I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

How to be a Writer

How to be a writer:
Step one: Write book.

Step two: Go fishing.

Yesterday, I finished step one. I started Dragonseed, the third Dragon Age novel, back in February, though I immediately came down with the flu after chapter one, so my real start was actually more like March. I finished the first draft in early June, the second draft in early August, and have spent the rest of August reading the book out loud polishing the prose to make it sound natural to my ear. This last week I've been tweaking, trimming some spots, beefing up others, doing tedious searches for words I know I sometimes overuse. Then: poof. At some point yesterday, I realized I was done. I cannot at present make the book any better than it already is on my own, so it's time to but it into my editor's hands and let him take a crack at it. Not that I think there will be much cracking. It may be that I'm too close to judge, but this book feels tight to me.
Yesterday, after I finished the book I went to Walmart and browsed through their fishing department and I spotted something I hadn't seen in a while: Mepps spinners. I learned the magic of Mepps when I was a teenager in Mississippi, and fished with them religiously when I moved to NC. Then, I stopped fishing for about a decade and when I picked it up again I remembered using spinners, but was a little vague on the exact brand. I tried a bunch and never had any luck. But, yesterday, my eyes fell on a Mepp's rooster tail and instantly I knew it was the spinner I'd used 30 years ago. I bought two, then drove over to the Eno and tested it out. Bam! I caught fish right and left. Actually, that was it: two fish, a small bass to the right of a small waterfall and a nice sized blue gill to the left of it. But, it was a nice test. I'd already made dinner plans so I had to stop fishing and go get ready for that.
Driving home last night, a storm passed through the area. I woke up this morning certain that fish were biting. So, again I went down to the river, cast with the Mepps, and wham, first cast, first bass. Second cast, second bass. Then it slowed down for a bit, but I caught two more bass over the next half hour. They were about 10" to 14" long. I threw back the smallest two and decided I had more than enough fish to make a big batch of ceviche.
Here is a picture of my catch, in its deconstructed ceviche form:

I'm certain that other writers have other rituals to recharge their souls, but for me, fishing is a transcendent activity, a perfect restorative for mind, body, and spirit. There's nothing quite like looking at a swirling eddy of water and thinking, "I bet there's a fish there," then sinking your lure directly into the bulls eye of the current and seeing your rod bend two seconds later. Life is fantastic and magical.

For one of my favorite stories about the healing power of fishing, I highly recommend listening to "the Test" by Scott Carrier. You can listen to this story at the This American Life archives. This whole show is terrific... nothing Scott Carrier has ever recorded is boring.

By now, my ceviche should have finished marinating. Lunch time!


Jared said...

Congratulations on the book.

My favorite short story about fishing is "The Sensuous Angler" by Patrick McManus, also good for a recharge.

BTW, I noticed your absence from Wikipedia. You may want to consider an entry there to side up with your peers. I just put together a knol on fantasy books I have read and you were the only author I did not see such an entry for.

James Maxey said...

Jared, I'm familiar with the story you're talking about. I LOVE Pat McManus. He's actually one of the first writers I read as a teenager where I started really becoming aware that the writer mattered. I remember figuring out that all the columns I read by him in Field and Stream were funny and going and finding his work in other magazine, like Outdoor Life. His sense of timing and misdirection are terrific.

As for Wikipedia... I believe the rules specifically prohibit me posting an article about myself, and I've never cared enough to badger one of my friends into doing it. And, since I'm still relatively near the beginning of my career, there's really not that much to put up yet. Around book ten, it will probably seem more important.