Some Frequently Asked Questions

Will the Jaran Saga continue?
Are you going to write a sequel to The Golden Key?
Why did you become a writer?
How do I become a writer?
Can you read my unpublished manuscript?


Will the Jaran Saga continue?

I am hesitant to discuss the issue of the Jaran novels not because I do not want readers to ask about the possibility of more Jaran novels--I don’t mind such questions at all and I think it is completely reasonable for people to ask--but because I don’t like the answer I feel I have to give, which is not “yes” and not “no” but “it’s complicated.”

Which brings us to the question I am often asked: Are you going to write another Jaran novel? This question is often accompanied by the statement, or plea, that it is obvious there is more of the story to tell.

Quite right. There is more of the story to tell.

I know in the abstract intellectual and in the gut level emotional sense where the series is headed; I know the number of volumes left to write, and I know the (working) titles and elements of the plot.

Here are the (working) titles of the as yet unwritten Jaran books:

#4 Eternal Blue Heaven
#5 The Golden Road
#6 Sorrowing Tower (possibly so long it would be published in two parts)
#7 The World She Knew

Let me assure you that I think about the Jaran books almost every day. Really. I carry these worlds around with me all the time; I’m never without them. It’s my first big conceptual epic narrative, and I want to finish it because of that particular emotional connection I have with the material and because I have a lot to say about cultural change; the series, by the way, is actually about the jaran culture and how it changes as the world/universe changes around it and with it and in it, and it is also a book about the intersections of cultures with each other, how they meet, come into conflict, how people from one culture build assumptions about those from another, how those assumptions create obstacles to understanding or are torn down to open up new ways of interacting and communication.

I want to finish this series because I love it. I need to finish it to feel that my life’s work is, as they say, complete.

Now let me be blunt.

The question of art and commerce is a tricky and potentially explosive one--what is art, and if commerce enters into the picture does the thing being commerced cease being art?--so I’ll just plunge into this head-long.

Despite the prominent sales figures of a J.K. Rowling or a Stephanie Meyer, the average annual income for full time freelance fiction writers is actually quite low, below poverty level I believe. I don’t make a ton of money, but I do make the equivalent of having an office job, which means I currently am fortunate enough to make my living writing (although the crucial element that makes it possible for me to write full time in the USA is the health insurance our family receives through my spouse’s job).

I am shockingly well aware how quickly my good fortune can end, how abruptly my writing career could all come crashing to an halt or, conversely, take off in an unexpected direction. To give readers a sense of how precarious this field can be, I was going to link to some recent online posts made by writers I know or know of, including well-respected, well-known, and award-winning writers, whose latest proposals or manuscripts were rejected, who can’t make a new sale after a series which got excellent reviews, who are struggling to make ends meet with sales at significantly smaller advances, writers who don’t know where their next fiction sale is coming from, but I just couldn’t; it was too painful to read those accounts over again.

What this all means is that writing is my job.

It may also be my dream, my art, my vocation, my calling, but I always have to remember that it is also my prosaic, everyday employment, with all that entails and with the constraints that puts on the decisions I make.

Let’s talk about constraints and, specifically, about what an economist might call a version of budget constraints. I suspect, but cannot say for sure, that if I wanted to write the next Jaran novel right now, I could get it published. I mean, I think I could, although you never know because the market is indifferent to my wants and needs and my emotional attachment to my work.

Jaran (#1) sold reasonably well when it was published, back in the day when your average mass market paperback sold rather better than such things tend to sell today. But. Even so, it sold less than half what King’s Dragon (Crown of Stars #1) sold in paperback after an earlier hardcover edition. And while Jaran #1 was published in a UK edition, none of the subsequent Jaran novels were published in a UK edition, nor has Jaran ever been published in translation that I know of. Crown of Stars has a UK publisher, and King's Dragon has been translated into German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, and French.

As I said: Like anyone, I operate under constraints. Because I have to make decisions based on a number of factors, it makes more sense economically for me to write fantasy. Fortunately, I have fantasy novels I’m excited about writing, so I am not in a position where I am being forced to write something I don’t love rather than something I love. I’m genuinely thrilled by all the projects rampaging around in my head.

Do you know how badly I want to write all those books? You know what they say: so many books, so little time.

But--as I said--other factors force my hand when it comes to choosing which project I do next.

What can you do, if you really want me to have a chance to write the rest of the Jaran novels sooner rather than later?

Heh. Well, you can read my other books, talk up my other books to new-to-me readers, and maybe (I can dream) those other books will start selling at a rate that will give me some breathing room in which to write the next Jaran novel.

In fact, all the Jaran readers have been exceptionally patient, and I deeply appreciate their forbearance and understanding. Thank you for reading; thank you for caring. It’s an odd experience to write novels set in imaginary worlds with imaginary characters and yet create a relationship that seems so real and immediate. I don’t really understand the process; I just know that I am impelled to write stories, and I am grateful there are people out there who want to read the tales I write.

Are you going to write a sequel to The Golden Key?

As of now, plans to write a sequel to The Golden Key have been cancelled.


Why did you become a writer?

Because I love to write. I've been writing since I was a child. I wrote my first novel in high school, a second in college, and went from there. My "first" published novel was actually the sixth I wrote. I also love to read, and in a way I started writing in order to read a book "made-to-order" for me to read. . . . and because my favorite writers weren't writing as fast as I could read!

Read more at my Writing Bio.


How do I become a writer?

First, READ. And then read more, and especially read widely, in as many different fields as possible. Read classics, read science, read history and archaeology, read philosophy, read lurid adventure fiction, read fiction by foreign writers translated into English, read poetry and essays written two thousand years ago, read biographies of people who lived today and who lived five hundred years ago, and then read stuff I haven't mentioned here. 
Reading is the lifeblood of writers. 

Experience the world. There is no substitute for life, and everything that happens, however mundane, however tragic, however happy or sad or indifferent or seemingly trivial, is all fodder for the mill. Listen to how people talk. Watch how the clouds move across the sky. Be aware of current events so you understand how societies and individuals interact. Go to a science museum. Go to some place youve never been before, if you can, and if you cant, imagine going there by checking out a book from the library and reading about it. Try to walk in someone else's shoes for an hour. Work on letting your compassion for humanity flower. Listen to your inner heart. Be curious! 

Then, when youve done all that, write the story that is in you to write.

For more advice on writing, visit The Writing Life link.


Can you read my unpublished manuscript?

Unfortunately, no, because of potential legal problems my agent does not allow me to read non- contracted, unpublished manuscripts.