Monday, June 17, 2019

"Time’s Demon"

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy; the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood; a contemporary urban fantasy trilogy, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson; and most recently, Knightfall: The Infinite Deep, a tie-in with the History Channel’s Knightfall series.

Coe has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Coe applied the Page 69 Test to Time’s Demon and reported the following:
From page 69:
Bexler wasn’t there, but the tri-sextant sat on his workbench. She guessed that he had already finished it, and was making arrangements for additional materials. His single-mindedness had its advantages...

...Bexler returned nearly two bells later, arriving in an ill temper. Apparently he would have to wait a ha’turn for the first arcs to reach Hayncalde, and another qua’turn after that for enough of them to complete two tri-sextants. In the interim, Gillian knew, he would be impossible to live with: more incentive to ingratiate herself with people in the castle. If she remained in the flat for all that time, her boredom might well prove fatal for at least one of them.

“Is this one finished?” she asked him, interrupting a tirade about the incompetence of ministers, and the value of tri-sextants.

“Yes, it’s ready. I have nothing to do for... for days upon days.”

He flounced to a chair near the hearth and dropped himself into it, a boy in a man’s body.

“Can’t you work on tri-apertures?”

“I suppose, but to what end? They don’t need those.”

“Not now, perhaps. They might before long.”

Bexler nodded. His gaze roamed the chamber, restless. Eventually it settled on her, and his mien shifted in a way she recognized too well.

“You know,” he said, smiling, “as long as we’ve nothing to do–”

“You have nothing to do. I have plenty. I’ll be leaving for the castle before long. In the meantime, I’d suggest you get to work on those apertures. If nothing else, we can sell them for food money, until some other noble has need of our services.”

He frowned, putting her in mind again of a fifteen year-old boy.
The “Page 69 Test” is always a crapshoot, because manuscript pages rarely correspond exactly to book pages. As with Time’s Children, the first book in my time travel/epic fantasy series The Islevale Cycle, page 69 of Time’s Demon, volume two in the series, is not representative of the entire book. It does illustrate, though, an essential truth about big fantasy projects.

On page 69 in Time’s Demon, we encounter Gillian Ainfor, a relatively minor and yet hugely important character in the series. She and her husband, Bexler Filt, have been spies in the court of the ruler who was overthrown and murdered in book I. Their actions helped my “bad guys” succeed in that coup. Now, however, their importance is diminished. Filt is a Binder and creates essential devices for the Windhome-trained Travelers who serve in the various courts. He remains valuable to those in power. Gillian, on the other hand, though smarter and more resourceful than her husband, finds herself feeling superfluous.

In this scene, she seeks to find renewed purpose. She intends to present herself to the new authorities in the city and offer her services as a spy. Anything to get away from her husband. Anything to put herself back at the center of world-shaping events.

Characters like Gillian (and Bexler) are critical to the success of big projects like this one. Epic fantasy works best when it has many plot threads and point of view characters, when readers find themselves in a web of storylines all driving toward a single narrative conclusion. Secondary characters have to feel real, their motivations and emotions need to resonate with readers, just as do the feelings and actions of central characters. As I say, Gillian’s arc is crucial to this novel, despite her being in only a few scenes. She is also a fun character to write, as much for her wit and candor as for her singular role in the story.
Learn more about the book and author at D. B. Jackson's website and blog..

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue