Posts Tagged ‘thieftaker’

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David B. Coe has had two new releases out in the past few weeks:

DEAD MAN’S REACH, his latest Thieftaker novel written as D.B. Jackson, which Bookish chose as one of the Week’s Hottest Releases: 7/19-7/25.

HIS FATHER’S EYES, second book in The Casefiles of Justis Fearsson, which Kirkus Reviews named one of The Must-Read Speculative Fiction Books Coming Out in August.

In other words, David is a brilliant and prolific writer, and is here today guest blogging about…

“Point of View, Narrative, and My Newest Book,” by David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson

Many thanks to Lucienne for hosting me; it’s great to be here.

I am just completing what may be the busiest phase in my eighteen years as a professional writer. Two days ago, Baen Books released HIS FATHER’S EYES, the second volume in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy I’m writing under my own name. Two weeks before that, Tor Books released DEAD MAN’S REACH, the fourth book in the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write under the name D.B. Jackson. And during the course of this summer I have also had three short stories published, all while attending conventions and teaching at writers’ workshops. As any author knows, busy is good, and I have been very fortunate.

The Fearsson series began with SPELL BLIND, which came out in January of this year. It’s a departure from my previous work in a couple of ways. It’s my first contemporary work. The Thieftaker books draw on my history background and are set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and the epic fantasies I published before I began to write historical fantasy were all set in medieval worlds. The Fearsson books, on the other hand are set in modern day Phoenix. My magical private investigator hero drives a car and carries a firearm. He uses a cell phone and a computer, he speaks like you and I do, he swears occasionally, he has a girlfriend, he likes jazz and baseball and Mexican food. In other words, after writing point of view characters whose lives barely resembled mine at all, I finally have a protagonist I can relate to on all sorts of levels.

Which may be why Justis Fearsson — Jay, for short — is also the first point of view character for a novel that I’ve written in first person. When I started in the business, writing in first person point of view was frowned upon. Editors didn’t like it, so writers tended to stay away from it. In more recent years, though, with the success of first person novels (Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock books, C.E. Murphy’s Walker Papers, Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games books, just to name a few) this has started to change.

The truth is, I love writing in first person. I wouldn’t want to do it with all my books. It wouldn’t work in a big epic fantasy, with multiple point of view characters, nor was it the right choice for the Thieftaker books. For those, I chose close third person, which provided just enough narrative distance between protagonist and reader to allow me to explain key historical elements. These moments of brief exposition would have sounded awkward in first person.

With the Fearsson books, though, there is less to explain. And the intimacy of the first person narrative draws my readers in, allowing them to experience all that Jay experiences. This is particularly important for this series, which has an unusual magic system. Jay Fearsson is a weremyste. He is a runecrafter, who can cast a variety of powerful spells. But every month, on the night of the full moon and the nights immediately before and after, he goes temporarily mad, even as his power grows. So at the exact moment when he most needs to control his magic, he is least capable of doing so. Eventually the cumulative effect of these moon phasings will drive him permanently insane, as they have his father, who is also a weremyste.

The moon-induced madness that Jay goes through in the books would be compelling in any narrative voice, but in first person the phasings become a viscerally harrowing ordeal, which is exactly what I want. In addition, the immediacy of first person POV enhances the dramatic impact of Jay’s investigations of magical murders, enabling my readers to share in his discoveries and to experience “first hand” the twists and turns my plotting.

We writers have many tools at our disposal: metaphor and simile, dialog and internal monologue, misdirection and foreshadowing, to name just a few. To my mind, point of view is the most powerful. Using the perspectives of our POV characters — their emotions and perceptions and intellects — we guide our readers through our narratives, showing them not only what happens, but also the potential meaning of each new event. Point of view is, in essence, the point where narrative and character arc intersect.

This is why the choice of the proper narrative voice is so important. The Fearsson books would work in third person, rather than first, and I could probably rewrite the Thieftaker books in first person and they would remain good reads. But for reasons I’ve already covered, those are not the voices I chose for the two series, and I believe strongly that both set of books work best as written.

As writers we should be deliberate in choosing the proper voice for each story. We shouldn’t choose third person simply because the market might prefer it, as once it did, nor should we automatically gravitate toward first person just because that voice is in vogue right now. Rather, we need to consider several factors in choosing the right POV voice and, for that matter, the correct point of view character. Whose story are we telling? Is that person the logical choice to tell the story, or should it be told by someone close to that character? (See Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD.) Do we need several POV characters to tell the story effectively, or will one do? Will first person be the best choice, or will it be distracting? Does the amount of exposition we’ll need necessitate a third person approach?

These are the questions I ask myself when I begin a new project, either novel length or shorter. I would suggest that you ask yourself similar questions as you begin your next project. You might find that doing so helps you make optimal use of a powerful narrative tool.

*****

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, was released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, came out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

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I asked the fantastically amazing David B. Coe to guest blog for me today to promote his new series, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, and he came up with something just a little bit different…  In the past he’s done some great blogs for me as D.B. Jackson (author of the “tricorn punk” Thieftaker series).  Some of those include: Where Does the Author and and the Character Begin and History and POV.  He’s also a regular blogger for Magical Words, where I think he does some of the most helpful and informative posts for writers.

Today, though, he managed to wrangle a particularly reticent character into an interview.  I have to say that I think this is the first time anyone’s ever gotten a runemyste to speak publicly and it may very well be the last, so enjoy!  What’s a runemyste, you ask?  Well, I think I’ll let Namid speak for himself.

Interview with Namid’skemu

Welcome! Today we are most fortunate to have with us Namid’skemu, one of only thirty-nine runemystes in the entire world. Namid’skemu, who in life was a shaman in the K’ya’na-Kwe clan of the A’shiwi, or Zuni nation, gave his life centuries ago so that he could be transformed into a runemyste, a protector of magic in our world, and a teacher of those who would learn spellcraft. He is a somewhat reticent individual, and we are truly honored that he has consented to join us today.

Hello, Namid’skemu. Welcome.

N: Greetings.

Do you mind if I call you Namid?

N: Some call me this. You may as well.

Thank you. Can you tell us a bit about what it means to be a runemyste?

N: You have spoken of this already. I am a guardian of magic in your world, and I would train those who carry runeclave blood in their veins.

Of course, but I’m sure our readers would like some more details. What exactly does that mean?

N: Which of the words I used did you not understand?

It’s not that I . . . Never mind. From whom do you guard the magic?

N: There are some among the weremystes of the world who have turned to dark magic, who cast blood spells or seek to escape the effects of the moontimes by using forbidden magic. My fellow runemystes and I watch for signs of this dark magic, and we train weremystes of your world so that they might prevent such abuses.

The moontimes?

N: What runecrafters would call phasings. Each month, on the night of the full moon and the nights before and after, weremystes lose control of their minds, even as their magic is enhanced. It is the natural way of things, the price of the magic weremystes wield. But some seek to evade this law of runecrafting, and often their attempts to do so involve blood rituals, even murders. We cannot sanction this, but we also cannot interfere in your world. And so those we train act in our stead.

I see. And among those you train — you in particular, I mean — is one Justis Fearsson, a former police detective turned private eye.

N: What of him?

What can you tell us about him?

N: He is a runecrafter of limited ability but uncommon potential. He is also a most difficult man. He has an odd sense of humor which he displays at the most inopportune times. He is reckless and does not show enough discipline in his training.

So you don’t like him.

N: I did not say that. I am not sure what right you have to inquire about our personal interactions, but as it happens I consider Ohanko a good friend.

Ohanko?

N: It means “reckless one.”

Has he–

N: If you wish to ask questions about Justis Fearsson, perhaps you should speak with him.

Very well. Let’s move on. Your appearance is most unusual. You appear to be made entirely of water, and yet you have substance and form. How is this possible?

N: I am of the K’ya’na-Kwe clan, the water people. My line is now extinct, but we were a proud, powerful, spiritual people. Centuries ago, when as a living man I was sacrificed by the runeclave, the magic that transformed me into a runemyste allowed me to take my true spiritual form. And so I am as I appear before you: a shaman and the living embodiment of the water people.

So you’re sort of a ghost.

N: I am not a ghost! Why is it that humans of your world are so limited that they cannot conceive of a spirit being as anything other than a ghost?

Forgive me. I didn’t–

N: Justis Fearsson calls me a ghost as well, though he does this to annoy me. He knows better. But you . . . Ask your next question.

Are you immortal?

N: I am not. My kind can be killed, though it is most unusual — in all the hundreds of years since the runemystes were created, not one of us has perished. But we exist to fight those with dark magic, and so our vigilance cannot slacken.

Are all of your kind like you?

N: If you mean do they appear as I do, the answer is of course they do not. Each man and woman who was sacrificed by the runeclave took a form natural to his or her heritage — some are stone or wood, others are comprised of wind, of music, of soil, of light itself. They were drawn from all over the known world, and they are as diverse as the people who now inhabit the earth.

And are they as committed as you are to the protection of magic?

N: Why do you ask this? What have you heard?

I’ve heard nothing. I’m curious is all.

N: I probably should not speak of this, but the truth is, some are not as devoted in their opposition to dark magic. Some — one runemyste in particular — has chafed at the limitations placed upon our kind by the runeclave all those many years ago. He wishes to do more, to extend his influence beyond what is thought proper by the rest. He bears watching, this runemyste, for he may well be a threat to all that we hold dear.

Who is he? What’s his name?

N: [Shaking his head] I have already said more than I should. I know nothing for certain. I have heard rumors, whispers riding the wind. I will say no more on the matter. Indeed, I have tarried here too long. I must return to my kind. Farewell.

Thank you, Namid’skemu. This was a most interesting conversation, cryptic as it was. Good day to you.

*****

David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than fifteen fantasy novels. His newest series, a contemporary urban fantasy called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, debuts with the January 2015 release from Baen Books of Spell Blind. The second book, His Father’s Eyes, will be out in August 2015. Writing as D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach (coming in July 2015). He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Where he can be found: his blog, D.B. Jackson website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.

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To celebrate yesterday’s release of the third novel in D.B. Jackson‘s wonderful Thieftaker series from Tor Books, I’ve asked him to come talk about the division between character and writer.  A PLUNDER OF SOULS, the latest novel, is also my favorite in the series so far…and just wait until you get to book #4, DEAD MAN’S REACH!  The series just keeps getting better and better.  But more about that later.  For now, I present to you:

DBJacksonPubPhoto “Where Does the Author End and the Character Begin?” By D.B. Jackson

 

How many times have you read a story or book and assumed that the protagonist was, on some level, speaking for the author, or that the experiences of the author’s point of view character were in some way autobiographical? It’s hard not to make such assumptions. Perversely, the better the writing, the more convincing the character development, the more this becomes a problem. The narrating character becomes so real and so convincing that it’s hard to imagine how he or she could be entirely imagined. I’ve been writing for the better part of two decades, and still sometimes, when reading a great book, I forget that the author and the hero do not necessarily have a lot in common.

Ethan Kaille, the thieftaking, conjuring hero of my Thieftaker Chronicles (Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, and, most recently, A Plunder of Souls), a historical urban fantasy series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, is very much a man of the eighteenth century. He has lived a hard life, he’s a loner, and he makes his living in the violent streets of a lawless city. Aside from his fine physique and devastating good looks, he and I have very little in common.

[Tapping foot and glaring] As soon as Lucienne stops laughing I’ll continue . . .

Kidding aside, Ethan and I are very different people, not only because we live in different times, not only because he has access to magic and I don’t, but because I have worked hard to make him his own man, with a life history and personality that have nothing to do with me. He is braver than I am, and more willing to rely on his physical strength in moments of crisis. He is self-reliant to the point of being standoffish, a product, no doubt, of having survived years as a prisoner, laboring under brutal conditions on a sugar plantation in Barbados. Time and again, he has proved himself far stronger than I ever could have been.

Do we have some attributes in common? Sure. We’re both rash and quick-tempered at times. We’re both utterly devoted to the people we love. And we both pride ourselves on our integrity.

The fact is, though, being similar to or different from our characters comes down to much more than just a catalog of qualities. We are all collections of attributes, positive and negative, and invariably we are going to share some of those qualities with our protagonists, and be their polar opposites with respect to others. What still surprises me about characters in general — and what has surprised me about Ethan from the beginning of the series — is the choices he makes.

Let’s start with the fact that Ethan is a Loyalist, also known as a Tory: put another way, he is a supporter of the Crown and Parliament in their dispute with the American colonists over taxation and representation. Without in any way wanting to start a political argument, I know myself and my leftward political leanings well enough to understand that there is no way I would have been on that side of the argument. But despite my own Whig leanings, Ethan made it clear to me from the outset that, because of his service in the British Navy as a younger man, and in part as well because of his conservative temperament, he has no tolerance for rabble-rousers like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. This changes somewhat after the British occupation of Boston begins in the second Thieftaker book, Thieves’ Quarry, but still, his political tendencies are nothing like mine.

And then there is this moment, also from Thieves’ Quarry, when Ethan truly shocked me. Late in the story, he explains to someone all that has been done with “magick” over the course of events described in the novel. The man to whom he is speaking is horrified and nearly orders Ethan from his house. “If this power you wield can give and take life with such ease,” the man asks, “how can such a thing not be evil?”

“I carry a knife on my belt,” Ethan answers. “I can take a life with it. Does that make the knife evil? Or does the question of good or evil fall to the man holding the blade?”

The argument should sound familiar. It is basically the same as “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

As I said before, I am not trying to start a political discussion about gun rights or, for that matter, any other issue. But I’m a political progressive, and it would never occur to me to make an argument like this in favor of gun ownership. And to be clear, I didn’t make the argument. Those were my character’s words, not mine; I didn’t know he would speak them until I typed the line. I realized immediately, though, that it was absolutely the right thing for him to say.

For those who don’t understand how an author can create a character without knowing him or her fully and without making intentional choices about that person’s politics, or tastes, or personality, I can only say that it happens. Yes, I have an idea of what my characters will be like. I try to give them certain traits, I fill in their backstory, I guide them through my narratives. But still, my characters surprise me all the time, doing and saying things that I neither planned nor expected. To be honest, it’s one of the greatest rewards of writing. When my characters surprise me in some way, be it with an unexpected comment or some plot-changing action, it tells me that the character has taken on a life of his or her own, and has become as close to sentient as a fictional being can be. It’s kind of cool, actually.

Ethan and I are not the same person. We have some common traits. I like him, admire him, respect him. At times I find him exasperating. I would like to think that if he could know me, he’d like and respect me, too. But I’m not at all sure he would. I do know that if I were to try to control him more forcefully — if I were to try to make him more like me in his actions, thoughts, and emotional responses — he would lose something vital and would be less convincing and compelling as a narrator for the Thieftaker books. So, I’m glad to give him his independence, and I expect he’s glad to have it. I’m sure, though, that he’d rather you didn’t share that bit of insight with Samuel Adams.

 

*****

A Sampling of Praise for the Series:

A PLUNDER OF SOULS

“This engaging third entry in Jackson’s Thieftaker series (following 2013’s Thieves’ Quarry) ably mashes up the historical with the fantastic… Jackson is an increasingly reliable tour guide to America’s colonial past.” —Publishers Weekly

“A Plunder of Souls is a terrific addition to the Thieftaker Chronicles. D.B. Jackson shows once again that he knows how to pull all the right strings to create one creative story. As I have said if you thought that Thieves Quarry was great wait till you get your hands on A Plunder of Souls, it’s even better, D.B. Jackson has really outdone himself.” —The Book Plank

THIEVES’ QUARRY

“With solidly developed characters, the vivid depiction of 18th-century Boston, and a seamless blending of realism and fantasy, this sequel to Thieftaker should interest fans of historical fantasy, alternate history and period mysteries.” —Library Journal

“I literally read this book in one sitting. Its fast pace, shocking crime, vivid historical setting, and the twists and turns of intrigue and suspicion totally absorbed me.” —Kate Elliott, author of King’s Dragon

“D.B. Jackson’s writing is amazing and Thieves’ Quarry is even better than the first book. Absolutely enthralling and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a wonderful read!” —Kat Richardson, author of Greywalker

“The Thieftaker series is a tour de force. There is no way to get enough of it– and I LOVE Thieves’ Quarry. This is definitely the best new series of the decade!” —Faith Hunter, author of the Jane Yellowrock books

THIEFTAKER

Named one of the Best Fantasy Books of 2012 by SciFiChick.com

Named “Best First Book in a Series” for 2012 (one of two books so honored) by the Word Nerds.

“The author does an impressive job of weaving fantasy into historical fiction, and even introduces a few familiar names from . . . the Stamp Act from American history . . . With plenty of adventure, mystery, magic, drama, and thrills – genre fans won’t want to miss this one. Thieftaker is a fantastic series debut that I can’t wait to see continue.” —SciFiChick.com

“Thieftaker is a bit like the Dresden Files meets Johnny Tremain, combining magical crime-solving with the Revolutionary War. At first, it sounds like a strange combination, but it works and I’m already looking forward to the sequel . . . A fun read.” —The Word Nerds Book Banter

“Jackson has an enviable gift for detail, the ability to put his reader smack-dab in a location (Boston, 1765) with such intensity that you can hear the burr in voices, smell the smoke and tea in the air, and wince when the hero gets punched in the face . . . Thieftaker is a delicious murder mystery sundae, with a sprinkle of supernatural bravado and a few famous historical figures for cherries on top.” —Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

*****

Author Bio:

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first two books as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasies, Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, volumes I and II of the Thieftaker Chronicles, are both available from Tor Books in hardcover and paperback. The third volume, A Plunder of Souls, has recently been released in hardcover. The fourth Thieftaker novel, Dead Man’s Reach, is in production and will be out in the summer of 2015. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

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So excited about all the new releases this month and recent rereleases!  In no particular order, I’m pleased to crow about:

goldencity_100dpiseatofmagic_100dpi SEAT OF MAGIC by J. Kathleen Cheney, the sequel to her award winning debut fantasy novel THE GOLDEN CITY.

Thieftaker200thieves' quarry THIEFTAKER and THIEVES’ QUARRY by D.B. Jackson, the first two novels in the author’s acclaimed “tricorn punk” fantasy series, now out in mass market. The third, A PLUNDER OF SOULS releases in hardcover (and digital, of course) tomorrow!

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SOME GIRLS BITE and FRIDAY NIGHT BITES by Chloe Neill, the first two novels in the New York Times bestselling Chicagoland Vampires series are now out in mass market form.  So portable!  Best news – if you love them (and how could you not?), the series is on-going, with the tenth, BLOOD GAMES, coming out on August 5th.  Mark your calendars!

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Anyone who’s taken my Writers Digest webinar on writing science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal or who’s taken one of my worldbuilding workshops will have heard me quote David B. Coe, who is a wonderful writer, blogger and teacher of all things writing.  He’s a regular contributor to Magical Words, which has a lot of amazing advice for writers and, as you’ll see from the post below, the author of the “tricorn punk” Thieftaker series, beginning with THIEFTAKER and moving on to THIEVES’ QUARRY under the name D.B. Jackson.  THIEVES’ QUARRY is just out today, so let’s wish him a happy book birthday!

History and POV by D.B. Jackson

Out on Boston Harbor, in the distance and to the south of where Ethan walked, lights bobbed on the gentle swells: lanterns burning on a dozen or more British naval ships. Several of the vessels had been anchored within sight of the city for a week or more; eight others had sailed into view earlier this day. They were arrayed in a loose, broad arc, their reflections dancing and swirling like fireflies. They might have been beautiful had it not been for what they signified: more strife and fear for a city already beleaguered by its conflicts with the Crown. — THIEVES’ QUARRY, Book II of the Thieftaker Chronicles, by D. B. Jackson

I have been writing historical urban fantasy for several years now, after beginning my career as an author of alternate world fantasies (under the name David B. Coe). As I have settled in to this new phase in my career, I have found, to my surprise, that establishing a historical setting for my Thieftaker books is not very different at all from worldbuilding for my older series. In both cases, I need to establish for my readers a sense of place and time, so that they feel the setting has substance and meaning; I have to write to all of their senses, using my descriptive passages to make the setting come alive; and I need to weave the backdrop into my storytelling, so that the world in and of itself becomes a player in my narrative.

The key to meeting these challenges lies in my use of point of view. A brief primer on point of view: Point of view is the unique perspective through which a story is told. In today’s literary marketplace, point of view is tied inextricably to character. Novels and stories are expected to have, at any given time, but a single point of view character. So, for instance, in the Harry Potter books, Harry is almost always the point of view character. We experience the story line, the other characters, and the world J.K. Rowling has created through Harry’s eyes. His emotions, sensations, and intellect color everything that we read.

Once upon a time — not that long ago, really — many writers wrote in what was known as omniscient voice, meaning that there was a detached narrator who told the story, giving us insights into the thoughts and emotions of every character in a scene. We would hop from one perspective to another, never really settling on a single perspective. That was considered the norm. Not anymore. Today, that approach is known as “head-hopping,” and it is frowned upon. An author can use more than one point of view character, as George R.R. Martin does in his Song of Ice and Fire series, but the transitions to new point of view characters need to be clearly delineated.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled post . . .

In my Thieftaker series, Ethan Kaille is my point of view character throughout every story and novel. My readers rely on Ethan’s descriptions, emotional reactions, and thoughts for clues as to how they should respond to all that happens. In my epic fantasies, I had many point of view characters. But what’s important is that in all these cases, my point of view narrators are the ones I depend upon to make my readers feel they are a part of the world I have established for the stories. I want to make my narrating characters tour guides in a sense. Which is not to say that they need to spend all their time walking backwards and telling my readers about the history of every building, monument, and alleyway. Rather, I want my characters to be immersed fully in their society and culture, so that when they interact with something that is unique to their time and place, my readers will not need to have that interaction explained to them. Its significance and its implications for my story should be clear from the context and from my point of view character’s responses.

This post begins with a passage from Thieves’ Quarry, the second installment in my Thieftaker Chronicles, which is to be released by Tor Books on July 2. It is a short passage — exactly one hundred words long, as it happens — and it actually offers very little by way of historical information. That’s all right. It comes in the first few pages of the novel, at a time when I am not yet ready to burden my readers with too much data. But it does establish the mood that hung over the city of Boston at the time this story takes place. Those ships out on the harbor carry an occupying force of over a thousand British soldiers. For the first time in its history, after a summer of conflict and rioting, Boston is about to become a garrisoned town.

Ethan’s thoughts don’t go into that level of detail, of course. They don’t have to. For the purposes of beginning to establish the tone and mood for my book, the small bit of information I give is sufficient. My readers can picture the ships, with their lanterns reflected on the harbor waters. And because of Ethan’s reaction to what he sees, they can guess that all is not well between the Colonists and the Crown.

Aspiring writers are often told, “Show, don’t tell,” although just as often the exact meaning of this advice is left obscure. When we “tell,” we inject ourselves into our books, bypassing our point of view characters and instructing our readers in how they should respond to our writing. “Showing,” as opposed to telling, means allowing our point of view characters to respond to and interpret the places, other characters, and events that our readers encounter in the course of our narratives. It means describing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures as our characters experience them.

We can do tons of worldbuilding or research, but if we don’t convey to readers why all that knowledge matters to our point of view characters, our settings will remain flat. On the other hand, when we show readers our worlds from the perspective of our characters, we make these settings — be they real world or imagined — something more than just a backdrop to our stories. They become our character’s home, or the alien land into which our heroine has just fallen, or the hellscape from which our hero is trying to win his freedom. Point of view gives dimension to our worlds by infusing our descriptions with emotion. It gives them context, weight, importance. And ultimately it makes them places to which our readers want to return again and again.

*****

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasy, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, came out in 2012 and is now available in paperback. The second volume, Thieves’ Quarry, has just been released by Tor Books. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

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There have been so many exciting things going on lately that I haven’t found time to blog about them!  If you’re looking for something pithy-ish, I was over at Magical Words last week with an ode to stream-of-consciousness, my fifth grade teacher and the writing process.  If you’re looking for me to share with the class some of the excitement that’s been keeping me on my toes, stay with me here.

In no particular order, because it’s all so cool:

fallofnight Rachel Caine, partnering with producer/director Blake Calhoun, has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make her internationally bestselling Morganville Vampires books into a web series, starting Amber Benson as Amelie.  Over $18,000 raised in just two days! Check it out!

wicked earl The first novel in Vicky Dreiling’s awesome new Sinful Scoundrels series came out from Warner Forever.  Who doesn’t want to know WHAT A WICKED EARL WANTS?  Romantic Times gave it a Top Pick! rating and raves, “Dreiling’s first book in the Sinful Scoundrel’s series is wonderful! Rife with the Regancy’s penchant for gossip, scandal and matchmaking, WHAT A WICKED EARL WANTS is a delightful romance featuring a rakish hero, an innocent widow, corrupt villans and a secondray cast of characters who add dimension, wit and tenderness to the plot. Reasers will find this a real pleasure to savor.”  Doesn’t get better than that!

Tor UK announced their pre-empt of a fabulous debut series by one of my clients, Genevieve Cogman.  As they describe it, THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY is like “Doctor Who with Librarian Spies”.  What more could you want?

some girls bite Chloe Neill is doing a giveaway on GoodReads of autographed copies of her first bestselling Chicagoland Vampires novel SOME GIRLS BITE.

In celebration of National Audiobook month, Tantor, which does the audiobooks for both the Morganville and Chicagoland Vampires series, is offering 50% off until June 30th!

SF Signal is doing a cover reveal and giveaway for CRUX, the sequel to Ramez Naam’s blockbuster NEXUS.  You can win the book even before you can buy it!  (Ends Sunday, so don’t wait!)

thieves' quarry Also, check out what you can do to win an advance reading copy of David B. Coe’s THIEVES’ QUARRY, the sequel to his “tricorn punk” THIEFTAKER.

Molly Cochran is all over the blogosphere this week on tour for her amazing YA novels LEGACY and POISON. A few samples with giveaways:

Fantasy’s Ink

Two Chicks on Books

The Best Books Ever

I’m so excited today to congratulations to D.B. Jackson for being named one of the winners of WordNerds’ Best First Book in a Series Award for his most excellent historical urban fantasy novel THIEFTAKER!

Also thrilled to wish happy book birthdays to Ramez Naam for NEXUS and to Kira Sinclair for THE RISK TAKER.

nexus NEXUS by Ramez Naam

This is an amazing science fiction thriller that has been receiving a ton of well deserved buzz.  Just check out this amazing write-up in Wired or these fantastic quotes:

“Naam, an expert in new technologies and author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (2005), turns in a stellar performance with his debut sf novel.” —Booklist, Starred Review

Nexus is a lightning bolt of a novel, with a focus on action and plotting that will remind readers of some of the best novels from the late Michael Crichton.” –Ars Technica

“Naam displays a Michael Crichton-like ability to explain cutting-edge research via the medium of an airport techno-thriller.” —SFX Magazine 

“His breathtaking expertise and confidence as a writer makes Naam the only serious successor to Michael Crichton working in the future history genre today.” —Scott Harrison, author of Archangel

“Reminds me of Michael Crichton at his best.” —Brenda Cooper, author of The Silver Ship and the Sea and The Creative Fire

“Excellent spycraft, kick-ass action scenes, and a chilling look at a future cold war over technology and ideology… a hell of a read.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“The action scenes are crisp, the glimpses of future tech and culture are mesmerizing” —Publishers Weekly

“A ‘smart thriller’ in all senses of that phrase. Ramez Naam really does know how to make you turn that page. If you are posthuman or transhuman this is an absolute must-read for you; and even mere mortals will love it.” —Philip Palmer, author of Version 43 and Hell Ship

At the risk of belaboring how much you must go out and buy this book, if you order before December 31st, the author is giving away a copy of his award-winning non-fiction book MORE THAN HUMAN.  Details are here.  It’s an offer not to be missed!

risktaker_smTHE RISK-TAKER by Kira Sinclair

If you want a novel to raise your temperature on the cold winter nights or to warm your heart, this is for you!  Just check out this fabulous review on CSI: Creative Scene Investigations!  Or the book description below:

Subject: Totally buff ranger Gage HarperCurrent Status: Walking wounded—both physically and mentallyMission: Finally get the girl he could never haveObstacle: She may just be the biggest risk he’s ever takenAll returned POW Gage Harper wants to do is forget, even if he has to let some gym rat beat him to a pulp to do it. He certainly doesn’t want to tell the tale of his heroism to the tabloids. Especially since he’s no hero…. But one journalist is determined to get the inside scoop—and she’s the only girl Gage has never been able to resist.

Hope Rawlings never took Gage’s romantic advances seriously growing up. After all, she was just his buddy, and a guy like Gage could have any girl he wanted. But now she needs his story to get her dream job in the city. And she’s willing to do anything to get it.

I’ll be posting a little bit over the holidays (for example, Amy Christine Parker’s big cover reveal on Friday at Iceybooks), so I hope you’ll stop back in before the new year, but in case you don’t, I want to wish you all now a fabulous holiday season and an incredibly happy, healthy, save and serene new year!

blood winter Also, Diana Pharaoh Francis, whose new Horngate Witches novel BLOOD WINTER comes out in just one week, is over at Literal Addiction with some pretty fascinating answers to their interview questions and at The Qwillery, talking about Becoming a Hero.  I hope you’ll check her out and show her some love!

I’m extremely pleased today to have two fabulous men of urban fantasy to introduce to you: D.B. Jackson and the hero from his new Thieftaker series, Ethan Kaille.  Kat Richardson calls the series, “A beautiful balance of magic and crime, history and fantasy that was fast-paced, compelling, and completely absorbing. Historical fantasy that reads like an old-school crime novel, as if Raymond Chandler were channeling Jonathan Swift. I loved it!”  I think this about says it all!  Before I introduce Ethan Kaille, a few other things to report:

In honor of her upcoming Morganville Vampires release, BITTER BLOOD (coming November 6th), Rachel Caine has some really fun “Decision Morganville” campaign videos up on her website with more on the way.  You might want to check them out…if you know what’s good for you.

Heroes and Heartbreakers is running contests with some fabulous prizes up on their sight, in honor of Halloween, including prize packs of books by Faith Hunter and books by Kalayna Price, Ilona Andrews and Karen Chance.  There’s also a vampire prize pack.  Enter soon for a chance to win!

Last, but certainly not least, the Crossroads Blog Tour is in full swing.  Answer all the scavenger hunt questions correctly for a chance to win a Kindle pre-loaded with books by all of the participating authors.  The full list of blogs, participants, etc., is here.  If you’re looking for me, I’ve been up at Most-Wanted Monsters, Confessions of a Bookaholic, and Late Bloomer.  Today, Christine Fonseca and I will be appearing on Mundie Moms, so check us out.

And now, without further ado, I present to you Ethan Kaille, hero of  THIEFTAKER and, soon, the sequel, THIEVES’ QUARRY, both from Tor Books:

My name is Ethan Kaille.  I am a thieftaker and conjurer.  Perhaps you’ve heard my name.

As a thieftaker in Boston, I am accustomed to treating with the town’s less savory denizens.  As a rival to the lovely and dangerous Sephira Pryce, the self-proclaimed “Empress of the South End,” I am also used to having my life threatened on a regular basis, either by Sephira herself, or by her toughs, Nigel, Nap, and Gordon (she employs others, but these are the three who harry me most often).  And as a conjurer living among men and women who equate any form of spellmaking with devilry and witchcraft, I have reconciled myself to living in constant fear of discovery and execution.

Until today, though, I believed that I had witnessed all the wonders and terrors that the streets of Boston have to offer.  I was wrong.

For today, Sephira Pryce summoned me to her home for a most unusual interview.  I say summoned, because even Sephira’s most genteel invitations carry with them the thinly veiled threat of violence should her request be rebuffed.  When I arrived at her home, Sephira invited me to sup with her.  I ate a bit of her food and drank a glass of what I admit was an excellent Madeira wine, taking care to sample only those foods and drink she herself had taken.  I am certain that the woman is not above poisoning a rival.  Her toughs stood off to the side, saying little, but watching me, and making clear with their expressions that any misstep on my part would be rewarded with a beating.

After telling me how honored I should be to have been invited to her home, Sephira informed me that she had spoken with a time witch, a woman who could travel to another time and place and report on events there.  I am familiar with many magicks, and have heard rumor of such powers, and so I was not as skeptical as you, dear reader, might expect.

But what Sephira told me next, did give me pause.  It seems — according to the time witch — that tales of my rivalry with Sephira have been retold, and even committed to paper, by a writer working nearly two hundred and fifty years in the future.  I received this news with a modicum of surprise and puzzlement.  Why would the mundane concerns of two Boston thieftakers in the year 1765 be of interest to anyone living in so distant a future?  I asked Sephira as much, and in doing so, inadvertently struck at the core of the matter, at least so far as she is concerned.

“Because of you,” she said, her mouth twisting, as if the words themselves tasted bitter on her tongue.

“Because of me?”

“Well, not you so much as your bloody magicking.  It seems the readers of this so-called writer are fascinated by your conjurings.  They see you as some sort of hero.  Apparently they fail to grasp the fact that without your witchery you would be nothing, that it is by sheer good fortune and your conjuring tricks that you manage to make yourself any sort of ‘rival’ to me.”

“And this bothers you,” I said, not bothering to mask my amusement.

“Of course it bothers me!” she said, her eyes like daggers.  “I am Sephira Pryce, Empress of the South End, and the most renowned and successful thieftaker this town has ever known.  I am a friend to no less a personage than the Governor of the Province, not to mention representatives of the Crown here in  Boston.  And you . . .”  She shook her head, her shining black curls shimmering in the candlelight.  “You live in a room that is barely the size of my wardrobe, over a cooperage that stinks of sweat and smoke and stale leather.  You earn in a year what I make in a fortnight.  And somehow you are the hero?”

She reached for her goblet with a shaking hand, her cheeks flushed.  But with a sip of wine and a moment’s silence, she appeared to compose herself.  When she spoke again, it was in a calmer voice.

“I enjoy my fame, and I want for nothing.  My . . . concerns about these erroneous accounts are more for the people of the future than for you and me.  We both know what you are and what I am, but these others — they are being presented with a skewed vision of Boston and our time.”

I nodded, managing not to laugh at her vanity and her lies.  “I see.  And so what would you suggest we do about this?”

She considered me for several moments, her eyes narrowed.  “To be honest, I had considered having you killed.  That would have put an end to the problem.  Except that this future writer would most likely have portrayed your murder as an act of petulance and jealousy on my part, which would serve only to make matters worse.”

“Yes, those nettlesome writers.  Leave it to them to twist a simple killing into something unseemly.”

“Exactly,” she said.  “So instead, we are going to try something else.”

I felt my stomach tightening.  I had a feeling that whatever notion she had settled on would be little better than my murder.  But even I was not prepared for what she said next.

“You, Ethan, are going to teach me to conjure.”

I gaped at her.  “What?”

“That way we’ll be on equal footing, and those future readers who find your spells so fascinating will read with wonder of my exploits as well as yours.”

“I can’t teach you to conjure,” I said, shaking off my shock at her solution.

“Someone taught you.”

“Yes, my mother did.  Just as her mother taught her.  But I have conjuring blood in my veins.  You don’t, Sephira.  And without it, you can’t cast spells, no matter how much I teach you.”

“Nonsense.  I don’t need different blood.  I just need the knowledge that you already possess.  If you can cast spells so can I.  And you’re going to teach me how.”  She shot a meaningful look at her men.  “Or we’ll return to my first idea.”

I considered my options, and decided that I had few. “Very well,” I said.  I picked up the fork from my place setting and dragged the tines across the back of my hand, making four parallel cuts in my skin.  Blood welled from the wounds.

Sephira cried out.  Her men lunged for me.  But I spoke the spell too quickly.

Dormite omnes, ex cruore evocatum!”  Slumber, all of them, conjured from blood.

Her men fell to the floor in a brawny heap; Sephira slumped in her chair.  They would awaken before long.  But by then I would be safely away.  I stood, drained a second cup of wine, and smiled.

“So ends your first and last lesson,” I said, and walked out.

*****

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, is now available; the second volume, Thieves’ Quarry, will be released next summer. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

http://www.dbjackson-author.com/blog

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http://twitter.com/dbjacksonauthor

http://www.goodreads.com/dbjackson

http://amazon.com/author/dbjackson

Two quick things before I get dug in for the day:

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Kalayna Price for hitting the USA Today bestseller list with her fabulous Alex Craft novel GRAVE MEMORY (sequel to GRAVE WITCH and GRAVE DANCE)!  Says Romantic Times, “This continues to be a truly original and compelling UF series.” I couldn’t agree more.

D.B. Jackson is currently on tour (blog and signing) for his debut historical fantasy THIEFTAKER.  Check him out on John Scalzi’s Big Idea blog or drop by his website for other tour stops.

First, I want to wish an incredibly happy book birthday to D.B. Jackson and Kalayna Price for THIEFTAKER and GRAVE MEMORY respectively!  Check out last week’s guest blogs by D.B. Jackson and Kalayna Price (and, of course, I hope you’ll want to check out their new works as well)!

Actually blogging on my own blog today about…

Saving Your Sanity

A novel can, and often does, take months and months to complete.  Sometimes you have writers groups or critique partners reading as you go, offering support and encouragement, but often, especially if you’re on tight deadlines and don’t have the time to go through this process, you’re on your own.  Motivation and  gratification have to come from within.  Likewise, there can be many months between book releases (and thus reviews and other accompanying hoopla) where you’re not getting the validation or kudos that feel so good and can help you when you’re having a hard time.

This is one of the many reasons fan letters are wonderful.  They remind you that you’re touching people with your words, even while you’re hiding out in your author cave, unbathed and unbrushed for possibly days on end as you rush toward the breathless conclusion of your book.  But you can’t always count on external pick-me-ups, so I wanted to talk a little bit here about keeping up a healthy mindset.  Here are a few of my tricks.  I hope they help and that if you have others, you’ll share them here.

  1. I bead.  I make jewelry.  Because novels can take so long to write and then revise, I need some form of instant creative gratification.  I can make a single-strand necklace in an hour.  Multi-strands obviously take more time.  Sometimes I need to do a project from start to finish just for that sense of satisfaction.  Maybe for others it will be writing flash fiction or running or cardmaking.  It’s incredibly valuable to have something that will give you victories throughout the days and weeks of writing.
  2. My ring.  Not the One Ring, though that would be pretty cool, but a freshwater pearl and moonstone ring I bought when I made the first sale of my own fiction.  I wear it everywhere.  Every time I receive compliments on it, I can mention it’s meaning, and it makes me happy.  It reminds me of something positive.  I now buy something special (it doesn’t have to be expensive) when I receive my first advance from any new sale because I have tangible and constant reminders of successes.
  3. Taking time.  Sometimes forcing things just locks you up.  You have to take some time for yourself.  When I was training to participate in the PALS program in college, the woman teaching the seminar talked about the importance of renewal like this:

There once was a woman with an apple barrel filled to the brim.  She was generous and gave her apples out to everyone, until one day she reached into the barrel and found she was scraping the bottom.  There were no more apples!  She had given them all away and hadn’t kept even one for herself for eating or planting of seeds, and thus found she had no more to give.

She probably used a lot more words, but the message is the same.  You’ve got to keep something for yourself and take time away to plant new seeds and let them sprout.  Sometimes you have to say no (to judging contests or giving quotes or writing just one more guest blog) to take the time you need for yourself and avoid burn-out.

  1. Cheering on others’ victories is pretty fabulous.  Gives you the same endorphin rush as celebrating your own.  Maybe more, because there’s no tiny seed of doubt about whether you’re truly worthy (…oh, is my psyche showing?).  So cheer on others as you would have them cheer on for you (and now it’s that Catholic upbringing).

I hope these help.  I’d love to have you share ways in which you renew and enrich yourselves as writers.