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Turning Back to Epic Fantasy

by David B. Coe

Like Gail, I have written in several fantasy subgenres over the course of my career, most recently taking on contemporary urban fantasy (with my Case Files of Justis Fearsson trilogy) and historical urban fantasy (with the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson). I started out, though, writing alternate world, epic (or high) fantasy. Multi-book story arcs, set in created worlds, with lots of magic and castle intrigue, and with larger-than-life villains who threatened All That We Hold Dear. Fun stuff.

coejacksonpubpic1000I’ve recently returned to these early works. The rights to my first several series have reverted to me, leaving me free to do with them as I please. And I have chosen to reissue what I am calling the “Author’s Edits” (think Director’s Cut) of the books. For obvious reasons, I’ve started with my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle, which I published back in the late 1990s. These books established me commercially and critically, and won me the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best new author in fantasy. They’re as close to my heart as any books I’ve written. But they were also my first efforts and they suffered from many of the flaws one finds in first novels. Hence the Author’s Edit. I haven’t changed any of the plotting, world building, or character work. But I’ve tightened the prose and eliminated unnecessary dialog tags, adverbs, and expository passages. The books now read better than they ever have.

In reading through and editing this first series, I realized that I miss writing epic fantasy. It’s not that I’ve come to dislike urban fantasy. Far from it. I believe the Fearsson and Thieftaker books represent the best writing I’ve ever done. But I had forgotten how much fun it can be to write those huge, sprawling epics on which I cut my teeth as a writing professional.

To my mind, the biggest differences between writing urban fantasy and writing epic boil down to the related issues of point of view and plotting. Urban fantasy, as I’ve approached it in my career and experienced it as a reader, tends to be more streamlined. The cast of point of view characters is usually limited to a single protagonist, or perhaps two or three narrating characters. The plotting can be twisty and intricate, but it’s also focused. Much of urban fantasy pays homage not only to its fantasy roots, but also to noir mystery. It’s not surprising then, that some of the best books in the subgenre are lean, fast-paced, and tightly constructed. As I say, I love urban for just these reasons.dcoe1

But for me, the allure of epic fantasy, both as an author and as a fan, lies in its embrace of very different attributes. My favorite epic fantasies, and all the high fantasies I’ve written, braid together many seemingly disparate storylines that coalesce as the novel and/or series progresses. By necessity, these plot threads are presented through a pantheon of point of view characters, who give the reader dfferent perspectives on the story, and bits of information that form a sort of narrative mosaic.

In some respects it’s less efficient story telling. On the other hand, when done well, epic fantasy can take on a richness and texture that make it unique among all forms of speculative fiction. I enjoy writing it because I can lead my reader through a labyrinth of plot points, hinting at key moments to come, feinting at possible paths my story might take, and telling the tale through a collection of voices, each one unique and, I hope, engaging. I can give my readers more information than any one of my characters has at his or her disposal, thus ratcheting up the tension by, for example, sending my protagonist into a trap of which my readers are aware, even though she is not.

We writers can be a fickle bunch. When I shifted from epic fantasy to urban, I did it, in part, because I was tired of writing the multi-POV, multi-plot-thread, multi-volume stories that I’d written throughout the early years of my career. I longed for that leaner voice of urban fantasy. I wanted to write stand-alone novels that more closely resembled whodunits, but with a magical twist. The Thieftaker and Fearsson books were exactly what I was after.

dcoe2Now, I find that I’m ready to turn back. Reading and editing Children of Amarid, my very first novel, as I prepared for its re-release, I found myself transported back to those days when I was writing the book without a contract, dreaming of one day becoming a published author. I had read many of the great epic fantasists of my youth: Tolkien and Donaldson, Kurtz and Kerr, McCaffrey (yes, I know — she considered herself an author of Science Fiction; I thought of it as fantasy), LeGuin, Brooks, and Eddings. Those were the authors who attracted me to this career, and when I wrote the LonTobyn Chronicle, I tried to draw upon what I saw as the finest qualities of their work. I’m not so full of myself as to claim that I succeeded with this first effort. But they were my inspirations, and fantasy, as they defined the field, was my first love.

So, now I’m back to it. I have more of my backlist to release in coming years: my five-book Winds of the Forelands series, my Blood of the Southlands trilogy. And I’m eager to try my hand at writing new epic fantasy, blending my lifelong passion for the genre with the knowledge of craft I’ve accrued during my twenty years in the business. I don’t yet know exactly what this new project will look like. But those elements of the genre that I love — magic, of course, the more wondrous the better, as well as intrigue, action, and maybe a sprinkling of romance — will all be there, along with the rich complexity that makes reading and writing high fantasy such a joy. Stay tuned!

About the Author

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first two books, Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes came out in 2015. The third volume, Shadow’s Blade, has recently been released. 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 Dead Man’s Reach.

David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he is the process of reissuing, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

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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Q&A with Natalie Silk

1. What is the title of your newest book or short story?  What’s it about?  Where can readers find it?

The title is Stars’ Fire, science fiction for young adults.

Dahliea Gherac, a twelve year old girl, is the sheltered daughter of a politically powerful father. She is also from a very wealthy and prominent family. Yet, Dahliea is treated as an oddity by the dominant society, is hounded by the media, and is bullied by her peers because her mother is a blonde-haired, fair-skinned woman from Earth. Dahliea so desperately wants to be accepted by her schoolmates and wishes that she is like every other S’Renen.

Even though this is a science fiction novel, anyone who understands what it’s like to be bullied, excluded, or different may also find Stars’ Fire appealing.

Readers can find Stars’ Fire at Dark Oak Press (www.darkoakpress.com), Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Readers can find me on: Facebook (Natalie Silk, Author), my blog (NatalieSilk.blogspot.com), and Twitter (NatalieSilkSF).

2. How did you choose to become a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl.  I would spend hours in my room making up stories.  I started to really write when my sister gave me a journal for my thirteenth birthday.

3. What inspired your new book or story?

When I was twelve or thirteen, I had a dream about five men in monk robes standing in a circle.  I could only see their chins under their hoods.  One of the monks turned to me and he said, “You’re not ready.”  I wrote down the dream.  I had another dream where I was   standing on the side of a mountain overlooking beautiful trees and a huge monolith.  I wrote this dream down also.  Those two dreams became the foundation for Stars’ Fire.

4. What do you read for fun?

I love reading reference and spiritual books; just about anything that stretches my knowledge.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Don’t give up your dreams, ever.  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you ‘never.’  Believe in yourself and believe that your dreams will come true someday.

Bonus: Listen to Natalie read from Stars’ Fire: https://ghostinthemachinepodcast.com/?p=398

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Ten Things about Being a Writer

All of these things have happened to me on more than one occasion. I’m sure that there are many more things to list and other authors have different experiences, but one thing remains constant. We write because we have to or we might go insane. If we already aren’t, of course. 🙂


  1. You wake up in the middle of the night with ideas, write them down, and in the morning either can’t read your own handwriting or you look at the idea again and wonder what you were thinking.
  2. Write until your fingers cramp and your brain feels like it’s crispy.
  3. Procrastinate by making playlists to listen to while you write.
  4. Scratch down ideas on anything you can find wherever you go, even if it’s on the back of a receipt.
  5. Keep all your rejection letters until you have enough to wallpaper your bathroom with.
  6. Stay up late at night claiming you’re writing, but secretly you’re watching your favorite movie.
  7. You have conversations with your characters and argue where the plot is going to go and they change directions on you without warning.
  8. Your characters have conversations without you and no matter what you do, they won’t be quiet.
  9. You write one book and another idea pops into your mind so you just have to write that one too.
  10. You want to spend more time with your characters then you do with real people.

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Pluggin’ Away

Sometimes I wonder why I continue writing.

It’s not based on the fact that I want to make money because I’ve gotten past that dream.

Although it is still something I wish to obtain. Quitting my day job of working in the insurance industry would be great because-let’s face it-insurance isn’t all the exciting and I’ve been doing it now for ten years. Regarding writing it’s nice to have the royalties come in and help out paying bills. My sales are fair and hitting a bestseller list would be wonderful, but I’m doing what I can so I muddle along.

I’ve been writing now for sixteen years and eight of those are professionally. I have over seventy books out-novels to novellas and I think that’s a pretty good stack under my belt. I’ve had some wonderful experiences with publishing companies and I’ve had some not so wonderful. All authors have a few war stories. I’ve met some great people and some that make me go hmm…and I’ve made some lifelong friends from it.

There are times I wake up and glance at the computer and groan because it feels like a chore to write.  And others all I want to do is write. Those are the good days. Characters chattering away in my head making me think I’m crazy, but all writers have to argue with the voices in their heads at times to make sense of the noise and sort out the plots. Story lines twist and turn in my brain until I work them out on paper. But the thrilling thing about writing all these years is the stories that come out and appear after all the hard work.  I never assumed that I would have amassed this amount of work. My goal, at least for now, is to get to one hundred published books and then so where I go from there.  But I’m also trying to move from the romance genre and move back into the horror genre where I first started writing or at least mashing it up more.

So I guess the real reason I keep writing is to stay sane and see where the worlds in my head lead. Someday I’m sure I’ll get burnt out completely, but for now I keep on pluggin’

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The Magic of Magic-making



J. F. Lewis


One of the best parts about working in a world of one's own creation is the ability to populate it with cool new powers and abilities. Not just monsters and magic, but the rules behind them, the internal consistency which lets readers know not just what your characters can and cannot do, but also serves to set your creations apart.


Take Atticus, the ancient (and awesome) Druid, from Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series. He's powerful as long as he can make contact with nature, with the soil, but trap him in the middle of the street over lifeless pavement and he's in trouble. True he has ways to store power and there are trick up his sleeve, but the countdown to powerlessness has begun. As readers we know it and the tension is immediate.


Magic has to have defined costs and limitations, a balance which lets the mystical make sense… makes it ring true. It must seem like a tool, not a cheat. When I was writing A CORPSE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY, I knew that Zaomancy would need to fit those same rules. My main character, Richard, would literally be bringing the dead back to life and breathing the breath of life (zao, if we accept Richard's choice of Latin) into inanimate objects. For that to work, there needed to be a price… a balancer and a set of rules.


In the initial draft, that balance took a while to figure out and fine tune. I explored a fair number of options, but the one I kept coming back to was age. Each zaomancer only has their own life's breath with which to play and using their powers ages them, sometimes slowly, but always in direct proportion to how much death they are trying to overcome. It simple, the price of life is… life itself, just not all at once or the heroes would be pretty short-lived.


Once you have the rules, the framework, then you have to combine them with cool plots and fun characters. A Zaomancer, for instance, who has been lied to about the corpse he's about to bring back to life, a newly turned vampire who has just realized she can't have chocolate anymore, or maybe even a necromancer who is the hero rather than the villain (Hi, Gail!). The sky is the limit, but make them your own and your reader's will love them.


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Shiny & Polished….now what do I do?


Crymsyn Hart

So you’ve put the finishing polish on the manuscript and it’s all bright, shiny, and ready to be shipped off…somewhere. But where do you go and what do you do with it? Well, there are several options these days unlike fifteen years ago when I first started searching around for places to go.

You can self-publish. You can send your work to an agent, or you can go directly to a publisher or an e-publisher. If you choose the agent, publisher or e-publisher route, make sure you read the submission requirements for that particular place you are sending it to. Everyone is different.

Some agents say to just email them a synopsis and not to mail anything. Or if you do mail them something make sure you include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope so you can get a reply back.  Or others will let you know that they are not taking any unsolicited manuscripts.

The same with the publishers. Only very few will actually accept any manuscripts. This is talking major publishing houses. Now if you are looking at e-publishers, make sure to also look at their  submission’s page because they too have a specific format they want, whether it is a synopsis and the first three chapters of your book, or just the synopsis.

Then there is the self-publishing route which many authors I know are taking these days, but please make sure you have edited your book or have some edited for you. That is the most important thing.

No matter which road you choose, there is always the anticipation and the butterflies in the stomach of the waiting for when you hear back. But the good thing about that is, while you’re waiting, you can be writing another book.

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It’s the end for me…


Crymsyn Hart

…now what the heck do I do?

Well congratulations, the first think you need to do is take a moment and breathe. You did it. You made it to the end of the book. Bet you never thought you would because your characters wanted to keep talking until they were blue in the face. Well you finished the story and are left with the question of where do I go from here?

The first thing you want to do is think about editing. If you’re a first time writer, then  you can think about hiring someone to edit the book for you. Of course that can cost a lot of money. Or maybe you have friend who is an English major and is good with grammar. Have them look it over. However you go about this, make sure you do your very best to polish the manuscript before submitting it to publishers or agents, depending on the route you want to go.

Polishing the manuscript of course is spell checking, punctuation mistakes, and even deleting some of the scenes you have written. Or adding them in.  It all depends on where you are going with your book. Personally I put on Track Changes in Word when I start self-editing so I can see what I’m deleting. I normally end up cutting out more than what I put back in. I have a tendency to sometimes overwrite and then have to delete the repetition. But editing is hard work and takes time, then again so does working over a book to make it the best that you can before you send it off.

I warn you ahead of time.

Your brain will hurt when you are done.

Happy Editing.

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Twelve Days of Writing Over the Holiday

by Gail Z. Martin

We all love the holidays, but how in the sam hill do you get a book written with a house full of guests and a mouth full of eggnog?

I mean, peace on earth and goodwill toward men is fine and dandy, but publishing is a business, for cryin’ out loud!  We’ve got deadlines, people!

So for all those authors who are juggling their work on the next great American novel with festivities, here are twelve ideas to keep you going:

  • When everyone else goes a’wassailing, stay home and write.
  • Put the kids to bed early on Christmas Eve (use the Santa excuse) and stay up late writing
  • Everyone else will go to bed at 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day.  You’ve got at least seven hours of peace and quiet until they get back up.
  • Do your Christmas shopping via the Internet and use the time you aren’t at the mall to catch up on your novel.
  • Skip writing the family Christmas card letter and get another page or two done on your manuscript.
  • Post a holiday blog instead of sending Christmas cards and use the time you would have spent licking envelopes on your manuscript.
  • Ask Santa for an extension on your deadline.
  • Interview Santa for an expose—after all, he knows who’s been naughty or nice.
  • Use rejection letters to kindle a good chestnut-roasting fire.
  • Ask Santa for an iTunes gift card so you can stock up on writing apps for your smart phone.
  • Recognize the role writers have played in our holiday celebrations.  Without advertising copywriters, there wouldn’t be Rudolph (Montgomery Ward) or Santa as we know him (Coca Cola).  Or the ghost of Christmas Past (Dickens).
  • If all else fails, knock back a shot of Christmas spirit and keep on typing!

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By Crymsyn Hart

Each writer has a specific voice, minion, muse, guru or something they listen to. Muses are fickle. They can give wonderful inspiration or they can go on strike and refuse to share any of their creative genius. When they go on strike, sometimes it can be considered writer’s block, but for me that isn’t the case. When my muses go on strike, it seems all I want to do is write, but I’m not getting any input from the powers that be who help me form the words. Of course that isn’t a bad thing. I just pull on the storyline I have outlined in my head already. But those wonderful moments of inspiration are the things I long for that hit me at the most inconvenient times. Those insights normally give me some kind of emotional reaction to what I’m writing.

The worst time my muses start talking to me is when I’m in the shower. I mean, seriously, I’m washing my hair and they start blabbering on. Trying to muzzle them until I can get dry and get to a piece of paper or a keyboard is tough enough on a good day, but when you’re dripping wet and your fingers aren’t available, what is a girl to do? That is when I start coaxing my muses with promises of chocolate and cheesecake or a combination of both so they will be placated until I can at least get dressed and no longer have dripping hair.

Whatever the muse, specific voice, guru or minion an author listens to; it is that wondrous thing that makes them have ideas. Some authors I’ve spoken to consider that the ideas they come up with don’t actually come from them. They come through them and the same goes for the specifics of the novel they are writing about. Thinking that your mind is being invaded by an outside third party is kinda scary, but once a person figures they will have a great work from it why not give yourself over it. That is, of course, that the outside third party is not some alien who is trying to do invasion of the body snatchers and you become their puppet.

As long as there are writers, I assume there will be muses. There will be unseen forces that help authors construct their works and help them get through an argument between characters. Hopefully all the yelling won’t make anyone go insane. But then again, I’m already a little crazy. So the more voices in my head, the better.

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