David B. Coe: My New Old Book


200CoeJacksonHello again, Magical Words! Great to be back here as I begin the publicity ramp-up to another book release.

The new book is called Spell Blind, and it’s the first book in a new contemporary urban fantasy series, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, that I’m writing for Baen Books. The hardcover of Spell Blind drops on January 6, 2015. The second book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, will be out this summer.

This is actually a series that I’ve discussed here on MW in the past. The first book, in a substantially different form, sold initially to Meisha Merlin back in 2005. Not long after, Meisha Merlin went out of business, and I was fortunate enough to get back the rights to the books before they became entangled in the company’s Chapter Eleven negotiations. But when Lucienne and I put the books back on the market we couldn’t find a buyer for them.

Eventually, I realized that the books weren’t selling again because, quite frankly, they weren’t good enough. They really shouldn’t have sold in the first place, and perhaps it’s indicative of the problems Meisha Merlin was having that they offered me a contract on the series in its initial form.

In 2007, I had Lucienne (my wonderful agent, Lucienne Diver) pull the books back and I began the process of not just rewriting the first book, but of re-imagining the entire project. I tore that first book apart and rebuilt it, and when that didn’t yield the results I wanted, I tore it apart a second time, and then a third. In time, over the course of about six years, I changed just about everything except the core cast of characters. It was kind of like tearing down a car, rebuilding the engine, and then replacing everything else: the tires and wheels, the transmission and brakes, the exhaust system and electronics, the interior and exterior. It’s a brand new project — new plot, new magic system, new structure, several new characters, new dynamics among the old characters — but at its core it retains the elements that drove the original idea.

SpellBlind250Was it worth all the work? Absolutely, because I love the characters, and have since they first presented themselves to me all those years ago. I have believed in them all along, and that belief sustained me through a lot of rejections and months upon months of rewrites. More than that, the process of creating and recreating the book, it seems to me, has been the embodiment of what it means to be a writer. Many of you have heard my rant on writer’s block: (Summarizing) The very notion of writer’s block assumes that writing is supposed to be easy, that the words are always supposed to flow in an uninterrupted stream of inspiration. We all know that’s bunk. Writing is hard. It’s filled with starts and stops, with dead ends and backtracking, and with times when we just have to stare at an empty screen and think our way past a narrative issue or three. What some people call writer’s block, I call writing.

Spell Blind was a struggle. It didn’t come out right the first time (when it even had a different title) or the second or third. But I kept at it. I trusted in the creative vision that first brought the characters to me, and I worked and worked until my skill as a storyteller finally caught up with my ambitions for the story and its narrative elements.

And in many ways, that might be the most rewarding aspect of finally seeing the book in print. I understand now that I have grown into this book. I couldn’t have written this incarnation of the book in 2005. I didn’t have the chops. I had the vision. I had the wherewithal to create the characters and to write a few passages that have survived all the revisions to appear in the book much as I wrote them nine years ago. But I was incapable of creating this finished product back then. More, part of what contributed to my growth as a writer, part of what made it possible for me to write now what I couldn’t then, was that process of tearing the book apart and putting it back together, of blending new concepts with old elements.

All this by way of saying that as painful as it was to have my publisher go out of business, as bruised and battered as I was by all the rejections we received for older incarnations of the book, as much as I despaired at times thinking that I would never see the series published, the long saga of this series is one of the best things that has happened to me. I’m a better writer because of it.

Last week, the first review of Spell Blind was printed in Publisher’s Weekly. “Coe brings deep knowledge of both fantasy and mystery to his well-structured first urban fantasy novel . . . he tells an entertaining story with a good mystery at its core.” That’s a very nice review; perhaps not the best I’ve ever gotten, but really good. And I have to tell you that no review I’ve gotten has ever been more gratifying.

All of us have books or stories we’ve written that haven’t sold or have stalled before the end or that just didn’t come out the way we had hoped. Some of those stories might not be salvageable. But some of them are. Some of them are simply waiting for us to become the writers we have to be to write them successfully. For all of you who are working, as I still am, to match your writing skill to your creative ambitions, Spell Blind is for 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 the summer of 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 (also coming in the summer of 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.





17 comments to David B. Coe: My New Old Book

  • ajp88

    Your books have always been an inspiration for me but this time it’s the perseverance that’s truly admirable.

  • Thanks so much! I really appreciate that.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Yay! I’ve been curious about this project ever since you first started talking about it here, and soon I’ll actually get to read it! Also, you give me hope that this third re-write I’m doing on my own book is really not just insanity. I *know* it’s so much better than it was than when I first started out, but oh I am so slooowwww. Perseverance!

  • Hep, if you love the project — if some element of it speaks to you and captures your heart and your imagination — then it is NOT insanity. It’s worth doing, if for no other reason than because if you don’t try, you’ll always wonder. Perseverance, yes! Best of luck with it.

  • […] Still, it’s a fun post. Spell Blind has been through several iterations, it has been rewritten and torn down to its component parts and rewritten again. Its impending publication is a case study in perseverance and authorial stubbornness.  So if that sort of thing interests you, you should check it out.  Here’s the link: http://www.magicalwords.net/david-b-coe/david-b-coe-my-new-old-book/ […]

  • Ken

    Congrats on the upcoming book-birthday! I’m looking forward to snatching up a copy. It’s interesting to consider that we might stumble on a story that’s (currently) beyond our skill to write. I find it comforting to be reminded that I’m not done (nor will I ever be done) growing as a writer. And that’s a pretty exciting thought as well… 🙂

  • Thanks very much, Ken. I have found that every novel I’ve written has been a stretch in some way. I’ve had to grow in order to write that next book. And yes, there are times when I’ll come up with an idea and realize that I’m not ready, either emotionally or technically, to write it yet. The difference with Spell Blind was that I did write it, and only later figured out that I hadn’t been ready. It was odd, and yet ultimately a good experience.

  • David, what an incredible story of courage and pursuit of your goal. Congratulations. It’s amazing that while you were rebuilding the engine and tranny on Spell Blind, you were also building all those other stories. Fantastic.

  • David: That’s a very inspiring story for any writer to hear. I love the part about the dreaded writer’s block and letting people know that writing is hard work. I look forward to picking up the new books and enjoying them as I have your past stories. Congrats and continued success.

  • quillet

    Congrats on the new book. I’m so excited! Not even kidding. I wish you could’ve seen my face when I read those first two paragraphs.

    I performed a little search and found the hard- and softcover versions available for pre-order (the latter not available till May). Is there any word on an e-book version? …By the way, “Watch this space” is an acceptable answer. 🙂 No pressure.

    And I agree that this is an incredible and inspiring story. You give us all hope.

  • Razziecat

    ohmygod…I never thought of writer’s block that way! No, really, I just thought of it as “damn this is hard why can’t I move past this point arggh” and never really looked at it as a normal part of the process. You may not know how very reassuring it is for me to know that someone who has real writer’s chops (oh yes you do) went through this. Sometimes I think it’s just me, everybody else seems to be polishing up a finished MS or has a dozen things out to agents and publishers, and I’m still working on the first draft of something. And to know that maybe a story that I thought was hopelessly stalled can be revived; maybe I can rework it, maybe I SHOULD rework it. I actually had the thought that maybe I don’t have the skill yet to write that particular story, and knowing that you had that same experience gives me hope–because, just like you, I really love my characters and I think the story is kind of cool. I won’t give up on it yet, but I’ll keep working on other things, keep writing, keep learning.

    And, I WILL be checking out Spell Blind 🙂 !

  • inkfire

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted because my life has gotten crazy busy but I’ve still been reading. This post made me stay up a little later to comment because my WIP is actually the 3rd draft and the story has changed immensely since the first draft completed in September 2012. The plot has complexified (I know, not a word, but I like how it sounds and I’ve just turned in a major paper and I’m practically brain dead), characters have fleshed out and become more than cardboard, and, I’ll be honest, I’m almost ashamed to look at the first draft. It encourages me that I’m actually growing in the elusive craft of writing but to think I actually wrote THAT….oh dear…
    I’m also super excited to read your next book, I have loved everything I’ve read of yours so far and have learned a lot about writing from you. Thanks for not giving up. Ever.

  • Thank you all so much for these amazing comments. I’m humbled by your kind reactions to the post and by your enthusiasm for the new book.

    Vyton, thanks. I think that if I hadn’t been working on other stuff along the way, I never could have figures out what was wrong with the original version of this book. Writing the Blood of the Southlands and Thieftaker stories helped me a great deal.

    Xman, thanks very much for the kind words. Really.

    Quillet, thank you. Yes the e-pub version should be out and available from the Baen site in January, when the hardcover comes out. I hope you enjoy it.

    Razz, I think you might well be the only person left on the planet who hadn’t yet heard my Writer’s Block Rant. Yes, we all — ALL — go through this. Professionals, bestsellers, Nobel Prize winners, and aspiring writers. ALL of us. It is a hard process, and the struggles are the same for so many of us. Do not give up on that story. Believe in your ability to become the writer you need to be to finish it and make it right. That’s what happened to me eventually. Thanks for the kind comments.

    Inkfire, I’m so glad you posted again. Good for you for working through this manuscript of yours and not giving up on it. That’s tremendous. And doing it while also balancing your life with school work? Incredible. I admire your work ethic, and of course, I wish you every success with your work on both fronts. And thank you so much for the kind words about my books.

  • Things have been crazy for me, too, so I also haven’t posted in awhile. Thank you for this, David. The concept of becoming the writer I need to be to tell the story right is something I’m really starting to understand. But I’m glad it’s taken this long, because I feel like I’ve grown so much as a writer in the process. Congratulations on Spell Blind!

  • Thanks for the comment, Laura. I hope the craziness has been good-crazy. For me, that artistic growth is the most gratifying aspect of a very gratifying line of work. I love seeing the improvement in my abilities, and I enjoy matching my ambitions to my growing skill. It keeps the challenges fresh. Thanks as well for the kind wishes.

  • Thank you, David. I often get frustrated with myself for not progressing faster as a writer – both in the sense of developing skill and the sense of getting more published. It’s a great encouragement and kick in the butt to be reminded that the cure for both is to keep writing and to keep thinking critically about the writing. A couple weeks ago one of my students (a senior!) told me that she went into creative writing because she didn’t like to think analytically. My jaw clicked open. One of the things I’ve always loved about Magical Words in general, and your posts in particular is that you help us learn how to do that critical thinking about the craft of writing.

  • Thank you so much, Sarah, that’s one of the nicest comments I’ve ever gotten. I recently did one of those skill-sets analyses that’s supposed to tell you what you should be doing for a living (fantasy writer rarely comes up as an option). And it turns out that critical thinking and creativity go hand-in-hand very nicely, thank you very much. Looking critically at our own work seems to me to be a key to success no matter the field we’re in. And you can tell your student that I said so!