On our first trip to the East Coast, we passed through New Hampshire on the way to Vermont and made a note to come back and spend some time in the White Mountains. It took four years and several trips up and down the West Coast, but we finally made it back. And we’re glad we did.
New Hampshire is a beautiful state. Quaint, centuries-old towns tucked away in mountain valleys beside meandering rivers…what’s not to love? With two weeks left, I’ve got little chance of exploring even a fraction of the trails on my list. Our next stop will be the far northeastern tip of Maine and while I’m looking forward to the craggy shorelines, the mountains will be missed.
Time is a factor in checking off my hiking to-do list not only because the itinerary but because of the renewed focus on my writing career.
For many, writing during the pandemic was a distraction-free blessing. For me, writing became the distraction as we struggled to adapt our new lifestyle to a new reality.
Pandemics, climate change, social unrest, global financial uncertainty, all hits differently when you’re not operating from a fixed geographic place to call “home.” Rules, laws, and social conventions change from place to place. Your community, your social support system, is scattered far and wide. Everyday things like going to the doctor or finding a grocery store become an adventure.
We’d just gotten adjusted to those quirks of the nomad life when the pandemic hit.
None of those are complaints. I enjoy the challenge of life on the road. The spontaneity. I’m an explorer at heart, so new territory is often where I’m at my best.
But, damn, it can really derail your plans.
I’d planned a six book urban fantasy series for 2020. I wrote three and shelved it. For Crimson Son, I’d never set a limit. It was just a write until I’m ready to move on situation. The Stormblade Saga was a quirky three book foray from the start. As the world threatened to come apart at the seams though, Ace Grant became my first abandoned project.
That led to much reflection about the industry, my process, my goals. In the meantime, I sold a few short stories, and one ended up catching the eye of a Hollywood studio (as you know). And while that may or may not develop into something bigger, I started, for the first time, to get a feel for what might be my “style.”
Science Fiction and Fantasy has always been my jam. It’s what nurtured my love of literature and inspired me to “boldly go” both in reality and imagination. Over time, my reading preferences have become pretty eclectic. Classics, non-fiction, and more realism-based genres have found their place beside my SF and F roots.
If you pressed me for all-time favorite authors right now, I’d have to say Cormac McCarthy and Lev Grossman.
Grossman’s work isn’t the typical escapist fantasy we’ve come to know. His bleak, gritty take on a school for wizards stumbling across what amounts to an alternate reality Narnia is nothing short of genius. I’ve been a fan since it released in 2014 and its one of the few series I’ve read and re-read in that time.
With McCarthy, aside from truly inspiring prose and a deep understanding of setting, he offers a relentless and gripping exploration of human psyche like Grossman. But the magic here is imbedded in the imagery and mythos he evokes.
My preference for stories like these has often led me to shy away from the escapism most SFF fans expect. My work contains the thrills and excitement but always questions the underlying reality. Critical, I guess you’d say.
I want to disorient the reader. I want to force them to ask questions. I want them to explore a story with me and not just sit back and be fed their comfort food.
This poses a lot of problems. Especially when it comes to selling those stories. What I view as leisure time, many people see as work. I climb mountains. Sleep by remote streams. Pack up my house and move it every couple of weeks.
The challenge then is to find the genre where I can take hard-scrabble, gritty moments and really revel in them. For that, I’ve decided my next series will be a thriller.
Ace Grant came close – a hard-boiled former cop trying to navigate a magical world full of hidden dangers. But even urban fantasy readers expect their stories to be peppered with lighter elements. Fairies who work for pizza. Guardian house cats. Sexy vampires. Ace’s world is too dark for those and too rooted in reality to completely avoid real-world problems.
With a true thriller, I get the license to be gritty but also to make the reader work. The heroes kick ass while often also trying to solve a mystery or takedown a shadowy cabal. It’s a format where a reader can choose to unravel the underlying mystery or simply buckle in for the twists and turns.
Plus, I’ve decided to base it loosely on my own travels. Bring a little more of myself into the mix.
I know, I know. Yes, I used to work for a three-letter agency. Yes, I held a security clearance and did…interesting things involving counterterrorism and national security. For most of you, the reaction might be “what the hell took you so long to come to this conclusion?”
Honestly, if you’ve ever done that kind of work, a certain distance is required. If you come right out of the gate ready to share, you probably didn’t do all that much. Then there’s the worry that you’ll accidentally let some detail slip. Provide some clue to the bad guys about how efforts to stop their operations can be thwarted.
That and I came to this career wanting to write about the magic that inspired me in my youth.
With a thriller, I can maybe dabble on the edges of mysticism, but there’ll be no spells cast, no outlandish creatures to battle. Then there’s that old Arthur C. Clarke quote about magic being indistinguishable from technology. From experience, I can tell you genre fiction in thrillers and mysteries often straddles the realm of science fiction more than most people realize.
So there’s the news – I’ve got a thriller series currently in the works. I’ll start with three books hopefully ready for release by 2023 and see where it goes. There might be a penname involved. I’ll keep you posted here at my website. Of course, further global catastrophe or interesting offers could very well send me off on a new trail. For now though, that’s the plan.
Categories: Author News