David B. Coe: The Ups and Downs of the Writing Life


David B. Coe/D.B. JacksonIt has already been a busy summer, and I have a long way to go before I rest. Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth Thieftaker novel, came out a little over a week ago, and five days from today, His Father’s Eyes, the second volume in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, will be released by Baen Books. Since June first, I have also had (or will have) three short stories published: “Black and White,” my contribution to the Temporally Out of Order anthology, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, should be out by the end of next month; “New Moon Wolf,” a Fearsson short story, was published at the Baen website on July 15; and in June, Faith and I put out “Water Witch,” our Thieftaker-Jane Yellowrock crossover novelette.

Busy is good in the writing world, so I guess things are going well. I have a full travel schedule this summer as well, complete with conventions and writing workshops. I’m hoping to schedule a few signings for late in the summer or early in the fall. Again I say, busy is good. That’s going to be my mantra . . .

The time around releases is always fraught for writers. We worry about our numbers, we watch for reviews with a blend of excitement and dread, we struggle with all our insecurities and career-related fears, we bust our butts trying to do as much promotion as we can, knowing as we do that even our best efforts can reach only a small fraction of our potential readership. Yes, it’s great seeing our books in print; having a new release is incredibly exciting. But in certain ways this is my least favorite part of the job.

Dead Man's Reach, by D.B. Jackson (Jacket art by Chris McGrath)Usually we cope with the jangling nerves by working on the next project. By the time a book appears in print we’re almost always at least a book or two ahead of the publication schedule. I already have the third Fearsson book finished. But I still don’t really know what I’ll be writing next, and that has made this summer of releases that much harder. I’m feeling a little lost in a creative sense.

And yet . . . In this business, there’s always an “And yet . . .” Some good, some bad. This one’s good. Because while I’m still casting about for the spark that will bring together all my scattered ideas for the next project, I know — I mean I KNOW — that it will come. It always has. More, I am standing in a spot (figuratively speaking — actually, I’m sitting at my desk . . . Moving on . . .) from which I might take any one of a thousand paths. I am, I believe, on the verge of making that magical leap from having a clump of related ideas, to having a coherent story, peopled by interesting characters, set in a cool world. I don’t know yet where that leap will take me, but I’m eager to find out. I’m excited about the next project, whatever form it takes. And that’s a significant improvement over where I was about half a year ago, when I despaired of ever again writing anything worthwhile.

His Father's Eyes, by David B. Coe (Jacket art by Alan Pollock)As implied by that last paragraph, this profession can be an emotional roller coaster. I know lots of writers, myself included, whose moods swing wildly from, “Man, I am good at this!” to “My God, I suck — everything I write sucks!” and back again. One moment we’re clearing space on the mantel for that inevitable award, and the next we’re wondering why the hell we ever bought word processing software. It would be funny if it weren’t . . . Well, no, it is funny. We are, in many respects, the most egotistical people in the world. I mean it; it takes some serious sense of self to be able to say, “I just made up a story, and it’s so fucking good that you should pony up some money to read it. Not only that, but it’s around 500 pages long, but that’s okay, because reading it is the best use of your time I can think of.” Wow. That takes serious nerve. And I should know, because I’ve done it, like, eighteen times.

And yet for all that ego demanded by our profession, we writers are remarkably fragile creatures, subject to the dreaded “impostor syndrome,” and other maladies of mind and spirit. A single bad review on Amazon can sometimes be enough to send me into a tailspin that lasts hours or even days. The good reviews on Amazon may outnumber the bad by a factor of ten. Doesn’t matter; the bad ones stick.

In the end though, and at times much to my chagrin, I still love what I do. Because it comes back, as it always does, to the work. Every day, I am privileged to delve into the wonderland that is the human imagination, to meet fascinating people, to explore exotic worlds, to face terrors and uncover treasures, and, ultimately to find new stories. What could be better?

No really, I’m asking. What could be better? Because if you have any good ideas, I’d be more than happy to give them a try. Until then, though, I’ll be at my desk, writing.

See you next week.


David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. 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, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, which was released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4. 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.



8 comments to David B. Coe: The Ups and Downs of the Writing Life

  • […] Eyes. But also looking beyond these releases to the next project, whatever that may be.  Check out the post here. And […]

  • […] Eyes. But also looking beyond these releases to the next project, whatever that may be.  Check out the post here. And […]

  • David Coe fans. Please don’t offer him any suggestions for other things to do. We want him to keep writing those great stories, right!

  • Thanks, Xman! You’re kind. I mean, you clearly don’t care about my sanity, but you’re kind . . . 😉

  • Razziecat

    So, I finished Dead Man’s Reach the other day…

    Bravo!! Well done!! 😀

    I don’t want to get spoilery, so I’ll just say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and you managed to scare me again 😉 I’m going to miss these folks, especially Janna, so if you find yourself wanting to write a short story featuring her, I’d be sure to buy it. 🙂 Meanwhile, I’ll be looking forward to the upcoming Jay Fearsson book. It’s a great year for good books!

  • Thanks so much, Razz. I’m not done with Ethan and the gang. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be doing more novels or more shorts, but if I go to short fiction, I woiuld certainly love to write a Janna story. I hope you enjoy the new Fearsson, and again, thank you for the kind words.

  • Hmm, I’m no longer participating in NaNoWriMo, but I still like to encourage young and new writers, and help out with events in our community. As I tell new NaNoWriMo folks, “Prepare to embrace the crazy.” So I guess that’s like riding the coaster with your arms in the air the whole time and just trying to have fun. 😉 So, wishing you all the best this week, David. And may the ride treat you well. Congrats on managing two releases in two weeks!

  • Thanks so much, Laura!