Faith here, with a wonderful guest. I met James—and his first book—last year, and fell in love with his character and his story concept, so much so, that I agreed to give him a blurb. Check out BLOOD AND BULLETS (Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter book one) Kicking monster ass EVERYWHERE by Kensington. Chatting with James online, I heard his story, and it was so different from what we tell our wannabee-published writers here, that I started planning when we could do a MagicalWords post together. Do NOT stop reading before you get to Q and A number 3. Just sayin’.
Since then, we tried to find time to get together at Cons, but our schedules kept getting in the way. This year will be different, and we have definite diner plans (yes, the hubby knows I go on *dates* with fascinating and gorgeous men) so I can hear the full story of his road to publication (and fame and fortune, natch).
Blood and Bullets hit the shelves yesterday, BTW.
Q1. Our readers always want to know, why did you decide to write?
The writing bug bit me a bit later than most. I wrote BLOOD AND BULLETS in 2009. I had created the character of Deacon Chalk many years prior in a flash of inspiration. He just walked into my head, full blown and ready to go. I had him, his backstory, and the first scene to what became BLOOD AND BULLETS. (Which I left on the cutting room floor.) I wrote it all down in a flurry of inspiration. My muse had struck! It was lightning! It was magic! It was magic lightning! Shazam!
Then I put it away. I didn’t know what came next, and I damn sure didn’t know how to write a book. LOL.
Fast forward a few years, okay more than a few years. I just finished the most disappointing book in a string of disappointing books. This one was supposed to be dark. It was supposed to be gritty. It was supposed to be almost shockingly violent.
I set the book down and said out loud to myself: “I can write better crap than that.” (of course my language was a bit more colorful.)
I began looking into how to write a book, found Lilith Saintcrow’s blog where she gives some great advice on the fundamentals of writing, and then put my head down, my butt in the chair, and wrote what became BLOOD AND BULLETS from that scrap of inspiration I had years earlier.
Q2. How much of yourself did you put into your character?
Like I said, he just showed up. Deacon Chalk walked into my head, looked around, and said: “Point me to the monsters, I’m here to kick ass.”
Now, I’m not the writer who spins a tale by letting my characters do whatever they want. I’m not knocking it, it just isn’t how things work for me. I craft my characters and their stories. I am the merciless god of the Deaconverse. I put Deacon and his colleagues through hell as they fight evil.
I did put a lot of myself into Deacon. We share a lot of the same tastes and outlooks on life. But Deacon is a very damaged character. He is pretty flawed because of what he has gone through. His whole world was torn away in one violent, brutal event where he lost every reason he had to live. Deacon loved his wife and children. When they were killed he went a bit crazy.
I have never gone through that, but I pushed myself into thinking about it, to really contemplate what that would do to a man like Deacon in a world where monsters were real. The result is a dark book that treats an urban fantasy world as if it were real. No punches pulled, nothing held back, everything as dark and dangerous as it really would be. It is exactly the book I wanted to read when I started writing.
And now you can read it too. BLOOD AND BULLETS from Kensington on February 7th. Plus there is a prequel e-novella called THAT THING AT THE ZOO that can be had for less than a dollar everywhere ebooks are sold!
Q3. Blatant self-PR is fabulous! 🙂 Okay. This is the most important question I will ask. I know you took different route through the publication process and *that* is what our writer-readers will want to learn most. How did you get your publisher?
My path to publication is a bit different than most. I am an unagented author. Most of the time you write a book, get an agent, then they sell you to a publisher.
I couldn’t find an agent interested. I tried. I truly did. I polished that query letter until it shone like diamond crusted diamonds and I trotted it out. A lot. Everyone took a pass. I would love an agent, but do not have one as we speak.
After months of rejection I actually put BLOOD AND BULLETS away. I started writing a new book called THE EXCALIBUR KEY. It was going well. I liked it a lot. My critique group liked it. (You will see it one day)
But my heart still belonged to Deacon and his story. So one day I was puttering about the World Wide Waste Of Time and I landed on a blog that listed romance publishers who take direct queries. On that list was Kensington. I zipped over, looked at the requirements, and on a whim popped my query off to the editor that was looking for urban fantasy.
Then I forgot about it. I didn’t have any high hopes. They had been pushed aside by months of rejections. I continued writing THE EXCALIBUR KEY. A few weeks went by.
In my inbox was an email from John (my editor). Could I please send over the whole manuscript? I felt a tingle, but didn’t get my hopes up. Others had requested the manuscript before him. They had all passed.
One month later I got a call from New York. My editor, John, loved the manuscript. Then he said the magic words. “I want to buy it in a three book deal.”
I made poo.
Not really. It was metaphoric poo. LOL.
Then the whirlwind began. I looked for an agent, still got rejected, even contract in hand, so I moved on without one. (I still want on though, a really good one!)
After the contract came the work. John only had one request editorially and it was a 2 sentence fix. So rewrites weren’t bad. I began cranking on book two BLOOD AND SILVER (out August 2012). During this I mentioned to my editor that if they had any anthologies coming up I could whip out a short Deacon Chalk story and it could be a great promotional tool. He suggested that maybe, if I wanted and had time, they could do a free piece on line as an ebook.
I sat down and wrote THAT THING AT THE ZOO in a two week flurry of writing. Wrote and revised 15,000. I sent it off to him. And waited. Things move slowly in the publishing world kids. Everything but copyedits takes weeks if not months. Be prepared. While I waited I worked on book two and I thought.
When John came back and said that he really liked THAT THING AT THE ZOO but didn’t quite know what to do with it I was ready with a suggestion.
At the end of the conversation I had a second contract for 3 e-novellas set in the Deaconverse.
So two contracts without one sale to my name. Also, this is a first for Kensington. They have never done e-book only releases and they have never contracted 3 e-novellas before, but they did it for me. I am pretty proud of that.
And since then, everything has been smooth sailing. I had input on my cover and it was done by Gene Mollica. I love it. I got to do Dragon*Con last year and be on not one but five panels. I have made some wonderful friends in the business, people who I have read and loved their books I am now friends with.
Faith Hunter blurbed my book!
Book 2 and e-novella 2 were both loved by my editor. So it has been pretty magical. I still have book 3 to finish (BLOOD AND MAGICK) and e-novella 3 to write and I still want an agent, but overall I have been blessed.
Q4. That was the stuff I wanted everyone out there to hear. Totally cool! The best part is that you were ready to make offers and to negotiate all on your own. Amazing! You did, good! Okay — Question: What are your five year goals?
Five year goals? Once I am done with e-novella 3 in the Deaconverse, then next thing I am going to write is a crime novel. I love crime fiction and I have a huge list of ideas. Real gritty, hardboiled stuff. Like the Deacon Chalk books, but without the supernatural.
After that it’s either another Deacon book or another Urban Fantasy title (possibly THE EXCALIBUR KEY) and then the next Deacon book.
What I want is to make my writing schedule one Deacon book a year and one book of whatever I want to write a year. The rest of my time would be spent writing short fiction and comic books. (You hear that DC Comics? Give me a call, I have stories for days for you.)
I won’t stop going to conventions I love meeting fans too much. Because of this one of my other 5 year goals is to host a small genre convention here in Atlanta. A nice, laid back convention where authors can meet fans and fans can meet authors. I want it to be the most hospitable convention for guests and geared specifically to writing and reading. I love big conventions with all their stuff and their varied tracks, but sometimes in all that noise writing and reading can get lost. So I want a convention of my own that has nothing but that.Plus I make a great host!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. I had a blast!
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