As you may know, writing is only half my life. Well, half my professional life--the other half is taken up running a small business selling fruit (1).
Yes, I sell fruit for a living. I also write fantasy novels. Y'know, normal stuff.
For the most part, cherry and peach slinging consumes all my time (2), and what little remains is taken up with mundane aspects of living on the road like 'Where am I going to shower?' and 'Why is a bar the only food-serving establishment open after 8pm here?'. I get zero writing done, not even editing, not even rereading manuscripts. The kind of mental energy writing requires is totally zapped in convincing person after person to buy my highly perishable (and delicious) organic produce.
What I do get done is reading. Glorious hours of reading, laying in the sleeper cab of my semi or glazed-eyedly eating (another) burrito bowl or blasting down the interstate so consumed in my audiobook i forget my full bladder and empty gas tank.
This summer was no exception: I read Susan Dennard, Victor LaValle, Brian Staveley, David Gaughran, Jonathan Maberry, Robert J. Sawyer, a couple by Peter V. Brett, did a deep dive on Brent Weeks, and even got in some nonfiction in Tim Marshall and Steven Pinker.
Part of this is research. I can't write good fantasy if I'm not reading it, and there are so many great authors out there that catching up with the old school and keeping up with new debuts is a full time job (albeit a glorious one. Much better than fruit-selling).
The other part of reading is even better--the imagining. Every engaging character I read, every clever magic system, every surprising plot twist and well-crafted narrative spawns ideas for my own writing, because I'm always guessing ahead to what will happen, imagining the author's creative process, thinking how cool it would be if this or that character had a secret motive or the magic worked just slightly differently.
And thus my google notepad fills with ideas even as my trailer empties of produce. So while none of the project bars have gotten higher in the last three months, I can still say it was a fruitful summer (3), because I return to the writing desk armed with more new ideas than ever. And fates willing, the best of those will find their way into your hands.
(1) Free signed copy of my latest book to anyone who finds the stand! I love friendly faces on the road, and am always slinging fiction alongside fruit.
(2) On average, 11.5hrs/day, 6.5 days a week. Down from 14 hours for the first few years!
(3) This also despite my new truck literally blowing up while careening down a steep mountain pass carrying the most expensive and perishable fruit of the summer. On my birthday. But that's another story...
It's nice now and then to read a book that takes religion seriously. I'm not much for religion personally, but it's the primary vehicle for a lot of our real-life character arcs, and I think it deserves more of a place in fiction.
Doubly so YA, where such things usually get filed with parents and responsibility: out of the way of the protagonist who's got better things on their plate. Not so in Defy the Stars, Claudia Gray's brilliant start to her Defy the Worlds series. Not only is her opening killer, her pacing intense and romance memorable, she manages to hit deep with a character who takes her religion seriously (even as she questions it). There's also a meditation on what it means to be human buried here, embodied in the form of an android main character, and she pulls it off flawlessly. Who says YA can't get deep?
Well, a lot of people do, actually, and if you look at most of what's sold best in the genre, you'll understand why. But if you're looking for something meatier intellectually without sacrificing a fast-paced engaging story, you could do worse than to drop a couple dollars on Defy the Stars. (I wrote a longer review for this on Top New Fantasy--find it here).
I'm always exhausted after a conference, in the best kind of way. This conference's best kinds of ways included meeting new and talented writerly geeks, soaking up my fifteen seconds of fame for winning the conference's writing contest, pitching to agents and editors who showed grains of interest (let's hope I've got more news to share on that later), and getting to know Mary Robinette Kowal, who along with her fellow podcasters may have more to do with my writing ability than the several degrees I have collecting dust (one of them Literature with a Writing Emphasis, mind).
This was the first bar-con I've gone to and not felt like a total loser, or stayed at more than fifteen minutes--thanks again to MRK and her dedicated cohort of students, but also to author friends M.H. Boroson and Mike Haspil. It's nice to feel that I'm finding my way into a community of authors. Writing can be lonely as it is joyful. Especially when you're a giant (see pic below).
That's it: Pike's Peak 2018, thank you very much. Time now to sleep.
While my YA Fantasy Daughter of Flood and Fury is still technically in the revision process, I thought it was good enough to enter in a few contests. And one of them--the Zebulon--chose it as first in their Science Fiction+Fantasy category!
This is a huge boost to my confidence in the book. I already think it's among the best things I've written, but to have independent not-my-friends-and-family-who-will-love-it-because-I-wrote-it people think the same thing is great.
Better yet, the final round is judged by professionals from the industry, and I'll have a chance to talk with them at the conference, so with any luck DOFF might get picked up for traditional publication!
Either way this book is coming soon to an Amazon near you, so you can give it your own rating :) Till then, if you happen to be going to Pike's Peak Writer's Conference this year, look me up. We might even have signed copies of ACHE in the bookstore!
See the full post here:
People sometimes ask me how I come up with my ideas, or how I keep them all straight. The full answer is a mess of word documents, smartphone notes, mental contexts and .txt files.
The short answer is my desk. Not the desk itself--the paper i staple on top of the desk. Here's the one from my last project, a revision of Daughter of Flood and Fury:
My brain is too chaotic to always write in straight lines, or keep a definitive and updated wiki of any particular world I'm creating (see: the 200+ page wiki for The Resonant Saga, forever being edited and added to). To help with that, I staple a giant piece of paper to my desk and scribble all over it. Not all of it ends up in the book, or even about the book, really, but it helps me get it all in one place where I can stare at it. And draw on it.
It always feels auspicious when I tear off a sheet and start another one, at some indefinable moment when the new project has become too big to fit in just words. That's what I did today, as I get to the end of planning the sequel to Beggar's Rebellion, tentatively titled Pauper's Empire:
I like it so far. Yes, those are planets and orbits on the right, though it's a fantasy novel. I'm sure this one will end up as stained and wrinkled as the other by the time I'm done--because food, tea, and decaf coffee also help me keep all of this straight. If you read really close, maybe you can find spoilers...
You've reached the electronic home of author Levi Jacobs. Cleverly hidden in this site are stories I've written, news about things I've published, excerpts from my novels, and dark secrets about my other life as an itinerant fruit salesman. Enjoy!
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