Harmony Black: Right to the Kill is available now!

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Harmony Black: Right to the Kill is available now!

It's been a (too long) wait, but Harmony Black is back in action. Right to the Kill, the latest book in the series, is available now! You can find the e-book and paperback versions on Amazon, and the audiobook version won't be far behind: Susannah Jones is in the recording studio this week, and it'll be out as soon as Audible does their final approval checks.

Next up, we're still on track for the next release in the Daniel Faust series, The Locust Job, sometime in early January. I'm aiming for New Year's Day, but we'll see how long these edits take. And speaking of edits, the second Charlie McCabe novel, The Insider, just finished its first round of developmental edits and rewrites. After that comes a second round of rewrites, then copy edits, then line edits...it's a marathon, but I think the final results will be worth it.

What can I say about Right to the Kill? When the rights to the Harmony series passed back to me from its former publisher, it marked an opportunity to look at what worked in the early books, what didn't, and tighten and hone the feel of Harmony's world. There's a bit of a time jump: nearly a year has passed since the upheaval at the end of Cold Spectrum (and the upheaval of the Wisdom's Grave trilogy), and in many ways Harmony and Jessie are back to square one. They're heading out to fight the good fight all over again, but this time with their eyes wide open, and a clandestine operations group and a network of assets to provide support. They're going to need it. The stakes are higher than they've ever been, and a swarm of new enemies is coming out of the woodwork.

(Oh, and don't worry if it's been a while, or if you decide to jump into the series with this book. Just like I've recently started doing with the Faust novels, it opens with a "The Story So Far" section to bring you up to speed.)

I hope you enjoy the book, and that this unexpected early release brightened your Monday a little. We all need a little good news on Mondays, right?

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Harmony: Sooner than Expected

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Harmony: Sooner than Expected

When Harmony Black has to attend a social event, she doesn’t do “fashionably late.” If anything, she arrives early, and there’s no reason to expect her books to behave any differently. To make a long story short, there was a little dashboard screw-up behind the scenes, and as a result the paperback version of Right to the Kill has gone on sale a week and a half ahead of schedule.

Of course, there’s absolutely no reason to keep the e-book version penned up while the paperback is out in the wild, so I’ve just finished arrangements to bump up the release and get it out this Monday, the 14th. If you’ve pre-ordered it, you don’t need to do anything: it’ll automatically download to your e-reader on the 14th instead of the 22nd. For everyone else, it’ll be out bright and early Monday morning, for you to pick up at your leisure.

I wasn’t expecting to spend my weekend grappling with stage fright, but here we are. Fortunately, I have wine. Happy Friday, everybody! I hope you have a great weekend, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of the new book.

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Right to the Kill: Release Date Confirmed!

The return of Harmony Black has an official date: Right to the Kill will be out on October 22, just under three weeks from today. It’s a long-overdue return to the series, and I'm so excited to share it with you. Ebook and print versions should both be available on the 22nd, Susannah Jones is booked to record the audio version this month; it shouldn’t be long after, depending on how long Audible’s approval process takes.

In other news, final edits on the next Daniel Faust novel are in progress; The Locust Job should be buzzing its way toward you in about three months. I’m also deep in rewrites and developmental edits on the second Charlie McCabe novel, The Insider, so at the moment I see red ink whenever I close my eyes. Oceans of red ink. My editors are not gentle, but then, good editors rarely are.

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September Update

Has it been a month since my last update? Yikes. As you might guess, I’ve been head-down at my desk and buried in work. Publishing is a weird, weird business; because everything is so delayed and long-term, it’s not uncommon to be working on four projects at once including stuff that nobody will see until two years from now. You have to make an effort to stay in sync with the here-and-now when you spend most of your waking hours focused on the future. To give you a snapshot, here’s my current to-do pile:

1. Work on book six of the Harmony Black series, which won’t be out until sometime next year.

2. Finalize print/ebook layout for Right to the Kill (which is out NEXT MONTH, eep!)

3. Finalize edits for The Locust Job.

4. Continue developmental editing for The Insider; this is the stage of heavy rewrites, working with my editor to shore up and improve the manuscript. Basically the point where the last big revisions and changes to the meat of the story happen, and from here we get into the nitty-gritty of editing grammar, style, etc.

5. Shop a stand-alone novel around to various agents and publishers, trying to find it a good home.

Each of these tasks is unconnected to the others, requires a different mindset, and they all (save for the last) have to get done by different deadlines. As you can imagine, time prioritization is a big part of this job. And this isn’t unusual! I know some writers who are juggling seven or eight projects at a time; as the saying goes, this is a good problem to have.

And then there’s always the business happening behind the scenes, the things we can’t talk about. An inquiry here, a maybe-possibly-deal there, any number of possibilities that might or might not pan out, probably won’t, and if they do it won’t be something we can make public for a year or more. But sometimes even a deal falling through (most of them do, that’s the nature of this business) can open up an unexpected opportunity.

Such as the opportunity to write the continuation of a story that’s very special to me — and, with my utter gratitude, to many of you. I’ve just begun early brainstorming and outlining, the start of a very long journey, but today I’m going on the record and making it official. When I was called to write Ghosts of Gotham, it marked the beginning of a memorable, magical, and very weird year. Today I’m answering that call a second time.

And now, back to layout. Right to the Kill is up next; I’ll let you know when it’s up for pre-orders, but you can expect a release in late October, probably right around Halloween. Take care!

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Progress and Process

Well, The Loot is out and in the wild, and we’re still on track for an October release of Right to the Kill, the next Harmony Black novel (at long last). I still have to do final print layout on that, the least-fun part of creating a book. It’s lunchtime, so while my leftovers heat up I thought I’d write a little about what I’m working on right now, and about process.

I’m fascinated by process. If you’re an artist of any stripe and we sit down for drinks, I will almost unquestionably interrogate you about what you do, how you do it, and the choices you make. Whether someone is a writer, a musician, an actor, I always learn something new. My process is heavily outline-driven; I know a lot of writers can just sit down with a blank page and craft a story as they tell it, and that’s really impressive, but that skill is beyond me. I need a road map to get from point A to point B.

Right now, I’m outlining the follow-up to Right to the Kill. The next three Harmony books form a loose trilogy. As such, I had to conceptualize an overarching concept and figure out the ending even before I sat down to write one word of RttK. That’s been a big help, going into the second book. All the same, my early steps generally entail writing down the really big beats and the high notes. What’s the theme of this story? What am I trying to say? How do I want you to feel, when you read it, and what’s the craftiest way to make that happen?

After emotion and theme comes plot. In the case of an ongoing series, some of the heavy lifting happens naturally. For instance, in the Daniel Faust series, The Neon Boneyard ended with Dan agreeing to take on a new apprentice; it’s not a big surprise to tell you that The Locust Job will largely involve the consequences of that choice. Series characters have ongoing business and ongoing problems, so there’s always a sense of “oh, yeah, we have to address that for sure.”

Details suggest more details, and as a plot begins to percolate, I have to make a lot of structural decisions. Right to the Kill is intended to be a good jumping-on point for new readers; as such, I kept references to other series and big chunks of continuity minimized. With book six of the series, that’s no longer possible: Harmony and Jessie have to confront the fallout from Wisdom’s Grave head-on, as a fugitive from a parallel Earth threatens to spark the mother of all diplomatic incidents. Also, the plans Bobby Diehl made in the epilogue to Cold Spectrum – and the dark alliance he made – are in full motion.

But nobody likes infodumps, right? So I have to look at each and every piece of out-of-book continuity with a critical eye and say “how do I present this for people who have read all my books, and how do I present this for people who have only read this one and RttK?” Because the explanations have to be understandable for people in the second group, without being so over-expository they bore people in the first group. It’s a tightrope act.

From all these decisions, notes blossom and an outline starts to form. At first, this is usually a bullet-pointed list of major events, even if I don’t know the specifics or the connective tissue at this point. Like it might be really important for the protagonist and antagonist to meet in the middle of a party, but I don’t know why they’d both be there yet. My notes at this point have a lot of interjections like “This Happens Because Reasons” or “Make This Make Sense, Please.”

It’s most often at this point that a title suggests itself. If I’m self-publishing, it usually sticks. If I’m going through one of my publishers, I don’t get too attached, because my titles almost always get changed. (For instance, House of Wolves became Glass Predator, and Haunted Palaces became Ghosts of Gotham. The upcoming Charlie McCabe sequel, The Insider, was originally called Everybody’s a Scorpion.) Someday I’m going to submit a manuscript entitled “Book Title Here” but I’m afraid that’ll be the one time they don’t change it. Marketing departments move in mysterious ways.

Now that I have all the big chunks in place, it’s time to expand. I dig into the details figuring out all the connective bits, the twists and turns, noting the clues I have to plant along the way. And it’s at this point that I always have to remember an important thing: nothing in an outline is sacred. Because it’s around this time that I inevitably discover something that I thought was super-important to the story isn’t, at all. That party I thought I had to get my leads to attend? It only existed to prop up a plot point from earlier in the story and that plot point got changed because I chose a different motivation for the antagonist and – see what I mean? A good story flows; change the flow, and everything past that point changes along with it. It’s not uncommon that a scene I thought the entire story would hinge on ends up not appearing in the novel at all.

Once I have a more or less coherent outline, a story with a solid beginning, middle and end, I take another pass. This time I really flesh it out: sentences are expanded to paragraphs, I jot down specific ideas for dialogue, and make notes to myself about the details I need to call out in a scene and the foreshadowing I have to ensure is in place. That’s where I am with the outline for Harmony book six: I wrapped it up yesterday and ended up with a 9000-word outline (which will eventually become a 90,000 word book).

“But Craig,” I hear you hypothetically say, “isn’t that a lot of work?” Yes, but that’s nothing compared to the work it saves. Beyond the speed of knowing exactly what needs to be written and exactly where the story is headed, it helps me spot trouble well in advance. For example, in this outline, Harmony has a device that reacts to other-dimensional energy…and I realized, three quarters of the way in, that it didn’t react to a spoilery thing it very much should have. And it couldn’t react, or it would give the central mystery away. So, huge plot hole. I was able to work out a reasonable solution, layer it into the outline, go back and know where to seed clues to make it fair, and so on. If I had only realized this during the writing process or worse, in final edits? We’re talking hours if not days of extra work to iron things out.

Today’s task is the final pass. I go over each line and ask questions, making sure everyone’s behavior makes sense, that the plot holds up, that I haven’t left any gaping logic holes, and so on. Of course, mistakes always slip through, but it never hurts to have as solid a foundation as possible. And tomorrow morning…well, tomorrow morning I sit down and actually start writing the thing.

And I should get back to doing that. Take care, and I hope you’re having a good Monday!

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The Loot: Launch Day!

Good morning, all! I’m pleased to announce that The Loot, the first book in the Charlie McCabe series, is now available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

This is a departure from my usual style, but that doesn’t mean I’m departing. We’re still on track for the new Harmony Black novel (finally!) to come out in October. And not long after that, the return of Daniel Faust — that one is still with my editor, as we polish it up the best we can.

As for the follow-up to Ghosts of Gotham…well, that’s today’s job. Finishing up one last editing pass before sending it to my publisher. Keep your fingers crossed, but I have a good feeling. I hope you have a great day, and an even better week to come!

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A Little Something for the UK

Happy Monday, everybody! (Well, okay, that might be a stretch. I hope it’s a tolerable Monday, at least.)

We’re one month away from the release of The Loot, my debut with Thomas & Mercer Publishing. I’m really excited about this new endeavor and can’t wait to share it with you. And for some of you, that day is today. Yep. The Loot was chosen to be part of Amazon.uk’s First Reads program, which means if you have a UK-based Amazon account, you can hop over to https://www.amazon.co.uk/firstreads and either get it for free if you have an Amazon Prime membership, or otherwise buy it for…ninety-nine…pence? Is that right? Pences? All I know is that you’ve got Jane Austen on the ten-pound note and that’s the coolest thing.

For everyone else, it’ll be out in print and audio bright and early on August 1st. I’m listening to the audiobook version right now, and Susannah Jones knocked it out of the park as usual. Meanwhile, the new Daniel Faust novel is heavily in editing, getting in shape, and the new Harmony Black is ready to roll — we’re still looking at an October release for that one.

In other news, the first draft for the follow-up to Ghosts of Gotham, under the working title of The Hungry Dreaming, is done. It ended up at over 160,000 words. It is a large and tangled beast. I probably won’t have any solid news on this for a while, but it is happening. And now I need to rush off and figure out how I’m going to work today, because they’re doing fire-alarm testing at my apartment building. All-day testing. Catch you soon!

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A Small Update, and a Small Accomplishment

Happy Friday, everybody! Or at least I hope it’s a happy Friday for you! I’m long overdue for an update, so I figured I’d take five and let you know what’s happening here at the office. The new Daniel Faust novel, The Locust Job, is still in editing but coming along nicely. Mostly I’ve been head-down buried in work on my second attempt at a follow-up to Ghosts of Gotham. I’m closing in on the finish line – well, of the first draft, which is just the start of the work – and I can tell you a little bit about it.

It’s not a direct sequel, but another stand-alone story set in the same world and featuring a few returning characters. I will absolutely be returning to Lionel and Maddie’s adventures at some point (and I’m raring to go), but there are long-term plans in the works. You know how I do things. As of today the manuscript just passed Ghosts in length (130,000 words) and I still have a ways to go, so this is the longest book I’ve ever written.

The working title (which will probably get changed) is The Hungry Dreaming, in which a modern-day investigation into the byzantine bureaucracy of New York’s Emergency Management Department leads to a conspiracy with its roots in the American Revolution. It involves Alexander Hamilton (and his true, secret mission at the Battle of Yorktown), the Culper spy network, the execution of Benedict Arnold, a renegade goddess, and the power of truth in a post-truth world.

(And if your reaction to that is “but Benedict Arnold was never executed,” you are correct. Or are you?)

As a tangent, last time I was in NYC I snapped a few pictures of locations from Ghosts of Gotham (you can see ‘em on my Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/craigschaeferbooks/), but there’s one I didn’t post and wanted to talk a little about today. Can I get sappy for a second? Okay, here goes.

Back when I was a tiny proto-writer, my dad took me to see the movie Ghostbusters. Yes, the original. Yes, I’m old. Moving on. I was already a voracious reader, devouring anything I could get my hands on, and had the notion that telling stories might be my calling in life. And I was blown away. This movie had everything: it was funny, it was scary (both at the same time!), it had adventure and mystery. There were hints and inklings of an entire universe extending beyond the confines of the movie itself, from the mysteries of Tobin’s Spirit Guide to the briefly-mentioned historical machinations of the Cult of Gozer.

And I remember emerging from the dark of the matinee into the afternoon sun and thinking, “I want to write stories like that.”

Of course, one of the most iconic scenes of that movie is the opening, where the heroes encounter their first ghost at the main branch of the New York Public Library. Again, for a little kid who was already haunting his own local library, the kind of thing that sticks in the mind. Our brains conflate memories and images, mix them up and turn them around, and give importance to the strangest things. Once I had my heart set on becoming a writer when I grew up, I naturally had a goal: to get my books into that very library that had inspired me.

I had forgotten about that ambition for years and years. But there I was, down on 42nd Street doing research for The Hungry Dreaming, and stepped into the library to pay proper respect to the Muses. Then I remembered. And I walked over to a terminal, typed in my name and…there it was. It took me over thirty years, but I did it. I might have gotten a little misty there. Might be right now, too. I warned you this was going to get sappy.

Of course, once you accomplish a goal there’s only one thing to do next: make a new goal. And with that, it’s time for me to get back to work. Have a great weekend!

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Bring the Fire: Now on Audio!

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Bring the Fire: Now on Audio!

It’s been way, way, WAY too long a wait, but I’m thrilled to announce that Bring the Fire, the final book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, is now available as an audiobook! It’s narrated, as always, by the phenomenal Susannah Jones. Again, my apologies for the wait on this one; it was actually done months ago, but near as I can tell it slipped into some kind of holding queue on Audible from which there was no escape. Customer service finally tracked down the glitch, and here we are!

Meanwhile, Ghosts of Gotham has been out for a little over two weeks now and I’m so thrilled at how well it’s been received. I took a chance with a slightly new direction, and while that’s always worthwhile from an artistic standpoint, it’s even better when that risk works out for the best. Right now I’m hard at work on my second attempt at a follow-up (after throwing out the first try), and I think the story is just right this time. We shall see! All my thanks and love for your support.

(And of course, the new Harmony Black novel is done and the new Daniel Faust is in editing. I'm just looking for a date to release them in that doesn't step on my publishers' toes, but they're both coming soon.)

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Ghosts of Gotham is available now!

Well, after a year and a half of research, writing, edits, more edits, and countless sleepless nights, Ghosts of Gotham is here. This is a milestone for me, as a writer; I set out intent on challenging myself, aiming to improve my skills and tell a story not quite like any I’ve ever told before – and one that is very, very close to my heart. We’ll see if I succeeded, but I can say that I tried my best. I hope it speaks to your heart, too. As I’ve said before, this book is a love letter. Here’s where you can find it:

The book: https://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Gotham-Craig-Schaefer-ebook/dp/B07GZGXP13

The audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/Ghosts-of-Gotham-Audiobook/1721358161

(It looks like it’s slowly rolling out, so if it’s not yet live in your time zone, it should be in an hour or two.)

The new Daniel Faust and Harmony Black novels are both finished, Faust is currently in editing, and they will both be out later this year; I’ll give you more info as soon as I have something solid, but I’m aiming for Harmony to come out (finally!) around Halloween. And in August, my new friends at Thomas & Mercer Publishing will be bringing you the first book of the Charlie McCabe series.

(Also, regarding the too-long-delayed audiobook version of Bring the Fire, I’m talking to Audible about it. It was finalized and approved two months ago and appears to have gotten stuck in some kind of internal queue over there. I’m looking for the problem, so that I can poke the problem with a pointy stick.)

So, yeah. The new book. It’s here. Kind of a special day, and the culmination of a lot of sweat and tears. The Ghosts of Gotham saga is a brand-new adventure, and this is only the beginning. I can’t wait to share it with you.

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