemisin draws readers deeper into the extraordinary setting and characters she introduced in The Fifth Season… Once again Jemisin immerses readers in a complex and intricate world of warring powers, tangled morals, and twisting motivations.” — Publisher Weekly, Starred Review

“Jemisin builds off of the strong foundation laid in the previous novel, further exploring the cosmology and history of her engaging setting, all the while maintaining the strong characterization and plotting that grounds the at times expansive scope of the series’ action. This novel should be of interest to general fantasy readers looking for an interesting new series as well as already avid Jemisin fans.” —Booklist

Cover Copy:

Continuing the trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season

  • Shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Audie, and Locus Awards
  • The inaugural Wired.com book club book

This is the way the world ends, for the last time.

The season of endings grows darker, as civilization fades into the long cold night.

Essun — once Damaya, once Syenite, now avenger — has found shelter, but not her daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request. But if Essun does what he asks, it would seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

Far away, her daughter Nassun is growing in power – and her choices will break the world.

the sight THE SIGHT by Chloe Neill (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-million, Mysterious Galaxy)

“Neill’s sequel to The Veil continues to prove her adept at worldbuilding and nonstop action. Claire’s honesty and straightforward attitude make her a great character for a harrowing time.” —Library Journal

“The battle for what is left of New Orleans after a magical war heats up in Neill’s terrific Devil’s Isle series…This story is an excellent showcase of how both physical and political threats can warp individuals.” —Romantic Times

Cover Copy:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Chicagoland Vampire novels, a brand new Devil’s Isle Novel…

The paranormal war that engulfed New Orleans seven years ago is over.  But the battle for the city is just beginning . . .

Claire Connolly is a Sensitive, infected with magic when the Veil that divides humanity from the world beyond fell. Magic can easily consume and destroy a Sensitive, and if Claire’s secret is discovered she’ll be locked into the walled district of Devil’s Isle along with every other Paranormal left in the city.

Bounty hunter Liam Quinn discovered Claire’s secret, but refused to turn her in. Together they saved New Orleans from the resurgence of magic that nearly destroyed it. But now a dangerous cult is on the rise, and it will take both Claire and Liam—and magical allies within Devil’s Isle’s towering walls—to defeat the growing threat before magic corrupts them both…

I’m always excited to have a new installment of How I Met My Client/How I Met My Agent, but this one is especially fun on my end because…well, just read on and you’ll see. I’m going to let Steven go first here, because, really, the story starts with him.

As a quick introduction, Steven Piziks also writes as Steven Harper (The Books of Blood and Iron, the Clockwork Empire and Silent Empire series and nonfiction WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL. He’s also done everything from mysteries (TRASH COURSE as Penny Drake) to tie-ins (Star Trek, Ghost Whisperer) and novelizations (IDENTITY, EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING). His most recent novel, BONE WAR, is just out from Roc Books!

How I Met My Agent by Steven Piziks

It was that miracle moment. The phone rang.

I snatched the receiver off the wall and discovered I was talking to Jim Baen of Baen Books. He had read my science fiction novel In the Company of Mind and wanted to buy it.

I almost leaped through the ceiling. But I kept myself under control and said something I had been rehearsing for years. “That’s fantastic!

Thank you! What kind of terms are you offering?”

He told me, and I said, “That’s great! I’ll call you back when I know more. Thanks so much!”

Once I hung up, did I call my parents? My best friend? I did not. I called an editor who had bought a bunch of my short stories over the years.

“I need an agent!” I bawled.

She laughed and gave me the number of Vince Alfieri, a New York agent.

By now I was wondering what my phone bill was going to be like. I called Vince, who said he wasn’t taking new clients right then.

Argh!

Remember, this was in the days before cell phones, before the Internet, before Google. I couldn’t just hop on-line and spend a couple hours looking up agents and agencies.

“But,” Vince continued, “I know a lady who is taking clients. You might want to give her a call. Her name is Lucienne Diver.”

I seized on this. Vince gave me the number, and I dialed yet again. A woman with a radio announcer voice answered the phone, and I found myself talking to Lucienne.

This was 20 years ago.

I think I must have been one of her first clients, though at the time she never let on. She handily took over the Baen negotiations (though that turned into a real trick–buy me a cheeseburger some time and I’ll tell you about it).

Lucienne negotiated two contracts with Baen for me, and another contract with Roc. We had a number of conversations on the phone, but no face-to-face contact until about three years later, when we both attended the same convention. I think it was a World Fantasy Con, and we agreed to meet at a party.

“We’ll find each other,” she said on the phone. “I have long blond hair and I’ll probably be wearing a blue dress.”

“I’m the tall guy with the shaved head,” I said. “You’ll probably see me first.”

I was right. Five minutes into the reception, a voice said, “Steven?” and at last I was talking face-to-face with my agent. She took me to the bar for a Coke. (I don’t drink, so I’m a cheap date.)

Lucienne and I have been agent-and-client and friends for over twenty years. Our relationship has lasted longer than my first marriage, in fact. We’re both friends and business associates, and I’ve watched her go from single lady to married woman to proud mom, and from steadfast New Yorker to woo-hoo Floridian. We’ve weathered a number of changes to the publishing industry together, and I can only wonder what’s coming up next.

_______________

How I Met My Client

What Steven didn’t tell you is that he called me the week before my wedding to say that he had an offer on the table for his debut novel and was I interested in considering it for representation. Well, of course I was. The book sounded amazing! But this was in the early days of e-mail, before we all had e-readers and could accept electronic submissions, which meant that he had to send it in hardcopy, which put us into my wedding week. Still, I dug in right away. I couldn’t resist, and it wasn’t exactly a hardship, as I was physically unable to put the novel down. (IN THE COMPANY OF MIND, for inquiring minds who want to know, a dark, gritty novel with both highly personal and massively far-reaching stakes.)

Of course I wanted to represent it. I told him so, we came to an agreement, and I got right on the phone with the publisher. Or, at least, I left him a message. By that time we were into the final crash-prep for the wedding, so I found myself alternating between arguing with the caterer and negotiating on the phone at my parents’ house and, best of all (by some Tim Burton definition of the word “best”) from a spider infested phone booth on my honeymoon.

As Steven says, these were the days before cell phones. My husband (ooh, it was so exciting to say that then!) and I honeymooned in a rustic lakefront cottage on Lake George. The only phone we had access to was in a phone booth at the edge of the parking lot at the lodge. The only problem was it was festooned with spider webs and, I was quite certain, populated by the eight-legged menaces that created them. Clearly, no one was expected to actually make calls on vacation. What, was I crazy?

The answer, of course, is yes. I am. And a work-aholic. And so I, the girl with the spider phobia, reached bravely into the phone booth, risking life and limb to put coins into the slot and grab onto the receiver, holding it at the very end of its reach and contorting myself to stay as far away as I could from the creepy crawlies. Here, I’ve drawn you a visual with all of my spectacular artistic talent.

spider booth001

(You can see why I don’t give up my day job for my art.)

The rest is history. Steven and I have worked together for years and years, through various genres, names and publishing permutations.

We’ve seen the restructuring of publishing distribution, the advent of e-books (as more than a faraway fear that they would ruin book publishing for all time), cell phones and electronic signatures. We’ve seen crazes and trends and bandwagons, oh my! It will be fascinating to see what the next twenty years have in store.

 

If you’d like to find out more about Steven Piziks, you can visit his website, his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter, @StevenPiziks.

Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:

Christie Golden

Amy Christine Parker

Carol Berg

Michelle Belanger

I’m pleased to bring you the fourth installment of How I Met My Client/How I Met My Agent, featuring Michelle Belanger, author of CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS and HARSH GODS (coming August 30th)!  Michelle is running a giveaway right now with swag packs and signed copies of HARSH GODS, so you might want to check it out if you haven’t already!

Conspiracy of Angels

How I Met My Client 

I met Michelle in the usual way—she sent me a query.  Her name rang a bell and as I read her query, I realized why.  I’d seen her before, probably more than once, but almost certainly on the History Channel’s The Secret Lives of Vampires.  Although it could have been from Vampire Secrets (A&E) or Truebloodlines (HBO) or any number of shows in which she was called upon to provide her expertise. I didn’t watch Paranormal State, but that was a big one for Michelle, and in her query letter she described herself as, “that psychic lady from the show — the really tall one all in black”.  Sure enough, she was.  Michelle is a little hard to miss.

Her experience and the way in which the Shadowside series came about really intrigued me.  Also from her query: “This series grew out of my work on Paranormal State as we traveled the country investigating possession and driving out angry ghosts. So many strange and breathless things happened both on camera and off, I wondered what kind of powers we might have if our lives were part of somebody’s novel. Eventually these thoughts blossomed into a world close to our own where all the paranormal elements that appealed to our fans (and to us) were given free reign. The Shadowside Series, starting with CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS, was the result. Fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kat Richardson’s Greywalker Series will find a lot to love in these books. My main character Zack is tough, witty, and speaks fluent geek (like any too-smart-for-his-own-good fellow raised in the 80s). It doesn’t hurt that he’s got some magic he can sling as well.”

She wasn’t kidding about Zack.  I fell in love with him right from the start.  CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS opened:

They were after me.  I didn’t know who, and I didn’t know why, but I had to get away.

Classic way to start a novel, right?  Jump right into the middle of things.  Hook the reader.  Well, I was hooked.  She continued…

There was no other thought.

I fell through darkness till direction lost all meaning.  My seizing lungs burned.  When I fully breached the surface, I saw water and no shore. Pain chewed my awareness—pain and a wrenching sense of loss like a freshly severed limb. I groped for meaning, but it fled.

I had to keep reading.  Now, Zack has some serious issues going on, not least of which is the identity crisis to end all identity crises, but his voice, his character came through loud and clear.  I connected with him.  It’s not just that he lives in a place full of shelves overstuffed with books.  Or that he decorates with pages of illuminated manuscripts. Or his endearing Starbuck action figure (the Katee Sackhoff era). It’s his warmth and his smarts.

And he has to be strong not to be upstaged by Lil, who is beyond a force of nature and who could alone “tip the cosmic scale of snark”.  Yup, you sort of have to love Lil…or else.

So yes, I fell for Zack and Lil and the rest of Michelle’s crazy cast of characters, as well as the wonderful, rich mythos presented in the Shadowside series.  And we found a great editor at Titan Books, Steve Saffel, who shared our love and our vision for the books.  Now, I’m pleased to say, CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS is on shelves and the sequel, HARSH GODS, is coming out at the end of August (though hint, hint it’s available for pre-order now).  A third book is forthcoming, along with shorter Shadowside stories that will be released electronically to whet the appetite between times!

 _________________

How I Met My Agent by Michelle Belanger

I came at all of this backwards and upside-down.

Like so many, I’d tried the get-an-agent dance before and given up. This was back in the late 80s and early 90s, when I was an impatient kid hungry to share my stories with the world — not an ideal recipe for surviving the industry grind.

It was my impatience that did me in. Back then, everything went through snail mail, and while I stalwartly weathered the rejections when they arrived, the waiting itself ate at me. It could take as long as six months to hear back from anyone, and I often had a new book written before I learned that someone hadn’t liked the first one. Mostly, I got told to stop writing about vampires and the paranormal (which is hilarious now, in retrospect), but those were the things I loved writing about. Young me quickly hit the point of “fuck it,” so I started publishing things myself.

Little did I know at the time, that decision would land me here — albeit through a long and circuitous route.

The 90s saw a profusion of underground presses and amateur magazines, off-beat labors of love often copied at places like Kinko’s, hand-assembled, and distributed through the mail. We called them ‘zines. My offering to this movement was Shadowdance, a Gothic literary journal that published all the vampire fiction and dark fantasy stories that my rejection letters kept telling me the big publishers didn’t really want.

We had a blast. Shadowdance ran from 1991 through 1996 and through it, I met a number of professionals I continue to work with to this day. One of them was Dr. J. Gordon Melton, whose inclusion of my work in his Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead lit the tinder of my unintended career as a writer of non-fiction. All the research I’d done into the folklore and mythology of vampires, as it turned out, held interest for a great many readers.

Half a dozen books later, I found myself getting invited to speak on paranormal topics for documentaries on the History Channel, A&E, and even HBO. That lead to my stint on A&E’s hit Paranormal State, where I often wandered haunted houses and abandoned prisons blindfolded and in high heels.

All of this was rewarding, not to mention great fun. But I never lost the itch to tell stories woven from the rich fabric of my folkloric interests. Several ideas for novels got jotted down in between flights to new and interesting hauntings as I worked with Paranormal State, MonsterQuest, and Monsters and Mysteries in America, but little came of them until this one scene got me in its teeth and wouldn’t let me go. It was a lone guy speeding at night toward the Cleveland skyline — nothing but him and his motorcycle and a soul-wrenching need for answers. His name was Zack, short for Zaquiel. He was the angel of memory — and he’d forgotten everything.

I had to tell that story. But I knew, if I wanted to share it with the world, I’d have to do the grind again and try to find an agent. All the non-fiction books in the world wouldn’t sell me to a publisher of fiction.

And here is where I feel like I cheated a little, even though I know I paid my dues through those twenty years of other work that led me to this point.

Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency was the first agent I picked after my initial research to relearn the shape of the industry over on the novel writers’ side of the fence. Totally cold, I shot her an email with my pitch — and I heard back fast enough to make my head spin.

She recognized my name from The Secret Lives of Vampires.

I wasn’t expecting that, and I frankly hadn’t intended to use my appearances as my platform. Chasing ghosts on reality TV for four years was hardly proof I could write a good book. And, ultimately, it was my pitch for the Shadowside Series itself that opened the door — dour Zack on his search for answers, the sharp-tongued Lil with her spirit menagerie, and over-the-top Saliriel in all her Machiavellian glory. But that name recognition made my knock just a bit louder — loud enough that it got the right attention.

And, thanks to that, I get to share Zack’s story.

__________

Select series quotes:

“A darkly vivid world… Her characters are intriguing, her pacing swift. More, please!”—Jim Butcher, creator of The Dresden Files

“Horrors that will send a chill up your spine.”—The Absolute

“A singular reading experience.”—Laurell K. Hamilton, bestselling creator of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

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Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:

Christie Golden

Amy Christine Parker

Carol Berg

 

I’m just back from the Cascade Writers Conference in Tacoma Washington, and I have to say that it was a fabulous trip.  The writers conference itself was lovely and featured Tor editors Beth Meacham and Claire Eddy as well as speakers Manny Frishberg, Lee Moyer, Matt Youngmark and others.  (You can check out the whole line-up here.)  Because it was small, it was also intimate, which meant that the attendees had solid, dedicated time with the pros, and we got to really know the writers in turn. On top of it, the setting was beautiful (well, not so much the La Quinta as the natural beauty of Tacoma’s waterfront and the surrounding areas). I was lucky enough to have artist Lee Moyer (whose work you seriously have to check out) drive me in from the airport and detour to Snoqualmie Falls on our way, and I cannot think of a better way to kick off a conference! There will be more pics to come, but since I want to get to my new releases and other good news, I’ll post just a few here!

 

As for new releases – I’m so pleased to wish a one-day-belated Happy Book Birthday to Faith Hunter for BLOOD OF THE EARTH!  Not only a new release, but the start of an all-new series spun off of her Jane Yellowrock books.  (Speaking of new series, the second Devil’s Isle novel by Chloe Neill, THE SIGHT, comes out August 16th and she and Faith Hunter are both over on the Happy Ever After blog today talking about their books!)  BLOOD OF THE EARTH is a B&N Bookseller’s Pick for The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of August 2016, so you don’t have to take my word that it’s awesome! But, of course, to be really sure you should go out and read for yourself!   (While I’m at it, THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin – coming August 16th- is also a B&N Pick as well as one of Kirkus’s August Science Fiction and Fantasy Books You’ll Want to Read and  The Verge’s Best Books Science Fiction and Fantasy Coming out in August.)

 blood of the earth BLOOD OF THE EARTH by Faith Hunter (B&N, Amazon, Books-a-Million, Powells)

Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.

When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.

Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.

Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

“Hunter introduces a new heroine with ties to her “Skinwalker” series that will please fans of those books. Plenty of action, magic, and fascinating characters, both familiar and new, create another terrific urban fantasy from an established author.” —Library Journal