Greetings, and thank you for your consideration.

This morning, during my run, my phone began to explode with the news that the surprising success of my debut novel Dragon’s Trail over the past year has made me eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in science fiction or fantasy.

And what a year it’s been. Dragon’s Trail has done spectacularly, especially considering it’s a debut novel on an independent press: it reached #1 spots on every major ebook retailer and broke the Top 100 overall on Kindle in four countries; appearances at signings and fantasy conventions have gone better than I could have dreamed; Publishers Weekly gave Dragon’s Trail a stellar review; I was able to join SFWA; I’ve been a guest lecturer at college writing courses; I’ve been interviewed on drivetime radio in Seattle; I get fan mail. And, now this.

This did not happen in a vacuum. It took the concerted efforts of my editor, my graphic designer, my agent, my wife, my dog—who keeps me safe while I write; very important work—and my horde of lovable maniac fans. The dog is hoping the horde eventually shows up, here, en masse.

“Any time, now.”

An excerpt from Dragon’s Trail can be found here, and you can also look for it in the upcoming Event Horizon Campbell 2018 anthology. The full manuscript is available through NetGalley, but feel free to contact me through the About the Author page on this site to request a review copy.

I wanted to write a couple of words, though, for those of you unfamiliar with me, or my work, or even what it is that—I’m told—makes Dragon’s Trail unique among fantasy novels.

Bits and pieces of what I’m about to write here can be found in depth elsewhere on my blog, but the crux of it is that I believe that if a fantasy author is going to effectively suspend disbelief for adult readers, they must make the mundane elements of the fantasy world believable before introducing the magical elements.

When I started writing Dragon’s Trail many years ago, I decided that the best way to create a persuasive mundane pre-industrial world—if not necessarily a historically correct one—was to learn firsthand how to do these mundane things, myself, and then cobble those experiences together to build a world that functioned convincingly from the phases of the moon to the splinters in the floor.

To this end, I have performed the majority of my worldbuilding research in person over several years, typically by learning the processes and trying my hand at them, albeit with varying levels of success: swordsmanship, horsemanship, blacksmithing, mountaineering, martial arts, pacing off castles and ruins, building a conlang, and so on. I also incorporated arcane bodies of knowledge resultant from and resident in a military career spanning both strategic intelligence and Special Operations.

It has been brought to my attention that this “method writing” approach may be unique in fantasy (Kim Stanley Robinson undertook a similar approach to write the SF novel Antarctica). I tend to receive as many startled and strident responses from other authors as I do high-fives when I explain my process. (In my ignorance, I honestly thought that swordfighting and rappelling off mountains was just part of being a fantasy author. I write fantasy novels as a way to assuage both my innate skepticism and my crippling fear of leading a normal life.)

Through all this, I had hoped to create a new level of suspension of disbelief, and it appears that I may have accomplished that and much more. Dragon’s Trail has been hailed as the first “Fantasy Technothriller,” its plot hinging on key technical details established through firsthand knowledge. Reviews from Publishers Weekly and The Booklife Prize have commented on the depth and dimension of the worldbuilding as well as the twists on the fantasy genre. Readers have even contacted me asking if I was (or still am) part of a Black Ops program guarding magic portals. My efforts, coupled with the exhaustive and brilliant work of my team, may well have created something new.

In closing, I humbly present Dragon’s Trail for your consideration. Thank you.

– JM