There’s a new review for ‘Dreams of Dust’ at Dark Matter Fanzine. Check it out right here.
A few of you may have noticed that I’ve removed all the links to my novel Into the Sundered Country. You won’t find any samples here on the site, nor can you buy it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble anymore. The reason is pretty simple: the damn thing was a mess. It was my very first book, a sprawling fantasy epic that took me more years to write than I’d like to admit, but which taught me a huge amount about craft and discipline. Even after editing it four or five times, it weighed in at nearly 200,000 words and proved impossible for me to sell to an agent or publishing house. So at the end of last year I made the decision to put it out on my own, figuring I could pimp it on Twitter and Facebook and maybe get some word of mouth going. That proved to be a whole other challenge (see ‘The Burden of the Perfect Tweet‘) and for the past year the book has languished in cyberspace, gaining little attention and selling almost nothing. No big deal; I’d made my peace with it. More importantly, I’d vowed never to edit that big bastard again, figuring I’d done all I could do and wanting to take what I’d learned and apply it to new projects. I said farewell to the Sundered Country for good.
Then a friend of mine sent me a link to a certain big name publisher who’d decided to open their doors to unsolicited manuscripts for the first time ever. For two weeks at the beginning of October they would accept novels from writers without agents. I was certainly interested, but I’d been writing mostly short stories lately and none of my longer pieces were close to being done yet. The only complete manuscript I had was Into the Sundered Country. Since even self-published works were eligible for submission, though, I figured it was an opportunity I shouldn’t let pass me by. So I decided to break my vow and do one more round of edits. I was apprehensive to say the least, mostly because I needed to cut out something like 60,000 words to fall within the preferred length, and I just didn’t know how I was gonna pull that off.
Turns out I needn’t have worried so much. As soon as I started reading I saw problems that I’d never noticed before. The book was flabby, bogged down with details and characters and encounters that ultimately added nothing to the story. I discovered continuity issues and outright contradictions. I was appalled at some of the sloppy dialogue. Had I really written this shit? In the first ten pages alone I chucked nearly a thousand words. I knew that no matter what happened with the big name publisher, I couldn’t keep promoting this novel in its present form. I’ve learned too much since I first wrote it to just sit by and ignore such shoddy workmanship.
At its core, I still think it’s a pretty great book. If it were a house I’d say that it has “good bones”. It just needs some serious maintenance. When it reappears—either picked up by an outside publisher or put out again by yours truly—it will be as a leaner, meaner version of its former bloated self. With any luck this will really, truly be my last trip to the Sundered Country, though I’m not making any vows this time around.
And to those eight or so people who bought the original version: sorry, no refunds.
I’m very pleased to announce the official release today of ‘Dreams of Dust’ through Clarion Publishing. It contains three very different stories, each painstakingly crafted for your maximum reading pleasure. A bank robbery goes demonically wrong in ‘Devil Come A-Calling’; a space crusader faces the ultimate test of faith in ‘In His Image’; and an extraterrestrial arthropod suffers some unsettling nightmares in ‘The Overlord’s Dream’. I’m really proud of this collection, and I want to give a shout-out to Colin Tate, the head honcho at Clarion, who helped make it happen. Now go get your weird on!
There’s a new interview with yours truly up at Lotus Magma magazine. Check it out right here.
I’m starting to think I’m not cut out for Twitter and Facebook. Most everybody else appears to be able to toss off tweets and FB postings with conversational nonchalance, while I edit mine with the same intensity that I devote to my legitimate writing. I just can’t bring myself to use numbers in place of words, or sacrifice style in the name of economy. Social media is a maelstrom of misspellings, mangled grammar, and randomly scattered punctuation, and like a weather-beaten old sea captain I refuse to let that motherfucker drown me. When I sit down to write a tweet, those hundred and forty characters have to be just right. I write ‘em, I rewrite ‘em, I rearrange ‘em, delete ‘em, and write ‘em again. I want those little bastards to sparkle like diamonds.
Look, I line-edited my first novel something like four or five times after I wrote it, and that beast was over six hundred pages long. I kept whittling away at it, sharpening it up, never quite satisfied. At a certain point, of course, all artists have to say “Fuck it. I’m done.” but it takes me a long time to get there. Writing is the one thing that I’m super-serious about, and I can’t help but agonize over every word I decide to broadcast into the world. I’ll admit to regularly deleting my tweets in order to rework the slightest perceived imperfection, and I’ve had to make a conscious effort to refrain from futzing with my blog posts too much. To my mind all those tweets and posts and shares and shout-outs now represent a portion of my literary legacy, preserved for future generations deep inside the NSA’s data bunker in the Utah desert.
I read once that Louis Lamour claimed to have never reworked any of his books, saying that he’d rather just take whatever he’d learned and move right on to the next one. The notion boggles me. To be able to blast right through a novel and then keep on going, never looking back, suggests some sort of skill or confidence that I don’t seem to have. I’ve got to fiddle and fret for a while, sweating over details that no one but me would probably ever notice, as I abuse my beta readers with umpteen different iterations of the same manuscript. Peter Piper was never so picky as me.
The point being that all those tweets and posts and shares and shout-outs take me an inordinate amount of time to compose. Time that I’d frankly rather spend writing about a post-apocalyptic world full of cannibal-mutant-beastmen or somesuch. The fact is that I never really wanted to participate in any of this social media stuff in the first place. Back before I decided to give the self-publishing thing a go, Facebook and Twitter and their ilk just seemed like so much self-indulgent wanking. And while there has turned out to be plenty of virtual onanism to go around, these days I have a newfound respect for the power of the internet to connect artists with their potential audiences, to provide opportunities for creative people of all stripes to transmit their beautiful/horrible/incomprehensible oeuvres to the world. None of which changes the fact that crafting the perfect tweet has become a daily ass-chafing burden for me.
I knew getting on teh interwebs was gonna be trouble.
Now that I’ve got my virtual soapbox all set up, I guess it’s my opportunity–nay, responsibility–to start spouting off. I began a couple of blog posts on my current literary project, on my upcoming ebook release, and even on the magnificence of the original Talistlanta roleplaying game. Then I decided that I should tackle the really important shit first, like offering unsolicited advice on achieving happiness, harmony, and success in life. That other stuff can wait.
So here they are:
1) Be Cool! As in, don’t be a dick, love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, etc. Many variations exist, all stressing the notion of living in peace with the other inhabitants of the planet. Eschew violence, try to minimize the suffering and inconvenience you cause–just generally strive to keep your own shit straight and not fuck up somebody else’s. Be calm, be polite. You don’t have to give a hug or even a handshake to everybody you meet, but you ought to at least treat them with the same level of respect that you think you deserve. The single most important rule of all, for which there are no exceptions, not even for differences of religion, political ideology, or sports team.
2) Self-Analyze, Motherfucker! We all grow up as products of the people who raised us, absorbing their ideologies and idiosyncrasies and making them our own. Some of these lessons are good and some of them are bad, just as some parents are good and some are sociopathic assholes. Unfortunately, most people don’t give much thought to their beliefs or where they came from and simply perpetuate the same lunkheaded opinions they inherited from their benighted forefathers. Maybe they even begin to take seriously the babble of politicians and media pundits and televangelists, not recognizing it for the self-serving spew that it is, and pretty soon they’re voting Anarcho-Raëlian Party, arming themselves against the zombie apocalypse, and praying for solid gold Cadillacs. The point is that it’s important to give some consideration to the things you think you believe, because they might just turn out to be bullshit. You’ve got to dive deep down into the muck of your innermost self, do some dismantling, and chuck out all the crap. Figure out who you are and what you believe on your own terms. Just make sure none of it violates Rule #1. Figuring out that you’re really into white power or arson or puppy torture means you’re not even close to done with chucking all the crap. Keep dismantling until you’re not a dick anymore.
3) No Half-Stepping! Ideally, it would be great if each and every one of us was able to realize our true potential, utilizing our own natural talents to make our way in this tough old world. Finding a job that supplies both a decent income and a sense of satisfaction is one of the great challenges of life, and if you’re lucky enough to have achieved such a thing then you should take a moment to sit back and appreciate what a lucky bastard you are. Of course, a lot of folks never quite figure out what they’re good at, or refuse to accept the talents they’ve been given (see Rule #2), but even if you end up licking envelopes for a living it’s vital to remember the importance of a job well done. Take pride in your work, whatever it is, and don’t let yourself be shamed by other people’s expectations. If you’re a ditch-digger, then be the best goddamn ditch-digger you can possibly be. If you’re a porn star, then fornicate with the enthusiasm of a tweaked-out bonobo. Hold your head up high, knowing that you are handling your business. Nothing significant was ever achieved through laziness and apathy.
So that’s it. Class dismissed.
Alright, freaky fiction aficionados, I’m pleased to be able to present to you the cover for my upcoming ebook from Clarion Publishing:
Pretty cool, huh? It was designed by the eminently talented Jeff Sheinkopf, and I have to say I’m quite pleased with it. The collection will include three of my stories, each one carefully selected to provide a different and utterly unique reading experience. You can check out the official announcement at the Clarion website right here, and be sure to sign up for their newsletter so you’ll know as soon as the ebook launches.
It took some doing, but JeffSheltonDavis.com is once again live and online. The site’s a bit lean at the moment, but more content will be uploaded in the coming days and weeks for your entertainment and enlightenment. Take a look around and be sure to check back soon for a couple of big announcements.