Blog Hop on the Writing Process

I’m participating in a blog hop with other writers in which we answer questions about what and how we write. Before I answer these questions, I’d like to thank Rosemary Claire Smith for inviting me to participate. As part of her writing group, I’ve had the privilege of reading in advance her stories about time traveler adventure and romance in the Age of the Dinosaurs (the first of which has been published in Analog) as well as her fantasy novel in progress. Check out her blog at

So, here’s what’s going on behind the curtain:

1) What am I working on? I’ve been writing a contemporary fantasy series with military intrigue for Tor. It’s about soldier-mages and psychic spies known as “craftsmen.” The craft families have been serving the country since colonial times; Poe and Hawthorne wrote thinly veiled nonfiction about them. The first book, American Craftsmen, will be released next week on May 6th. While I’m waiting for edits on the second book, The Left-Hand Way, I’ve started on the third book, tentatively titled The Master Craftsmen. It’s an odd artifact of the publishing process that these three things are happening at once, making for one of the busiest times in my life.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Military fantasy, along with military SF, has been doing well lately. I think my books differ from many of the others in those genres because mine have a stronger than usual sense of literary and real-world history.

3) Why do I write what I do? I write many types of stories with different artistic agendas. I started American Craftsmen with the idea of confining myself to this country’s mythos for my magical world. I originally intended a broad look at the American magical scene, but when Stephanie Dray saw the first military-related section, she advised me to focus on that storyline. I’ve very grateful to her for that advice.

4) How does my writing process work? On the macro level, I’m a member of a local writing group. When I’m working on a novel, I try to get a new draft section of the book to the group for each monthly meeting. At the end of draft zero, I stitch together all the sections and address the group’s comments, then revise further as needed. On a daily basis, I write mostly in the afternoons and evenings. In the morning, I run, which ensures that I’ll be fully awake the rest of the day, and I take care of any other necessary tasks.

Now, to introduce you to the next runners in this relay race:

First is my Harvard classmate, Lisa Peers. I became a big fan of her acting in college. After graduating with a degree in American History & Literature, Lisa has acted professionally and worked as a speechwriter and a TV/radio producer for companies in San Francisco and metro Detroit. Her first novel, Love and Other B-Sides, is available on Amazon. She blogs about rock music and pop culture at–her blog gives a good jolt to my interest in seeing live music, both old and new.

Second is L. Kris Gowen, PhD, EdM, who was at Stanford for undergrad while I was in law school (I starred in one of her student films). Kris has written two non-fiction books geared toward teens: Sexual Decisions, and Image and Identity: Becoming the Person You Are. She conducts research related to youth mental well-being and healthy relationships in an Ivory Tower. Recently, she’s been living in South Korea, having previously traveled to New Zealand and on her way soon to Vietnam. She blogs about her expat life at–her blog makes me nostalgic for my time in Japan.

Third is Erik B. Scott, whom I just met for the first time this year at a reading at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Erik lives in Philadelphia PA and is an avid writer, reader, watcher and critic of all things sci fi. His fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction (we both read DSF stories at the BSFS) and Apokrupha’s Vignettes from the End of the World, and will appear in an upcoming issue of Ares Magazine. His blog is at–among the topics covered are writing, science and tech, and all things SF.

Ravencon Schedule

I’ll be at Ravencon this Saturday and Sunday. My schedule is:
Sat. 4PM. Signing (please don’t expect novel yet)
Sat. 6PM. Spy Themes (on “spy-fi”) (moderator)
Sat. 10PM History of Ghosts
Sun. 10AM Homage in SF Literature
Sun. 11AM To Be or Not To Be Anachronistic (moderator)

AMERICAN CRAFTSMEN: Brief Essay from author Robert Scott

Fiction author Robert Scott ( has written a brief essay that’s not only a very generous review, but that also conveniently name checks some of the material I used for the backstory:

“American Craftsmen” by Tom Doyle

Robert Scott

Tom Doyle is smarter than I am. It’s not even close. He’s easily got me by two or three touchdowns. I don’t mind, however, because reading through Tom’s debut novel, “American Craftsmen,” I had the great pleasure of mining for dozens of deftly-masked references to American literary history. And while one doesn’t have to be abundantly familiar with the works of Edgar Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to enjoy Doyle’s rollercoaster amalgam of dark fantasy and black-ops, reviewing that high school literature notebook we all have stashed in our basement will help readers appreciate Doyle’s innovative storytelling.

For starters, I’d recommend re-reading Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” along with Hawthorne’s “The House of the Seven Gables” and “Endicott and the Red Cross.” While you’re at it, check out Poe’s “Ligeia,” and maybe a handful of Romantic poems from Longfellow or Holmes, just to establish a foundation for Doyle’s groovy references to the great (for us geeks anyway) literary rift that emerged between the Romantic scribblers, “Frogpondian” Transcendentalists and the Dark Romantics, like Hawthorne and Poe, whose personal and family struggles led to the body of literature Doyle references in “American Craftsmen.”

Okay, you don’t have to re-read all of them. Google a couple; then get back to Doyle’s book. You’ll be glad you did.

Sprinkled generously throughout the breakneck swash & buckle, Doyle leaves bread crumbs to guide insightful readers through the early 1800s. They’re everywhere: Poe’s crack in the Usher house, the claustrophobia of Madeline’s crypt, Prince Prospero’s uninvited guest, Ligeia’s curious emaciated beauty, even the W an embarrassed Hawthorne adopted to distance himself from his Salem legacy.

Doyle could have offered up “American Craftsmen” without these historic and literary bread crumbs, and the story would still have been a wild ride from Rhode Island to Appalachia to the hidden sub-basements of the Pentagon. Rife with zombies, witchcraft, and precision incursions into hostile LZs, “American Craftsmen” doesn’t disappoint readers hoping for an engaging adventure. With the references, however, Doyle’s debut comes into focus as something genuinely innovative. I’ve read it twice and need to have another go just to feel as if I’ve picked up all the sly, surgical references that make “Craftsmen” more than just a dark urban fantasy. Tom Doyle’s captured one of the most interesting rifts in American literary history, and he’s done it in a compelling style that will appeal to history buffs and fantasy junkies alike. I’m anxiously awaiting volume II.



This is particularly for my non-writer friends (who might not already know the stuff below): it’s now just four weeks until my first novel, American Craftsmen, comes out. While I encourage every interested and able person to pre-order the book for yourself or others, friends can support my work in lots of ways besides purchasing it, and I’d greatly appreciate any such support. Here’s a far from complete list to stimulate your own thinking:
1. Have your library get the book. Libraries buy lots of books, so if you’d like to borrow American Craftsmen from your local library, be sure to let them know.
2. Tell your friends about the book. Tell them on FB and other social media, and tell them in person. In particular, be sure that all your SF/F fan friends know about it. Or just share what I post about it.
3. Post accurate reviews on book-related sites. Note that I’m not saying to post only good reviews, as any accurate review is helpful. Some sites will direct more user attention to items with more reviews, particular items that pass certain threshold numbers.
4. Over the next month, check out the blogs and other sites that will be interviewing me, posting excerpts, or giving away books, and leave a comment so they know you were there. This network of for-the-love online support from bloggers and others is crucial for any author.
5. Suggest the novel for your book group, if your group is genre-friendly. I’d be happy to answer any group questions, etc.
6. Follow/friend/like me on social media. I have a general FB page, an FB author page at and I’m also on Twitter, Google+, etc.
I think this gives you some idea of the sorts of things you can do to help, and I’ll always try to show my appreciation for any and all of them.
Finally, an apology in advance: for the next month or so, I’m going to be a bit pushier than I’ve ever been before or will ever be again, because a first novel is uniquely critical. Please have patience with me; we’ll return to our regular programming soon.