A Long and Winding Path

By James L. Davis

Well, that took a lot longer than it had should have. I wrestled with The Book of the Shepherds for forty years, or rather, I wrestled with some of the characters who live in The Book of the Shepherds for forty years.

For me, it was always about the characters, not necessarily the plot. Some readers might suggest that the books don’t really have a plot (I know, because they have told me), and I will not argue their point.

Some of the characters that appeared in the four novels first occupied my mind when I was seventeen and a senior in high school. First, there was Edward Toll, a little old apple peddler who was anything but. Then came the man with the shadows, the Greywalker. Next came Quinlan Bowden, and then Vicki Stark. Surprising, only because of when she first appears and how her story goes in directions I did not imagine as a teenager.

Then came Harley Nearwater, a man who is not a very nice man.

At first the story was going to be a modern-day fairy tale, and I started on the first draft after I graduated from high school. I made it roughly halfway through the story and then put it on the shelf. It wasn’t the story any of the characters wanted to live and they told me so every night when I tried to sleep.

I took more than a decade off writing fiction to fall in love, get married, join the Air Force, and try to figure out how to be an adult (still working on that one). The characters never stopped talking to me though, never relented in their pestering to get after it and tell their story.

I revisited them all when I found myself a single parent with a small boy and girl to raise. That was when Noah and Raizor were born as characters in my head. That might make you surmise that Quinlan is a representation of the author in his story. That is not the case. I am not as good as Quinlan, and not quite as bad as Harley, but I share a lot of their qualities, good and bad, I suppose.

Now, with seven people in my head screaming at my brain, I tried to tell their story again. This time it would be a horror novel with some fantasy elements. That one I completed the first, second, and third drafts on. It was a 227,000-word monstrosity, and when I finally stumbled upon the love of my life, I let her read the book. It horrified her, and I think she slept with one eye open for several months. The manuscript is in a box somewhere in my basement.

Even though I had finished the story, the characters wouldn’t leave me alone, especially Harley Nearwater.

“That’s just not me, son,” he would growl in my ear whenever I had a quiet moment.

But now I had a partner and our blended family consisted of two happy adults and five rambunctious children, so I put the voices in my head in a vault for another decade.

Harley still wouldn’t leave me alone, and I grew to hate him. I imagined him as a viciously mean man with no compassion for anyone. He was to be a minor antagonist who I quickly killed off. I relished the idea of killing him off, but he kept thwarting my plans.

“That’s just not me, son,” he’d say.

I had characters screaming for a world to live in, and I hadn’t a clue where to find that world.

In 2012, my now three adult sons came home for the holidays, and while we were sitting in the living room one evening, I asked them a question.

“What do you think the world will be like in 100 years or so?”

Two of my sons are electrical engineers, and the third earned his degree in history. We talked for hours, debating where we thought we might be heading as a species. We discussed everything from science to medical advancements, politics, poverty, automation, religion. It is my fondest memory of the kind of conversations I always crave, and to have had it with my sons was the greatest gift.

I didn’t take notes, but the characters in my head started clamoring. That was the world they wanted to live in, so a few weeks later I plopped them into the middle of it and waited to follow where they might lead.

It led to all the other characters that populate the books, first Jodi Tempest, then Cirroco Storm and the rest you will meet along the way.

I knew it was going to be an odd blend of fantasy and science fiction, and I didn’t want to give myself (or the characters) an easy out. I wanted an End of Everything, but not an end that could be thwarted. There would be no castles to storm, no armies to defeat. The end was coming one way or another.

Then I waited to see which character would head in an interesting direction, and it was no surprise when it ended up being Harley Nearwater.

Some of the characters living in my head do horrible things in the story, and some of them have horrible things done to them, even endure horrific things. I struggled writing some of it, but I discovered in the writing that I wasn’t telling the story as much as channeling the characters as they told their stories (and yes, I know exactly how that sounds). They were whispering to me the entire time.

And now, finally, it is done. When I finished, the characters who had been whispering in my head for decades stopped whispering, and it was quiet. Too quiet. I took a year off from writing because I wasn’t sure where to go next, or if there was a next.

I have another eleven stories in my aching brain, and slowly but surely characters are whispering which story they believe is theirs. Some of the characters readers of The Book of the Shepherds might recognize.

I hadn’t quite decided to continue with writing because all eleven of these stories reside in the same world as The Book of the Shepherds, some directly, some indirectly, and I wasn’t entirely sure I (or anyone else) would want to spend more time there.

In the end, the voices wouldn’t stop, and I am once again pecking away at the keyboard and listening to voices in my head.

My goal is to get all eleven books written in far less time than I did the first four. One a year or so for the next ten years (I might be more prolific when I retire from my day job). I don’t want these voices still pestering me on my 100th birthday.

World Building, One Brick at a Time

space city

I’ve been taken to task by readers for not providing enough information about the world I’ve built in my novel. It’s a point well taken and one I struggle with when I force myself to sit down at the keyboard and starting spinning a tale.

Personally, I don’t like a whole lot of “info-dumping” in a novel. Give me the basics, tease me along the way, and I’ll figure it out (or not). It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but, as for me, I’d prefer the “not enough” to the “too much.” I’ve put down a number of novels because I couldn’t put up with page upon page of narrative (or pointless dialogue) on why the world the characters live in works the way that it works. I got it, move along.

When my youngest son was a teenager he read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and loved it, so I gave him my copy of The Lord of the Rings. He brought it back to me a couple of weeks later and said he gave up. He couldn’t get past page upon page describing how, what and how often a Hobbit eats. And that was Tolkien!

I remembered that when I finally stopped dreaming about writing and actually started writing. I’m far from being an expert in anything, especially writing, but I wanted to give my take on the process of World Building and ask for ideas/arguments/pointless rants on the subject.

As for me, when I imagine the world I’m trying to build, I put the story first and the World Building second. It’s about the story, not the world I’ve imagined it taking place in.

The story comes first.

I remember as a teenager sitting in a dark theatre watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those first 10 minutes changed everything about what I expected an action movie to look and feel like. The story grabbed you by the throat and drug you along and you’d better move your feet if you wanted to keep up. I loved it. Still do.

I look for the same thing in a novel. Tell me your story. I’ll jump into the deep end of the pool on whatever you’ve written and you keep me from drowning by throwing me a life preserver of information so I can tread water. Don’t send me a battleship of information overload, because when you do, I’ve lost your story.

I was once part of a novel critique group with other aspiring authors who read the first chapter of my novel and told me if I didn’t give details on the technology I explained on page three by the end of the chapter, then I had lost them. I let them be lost. It wasn’t about the technology, it was about the story.

For me the goal is to provide enough information to keep readers from being confused about the world I’m presenting them. By the end of the book, they should understand how this world works. If they don’t, I’ve failed. If I have more than a couple of paragraphs explaining a particular detail of the world I’ve built, I also consider myself to have failed. But that’s just me.

What do you think? At what point in World Building do you need to part from the story and build your world?

Go Write a Book


I am a middle child. Well, actually, my older brother is the middle child, but he is also the oldest of the boys, so I inherited the title and all the benefits that come with it.

Because of that, I spent a great deal of time fading into the background. I became pretty good at it, actually. It’s a talent I still try to use to the best of my ability. I became an “Observer.” Back when I was a little boy I spent a great deal of my time under the couch (I was pretty small), listening to what the rest of the family was saying and doing.

When I became a teenager, because I could no longer fit under the couch, I became bored rather easily. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had an abundance of overactive imagination.

The summer of my 13th year, I must have been driving my Mom crazy with my questions and moaning about being bored, and my Mom yelled at me, “Go write a book.”

So I did.

The first one was longhand in a notebook (I’ve still got it, somewhere). After my parents realized writing was occupying my time, my Dad brought me a Smith Corona typewriter to use, and I spent every minute I had pecking away to get the voices out of my head. He worked in a typewriter repair store at the time, so it wasn’t long before I got an electric one for Christmas. And I pecked away even faster.

I came up with an idea for a story when I was 15 that has occupied my mind for the past 37 years. It started as a simple fantasy, then turned into a horror and much later into a science fiction story. But the story was always pretty much the same, just the time and place changed.

I finally got the first part of it out of my head and into my hands a week ago. I’ve been reading it this week as a reader rather than a writer or editor. It’s not as perfect as I had hoped, but I’m satisfied that at least those voices aren’t screaming in my brain.

Looking back on it, I wonder if my Mom told me, all those years ago, “Go write a book” as reward, or punishment. Either way, thank you Mom.

That is all.

Welcome to The Rages


Finally! Out of my head and into my hands.

Three more books in the next 20 months and I can finally let my mind slip blissfully into insanity.

My Book is Starting to Scare Me

Castaway (The Rages #1)

The idea behind The Rages and the Book of the Shepherds has been bouncing around in my head for decades. I blame it primarily for my unstable mental condition. But now it’s starting to scare me a little bit. Especially when I see stories like the one on MSN, linked below. In The Rages, Right to Income is a basic right of life and everyone gets a paycheck just for being a citizen. I thought it was a little far-fetched when I first thought it up, but I figured it’s science fiction, let’s add it to the mix and see what comes out in the plot. Now I’m starting to feel a little prophetic, and a lot worried for our future. The Seven Realms of Man is great to write about, but I’m not sure I want my children living there.




A Roadmap to the Rages


The Rages – Castaway will be published tomorrow, and as the hours tick away there was one item I wanted to provide on my website that I have neglected. It is right next to my “About the Author” button at the top of the page and is called “The Seven Realms of Man.”

On this page you’ll find an explanation of the people, places and things that make up The Rages and The Book of the Shepherds. I’ve disclosed no spoilers within, because that would be bad.

I created the page because I’m not particularly fond of page upon page of “info dumping” in a novel. For this novel, if I were to have done so, it would be biblical in proportion. I know some readers enjoy the experience of reading “world building” by authors, but I’m not one of them, so I try to keep it at a minimum in my writing. Two of my sons enjoy the occasional “info dumping” in science fiction and fantasy, but they’re electrical engineers, so I’m not sure they’re entirely human anyway.

I have done some “world building” or “info dumping” in The Rages because it’s a fairly complicated place and I didn’t want to keep everyone in the dark. But I’ve always preferred that an author give me a little tease and let me figure it out as they guide me along the path. I’ve tried my best to do that with The Rages.

Consider The Seven Realms of Man a road map for those who like the information up front, versus a tease. I’ll add to it from time to time, as the journey continues. I hope, in the words of Harley Nearwater, the protagonist of The Rages, that you find it “Int’restin’.”