On Death and Living

“I HAVE AN UNUSUAL relationship with death.…” So begins a saga, a story of war and training, of death and life, and also by any measure — certainly by word count — the biggest book I’ve ever written. I’ve written in this blog before about my partnership with former Navy SEAL sniper Brandon Webb and our first two books together, The Red Circle and Among Heroes. Today, we launch the third in the series, a book bearing the mild, gentle title of The Killing School. A disclaimer may be in order here: for those of you who know me through the Go-Giver books, this one is going to show you an ever so slightly different side of JDM. (“I am dark,” as I frequently tell my wife. “Very dark.” I still puzzle over why she always bursts out laughing when I say that.) This is a book about many things — courage, commitment, excellence, ambition, loyalty, and sacrifice. But it is also first and foremost, as I think the title makes abundantly clear, a book about death. Death is a terrifying topic, yet at the same time a mesmerizing one, as we say right at the book’s outset. “For most of us, death is a mystery, a thing we fear and seek to avoid, evade, or deny, even to the point of pretending it doesn’t exist, at least until we reach our sixties or seventies and it starts coming around to claim the lives of those we know and love. For me, the face of death is as familiar as the barista at my local coffee shop.… “Orpheus may...

Puppies and Demons

This morning I had a battle with demons. It was quite gentlemanly. We all won. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m at work on the next book in the Go-Giver series. In that post I chronicled the process of coming up with the first paragraph, which consisted of a single sentence that happened to be eleven words long. After that post, I kept going. Once I’d drafted four chapters, I noticed something kind of weird: every one of those four chapters started with a paragraph that consisted of a single sentence. That was exactly eleven words long. Hmm. After finishing chapter 5, I checked the first paragraph: single sentence. Thirty-two words long. Thirty-two. Not eleven. Whew. At least I wasn’t under some kind of terrible magic spell cast by the ghost of Spinal Tap. Now here we are, a few weeks later. So far I’ve drafted eight chapters, and when I went to bed last night, I had chapter 9 three-quarters finished and chapter 10 in a sort of half-draft — a jumble of notes, scene ideas, and semi–sketched out dialogue. I went to sleep excited about where it was all going. (As you’ve probably guessed, here is where the “demons” part starts.) Woke up this morning. Crept out of bed, wife still sleeping, made a cup of green tea. Took it to my favorite writing chair, sat back, picked up the printed-out semi-draft of chapter 10 that I’d laid out on my little writing table before going to bed last night, along with a pad of blank paper and a pen. Ten minutes later, I’d leafed through...