Good News For Thieftaker

December 20, 2012

I don’t like to boast.  Really, I don’t.  And because of that, I feel a little funny about this post I’m about to write.  But in the past few days some people at online book reviewing sites have been saying nice things about Thieftaker (written under the name D.B. Jackson), and, well, I thought it couldn’t hurt to draw your attention to them.

Early this week, the WordNerds blog announced the first of their Best of 2012 Awards.  They began with “Best First Book in a Series,” and chose Thieftaker as one of the two winners in the category!  I was pretty excited.

And then today, SciFiChick.com posted their listing of the best SF/Fantasy Novels of 2012, and Thieftaker made the list!

These are not big awards.  I know that.  But it is always nice to be recognized by knowledgeable, well-read people.  I am deeply thankful to both sites for the kind words.  And I am also grateful to all of you for indulging this moment of braggadocio.

I’m done now.

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Today, I continue my series of posts on worldbuilding with the third (and perhaps final) installment at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, and Kalayna Price, among others.  The post is called “On Writing and Creativity: Worldbuilding Revisited, part III — Writing Worldbuilding Into Our Books” and it offers a discussion of how I blend the details of my worldbuilding into my prose, character work, and storytelling.  I hope you enjoy it.

First off, Ranting Dragon — http://www.rantingdragon.com/the-cover-battle-of-2012-phase-2-round-2/ — is putting on its first ever “Cover Battle,” choosing the best book jacket art of 2012.  The jacket art for Thieftaker (by the wonderful Chris McGrath) is in the running, and has already made it through Round One.  Vote here in Round Two!  Thank you!

Yesterday, I finished the preliminary outline for City of Shades, the third Thieftaker book (written under the D.B. Jackson pseudonym), which I recently contracted with Tor (along with book 4, Dead Man’s Reach).  Preliminary because ALL my outlines are preliminary.  My books tend to evolve as I write them.  My characters grow, assert themselves, take the narrative in directions I don’t anticipate.  And so often I’ll find myself having to abandon my initial outline about ten chapters into a book.  I’ll do a new outline for the rest of the book. Which, in turn, I will often have to abandon after another seven or eight chapters, for the same reasons.  It’s just the way I work.

So, you might ask, why bother with an outline at all?  I mean, if I wind up chucking the thing less than halfway through the book isn’t it just a waste of time?

To which I reply, with somewhat less confidence than I’d like to show, Um, I don’t think it is.  Or even if it is ultimately a waste, I find some value in it.

I like to have a road map at the beginning of every new book.  Starting a novel can be daunting, even for those of us who do it for a living.  I’ve written more than a dozen novels and I still find the act of beginning a new one somewhat intimidating.  Having an outline, one that at least gives me a path through the key plot points, helps me past that initial fear.  But more than that, having a rough idea of where the book is going (and my outlines do tend to be very rough — just a few sentences for each chapter) allows me feel more comfortable giving free reign to my characters.  If I know where they need to be at certain points in the book, I can allow them to find their own paths by which to get there.

It sounds a bit oxymoronic, I know:  I am imposing structure on the project so that I can be more unstructured in my creative process.  But for me, it works.  The analogy I often use is this:  If I start a road trip with a firm sense of which interstates will get me where I need to go, I can be more confident in occasionally taking scenic back roads for parts of the trip.

And so, I now have an outline for City of Shades.  Already, I have some sense of where in the narrative I am going to stray from the road map.  But I also feel that I have a stronger idea of how my story is going to unfold, and I no longer feel as daunted at the prospect of starting this new project.  Which means that even if I jettison this outline tomorrow it will already have done it’s job.

I am delighted to ring in the holiday season by announcing that Tor has agreed to contract two more Thieftaker books (which I write under the D.B. Jackson pseudonym)! The second Thieftaker book, THIEVES’ QUARRY will be available in July 2013. And now I can say that it will be followed by CITY OF SHADES in 2014, and DEAD MAN’S REACH in 2015.

As with the first two Thieftaker books, these new volumes will be mysteries set against the backdrop of actual historical events taking place in pre-Revolutionary Boston.  CITY OF SHADES, takes place in the summer of 1769, during an outbreak of smallpox, while DEAD MAN’S REACH coincides with the Boston Massacre in March, 1770.  Ethan Kaille will be back at work in the city lanes, pursued by Sephira Pryce and her toughs, and harried by Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf.  And, as usual, he will be helped by Diver Jervis, Rev. Trevor Pell, Tarijanna Windcatcher, and, of course, the lovely Kannice Lester. But he will also face new challenges, and encounter new friends.

I’ve already started work on CITY OF SHADES, and will keep you posted on my progress.

Today, I continue my series of posts on worldbuilding with another installment at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, and Kalayna Price, among others.  The post is called “On Writing and Creativity: Worldbuilding Revisited, part II — How Much is Enough?” and it is essentially what you see in that title:  a discussion of how I limit and make the most of the time I spend worldbuilding.  I hope you enjoy it.