I am pleased to announce that as of now there will be four print Dabir and Asim books and one e-book, all through the St. Martin’s Thomas Dunne Books imprint. I officially signed the paperwork last week.
The Desert of Souls will be re-released, this time in trade paperback, in January of 2012, and its sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, will be released in late spring of 2012. Two more standalone sequels will follow, each separated by its preceding volume by 9 to 12 months.
Before any of that, however, an e-book collection of most of the previously published Dabir and Asim stories will be released in the fall of 2011. I’m especially honored by this opportunity, because it is the first time Thomas Dunne Books has ventured into e-book territory. I believe that the e-book will be available through all normal e-book channels, but I’ll keep everyone posted as the release date nears.
The writing life might seem more exciting from the outside. Honestly, all I’ve been doing is revising the second Dabir and Asim book (The Bones of the Old Ones) and the upcoming short story collection, and researching for and outlining book 3.
But I’ve been having a great time, even if an outside observer would usually just see me typing, or, more often, staring at a computer screen, or book page, or, frequently, empty space.
Elsewhere, a new interview has gone live, as well as a new review.
The kind folks at Flames Rising gave me space to talk about Plague of Shadows, my Pathfinder novel. The essay can be found on their site.
A great new review of The Desert of Souls went live over at The Ranting Dragon this week, and it can be found here.
I hope to have some more official updates in the next week or so.
From the time I was in grade school all the way up until after I graduated from college I wrote in notebooks. It seemed such a natural process that I wonder now how I got away from it, and why it was such a revelation when I took up writing in notebooks again.
In my school days I used to carefully comb through available notebooks and select one with multiple subjects, college-ruled. Usually it would be a spiral-bound Mead, 8 1/2 by 11, but sometimes I’d experiment with slightly smaller sizes. When I was older and wandering through the Kansas City Renaissance Festival with my wife, I purchased a lovely Celtic leather notebook cover with an unlined sketchbook, and I filled a succession of replacement sketchbooks between those covers with my scribbles for years after.
As striking as that notebook was, though, I eventually fell out of using the thing. It became impractical to drag it wherever I went: my student days were over so I no longer had a backpack over one shoulder, and I didn’t have the kind of job where I always toted a briefcase. In those rare instances where I DID have a briefcase, it was already so loaded down that something weighing as much as a hardback book was a nuisance. I never used a notebook for writing unless I was at home, at which point I might as well have been writing on the computer. I thought that I had “outgrown” the use of a notebook.
I’d gotten away from the purpose of notebooks. In the last two years I’ve rediscovered just how useful they are to me as a writer, and I’ve been trying to evangelize my writer friends ever since. Waiting on a really slow train to get by on the tracks? Waiting in a plane? Waiting for your kid to get out of a music lesson, or stuck in traffic? Maybe, like me, you’re waiting for your friends to get out of a panel at Dragon*Con you weren’t interested in attending, or you’re out back fixing the horse fence. Writers write; they don’t just compose when it’s convenient for them, when the stars are in alignment, or when they happen to be sitting in front of their computers. Snatches of dialogue, scenes, entire outlines can be lost because the muses don’t wait to inspire you until you’re in just the right place with just the right tools.
I don’t mean to suggest that we are powerless before the goddesses of inspiration, nor do I mean to belittle the ability to simply sit down and focus and make writing happen even when you’re having a slow day. Writers have to be able to make writing happen, not to wait for it to happen. What I’m advocating is having a small notebook (and a mini-pen — those things don’t break when you sit on them, and can fit in a front jeans pocket) ready with you so you can be ready to write rather than NOT write, which is infinitely easier. Whipping out your pen and notebook is much faster than rifling through your laptop or mini-laptop case and waiting for the computer to cycle on. In many of the instances I described above, firing up a computer would be impractical enough that you’d probably leave the writing for later.
I rediscovered notebooks while my family and I were wandering around the art museum bookstore in Cincinnati and I saw a display selling 3.75 by 5.5 notebooks. They were lined, the pages were sewn into place so they’d be less likely to fall out, and the covers were slim but durable. They were small enough to slide into my back pocket, where us American men-folk often keep our wallet. It was a spur-of-the-moment purchase of something I didn’t think I needed, and I actually felt a little guilty spending the money. I haven’t felt guilty about the purchase since. I swiftly learned that I had found an ideal writing tool. I get all kinds of good work accomplished because of the thing, most especially outlining. I’ve found the notebooks especially useful for “thinking aloud” to solve problems I wouldn’t usually solve while in front of the computer screen. For instance, I often write in outline form what would happen if I followed this plot thread this way, and then this other way, and then that way, which has saved me from going down even more dead ends with my writing than I would normally.
I’ve found these little notebooks so handy that I filled one notebook last year and have only a few pages left in my current model. I’ve already picked out a replacement. I’ve looked at other brands, and seen that Moleskine, amongst others, has an equivalent size that might suit you. I’ve been very happy with my first choice, Paperblanks, though. They’re durable enough to last me a year, come with a built-in bookmark , lay flat pretty easily, and even have a sturdy pocket on the inside back cover where you can drop index cards or important scraps of paper (in fairness, it should be pointed out that Moleskines seem to have all these features as well). Paperblanks come in an array of styles sure to suit a variety of customers, and are available in larger (and even one smaller!) sizes. I’ve found Paperblanks, Moleskines, and other brands at major bookstore chains, although they also can be ordered at online venues. I’ve paid between 9-12 dollars for one, which is why I first thought they were an extravagance. I’ve since realized that the right tool is worth the extra price.
That lack of recent updates has to do with me busily at work revising the second novel of Dabir and Asim. It is now with the publisher, and I’ve started work on the short story collection that will appear in e-form prior to the release of the second book, The Bones of the Old Ones.
I’ve been pretty busy talking to interesting people about both The Desert of Souls and Plague of Shadows. I’ll provide the links below.
Near the end of last week I joined Rone Barton and Ed Healy for some questions about Plague of Shadows, and discussed why Scott Oden and I have never yet been seen in the same place at the same time. The Pathfinder novel line gets discussed at length, and Dave Gross, Robin D. Laws, and James Sutter are all asked about their own work as well.
Two more reviews came in over the last few days, both glowing.
Bruce Durham of Rogue Blades Entertainment said that The Desert of Souls “ is many things: dark mystery, hard-hitting fantasy, edge-of-seat suspense and swashbuckling adventure. It is written in a fast-paced, page-turning style replete with exotic, historic locales, vivid descriptions and memorable characters.” He went on to write that “It is this love of fantasy and exotic history, along with his grand sense of storytelling that has made Howard Andrew Jones a writer to be reckoned with for many years to come.”
Katherine Peterson over at Fresh Fiction said “Jones’s writing style makes one feel as if they’re listening to someone with incredible narrative talent telling a story as Asim and Dabir go from hurdle to hurdle, barely making it out alive from some. In Jones’s hands, the characters come to vivid life, including the evil wizard, and it’s easy to feel as if you’ve been transported back to early Baghdad as well. The dialogue, and especially the interplay between Asim & Dabir, rings true and speaks to a closeness only seen in strong teams like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Jones incorporates forbidden romance and other intrigues in this tale and as with all good storytellers, slowly builds up the suspense. Once you get to a certain point, you’ll just have to finish this one as there’s no setting it down. I’ve heard rumors that there is a sequel to come, and I hope they’re true. For fans of sword and sorcery adventure, this is a don’t miss.”
And in completely unrelated news, my wife made some amazing carrot cake, which also pleased me.
With two books coming out in the space of about 30 days and the first draft of the sequel to The Desert of Souls due into editorial in mid March, I have been running about like a madman. A happy madman, because I’m writing, but I have been a little crazed. Life is finally starting to settle down, and I hope soon to make time to convert this little corner of the internet into inhabited space. First up will be some actual links, and a review page — because I’ve received some glowing reviews — and then some news about Plague of Shadows… but for tonight I’m just going to post a link to an interview I did with Shaun Farrell at Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing. It’s all about The Desert of Souls and Black Gate editing, though Plague of Shadows and Harold Lamb naturally got mentioned as well. I hope that you’ll click on the icon to the left and stop by for a listen.
My first book is now on its way to bookstores, and I recently got to hold the finished product in my hands for the first time. It will be available for purchase in just a few short days, and I’ve decided to provide a sneak peek of it for the curious just below.
I’ve been especially pleased with the reviews, and in the next few days I will set up a page that collects them. Here’s one, from Publisher’s Weekly:
“As richly textured as an antique rug, this fantasy-mystery sweeps readers into ancient Baghdad. Asim, captain of Master Jaffar’s guard, and the wily scholar Dabir, who is hopelessly in love with Jaffar’s niece Sabirah, track stolen golden artifacts into the shifting sands that hide the ruins of legendary Ubar, entry to the land of the djinn. Asim’s dazzling swordplay, his Muslim piety, and his unwavering loyalty to his friend balance Dabir’s bittersweet devotion to Sabirah as the pair battle forbidden magic that forces them to slice away layers of their own spirits. Their antagonist, evil Zarathustrian sorcerer Firouz, poses moral questions that deepen this multicolored Arabian-nights tale, as does the plight of pretty, quick-witted Sabirah, who prizes scholarship and lives for the moment while facing the fate of a political marriage. A captivating setting and well-realized characters make this a splendid flying-carpet ride.”
The official description and many blurbs can be found on another page of my site, but it may be that you’ve followed an outside link to read an excerpt, so I’ll cut to the chase. Here’s the first chapter from the novel.
The parrot lay on the floor of his cage, one claw thrust stiffly toward the tiny wooden swing suspended above him. The black olive clenched in his beak was the definitive sign that Pago was a corpse, for while he had fooled us all by playing dead in the past, he had never failed to consume an olive. To be sure, I nudged the cage. It shook, the swing wobbled, and the bird slid minutely but did not move a single feather of his own accord.
“He is dead,” Jaffar said simply behind me; simply, but with the weight of the universe hung upon the final word.
I turned to my master, who sat with his back to me upon the stone bench of his courtyard. The second-story balcony, from which the cage hung, draped Jaffar in shadow. Beyond him, sunlight played in the rippling water that danced from a fountain. Flowers blossomed upon the courtyard plants and wild birds warbled gaily. Another parrot, in a cage upon the far wall, even called out that it was time for a treat, as he was wont to do. But my master paid no heed to any of this.
I stepped into the sunlight so that I might face him. Upon another bench, nearby, the poet Hamil sat with stylus and paper. There was no love in the look he bestowed me, and he returned to his scribblings with the air of a showman.
“Master,” I said, “I am sorry. I, too, was fond of Pago.”
“Who could not be?” Jaffar asked wearily. He was but a few years younger than my twenty-five, but due to time indoors looked younger still, no matter his full beard. His face was wan, from a winter illness that had also shed some of his plumpness.
“He was the brightest bird here,” Jaffar continued in that same miserable tone.
“Brighter than many in your employ,” Hamil said without looking up.
“Too true,” Jaffar agreed.
“Is there some way that I can help, Master?” I was the captain of Jaffar’s guard and sometimes his confidant; the matter of bird death, however, was outside the field of my knowledge, and I did not understand why he had summoned me. It is true that I had found Pago entertaining, for in addition to playing dead, he could mimic the master and his chief eunuch, and even sometimes answered the call to prayer by bowing thrice. He did this only when it pleased him to do so, which, as my nephew Mahmoud once noted, was far too much like many men he knew. Also Pago had once perched upon the poet’s chest when Hamil had passed out from consuming the fruit of the grape, and pinched his long thin nose heartily. That had pleased me so that I brought Pago the choicest of olives whenever I knew I would pass by his cage.
“Do you suspect he has been killed?” Jaffar asked.
In May of 2010 I posted two short essays on the Black Gate web site about something that had been a kind of holy grail for me: obtaining a book deal with a major publisher. That first essay is about the power of making connections; the second concerns itself more with the specifics of my own novel contract. In this third essay I thought I’d talk a little about what happened once the book contract was signed.
The advice you usually hear is to not quit your day job, so you may be wondering why I did so, since, as I previously mentioned, I was not awarded a gold-plated limousine with my new book deal. I have a spouse with a good income, and my advance was more than I would make in a year teaching as an adjunct professor at the local university, so my wife and I decided to have me try writing full time to see how it would all pan out. It is not as great a gamble as it might be for someone with a more permanent position, as I can always return to teach more adjunct classes.
In January I began to draft the promised second book. I continued to work away at it until I got the chance to submit a book proposal to a brand new novel line at Paizo. I had enjoyed my communications with Paizo’s Erik Mona and James Sutter during my years at Black Gate, and I’d thought highly of their game products, so I tossed my hat in the ring. The result was another book offer, which has kept me so busy for the summer that I pretty much disappeared from the Black Gate board. I have enjoyed working with the Paizo folks, but I thought I’d stay focused today about the steps of novel deal one.
As the point of my first essay was mostly about the importance of contacts (and in working steadily and not giving up), I mentioned some things in passing that I thought I’d cover in more detail. For instance, how did I get the offer? By air mail? Phone call? Candygram?
My friend Scott Oden had submitted my manuscript to his editor at Thomas Dunne Books, Pete Wolverton. A little over three weeks later, I received an e-mail from Pete asking me to give him a call at my convenience.
When I’d sent previous novels to other publishers, at best I had only ever received pleasant e-mail rejections, or, in olden times, a letter. Sometimes my novels had just disappeared, with nary a response at all. I had never received a request to call, and with Sherlockian-like deductive reasoning figured that was a promising sign.
I deliberately slowed down, made myself a cup of tea, and took my time drinking it. About twenty minutes later I dialed the number Pete had provided.