Learning From a Younger Me: David B. Coe Guest Blog

Way back when I created the Hotlist, in January of 2005 to be exact, the three volumes of David B. Coe's debut trilogy were among the first works of fantasy I ever reviewed. So when the author contacted me to tell me about these new "director's cut" editions, I invited him to write a guest blog to tell us more about why he felt the need to do so. For more info about Children of Amarid, follow this link.

Here's the blurb:

For a millenium, the Children of Amarid have served the people of Tobyn-Ser. Drawing upon the Mage-Craft, which flows from the psychic bond they forge with their avian familiars, the Mages of the Order have fulfilled their oaths by healing the injured and ill, repelling invasions by the land’s enemies, and caring for the people in times of crisis. They are governed by laws handed down by Amarid, the first of their kind, who committed the Mage-Craft to the people’s protection. Only once in a thousand years has a mage defied those laws. Theron, a contemporary of Amarid, sought to use his powers to gain wealth and glory. For that he was punished, though not before he brought down a terrible curse on his fellow mages and all who would come after them.

Recently, dark rumors have spread across Tobyn-Ser. Children of Amarid have been seen destroying crops, vandalizing homes, massacring men, women, and children. Have the mages forsaken their oaths? Has Theron returned from beyond death to take his vengeance? Or does Tobyn-Ser face a new threat, one it is ill-prepared and ill-equipped to face?

With the land in turmoil and faith in the Mage-Craft badly shaken, it falls to Jaryd, a young mage with extraordinary potential, but little knowledge of the power he wields, to find and destroy Tobyn-Ser’s enemies before they destroy all he holds dear.

CHILDREN OF AMARID is the first volume of the LonTobyn Chronicle, David B. Coe’s Crawford Award-winning debut series. This is the Author’s Edit of the original book.


“Learning From a Younger Me” by David B. Coe

I wrote my first “novel” when I was six years old. “Jim, the Talking Fish,” was an oeuvre of compelling complexity, sensitive yet whimsical, exploring themes of, well, fish and what they might talk about if, you know, they could talk.

Okay, it was awful. And I illustrated it myself, which really didn’t help. Did I mention that I wrote it when I was six . . . ?

My parents kept the “book,” such as it was, and I have it still, because its very existence proves what I’ve always known: I was born to write stories. It’s what I do; it’s what I love. I’ve taken a few professional detours along the way, including one that led to a Ph.D. in history. But even then, I thought writing and teaching history would satisfy my need to compose stories.

Eventually, though, I returned to my true love: fiction. My first real novel, Children of Amarid, was published in 1997. In the years since, I’ve published another eighteen novels and more than a dozen short stories.

I’ve begun this post -- this story, if you will -- here, because I believe it explains so much about my current project. I am in the process of editing and rereleasing Children of Amarid and its sequels, The Outlanders and Eagle Sage. These are the books that launched my career, that won me the Crawford Fantasy Award, that established my name commercially, and that even garnered my first reviews on Pat’s Fantasy Hot List. They were in their time, pretty good books.

But like the first books of so many authors, they were also flawed in significant ways. Children of Amarid had been percolating inside me for over ten years before I finally sat down to write it. I brought tremendous passion to the project. In signing that first contract with Tor Books, I realized a dream that I’d nurtured since childhood. And I believe that passion, that exuberance, comes through in the novel.

So, too, does the rawness of my writing ability back then. Even having completed a history dissertation, I still had so much to learn about constructing narrative, capturing and conveying emotion, giving voice to characters. I’ve always been proud of that first trilogy, the LonTobyn Chronicle, but I’ve remained aware of the books’ weaknesses.

Eventually, the series went out of print, as books do, and I regained the rights to them. I knew I wanted to get them back into print, and at first I expected to do so as quickly as possible. But even after so many years, those flaws made me hesitate. My pride in the books was tempered by embarrassment at their excesses.

What excesses? What are all these flaws I keep referring to? Most of them were simply matters of prose. The books -- especially the first volume -- suffered from overwriting. I explained too much to my readers, telling them things that I’d already shown them quite effectively. I hammered at them with fierce grins and knowing nods and rueful shakes of the head. And then there were the adverbs. Hundreds of them. Thousands, even. The plot worked, the characters were likable and believable, the world building and magic system captured the imaginations of my readers. But the writing needed work.

I knew this because I’ve worked hard throughout my career to improve my prose, and I’m a much better writer now than I was at the start of my career. So I decided to re-issue what I call the Author’s Edit of the novels (think Director’s Cut). I’ve left those story elements -- plot, character, setting -- as they were, but I’ve tightened the writing, to the tune of 20,000 words cut from the first novel, and 14,000 from book II; I’m still working on the third volume.

The result, at least with respect to Children of Amarid, the Author’s Edit of which is now available, is a book of which I’m doubly proud. This is still the novel that got me started in publishing. But it also now reads the way I always hoped it would.

And that would be a great place to leave this post. However, there’s one more element of this process that I need to mention. As much as I feel my recent edits have improved upon a book written by a passionate but inexperienced first-time novelist, I also have to acknowledged that while reading through and revising Children of Amarid, I found myself learning from that younger version of me. Sure the writing was raw, and some of the story telling was a little heavy-handed. But the ambition I see in the original novel, and the exuberance I mentioned before, which shines through in the book, have inspired me to reach deeper into the new projects I plan to work on next. I want to challenge myself more, to lose myself in the passion of a new tale. I did that twenty years ago when I wrote my first novel, and I’m eager to see where unbridled creative ambition might take me today.

Put another way, my old writing, warts and all, has inspired me to apply newbie enthusiasm to my current work. It should be fun.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy the Author’s Edits of Children of Amarid, and the other books of the LonTobyn Chronicle. And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll re-issue “Jim, the Talking Fish,” too.


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.


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