Blog Tour: David B. Coe, The Outlanders

The Enchanted Alley would like to welcome David B. Coe!

David is here today as a stop on his blog tour for the newly re-released edition of The Outlanders! He’ll be talking to us about the things he’s learned since The Outlanders was originally released — things about writing, about publishing, and about the facing the challenge of returning to your earlier works once you’ve learned a few things. 


Four years after the insidious, devastating invasion by agents of Lon-Ser, Tobyn-Ser’s Order of Mages and Masters is riven by conflict and paralyzed by inaction. From the outlander, Baram, they have learned much about their neighbor to the west: Unlike Tobyn-Ser, which is served by the Mage-Craft of the Children of Amarid, Lon-Ser is devoid of magic. Instead it possesses a dazzling and deadly technology that shapes every aspect of its people’s daily life.
Frustrated by the Order’s inability to act, Orris, a young, rebellious mage, takes it upon himself to prevent further attacks on his homeland. Taking Baram from his prison, he embarks upon a perilous journey to Bragor-Nal, an enormous, violent city in Lon-Ser, ruled by a brutal, feudal-like system of Break-Laws, Nal-Lords, and Overlords. As Orris soon learns, however, Baram has been driven insane by his captivity. Upon reaching his strange and fractured homeland, the man abandons Orris.
Armed only with his magic, Orris is thrust into a world whose language he does not comprehend and whose technology he can barely fathom. Together with Gwilym, a man with strange powers, whose vision of Orris has lured him out of the mountains and into the chaos of the Nals, and Melyor, a beautiful Nal-Lord who harbors a secret that could cost her life, Orris must end the threat to Tobyn-Ser without getting himself and his companions killed.
THE OUTLANDERS is the second volume of the LonTobyn Chronicle, David B. Coe’s Crawford Award-winning debut series. This is the Author’s Edit of the original book.

And without further ado, here’s David! 

“Lessons Learned in the Writing Trade”

by David B. Coe

I have recently released the Author’s Edit of The Outlanders, the second novel in my very first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle. This follows the re-release of Children of Amarid, book I in the series. Book III, Eagle-Sage, should be re-released in December. These books are incredibly special to me. They launched my career, won me the Crawford Fantasy Award as best new author (this was back when novels were still published on granite tablets), and established my career critically and commercially.

But I also recognized from the time I wrote the books originally that they suffered from many of the flaws that afflict first novels. They were earnest, ambitious, and in many ways quite good, but they were also wordy, overwritten, and longer than they needed to be. Hence the Author’s Edit of the new versions. The Author’s Edit is kind of like the Director’s Cut of a movie — I have revised the books to make them more readable without, I hope, compromising them in any way when it comes to essential story elements like plot, setting, character, pacing, etc. I was able to do this now because at this stage in my career, after writing nineteen novels over as many years, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing and storytelling.

So, I thought it might be helpful to look at some of what I’ve learned and at a few of the lessons I was able to apply when I edited these beloved but imperfect early novels.

  1. Less is more — One of the things I did in editing these books was remove exposition, adverbs, and unnecessary dialog tags including gestures and facial expressions. Not all of them, but enough that the new version of The Outlanders is some 14,000 words shorter than the original. Children of Amarid I cut by 20,000 words. Why? Because readers don’t need to be told every little thing. For instance, sometimes — most times if we’re doing it correctly — dialog conveys meaning through wording and context. We can usually tell from what a character says whether she is angry or sad or joyful. In the original versions I put in so many expressions and gestures that my characters read as caricatures, their facial expressions changing with every word until they seemed like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “Less is more” means what it sounds like. I could get away with describing fewer of those expressions and gestures without losing meaning. The result is a cleaner, leaner manuscript.
  1. Trust your reader — This is something my editor told me a lot while working on those early books. Readers don’t need to have every little storytelling nuance explained to them. In fact, as with “Less is more,” if we do our jobs as authors we shouldn’t have to explain much at all. Readers can figure out from dialog, from action, from the little details we show, from limited internal monologue, all that they need to follow our stories. We need to trust their ability to intuit what they need to know. Overtelling, pointing out the already obvious, undermines our writing. In a sense, “Trust your reader” is another way of saying “Trust yourself.” Err on the side of telling too little. Let your story speak for itself. And if your Beta readers or your editors don’t understand something, they’ll let you know and you can bolster the narrative with a bit more exposition.
  1. Don’t overuse adverbs — Some people will say that we should NEVER use adverbs. That’s ridiculous. Sometimes adverbs add to our readers’ understanding of context, scene, and emotion. The danger lies in overuse of adverbs. The problem with adverbs is that when used too often they become of symptom of showing rather telling. I used way too many in the original versions of these books and I removed a lot of them in the edits. Some remain, and they add to the narrative. You don’t need to ban them from your writing entirely (see what I did there?); just beware of them.
  1. Reach high, push yourself — This is actually a lesson I was reminded of in reading through these old books, a lesson from my younger self to my older self. They were ambitious novels that demanded a lot of me when I wrote them. I sometimes wonder if my more recent books have been too “safe” in a way, and I am currently writing a new epic fantasy that is as sprawling and far-reaching as these early efforts. And I’m having a blast. So if you sense something lacking in your current work-in-progress, maybe you need to push yourself a bit harder. You might be surprised by how much fun you’ll have if you do.

Lessons learned. Every writing project teaches me something new, whether I’m editing or writing. I love that about this craft. It keeps my work fresh, and it keeps me feeling challenged. As long as that continues to be the case, I’ll keep writing.

Thank you, David!

Everyone here at the Enchanted Alley hopes you will be writing for a very long time. 

About the Author


David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first two books, Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes came out in 2015. The third volume, Shadow’s Blade, has recently been released. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach.

David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he is in the process of reissuing, as well was the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Where to find David online

Essential Information


Title: THE OUTLANDERS (The LonTobyn Chronicle, Book 2)

Author: David B. Coe

Publisher: Lore Seekers Press

Price: $4.99 eBook/ $18.95 Paperback

Length: 561  pages

ReleaseDate: October 2, 2016


Goodreads link

Purchase links
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Let’s Talk Promotions is also sponsoring a tour-wide giveaway. Click below for more information and to enter. 

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Guest Post: Jim McDonald

The Enchanted Alley would like to welcome today’s guest, Jim McDonald! 

About Jim McDonald

Jim has spent over 25 years as a business and technology consultant, which has allowed him to travel around much of the world.  Now somewhat settled down in the Carolinas, he is using a lifelong interest in history, mythology, anthropology, the hard sciences and B movies to bring his own versions of folklore to life.

When not clacking away at a laptop either for the job that pays the bills or drawing the odd ideas from his head to paper to disturb and amuse the readers, he can be found playing with hot glass or running around in a kilt promoting Celtic culture with his wife and three dogs pretending not to know him.

Today Jim is talking about what it’s like to be a writer, constantly being judged, and how to handle that fear and criticism. 

Fear in a Sea of Judgement

Has your finger ever hovered over the button, poised to send your manuscript off to your beat readers? Your editor? Your publisher?

The one that shoves it out into the world on Kindle?

When your heart races, the sheen of sweat on your brow, dampness in your palms that sends you to make another cup of coffee instead of sharing your work?

Do you have thoughts about the controversial scene? The one that kept you up at nights, or that you wrote around for weeks, knowing you’d have to come back to it at some point?

That statement you know will bring down scorn from some people?

Just even the simple internal doubt about whether or not your work is good enough to warrant a form rejection letter from the slush pile?

You know, that old friend. Fear.

As a writer, you pour your heart and soul into words streaming on the page. Your thoughts stretch to wondering what people will think of you, because of what you have written. What will you do if people don’t like it? Even worse, what if a lot of people read it, and you stir up a lot of noise because of the subject?


There’s an old saying. Kill your darlings. I carry it a little further. Give life to your dreams and fears.

If your writing is truly worthwhile, it is not only entertaining, but will energize some, and infuriate others. Trying to make everyone happy leaves no one satisfied.

The key to having your message heard, is giving people something worth remembering. And almost always, this comes from triggering one or more of our four core emotions. Happiness, Sadness, Fear or Anger.

When I look at the books that hold the most meaning for me, they are the ones that pushed the limits for their time. Robert Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, and he was more than able of stirring up people of every ilk, and pushing buttons. Some people saw Stranger in a Strange Land as the foundation for the Free Love movement of the 60’s. Others saw Starship Troopers as both an endorsement and an indictment of the military industrial complex. Both are stories that spurred controversy, satires of their subject matter and the societies he modeled.

Not so far on my end of preferred reading has been the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon from E. L. James. Definitely controversial, sending some people into frenzies that it promotes and glamorizes abuse. For others, it’s been freeing to give a tantalizing glimpse into a niche lifestyle.

What do these have in common? They are controversial, and influential in society. I have to think that when Robert H. was writing freely about incest, it gave him a little pause. E. L. James has certainly taken some backlash, as well as praise.

Writing gives us a medium to explore those ideas that fascinate, titillate, and terrify us. And then we get to share that with our readers, and do the same for them.

So why do we hold ourselves back, and ultimately fail our readers?

We are afraid what people will think. We worry about how others will judge us.

And guess what?

They are going to do it anyway.

I’ve been guilty of toning down some of my writing. It’s often been my regret about some of my work. I worried about how people would view me based on something from a story, and I’d cut it, or at least trim it back. When I talk to my readers afterwards, and they talk about how they read something, or how it affected them, I’ve realized how much of a punch I’ve pulled in a few cases.

I’ve gotten better about this, and the reactions I get these days are much more visceral. On a couple of earlier works when I’ve new editions to fix the little things, I’ve taken opportunities to make small enhancements to restore some of that impact. But at some point, you’ve got to push your children out into the world, warts and all.

So I hereby challenge myself to push more boundaries, especially the ones that make me uncomfortable. The ones that make me grow. And hopefully, touch at least one reader out there.

I’d rather be judged for pushing some limit, testing some boundary, shoving someone’s darling off a cliff with a hand grenade attached than being judged for doing something without substance or meaning. And no, I’m not looking to make everyone happy. Really, I’m not looking to make anyone happy. Except myself.

Even if I worry how my work will be received, I’d rather people look at me and shake their head because of what I do, not because of what I might have done.

Will you do the same?

Want more of this? Come by and see me at And soon will be launching a podcast over at:

Thank you, Jim!

We’re really looking forward to seeing you push those boundaries and see where you go from here! 

Jim can be found all along the interwebs at the following places:

Be sure to show Jim’s latests releases some love as well! 

51rxx8jz1xlWe Are Not This 

Over two dozen writers from North Carolina or with deep ties to the Tarheel State band together to raise money for LGBTQ charities in Charlotte and North Carolina as a response to the NC General Assembly’s passage of HB2, the “bathroom bill.”

We are not discrimination.
We are not hate.
We are not fear.
We are not oppression.
We Are Not This.

Proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to support LGBTQ charities and non-profits in North Carolina.

51ucbzaj9dlUnbound and Determined

Greyson Forrester, born and raised to be a powerful wizard, has survived his trial but left with bigger mysteries behind it all than before. Discovering the trial was just the first battle in a much longer war and the veils between the realms nearly impenetrable, Grey’s lost everything and is again on the run, trying to keep a tenuous hold on life and discover if his restored powers are a gift or a curse.Lost, injured, and alone, someone makes the offer he can’t refuse. To save the two women he loves, and amend for the trail of destruction in his wake, all he has to do is one little job.One thing is certain.The ferryman’s price is a lot more expensive on the return trip from the land of the dead.

Guest Author: Shannon Wendtland

Good morning from the Alley! Today we have a special treat for you, a guest post from author Shannon Wendtland! Her new novel, Heliodor, released March 22. Details to follow the post!

Writers’ Guilt

by Shannon Wendtland

Are you a procrastinator? I’m a procrastinator. I can put something off with the best of them. I can find all kinds of ways of distracting myself from the task at hand – to put it off until later. The problem with that is, if you have aspirations of becoming a published author in a particular timeframe (like I did – swearing I would have a mass-market paperback under my belt by the time I was 40) it’s just not going to happen.

At first I would say I had writer’s block, but there were two little lies I was covering up with that one big one: first, I had plenty of ideas… so many ideas I had partially used notebooks scattered all over the house. I definitely wasn’t blocked!  Second, the real reason I wasn’t writing is because it was work. And I’m kind of lazy. Not the smelly, unwashed kind of lazy, but the sedentary-working-at-a-desk-job-all-day-sucks-the-life-out-of-me kind of lazy.

Then once I stopped using the writer’s block excuse I switched to: I don’t have time. This is nonsense … I had time to watch television, I had time to drink coffee on my patio for an hour or two every weekend morning, I had time for bubble baths and craft projects, I had time for baking and cat-vacuuming, regular vacuuming and daydreaming. Basically it was a lie. When my kids were really small, sure, time was spare. When my kids were older, I could have made time while they were out riding their bikes around the neighborhood, but I was too busy lamenting that I had the life sucked out of by my day job and I just wanted to ‘relax’ during the weekend.  But all the while, those niggling ideas scattered in notebooks all over my house would sort of taunt me with their existence. I knew they were there, waiting to be turned into full-fledged ideas, and some of them even into vignettes that might grow up to be stories. But I avoided them – cast my glance away so that I could put them off for another day.

Then I admitted to myself, I had the time to write, I really did. But I still didn’t do it. Why? WHY? Because I already sat at a desk all day – I didn’t want to do that in my ‘spare’ time, too. Oh, the lamentations of woe. Except…

Except I WAS spending my spare time in front of the computer. I was surfing the internet or playing a game with my husband or researching random topics of interest, looking up recipes, reading forums of fantastical content… contributing HOURS of time and thousands of POSTS to said forums. I was writing. I was writing ALL THE TIME.  And yet, I didn’t consider it ‘really’ writing, because it wasn’t fiction.

Then I turned forty and realized I was never going to be a (now) forty-something author with a mass market paperback under my belt if I didn’t put my seat in my desk chair and draft a god-forsaken story.  And that’s when I realized… what I was really suffering from was GUILT.

Writing is hard, if you’ve ever tried it, if you’ve ever done it, you know what I am talking about. Sometimes the stories flow like rivers between your brain and your fingers, magically transferred through the keyboard onto the great white space of the open document in front of you. It’s a joy when that happens. And for me, it’s mostly that way – I don’t have much of a problem turning on the tap. The words flow. And yet… and yet, why did I wait so long to get serious about it?

I felt guilty that I hadn’t written more. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to force myself into what felt like another commitment – even if it was a commitment to myself. I had all of those snippets of ideas laying around the house, and by procrastinating for so long, I was hiding from them, as if the ideas themselves had little tiny angry voices, shouting at me to give them the life I had promised them by the very act of writing them down in the first place.

It’s like when you had your first apartment. Overjoyed with the idea that you can now do whatever the heck you want, you make some dinner, give the dirty dishes a flippant wave and vow to do them ‘later’ because your parents aren’t standing over you, shaming you into doing them right away. Then it gets to be bed time and you think – they can wait until morning because who’s going to notice if you don’t do them? But you forgot it was Sunday, and so in the morning you get up and rush into work, and you have to work late, and when you get home you barely have time for leftovers before bed. So you dump your dirty plate into the sink with the plastic container from the fridge, and promise “Tomorrow! I will do the dishes tomorrow.”  But tomorrow turns into Wednesday and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday… and you wish you could just throw a match into the sink and burn down your apartment because now there’s too many.

This is how writer’s guilt accumulates – just like that stack of dirty dishes.  We procrastinate, and we do it too long. Then once too long has turned into avoidance (because the stack of ideas, or have-to’s is too big) it flat-out becomes denial. After all, we aren’t published authors yet, so no one is actually counting on us to turn in words. No one will go hungry if we don’t sell that story until next… winter. No one will give us that disappointed stare when we don’t meet our self-imposed deadlines.

Except the mirror. When it gets to the point that you can’t admit your avoidance to the mirror, then you’ve really got a problem on your hands. So you have to get a handle on your guilt.

Make a list! Write down the various ideas that are most interesting to you … the top five will do since there’s no point in overwhelming yourself with an inexhaustible list that will make it even harder for you to put pen to paper or seat in chair.

Once you have that list, pick the item on the top, and even if you haven’t researched it fully, write a friggin’ paragraph as if it were a writer’s prompt and writing exercise. Just do it. No one cares if it sucks, remember? No one but you is watching. You might end up throwing it away, heck I bet most ‘first paragraphs’ end up getting thrown away after the first draft is done. I bet someone at SFWA has statistics on that, too. But do it anyways. Write that paragraph and give that baby idea a chance to bloom into a vignette.

Take the second item on the list – do the same for it. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Do one item a day for five days in a row.

What’s that you say? The weight on your shoulders is getting lighter? The act of writing has become… fun again? Instead of a dreaded activity that will only weigh you down with its self-imposed commitment? I know, I know. Because I have been exactly there. But I’m not anymore, and you don’t have to be either.  Writer’s block? Writer’s guilt? Why wear that heavy mantle when all you have to do is write a paragraph a few days in a row to call yourself a writer.  Your pace is your own. Your word limit is self-imposed. Two hundred-fifty words a day, for three hundred-sixty five days in a row is a novel. That’s one book a year. Anyone can do that. YOU can do that.


Release Date: March 22, 2016


About the Book

Malfric sees through the eyes of the dead – literally reliving their last moments as if they were his own. This ability is highly sought and highly priced, which is why the unscrupulous Captain Finch hires him to find the murderer of a nobleman and the whereabouts of a valuable artifact.

Quantex, the able-bodied first mate of Captain Finch, quickly becomes Malfric’s foil as he demonstrates uncommon intelligence during the investigation. Together the two uncover several clues that lead them to the killer, the artifact, and the frayed end of a mysterious plot that begins to unravel the moment Malfric takes it in hand and gives it a good yank.

About the Author

Shannon is a wife, mother, writer, database administrator and general pot-stirrer-turned-mystic.

Social Media Contacts

Website/ Blog:

Facebook: Shannon Wendtland

Twitter: @ShannonWendtlan

Tumblr: Shannon Wendtland


HeliodorEssential Info:

Title:  Heliodor

Author: Shannon Wedntland

Publisher: Mocha Memoirs Press

Length: n/a

Price: $2.99 Kindle

Release Date: March 22, 2016

Amazon Link: Buy it HERE


Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing is a two part book: part story, part instruction (kick in the ass) for writers.

From Amazon:

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

The book begins with a very inspiring story of King’s path to becoming the megastar writer that he is today. He goes through his childhood, young adulthood, struggles with poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, and major life change after being hit by a van. Through it all, he maintained one commonality: writing. He never stopped writing, even when he knew it wasn’t good enough or when he knew it wasn’t good at all.

The latter part of the book is a good swift kick in the pants for writers. It offers suggestions such as blowing up the TV, reading during dinnertime, and killing all your darlings. The overall message is that to be a writer, you have to read voraciously, write constantly, learn the craft, and never give up.

On Writing is a “must read” for anyone who is an aspiring author or just likes Stephen King.

king-on-writingESSENTIAL INFO:

Title:  On Writing

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Length: 320 pages

Price: $9.76 Kindle

Release Date: October 3, 2000

Amazon Link: Buy it HERE

ConCarolinas 2014: Editors and Agents

This is the last post from ConCarolinas 2014.

This panel was about Editors and Agents, and the panel was mostly question/answer style.  They talked about agents first, then editors.  It could have gone on for two hours instead of just one.  People had lots of questions.

The panelists were: Edmund Schubert, Sharon Stogner, Faith Hunter, Emily Leverett, and Greg Rinehart.

Some keys points:

  • In an anthology, the first and last stories are the prime spots.
  • Everyone needs an editor; the biggest complaint is editing.

Topic 1: What is the best way to get representation?  Do you really need it?

In traditional publishing, you need an agent to keep your head on straight.  In small press, 99% don’t need an agent.  Self-published authors do not need an agent.

You should have a good relationship with your agent.  Become friends.  Faith said that she would not have progressed in her career without an agent.

You don’t need an agent for short stories.  Agents make 15% of what you make, so they don’t want to work for pennies.

The agent is the representative between you and New York.  They help you read and understand contracts.

Agents are often former editors, so they have connections.

An auction is the best case scenario, and agents have the ability to get that going.

Know the preference of the house you are selling to.  Baen, for example, if you sell it, they want to talk only to you, not an agent you get later.  If the agent sells it, then they’ll talk to you both.  Baen is an important place to look.  They treat their writers like family, and they can build your career.

Some small presses can be bad.  They don’t know what they’re doing, but every large press started out as a small press…

Remember, money flows to the writer.  (Unless you are hiring someone to do a task like edit.)

The Big Five (traditional publishing houses) – you have to have an agent or know people.  How do you get to know people?  Cons!

If you get a letter that says to query again, do it!  They don’t send those often.

Research.  Look at the internet.  You’ll learn stuff.  Do your homework.

Only about 1% makes it through the slush pile.  Be sure to follow the guidelines.  Even when you know someone, follow the guidelines.

In many cases, slush readers need to reject 40 manuscripts per hour!

Topic 2: Should I edit it before sending?


Look for beta readers, or hire a freelance editor.

The most important things are story arcs, character arcs, loose ends, voice change, boring parts (lagging arc), etc.

Later work on wording, grammar, consistency with eye color, etc.

A good editor will see, identify, and explain how to fix it.  They won’t fix it for you.

Cover matters just as much as editing.

Even if you do this, you will still get rejected.

If you can’t wallpaper a room with rejection letters, you’re not a writer.

Form rejection letter: time saver.

Personalized feedback: compliment.


Thanks for reading!  I will have more information to share after I attend ConGregate in July!  I hope you all enjoyed the posts from ConCarolinas as much as I enjoyed attending the panels.

ConCarolinas 2014: Killing Characters

Panelists: David Weber, Tamsin Silver, David B. Coe, A.J. Hartley, John Hartness

Moderator: Allen Wold

Question 1

At some point in your story, someone will die.  How do you know who will die and how they will die?

David Weber:

When you’re writing military/combat, people will die or it is too sanitized.

There are two extremes to writing a death.

  1. There and gone.  There’s no reason.  It’s unexpected.  The plot strings are not tied off.  It hits the reader unexpectedly.
  2. The death of a character that the readers are connected to.  Must have a good death.  They have to go out doing something significant.  It concludes their story arc.

David B. Coe:

In a mystery, murder starts the story.  It is like a time clock (plot device) for the protagonist.

A writer shouldn’t just kill another character because the clock is ticking.  Try to get closer to the protagonist with each death.

Tamsin Silver: 

There are casualties of war.  People die serving what they believe in.

The death of others moves the characters, whether for good or bad.

John Hartness:

In Sci-fi and Urban Fantasy, the writer lives and dies by the series.  Characters grow and develop.

Learn, live, lose = how a protagonist evolves.  (Harry Dresden is the example)

Torture the characters to torture the readers.

We’ve all lost people. 

You have to be able to show your character is as real as the real world.

The death of characters moves the main characters along.

Question 2

What genre do you write? And how does death factor in?

A.J. Hartley:

Comedy is not just about being funny.  It’s about how the story ends.

If you want the emotional weight of death, there are ways to do it without killing.

The idea of a sacrifice is the core of a good character dying well.

Question 3

How do you feel about the enemy characters that you have to kill?

A.J. Hartley:

Someone will cry.  Someone will care about the person.

The villains should be real people too.

John Hartness:

In my books the villains are monsters.  Monsters bad.  Shoot it.

Killing a named villain is just as hard or you cheat everyone.

“We’re all servants of the stories…and the royalties.”

Actions have consequences.  The person who cries at the crime scene may become the next villain.

Death creates in its own way.  It can create a new hero or a new villain.

David Weber: 

Most bad guys don’t wake up evil.

Have to have good on one side and evil on the other; dehumanize the other side so they’re easier to kill.

David B. Coe: 

Death for Ethan (in Thieftaker) also affects readers.  Death is binary; people are not.

All the characters have dark sides and flaws.

Everyone he is forced to deal with as an antagonist is the hero of his/her own story.

David Weber: 

In monsters, the sense of empathy has been destroyed.  They’re a destroyed human being.  We rejoice when they go.

David B. Coe: 

Example: the horcrux in Harry Potter.  It gives immortality but is a broken soul.

The big killing in Thieftaker is done with blood magic.  If you take a life with a spell, it’s stronger.


Ethan is forced to kill a neighborhood dog.

He essentially casts a spell that makes him brother to the man he’s fighting.  He broke his own cardinal rule.  It still affects him three books later.

John Hartness: 

This is done really well because it is not done as a throwaway character.

A.J. Hartley: 

In the Will Hawthorne series, he is an 18-year-old actor. To protect himself and his people, he kills someone in a fight.

It must be an immense event for the character.

He’s not a sociopath…yet.

John Hartness: 

Characters do stuff they don’t want to do.

Example: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some people just needed killing.

Also, sometimes the killing action is a non-action.  Don’t throw the life-preserver.  Character is passively killed off.

Question 4

Can you kill a main character?

John Hartness: 

Screw you, Jim Butcher.

David Weber: 

If there’s a character you’ve groomed to step into place, maybe.

It’s very risky.

David B. Coe:

If you’re working with a multi-POV book, each character should have his/her own arc.

The arc may end but not be finished.

Example: Macbeth.  Lady Macbeth’s death happens off stage.  The payoff isn’t the death but the character’s reaction.

Serve the story!

Question 5

When does death cheat the audience?

John Hartness: 

When the buildup or consequences are not done well.

David Weber: 

All readers read uniquely.  They may not see it as we wrote it.   We need to write it well so that different readers’ needs are met.