Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: John A. McColley

Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: John A. McColley

john mccolley

As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.

Today, we talk with John A. McColley.

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

While I started writing stories down in junior high during a short stories class, I’ve told myself stories for as long as I can remember. My first role models and friends were Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Smurfs, as well as a host of other, mostly animated, characters. This may seem lamentable, but I’m certain I was making informed decisions about life seeing what was going on around me and contrasting it to the way people dealt with problems in the magic box in the living room. I’ve turned that play time of running alongside the Flash and Bumblebee to constructing my own worlds, my own characters

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

I write across the speculative spectrum, but most enjoy the sense of wonder and freedom afforded by science fiction and fantasy, especially tales involving aliens and superheroes. I want to be more hopeful and writing stories in which good wins out help me, and I hope others, get there. I’ve dwelled enough.

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

In addition to the aforementioned love of superheroes, steampunk had always intrigued me from afar. Once I did some research for the original Capes and Clockwork, it drew me in. The characters I built for that first story have gone onto a handful of other adventures and are charging through a novel-length tale even now.

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

Revenge of the Gorgons is a direct follow up to Aeolus, Chiron and Medusa from C&C1. Aeolus is tracked down by other members of that first villain’s emergent race of snake-headed ladies and chaos ensues.

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

Aeolus has led a sheltered, strictly directed, life. Early on, despite his interest in more creative pursuits, he was forced into being an accountant in 19th century alternate Rouen, France. He sat in his small third floor office scribbling numbers all day, but secretly dreamed that something would happen. Having gotten his wish with the appearance of wind-based powers, he falls back on his love of classical myths for inspiration and seeks to emulate the greats in service of his city and civilization.

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

My main challenge with crossing genres was incorporating the steamy aspects solidly enough. Not only do I include airships and ray guns, but clockwork devices and pneumatic message delivery. Still, how to tie it into the story? Chiron is the answer, in a wounded soldier who has made himself a steam-powered horse body to get around. The machine also allows him the vaunted higher ground as well as superior reach with his mighty spear, improved running speed and endurance.

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

This is a tough one. Both heroes and villains have their fun aspects. I suppose I’ve always identified with the underdog super hero more than I’ve allowed myself to accept the darkness in my life and let it twist me into the villain. They say you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. Characters are a writer’s company. You have to be careful to keep balance in your influences.

Check out John’s story, Revenge of the Gorgons in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

And his story, Aeolus, Chiron, and Medusa in the original Capes & Clockwork.

Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Andrea Judy

 Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Andrea Judy

andrea pic

As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.Today, we talk with Andrea Judy.

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

I think like a lot of other writers, I started writing when I was very young. I told stories from the moment I could string together a sentence. There’s something so universal about storytelling and I latched onto that very early. I moved around a bit as a kid and had a turbulent home life so story telling was the constant in my life.

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

I love reading and writing in a wide range of genres but my favorite genres are probably mysteries.  When I was a kid I watched so many true crime and cop shows that my parents would joke that I was either going to grow up to be a detective or a murderer. Instead, I became a writer so I could be both!

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

I’ve loved superheroes for ages and having the opportunity to build a hero in the world of steam was too good an opportunity to pass by. I was thrilled for the chance to create a hero not shaped by the same world, who could have all kinds of amazing gadgets to help along the way.

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

My story is called “Wishing Well” and it stars superhuman detective Rowan. In this case, Rowan has to figure out how someone could have been seen alive in the morning then be discovered as a badly decomposed corpse by dinner.

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

Rowan wants to do the best she can. She’s out to prove herself to the world. She’s got a bit of an ego that keeps her moving forward, but the core of Rowan is her heart. She cares deeply for the world around her and wants to make a positive change.

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

The biggest challenge was thinking with steam. Coming up with all the things that could be run on steam and how they would work was a big challenge but it was a lot of fun. I got to sketch out what I thought the devices would look like and that was a blast.

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

I’m going to say, heroes because everyone is a hero. Even the villain thinks they are the hero of their own story.  I actually love villains and coming up with a wickedly devious villain is one of my favorite things in the world!

Check out Andrea’s story, Wishing Well in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

And her story, Catching Steam in the original Capes & Clockwork.

The New Deal: Masks and Mutations

It was over four years ago when Sean Taylor asked me to submit a story for a zany anthology he was putting together. As a newbie writer, it was my first time being asked for a story, so, of course, I said YES!!!

It took a while but the book is finally here.

new deal

The Jazz Age is over and the Great Depression and Dust Bowl are ravaging across the United States. People need someone to blame. Luckily for a population who needs a scapegoat, the next wave of human evolution has begun, and it couldn’t have chosen a worse time to be born. Men and women with amazing powers now fly across the sky, turn their skin into gold, and block bullets with their bare hands. Some take to crime. Some hide their powers for their own safety. Some seek the Underground Railroad for safe haven and a new life in Mexico. Some try to fight the good fight and turn the tide of public opinion as heroes. All of them are in the wrong place at the wrong time in a wounded, terrified, and violent country. In this collection from Pro Se Productions, several of the top writers in New Pulp Fiction spin history ’round like a top to create an alternate reality both comfortably familiar and strangely new for readers of action, adventure, and crime stories. THE NEW DEAL: MASKS AND MUTATIONS. From Pro Se Productions

Writing, Depression, Logan and Me.

Writing, Depression, Logan and Me.

‘A tortured soul has moved on. I hope he finds the peace he couldn’t attain here.’


Those were the only words I could find to say on the morning after I learned of my friend’s death. I wanted to say more, to write an emotional tribute or something, or maybe just scream the words ‘Why did you do it?’ to the heavens, but nothing seemed right, nothing felt right.

As word spread, our mutual friends spoke in barely audible whispers and informed the rest of the local and Facebook communities of his death. Stunned, we simply told one another that depression had finally taken him, but I hated saying that. I didn’t like giving depression that much power, as if it were a monster, a demon lurking in the darkness waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting, breaking their spirits until suicide seemed the only answer. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to give the depression that took my friend credit for claiming another life.

But that is exactly what depression is, a demon drawing us down into the darkness when we’re at those points of being the most emotionally and psychologically venerable. It exhausts our supplies of the mental fortitude that keeps us willing to fight and drains the will to live right out of us. It is something that always sits, not in a corner of some dark room but in the back of our minds, tucked away in some shady section of our brains and constantly whispering words of doubt and despair.

While some folks – the lucky ones – never hear the voice or have that blessed gift of being able to laugh off the negative thoughts, others are not so fortunate. The demon preys on our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and tells us there are no options, no escape from the torment except the final one.

My friend was a writer, like myself. In fact, we’d met at a writers’ critique group in Nashville, ten years ago or so. His attitude toward writing, as well as toward life in general, fascinated me. He wasn’t the type to whitewash his opinions, especially about his given art form, which he was passionate about. While most in the group would diplomatically find ways of overlooking the errors in a particular piece being critiqued, he would tell it like it was. With a determined (if not the occasional grimacing) expression, he’d flip through the manuscript pages, making scores of red pen marks on each page as he exclaimed, “This is crap, this is crap, and this is mega-crap.” Then he’d always hand the papers back to the writer and follow up with positive comments. And always ended his critique with, “This has promise. You have promise, keep working on it.”

And a decade-long friendship took off.

My friend Logan appeared to most as a tall and imposing figure, with long ‘hippie’ hair, at least one Wiccan or Pagan talisman dangling around his neck, and on most days wearing a beaten and battered RUSH t-shirt. There were some who, shortly after his death, described him as the strong silent type. They talked about him being hidden away from his friends and suffering in silence alone with his depression. One blogger wrote about the masculine silence, that notion that real men never speak of the ailments that afflict them, physically or mentally. For those who knew him best, that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Logan was just the opposite.

Logan quiet often spoke about his depression to his friends. In fact, the idea for an upcoming book dealing with the subject originally sprang from a conversation between Logan and the publisher, Tommy Hancock. Logan and I often spoke of the various treatments he’d tried, some conventional and some not so much. Medications, relaxation, and stress relief, along with some drug treatments, were discussed, mulled over, and in some cases, tried with some or little success. That silver bullet that’d cure all our troubles never came to be.

He suffered, knew others that suffered, and wanted to bring attention to the issue that seems to afflict so many fellow writers. And while he spoke a lot about his own struggles to those who’d listen, he, more importantly, could recognize the symptoms in others and would always offer an ear. That was one of the great strengths in our relationship – he knew that I have had my own on and off struggles with depression.

For creative folks, especially writers, depression can be a debilitating illness that strikes at the very core of who we are and what we do. It saps the imagination, leaving us with the inability to move forward with our tales. It dulls the sharp edge we need to carve something good from the jumbled mass of incoherent thoughts and ideas. This is the case for most artistic folks, but for writers, there are other factors that attract the demon and allow its claws to dig deeper into the flesh of our psyche. While anyone can suffer from depression, it seems to hit artists harder and more often. Nothing could be more of a nightmare for a creative person than to have that artistic spark extinguished.

The factors that can trigger an episode, if that is the correct term, can come from many different directions – poor sales, harsh or mean critiques and reviews, or the inability to even break into the publishing world. Sometimes, it feels as if we writers are attacked from all sides with negativity. So many people telling new and aspiring writers that they’ll never succeed. So many folks saying that you’ll never finish your first book or never get it published. And what if you make it? Then the struggle to match your first success comes into play. The writer suddenly needs to pump out more and better work, just to prove that their first book or works weren’t just flukes.

In my case, I’d wanted to start writing many years before I actually did but didn’t because I listened to those around me. Phrases like, ‘don’t bother, you don’t know what you’re doing.’ Or, ‘there will be time to write when you retire, right now you should concentrate on making money,’ or, ‘we know this is just a phase and you’ll never really finish an actual book.’ I felt like family and friends were constantly bombarding me with negativity. Every time I tried to talk about the books in my head, stories that increasingly grew restless, wanting to escape, I was met with blank stares. That was why having a friend who also wrote became such an important factor in my writing career and proved to be the best way for me to battle the demon. I didn’t feel alone in the battle. I had someone in the same boat who understood my problems.

For Logan and me, the constant attempts to write, produce something new and fresh, and to find a home for our stories in the publishing world became an unofficial and seemingly never-ending struggle. Each year had its own ups and downs and we counted on one another for support and help. When Logan began sinking down into the dark places because of his writing, I was there to pull him back to the surface and he did the same for me. Sometimes, it felt like a see-saw, when one of us was in a good place and the other was not. But our see-sawing teamwork kept each other from dropping too far into the darkness – for a while, anyway.

There have been multiple occasions over the years when I’ve considered giving up on a writing career. Every few months, when I get a royalty check or an indication of my book sales, I wonder why I am bothering to waste years of my life on something that only a handful of folks will bother reading. Logan would always remind me that even the big names in writing started off small, that everyone makes mistakes, and that everyone can succeed if they stay positive.

There was a dark time for Logan in 2012 when he stopped writing and had all but given up. I, along with others talked and encouraged him to get back to it but nothing seemed to help. Then good fortune struck for me later that year. A publisher who’d taken my first novel agreed to let me edit two anthologies.

Okay – in all honesty, I’d pitched two ideas for short story anthologies, not thinking they’d pick them up. I ended up getting tapped to be the editor and put the books together. The themes of the books, steampunk superheroes and werewolves, were right up Logan’s alley.

Without a second thought, I picked up the phone and called, insisting that he submit stories to both collections. Knowing the quality of his work, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind. I knew I’d be happy with what he’d produce. At first he was reluctant, to my surprise. He didn’t seem thrilled at the opportunity, but, as the idea of actually having his work in print and his name in the credits sank in, his attitude changed. In quick succession, he banged out two great stories and then put on his editor’s hat and volunteered to help me edit. With the number of stories that came in for the werewolf collection, the publisher decided to produce twin volumes, so I went from editing two books to three. Personally, I started feeling overwhelmed and, without missing a stride, Logan jumped into the fray to help me, snatching up stories and in customary Logan fashion exclaiming, “This is crap, this is crap, this is … oh, this one is good.”

I had worried at first about whether Logan would come back from the depths and write again. For many artists and writers, there is a point of no return when it comes to their creative nature. Once reached, they doubt their abilities so much that they give up completely and attempt to find solace in other endeavors. That creative spark gets snuffed out. But having a real chance to see his stories published worked and brought him back to life. His attitude changed and the purpose that all writers have, that need to tell stories, didn’t just resurface – it exploded out of the dark waters of self-doubt on to multiple pages in multiple books.

Logan didn’t just jump back with a couple of stories. Instead, he threw himself back into creating, churning out story after story and getting himself a contract for his first book. And nothing made me happier than to see my friend succeed.

The act was repaid in kind, however, a couple of years later when it was my turn to start a downward spiral in my personal and writing world.

In 2014, the demon came after me. In January of that year, I lost the woman who’d raised me. Lu Lewis may have been my grandmother, but she was the only one there for me during the majority of my life. My mother disappeared from my life when I was very young, followed shortly afterwards by the death of my father. Losing the person who’d always been my rock felt like a sucker punch to the kidneys. Then two more events in February pushed me down even farther. First, the woman I’d loved for a couple of years decided that our time was over. Secondly, my new novel was released with the first review denouncing it as the worst-copyedited book in history. As it turned out, the publisher had mistakenly uploaded the wrong file, the unedited version, to the printers. After a year and a half of work, my new book, which was to become a series that’d I’d hoped to build a writing career on, had been trashed by critics, not because of my mistake but because of someone else’s.

Thing is, uploading the wrong file issue with my second novel wasn’t new for me. A different publisher had done exactly the same thing with my first book. And they say that lightning doesn’t strike twice. HA!

Stunned, shocked, and traumatized by everything, I just sat back and stopped working. “What was the point,” I figured. If I could spend months or years on a book only to have it screwed up, ruining any chance of it being a hit, then why bother? And it wasn’t just a one-time thing. This was my second book and with both novels that same thing had happened.

Logan jumped in and talked me off the ledge when I talked about ending my writing career. He kept pointing out that my third book, which had been released shortly after the second, was free of issues, as well as all three of my anthologies which had been successfully released and were selling well. But, more importantly, he pushed me to see that I would hate myself in the long run if I just stopped doing something I loved. After all these years, I see that the last point would be used over and over again by both of us, reminding one another of that fact. A fact that always won out.

Logan’s belief in me kept me from doing something that I’d regret – quitting and walking away from the writing world. But he also kept me from doubting myself and my abilities. While he’d bitch about my use of grammar, word choices, and my inability to ever understand the differences between ‘then’ and ‘than’, he always found the positive in whatever cringe-worthy first draft I inflicted upon him. I found him to be the perfect foil to bounce ideas off of, since I never had to worry that his viewpoint would be skewed, and he did the same for me.

For ten years, he and I danced around our depression. Luckily, we never suffered episodes (again, if that is the appropriate term) together. Instead, when he was in a dark place, I was there to help pull him out. And vice-versa, when he was in a good place, he stood ready to pull me out of the darkness when I started sinking. In reflection, having someone in the same boat of trying to be a writer turned out to be what we both needed to make it in the biz. Well, I should say, we both have been published and both saw some success, but we were hoping that ‘the big time’ was right down the road. We both knew that we had to keep walking to get there and pushed one another along.

While no one has a specific number or percentage, researchers know that writers are more likely to suffer from depression and manic-depression than non-writers. All of the reasons for this are not known for certain, although we have ideas of some things that may trigger depression in the typical writer-type. Like many things in life, we may never know what they all are – what triggers the dark emotions and who is more likely to be effected.

The life of a writer is typically a series of ups and downs. The promise of rewards, riches, and self-satisfaction can elevate the soul. The joy of finishing a first draft of a novel can make a writer’s heart swell with joy and feel like they are on top of the world. And then that feeling can be completely crushed when that novel is repeatedly rejected by publishers or denounced by critics.

These feelings tend to stay bottled up inside due to the lives of most writers. In many creative endeavors, there are multiple folks involved, all of whom are sharing the joys and heartbreaks. In general, they support one another. But writing… writing is a solitary effort. Most writers sit in a room alone as they create their works, rarely interacting with others. This lack of social interaction doesn’t help when depression is creeping in on the writer. There may not be anyone around to share ideas with or who will listen as you vent your frustrations. More importantly, family and friends of writers typically don’t understand the many ups and downs that the creative types deal with. They don’t understand and, therefore, don’t know to look for the warning signs or how best to support the individual.

And social interaction is only part of it. In the course of writing a good tale, a writer can and usually does run through a series of emotions, ranging from terrifying anger to sheer happiness. When in the groove, so to speak, a writer is in the mind of his characters and experiencing their heartbreaks and joys, feeling everything they do. A character can be far more than just something in black and white. Writers pour so much of themselves into their works, into these characters, that, when one is forced to kill off a character, it can be a traumatic experience. A non-writer just can’t understand the connections between a writer and their fictional friends and loves.

Writing about misery, suffering, and death can take an emotional and psychological toll on anyone, especially someone who is already dealing with depression. It isn’t a negative reflection on the individual if they have a hard time dealing with something they’ve written. In some cases, a certain character’s pain may reflect the writer’s own emotional state or delve deep into traumatic events from the writer’s past, dredging up long-buried anger or fear. I know from my own writings that at different points in a story, when the stress or heartbreak levels are high, that my emotions will be effected.

The circumstances around his death are known only to a handful and, out of respect, I’ll keep it that way. Logan and I had been out of contact for a while, with him temporarily living in Texas while I remained in Tennessee. I had reached out before his death, before he chose to end things, but my attempt came too late.

Moving forward, I’ll not have my friend to pick me up when things are down. At the time of this writing, the shock and pain have subsided, the anger over his actions has diminished, and I’m left with a profound sense of emptiness. The tragedy that was Logan’s death brought a lot of folks closer together. We’ve rallied to one another’s side, ensuring that we all make it through, that no one is suffering in silence, and we’re all working to learn more about depression so as to watch for the warning signs in our friends.

And is there a better way to remember him then using his death as a wake-up call, declaring that depression is real and capable of taking those we think are strongest?

Cover Reveal for Dietrich’s Nashville

Coming this summer…

Thomas Dietrich didn’t look for trouble but It always found a way to slither up from the depths of Hell to find him.

Set in the 1950’s, Dietrich’s Nashville brings to life the secret files of the monster-hunting, hard living, Nashville PI as he battles the werewolves, vampires, and demons that roam his city’s streets after the sun sets. Told in the classic noir-style, each story will drag you to Hell and back, leaving you begging for more.

 

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The Bishop’s Diabolical Giveaway

 

bishop contestAs a way to celebrate the audio release of ‘The Bishop of Port Victoria’ and a couple of upcoming short stories releases (To be announced when I have a release date), we’re having a contest. Top prize is a $50. Amazon gift card. Other prizes included signed copies of ‘Black Pulp’ and ‘The Bishop of Port Victoria’, as well as freebies from Audible.com.

Click on the link below or the ‘Giveaway’ link on each of Alan’s book’s fan pages on Facebook. The way the contest works is that you gain points for each page you like or signing up for the mailing list or other fun things. The more points, the more chances you get to win. And some things can be done daily, so you can increase your chances by coming back, again and again.

Good luck and have fun. And mostly, thank you to reading!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Preditors & Editors Reader’s Favorites Poll for 2015

I just realized that I didn’t update the website with the news about this. Preditors & Editors is a great website, filled with tons of content designed to help new and professional writers. Each year, they sponsor a contest for their readers to vote and pick their favorites for the year.

This year, I was entered into a few of the categories and here are the results…

 

Best Steampunk Short Story: The Celeste Affair by D. Alan Lewis:

Best Steampunk Novel: Keely by D. Alan Lewis:

Top Ten Finalist for Best Author:

Top Ten Finalist for Best Book Cover Art:

top10bookart  celeste affair 2016 shortstorysteampunk P&E 2016top10author  2nd place  P&E2016P&E best steampunk novel 2016

Big thanks to everyone who voted for me!!!

 

See the Author? Be the Author repost from Killer Nashville

See the Author? BE the Author
By D. Alan Lewis

* This article was originally posted on the Killer Nashville blog.  My thanks to Tom Wood who asked me to write a ‘How To’ article for the website.

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At a recent book signing/selling event, a gentleman approached my table and struck up a conversation. There were several authors including myself at the event, all of us lumped together in a section of the room with our wares on display. Each had a small table with a variety of books, running the gamut of genres.

The man walked down the row, looking but not stopping until he stepped up to the last table, mine. He started picking up bookmarks and cards, asking questions, and finally made a purchase. As I handed him his change, I mentioned a book by one of the other authors but he only shrugged, smiled, and informed me that my books were the only ones he’d consider purchasing.
Intrigued, I asked why only my books. His answer was simple but powerful.

“Because you look like a real author. You present your books and market them like a real author.” He went on to point out the bookmarks, cards, and other promotional items, and then added, “The other folks here didn’t think enough of their books to even bother.”

At a loss, I looked at the other author’s displays and caught on to what he meant. An absence of basic marketing merchandise became very clear. Some of the authors didn’t have bookmarks, or even business cards. No one else had signage of any type. While I’d spent money early on in my book-selling adventures to purchase display racks and stands, no one else had.  After my first book went to print, I began paying attention to other authors and how they did things. I looked not only at what they were doing but also at the authors themselves.

So, here are a few basic tips that I’ve learned to promote sales at events.
Look professional: No matter where you are selling books, dress well for the occasion. I’m not saying you need a suit and tie, but shorts and a t-shirt shouldn’t be the go-to wardrobe choice.

Business cards: Seriously, invest some money in professionally printed cards. Homemade cards printed on your home computer will look like what they are, homemade and cheap. There are many sources online for inexpensive but good-looking cards. But do something different with your cards that’ll get people’s attention.
In my case, I write mainly science fiction and fantasy stories. I found a website (Zazzle) which has hundreds of styles. Instead of one box of cards, I purchased three. Zazzle offered several styles of sci-fi art that are on the card’s background, so I picked out three distinctly different images. It amazed me how folks will approach the table and look at the three different cards and comment on which one has the best art. If the customer likes the card, they’ll keep looking at, ingraining your name in their head along with the picture.

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Bookmarks: Like business cards, there are many online sources for bookmarks. In my case, I found an inexpensive printer that makes double-sided bookmarks. Instead of using both sides to promote one book, I placed ads for different books on each side. This way, the person is exposed to more of my works after they leave the table.

 

Signs and banners: These can be an issue for some folks because of the expense. There is also an issue at times as to whether you’ll have space at an event for big, freestanding banners. The best advice is to start with what you can afford and go from there.

Tall banners are great for projecting your name and books titles across a room. If well designed, a good banner will generate interest and curiosity in you and your works. If your books are lying flat on a table, then a tabletop banners or signs are a great way to get passersby to notice the book covers.

 

Racks and stands: Too many authors feel that simply laying their books flat on a table will get them noticed. This is simply not true. Flat books are only seen by folks walking directly in front of your table. Inexpensive bookstands or wire racks will increase the visibility of your books from a distance and draw folks in to take a closer look.

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While these are just a handful of suggestions, they are the most basic and usually, the most overlooked. Next time you’re at a book event, look around, see which authors grab your attention, and ask yourself what made you look.

Holiday Guest Author: David B. Coe aka D.B. Jackson

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

David B. Coe

Aka… D.B. Jackson

 David Coe photo

 

First, a little something about David.

David B. Coe, who also writes as D.B. Jackson, wrote his first novel at the age of six. It was called “Jim the Talking Fish,” and it was not really as good as the title makes it sound. David illustrated the story, which did nothing to improve its quality.

And yet, as poor as this first effort might have been, it did mark the beginning of a lifetime passion for dreaming up stories and writing them down so that he might inflict them on others share them with others. Along the way David has dabbled in other professions — he was a political consultant for several years, and he earned a Ph.D. in U.S. history, flirting with the notion of an academic career before wisely thinking better of it.

He began writing full time in 1994, with the love and support of The World’s Best Spouse, and published his first novel in 1997. He is now the award-winning author of more than fifteen novels and a dozen short stories.

His newest project, a contemporary urban fantasy called the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, is to be published by Baen Books. The first book, SPELL BLIND, will be released on January 6, 2015. HIS FATHER’S EYES, the second volume, will be published in the summer of 2015, and a third novel is already in the works.

Writing as D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston that combines elements of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. THIEFTAKER, THIEVES’ QUARRY, and A PLUNDER OF SOULS, have already been released, and the fourth volume, DEAD MAN’S REACH will appear in July 2015.

David’s early books include the LonTobyn Chronicle, a trilogy that received the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best work by a new author in fantasy, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He has also written the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, ROBIN HOOD, starring Russell Crowe.   David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

David received his undergraduate degree from Brown University and his Master’s and Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University.  He co-founded and regularly contributes to the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), a site devoted to discussions of the craft and business of writing fantasy, and is co-author of HOW TO WRITE MAGICAL WORDS: A WRITER’S COMPANION.

He is still married to The World’s Best Spouse. They have two daughters and live in a small college town on the Cumberland Plateau.

 

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I wrote my first books when I was six years old. Seriously. I learned to read and then immediately started writing stories. My first was called “Jim, the Talking Fish.” It wasn’t very good. I illustrated it myself, and that made it worse. But that was the first. All through elementary school, writing stories was my favorite thing to do. So I knew from early on that I’d wind up a writer.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

I steal them from other people. That’s normal, right?

My story ideas come from all over the place. Things I read, places I go, music I hear — literally anything can spark a story idea. Robert Frost said that “An idea is a feat of association,” and I find that’s true for me as well. It’s not so much the single notion that inspires me, but instead the juxtaposition of different thoughts brought together in an unexpected way. We imagine things that aren’t immediately obvious, we ask ourselves “What if . . . ?” and we’re off to the races.

SpellBlindFix

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

Actually, no. I tend to do this as little as possible, and here’s why: I’ve found that when I do use real life people as models for characters, it keeps those characters from developing naturally. I allow that person I know to inform my writing too much and so when that character starts to do the unexpected, starts to take on some agency for his/her actions, I resist, thinking “Well, but so-and-so wouldn’t do that . . .” On the other hand, when I create characters entirely from my imagination, without basing them on actual people, they grow more organically and I give them the freedom they need to become active components of my story.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

It’s interesting you should ask me this right now. Usually, I’m a pretty dedicated plotter. My epic fantasies have a lot of plot threads that I need to coordinate with some care. My historical fantasies (the Thieftaker Chronicles, written under the D.B. Jackson pseudonym) blend fictional mysteries with real world historical time lines. My new urban fantasy series (The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, written under my own name) also have mystery elements and demand a good deal of planning. So all the work I’ve done to date has been stuff that I’v needed to plot.

But, I’m currently writing a new epic fantasy, and I had very little sense of where the story was going. So I finally just decided to wing it. To write without an outline. Like a crazy person. At this point — I’m 70,000 words in — I like the story as it’s developed, and I’m having a blast discovering my narrative as I go along. Who knows? This could be a new trend for me.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

I do. I know that some people can’t listen to anything at all — they find any sort of music terribly distracting. And I know other people who can listen to anything at all, even music with lyrics, and it doesn’t bother them one bit. I fall somewhere in the middle. I love listening to music, but only certain kinds. It has to be instrumental. Lyrics mess me up. And I write best when the music has a strong improvisational element — Classical music tends to constrain my creativity. So I listen to a lot of jazz (Miles Davis, Roy Hargrove, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, Nicholas Payton) and instrumental bluegrass (Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Chris Thile, Tony Rice, Alison Brown, David Grisman).

Dead Man's Reach

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

That’s a really hard question. On the one hand, like most authors, I consider my most recent books my best. I’m incredibly proud of all the Thieftaker novels (Tor Books) and I love the Fearsson novels I’m writing now for Baen. The books of both series are lean and compelling and include some of the best character work and sharpest prose I’ve ever written. But I also really love my Winds of the Forelands books, a five-book epic fantasy I wrote for Tor about a decade ago. That’s one of the reasons I’m going back to epic fantasy now. I miss the complexity and sweep of those stories.

 

How much do you write each day/week?

I tend to work slowly when I start a novel — writing the first page can take me an entire day; the first chapter can be a week or two in the making. But once I get some momentum built up, I average about 2,500 words a day, 12,500 words per week. (I try not to work too much on weekends, unless I’m behind on a deadline.) For those not familiar with word counts, that’s ten manuscript pages a day, or fifty per week. I didn’t used to write at that pace, but I’ve built up to it over the years.

 

What is your latest project/release?

My next original release (as opposed to a paperback reissue) is SHADOW’S BLADE, the third book in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson (Baen Books). It comes out in May 2016. This is a contemporary urban fantasy set in Phoenix. My lead character is a private detective, an ex-cop, and a weremyste. Every month, on the full moon, his magic gets stronger and he temporarily loses his mind. These moon phasings are slowly driving him insane, as they did his father. The first two books in the series are SPELL BLIND and HIS FATHER’S EYES, and both are available from all booksellers.

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

Have you read my books? Do you know what kind of shit I dump on my characters page after page, story after story? I would never, ever, ever want to be any of them.

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Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

When I started out, I wrote only novels. I didn’t really understand how to approach short stories. I thought I could only “write to a certain length,” which came out to, like, 200,000 words. My first short story sale was actually a background piece for my Winds of the Forelands series. Everything I did was geared toward the novels.

But that changed several years ago. I forced myself to write shorter pieces because — and I honestly believe this — writing short stories is harder and demands more skill than writing novels. As soon as I started writing the shorter pieces, forcing myself to tell complete, satisfying stories in 6,000 words, all of my writing improved. That leanness I mentioned earlier, which I see in my latest work, is, I believe, an outgrowth of my increasing commitment to writing short fiction as well as novel length stuff. I’ve learned to do more with less, and that is all to the good. So, at this point I really have no preference; I love writing in both forms.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it.

Okay, so here is my Writer’s Block Rant. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I don’t think it exists, and I think it’s a really foolish concept. Harsh, I know, but bear with me. The problem with the very idea of Writer’s Block is that it pre-supposes writing should be easy. It assumes that writing should always flow smoothly, that finding the correct word ought to be as easy as typing it, that stories never get stuck or turn onto narrative cul-de-sacs. It assumes our characters always behave rationally and answer to our every creative whim, and our settings simply present themselves to us, fully formed and easily described. All of which, of course, is horse crap. Writing is hard. Writing tears at our souls. Writing torments us. Writing is fits and starts, it’s days spent staring at a blank screen getting nothing done. That’s as much a part of the creative process as those rare golden days when everything DOES flow like mountain water. And so what people call Writer’s Block, I call writing. End of Rant.

theiftaker

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

Well, they should begin by memorizing my rant on Writer’s Block . . .

Seriously, they should understand that writing is hard work, that it doesn’t necessarily pay well, and that career paths are rarely linear or uninterrupted ascents to fame and fortune. This is a difficult, at times soul-crushing business. Aspiring writers should know, first and foremost, that they’re writing for the right reason: because they love the story, the characters, the creative process. If they’re doing it because they think it’s easy money, or just something they can do in a half-assed way, they need to think again.

Second, they should know that writing to the market is a bad idea. The market is a moving target. There is absolutely no guarantee that what’s popular when you start a novel will still be popular when that novel is completed and edited and ready for release. The aspiring writer should write the story s/he loves, the story that’s burning a hole in her/his chest trying to get free. If s/he loves what s/he writes, that passion will come through in the prose and storytelling. In other words, write the best story possible, and the market side of things will take care of itself.

Third, there is no such thing as a perfect novel. Everything that has ever been published has some flaw in it. If a writer edits and polishes and works and works and works trying to make that novel utterly flawless, s/he will spend an entire lifetime on that one project and will never send it out for publication. Which isn’t much of a career. Make the book as good as it can be, and then submit it. Publishers understand that books rarely cross their desks as perfect finished novels. That’s what editors are for. Write it, have people read it, revise and polish, and then send it out and get to work on the next thing. That’s how one builds a career.

 

Thanks David. To find more about him, click below:

http://www.davidbcoe.com/

Author, Editor, Part-time Werewolf