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Release Update

Good morning, all! Just wanted to bring you a quick status update. I was hoping to have Detonation Boulevard, the second book of the Wisdom's Grave trilogy, in your hands this week, but I have to officially slide that back to August 15th or thereabouts (there's some wiggle-room in either direction). We're still in editing and rewrites, polishing the manuscript up the best that we can.

Y'all know my stance on editing: it's super-important, never to be rushed, and absolutely vital to the process. So right now we're thinking it'll be done around the 12th, at which point I just have to do layout and last looks before I can get it out there. There most likely won't be a pre-order period: I'm already making you wait for it, so once it's ready, it'll just go directly on sale and I'll give you a heads-up that it's available. And on that subject, here's the official blurb:

"When NYPD detective Marie Reinhart met Nessa Roth, a Manhattan socialite and dabbler in the occult, sparks flew. Then came the gunfire. Nessa and Marie are the Witch and her Knight, characters from a fairy tale brought to life and trapped in an endless curse: to meet, fall in love, and be torn from each other’s arms by violent death, again and again for all eternity. Now they have one slim chance to escape their doom. It lies in Wisdom’s Grave, the resting-place of the first witch who ever lived, and the wellspring of magic.

"To find it, they’ll have to cross over two thousand miles of hostile territory from New York to Las Vegas, pursued by the law, the criminal underworld, and a cult of demonic bounty hunters. Their enemies have political power and an army of ruthless assassins. They have a book of black magic, a Cadillac, and a gun.

"The American heartland is about to become a war zone. And as portals to other worlds tear open, showing the way to secrets buried since the dawn of time, Nessa and Marie prepare to make their final stand.
"

Oh! One last bit of news. It's official, my publisher has given next year's Haunted Palaces a new title. It's now going to be called Ghosts of Gotham, which is apt because while there are no actual haunted palaces in the book, there are most definitely ghosts. Awful ghosts. Ghosts that do things with people's teeth and eyeballs. So that's happening.

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An Update from New York

Happy Thursday, everybody! Just bringing you a quick update while I'm at Thrillerfest in New York City. I'm not presenting or on any panels or anything, just attending in the hopes of learning some new things and improving my skills. That, and doing some more location research for the followup to next year's release of Haunted Palaces.

On that note, Haunted Palaces is getting a title change. I think we've settled on the final choice, but I'm not going to announce it until it's 100% certain. Basically, the publisher wanted a title that better reflected the story; HP kinda-sorta does, but in a metaphorical way that mostly registers after you read the final chapter -- which doesn't help sell the book. Also there is no literal haunted domicile, palace or otherwise, in the book, so I can see the concern.

Detonation Boulevard is in the thick of editing now, and I'm aiming for a release in early August if we can manage it -- less than a month away! And right now I'm working hard on Bring the Fire, the third and final book of the Wisdom's Grave trilogy.

My release schedule for 2019 is totally up in the air right now. Long story short, I've got two books coming from two different publishers next year, and they have first dibs with picking release windows. I can tell you, however, what my next indie project will be once Wisdom's Grave is finished. Let's make it official: next up is the return of Harmony Black. I've kept Harmony and Jessie's fans waiting for too long, and it's time for a big, explosive comeback.

Yes, that means there'll be a bit of a wait for the next Daniel Faust novel, but there's a method to my madness. We're at a point where the overarching plot in the Faust series is about to leap forward and some big developments are about to drop. Trust me when I say that you'll be happy I'm blocking out time to work on the next two books close together, even back to back if I can manage it, when you see how the next installment ends...

And that's all I've got for now. Time for me to leave my hotel room, go out there and be social. (Now that's scary.) Talk to you soon!

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Detonation Boulevard: Cover Reveal!

Happy Friday, everybody! I thought today would be a good time to update you on what I've been working on -- and to show off the snazzy new cover for Detonation Boulevard! The book is finished, it's in my editor's capable hands, and we're plugging away at polishing it up for release. Right now we're aiming for a release in early August; it's going to depend on how deep the revisions go but I'm pretty confident we'll hit the target. It's not up for pre-order yet, but I'll let you know when it is.

To have any hope of finding Wisdom's Grave -- and escaping their eternal curse -- Nessa and Marie have to cross over two thousand miles of hostile territory. Their enemies have political power and an army of ruthless bounty hunters. They have a book of black magic, a gun, and a Cadillac Eldorado. It's not a remotely fair fight, and I haven't even mentioned the inter-dimensional portals. Or the veiled murder-cultists. Or the return of some old enemies (and friends). Let's just say that large chunks of the American heartland may never be the same.

Meanwhile, no days off for yours truly; I'm already working away on book three of the trilogy, which now has an official name: Bring the Fire. I don't want to keep you waiting for too long, because...well, Detonation Boulevard doesn't end on an abrupt cliffhanger, as such (I wouldn't do that to you), but it is the middle book of a trilogy -- and as the captive storyteller Carolyn explains to her interrogator, trilogies have rules.

If I don't take you on an emotional roller-coaster with this one, I'm not doing my job right. So that's it from me, time to get back to it. Have a great weekend!

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The Neon Boneyard: Now in Audio!

Hey, everybody -- it's finally here! The audiobook version of The Neon Boneyard is live and for sale on Audible now. (And I do mean "finally," it was finished almost a month ago. Audible's gone back to approving books verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly again, something I'll have to take into account in future. Sorry to keep you waiting!)

Meanwhile, I've just come back from a weekend trip to NYC, for field research on an upcoming book and to see the first staged reading of the new musical Bisland & Bly, from my friends in the Sycamore Theatre Co. -- lemme tell ya, folks, this play is going to be big. And as always, spending time with artists making great art leaves me feeling super-charged and ready to up my game.

I'm in the homecoming stretch of the first draft of Detonation Boulevard, dropping plot bombs and bringing back some old familiar faces. And I'm nowhere near quitting time, so I'd better get off social media and back to my word processor. Talk to you soon!

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      Good morning, all! Just a quick note to let you know that the new Daniel Faust novel,  The Neon Boneyard , is now available. You can grab it  in e-book or paperback on Amazon , and the audio version will be coming in a few weeks (as Adam Verner, our narrator, is in high demand as always).  This book marks a few fun milestones. It's the first novel I've ever had to finalize in the middle of a cross-country move (an experience I wouldn't recommend to anyone), and the first time I've felt the need to apologize to my editor in advance, for making her read one particular scene. You'll know it when you get there.  I'm never sure what else to say in these announcement posts; I could go on and on, but I'll let the story speak for itself. It's a wild and bloody romp through the Vegas underworld, as Faust's biggest foes join forces and our antihero has to do some serious contemplation of his choices in life -- while attending the worst party ever. I hope you enjoy it! Now I'm getting back to work on Detonation Boulevard, the second novel in the Wisdom's Grave trilogy. We're still aiming to release it by the end of this year, assuming I can do that and find the time to unpack all these boxes...

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Good morning, all! Just a quick note to let you know that the new Daniel Faust novel, The Neon Boneyard, is now available. You can grab it in e-book or paperback on Amazon, and the audio version will be coming in a few weeks (as Adam Verner, our narrator, is in high demand as always).

This book marks a few fun milestones. It's the first novel I've ever had to finalize in the middle of a cross-country move (an experience I wouldn't recommend to anyone), and the first time I've felt the need to apologize to my editor in advance, for making her read one particular scene. You'll know it when you get there.

I'm never sure what else to say in these announcement posts; I could go on and on, but I'll let the story speak for itself. It's a wild and bloody romp through the Vegas underworld, as Faust's biggest foes join forces and our antihero has to do some serious contemplation of his choices in life -- while attending the worst party ever. I hope you enjoy it! Now I'm getting back to work on Detonation Boulevard, the second novel in the Wisdom's Grave trilogy. We're still aiming to release it by the end of this year, assuming I can do that and find the time to unpack all these boxes...

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The Neon Boneyard: Cover Reveal!

We're one week away from the release of The Neon Boneyard, the next novel in the Daniel Faust series. Sounds like a good day for a cover reveal! Editing and layout are done, so we've got a green light to launch in e-book and paperback formats next Tuesday, the tenth. Adam Verner's a little booked up at the moment, so he'll be recording the audiobook version early next month and we'll get it out as soon as we can. And here's the official blurb:

"Daniel Faust has clawed his way from the gutter to a penthouse suite, carving a bloody swath across the Las Vegas underworld. He's buried his enemies and more than a few friends along the way. If there's one thing a modern-day sorcerer knows for certain, though, it's that the past never stays buried forever.

"Now he's running on ice, juggling his responsibilities as a mob boss with his dubious "gift" of a knighthood in the courts of hell, defending territory in two worlds at once. It's a bad time for unfinished business to come back and haunt him, forcing him to confront his tortured history and the family he left behind. An even worse time for his surviving foes to join forces and take deadly aim at Faust's throne.

"Toss in a syndicate operative from a parallel world, a deranged half-demon assassin hungry for a duel, and the shadowy machinations of the King of Worms, and the stage is set for a showdown under the neon lights of Vegas. Vultures are circling, and only the magician with the quickest wits -- and the fastest trigger-finger -- will survive."

Oh, and I've heard the requests; starting with The Neon Boneyard, from now on each novel will have a brief "the story so far" recap at the beginning, in case you haven't picked up the series in a while or for people diving in mid-series. I'm still working on a new master timeline/reading order for the website, hopefully I'll get to it shortly after the million things I've gotta handle between now and next Tuesday's launch. (For the record, though, The Neon Boneyard begins shortly after the events of Double or Nothing -- right after Halloween -- and a few months before the Wisdom's Grave trilogy.)

And that's all I've got to say for now! Be safe, have fun, and I'll catch you on Tuesday.

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Sworn to the Night: Now on Audio!

Hey, everybody! Well, I made it to North Carolina. My furniture hasn't, yet, and won't be here until Saturday, but otherwise I'm loving the new place. And most importantly, I'm back to work. The endless distractions of the house sale and move are finally over (except for the furniture thing), and I'm finding my stride again. Also, the new place has twelve-foot ceilings and acoustics that do amazing things with the clacking of my mechanical keyboard. I'm easily amused.

Beyond that, I'm thrilled to announce that the audiobook version of Sworn to the Night, narrated by the fantastic Susannah Jones, has finally been approved by Audible and is available for sale. I'm so happy with how this turned out, and I hope my audiobook fans will be as thrilled as I am!

Meanwhile, my editor should be done with the manuscript for The Neon Boneyard in another week or so, and I'm ready to raft through an ocean of red text. Editing is never fun, but always worth it in the end.

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Looking Forward

Well, I’m three days from my move to North Carolina. My computer is propped up on a box. I’m sitting on a box. The house is boxes. Last month I had an amazing, revitalizing trip to New York, attending an artists’ salon held by the Sycamore Theatre Company, and it left me itching to create big things…which is hard, when your house is boxes. There comes a point, preparing for a cross-country move, when even the simple day-to-day business of life demands ridiculous mental exertion. Total burnout.

But it’s almost over, and soon I’ll be ensconced in my new WriterNest. Let’s talk about some short-term business first: The Neon Boneyard has an official release date, April 10. I’ll try to get a pre-order page up around the first of the month, once we’re closer to finished with the editing. Adam Verner is on board for the audiobook version, and he’ll be recording in early May. Speaking of audiobooks, I’ve finished reviewing the files for the audio version of Sworn to the Night and it’s fantastic. I mean, the words are okay, but Susannah Jones’s narration is fantastic. That’s currently under review at Audible, so it could launch any time between tonight and next week (we never really know how long it’ll take). I’ll put up an announcement when it goes live. And after that?

Wisdom’s Grave
My next project is writing the second and third books of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, back to back. I’m currently working my way through the first draft for book two, Detonation Boulevard – in fact, when I head for my new home on Monday, I’m rerouting some of the trip to take me to a few key places from the outline so I can research them first-hand. Possibly some scary places. Let’s hope I don’t get murdered! I don’t have a firm ETA on either book yet, but those will almost certainly be my next two releases after Neon Boneyard. Once the trilogy is wrapped up, we’ll be looking to the future…

New Stuff
As I mentioned last update, in 2019, 47North will be publishing my novel Haunted Palaces. This isn’t a new series; it’s a big brick of a book, and a one-and-done, self-contained story. It’s also not connected to the Faust-universe novels. Writing this thing was a tremendous experience, both from the perspective of trying something risky and new, and creating a one-shot story that wraps up clean in a single book. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about that, down the pike, once I’ve finished processing them.

And you know me, I’ve always got to be trying new things in the hopes of improving my craft. I can now announce that I’ve signed a contract with Thomas and Mercer Publishing for a brand new series that will also be kicking off in 2019. All I can tell you right now is that it’s a crime-thriller series with no fantasy elements, existing in its own continuity. I’m really excited to see how it’ll be received, and where we can go from here; I love weaving fantasy and horror elements in my work, but I grew up reading Elmore Leonard and Lawrence Block, so it’s been a heck of a thrill to finally work in their wheelhouse.

(Before anyone panics, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing fantasy, but I’ll be stretching my wings as a thriller author as well. As the meme says, get you a writer who can do both. That’s what the meme says, right?)

Harmony Black
47North has canceled the Harmony Black series. Long story short, many publishers base a series on preorders even more than live sales, and fewer people were preordering each new installment. They still sell great, as far as I’m concerned – but for me, “great” means my rent is paid, so there’s a certain difference of scale involved. This isn’t the end of my relationship with them (like I said above, they’re backing Haunted Palaces, and we’re talking about some other projects). It is also not the end of Harmony.

Way back when, I made a promise to you all: I never start a story without finishing it. I know it’s popular to say writers don’t “owe” their readers anything, and I don’t have any beef with people who feel that way, but for me, it’s not true. If I start a story, I do owe you an ending. And because my publishers are awesome people, I can make that happen. I’ve got the green light to take the series over and self-publish the continuation. They’ll still own and publish the first four volumes, and anything after that is in my hands.

So here’s the bottom line: I am committing, here and now, to writing three more books in the Harmony Black series and paying for it out of my own pocket. I’m early in outlining, but the plan is that they’ll form a trilogy of sorts, culminating in what I hope will be a satisfying conclusion. Will there be anything after that? Right now, I can’t say – my crystal ball doesn’t stretch that far. But there will be at least three more books, with a big finish. Because of the changeover, I want you to be aware of a few things up front.

1. The Covers Will Change
The first four Harmony covers were done in-house by my publisher, so I’m on my own there. I’m hoping James Egan, the fantastic artist who does the Faust and Wisdom’s Grave covers, will be on board for the project, and we’ll come up with something super-cool. They’re going to look different, though, and if you collect the paperbacks, the spines won’t look the same. (I will make sure the paperbacks are printed in the exact same size as the current ones, though, so they’ll at least line up neatly on a shelf).

2. The Audio Will Change
Like the art, the audiobook narrator’s deal was with the publisher, not with me (and there are some middlemen involved, it’s all complicated inside-baseball stuff). Bottom line is – and I apologize, I know how many audiobook fans hate when this happens – we’ll be switching narrators. I’ve asked Susannah Jones to step up and take the wheel; given her amazing work on the Revanche Cycle and Wisdom’s Grave adaptations, I’m confident she’s going to do an incredible job. All I ask is that you give her a chance, and I think you’ll really be pleased.

3. The Story Will Change – A Little Bit
File this under “maybe.” Now that I have 100% control over the franchise, I’m looking at the first four books and doing a post-mortem of what I did right, what I did wrong, what I wanted to do but couldn’t, what I was asked to do by the publisher, and so on. I’m mulling some changes to really make these follow-ups fire on all cylinders.

(Remember Casino Royale? It didn’t redefine the basic concept of what made a James Bond movie tick, but the shifts in tone and portrayal made it a dramatically different kind of movie from, say, Moonraker. I want to Casino Royale this series a little.)

One thing I’m contemplating is a shift from first to third person. There are a few reasons for that. For one, I think I can do a better job portraying Harmony herself from outside her head. She’s not neurotypical, and my attempts at capturing that from inside her own thoughts have been…eh, clumsy, by my estimation, though I’ve got a better grip on who she is now. Thought it may seem counter-intuitive, I suspect I can get you closer to her from a small distance.

Secondly, it’s due to the structure of the series. The Faust books are first-person because I’m mining the traditions of pulp fiction and noir detective novels (just don’t call Daniel a ‘magic detective’, he hates that). Back in 2015 I made the choice to write the Harmony series the same way, since it’s a companion series set in the same world….and that was a mistake. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the Harmony series is drawing more from technothrillers and spy novels, and first-person wasn’t the right tool for the job.

Basically, tying the entire story to Harmony’s perspective, when she’s part of an entire team of specialists, was like writing with handcuffs on. Can I split Harmony and Jessie up as part of a mission? Nope, not unless I want to cut out whatever Jessie is up to. And that’s to say nothing of bringing April and Kevin into the field simply because otherwise they’d only appear on the other end of phone conversations.

With a third-person perspective, I can move the camera around. I can show you the cool science stuff April and Kevin are doing back at base, without pulling them into the line of fire for arbitrary reasons (one of the biggest complaints I get about the series). I can send Harmony and Jessie on a high-stakes operation where they have to momentarily split up or cover each other from a distance. I can zoom in on the bad guys now and then, outside of the usual prologue/epilogue bits, and capture more of the world. I can even show you what the team members are up to when they’re not on the job.

So that’s a little of what I’m thinking about. Trying some things, taking some risks, aiming to tell better stories. The real bottom-line takeaway from this is that there will be more Harmony books, and I’m going to do my best to kick it up a notch.

Okay, that’s enough from me, I’m going to go and find some dinner because my fridge has been cleaned out and everything in my kitchen is taped up in boxes. My house is boxes, did I mention that?

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State of the Schaefer, February 2018

Hey there, friends! We’re snug in the quiet spot between book releases, so I figured it was time for a general “State of the Schaefer” update. Maybe I should say “states,” since most of my time these last couple of months has been taken up with trying to move. I put my house on the market, aiming to relocate from Illinois to North Carolina. A number of my friends live out there, plus it puts me a short/cheap flight from my friends in NYC, so win-win.

Unfortunately, my productivity (and my blood pressure) has taken a beating in the process. Moving has been described as one of the most stressful events we can undergo, and I believe it. Beyond living out of packing boxes, nothing kills workflow like being immersed in writing a big scene only to find out that a realtor is coming to show the house and I have to clear out in fifteen minutes. Then coming home, getting back to work, and having to do it again twenty minutes later.

The process leaves an emotional residue, this continual uncertainty that leaves me feeling rootless, restless. Getting anything done requires constant effort, and mental exertion feels like rolling a boulder uphill. That said, I’m plugging away. There’s light at the end of the tunnel: the house has a buyer, it’s passed inspection and legal review, and if nothing goes haywire between now and then, the closing is on March 19th. Later this week I’m flying out to hunt for an apartment, and after that I’m winging up to New York for a mini-vacation and a salon being held by the amazing talents behind the Sycamore Theatre Company. (Yes, I’ve made an executive decision to take a couple of days off and relax – it’s a shock, I know.)

Fortunately, the manuscript for The Neon Boneyard is already finished, so it was immune to any moving-stress-induced delays. It’s still in editing, and I think we’re looking good for an April release. This is going to be a fun one. As the Man with the Cheshire Smile and the Network forge a (very) unstable truce, they turn to some out-of-town help to deal with their Vegas problem. And by “out of town,” I mean “from a parallel Earth.” Not one of the nice, friendly ones, either. As for Daniel, he’s been challenged to hunt down one of his most dangerous enemies…and save her life. Come April, things are going to be weird all over.

I’ve been talking with 47North Publishing about the future of the Harmony Black series, and I’ve got some news to share in the near future (this is going to demand a lengthy post of its own, it’s a long story) – I’ll try to bring you up to speed next month, ideally with info about the next book. In the meantime, we’ve signed a contract for an epic contemporary fantasy that’ll be out either very late this year or in 2019. It’s called Haunted Palaces, and it’s not quite like anything I’ve done before. It’s kind of this giant love letter to New York City, gothic romance literature, Hekate, and romantic comedies. I’m incredibly thankful that they’re taking a chance on publishing it.

On that note, feedback on Sworn to the Night is still coming in strong, and I’m so grateful that so many of you are enjoying it! We were hoping to have the audiobook version out by now, but Susannah came down with a cold and, well, you can’t get around that. I can write sick, but nobody can (or should) narrate sick. Her amazing voice is getting back into full health, and we’re hoping to have the audio ready by early March. I promise, it’ll be worth the wait.

And on my end, I’m currently working (slowly, under the circumstances, but doing my best) on the first draft of Detonation Boulevard, the sequel to Sworn to the Night. Our antiheroines are somewhere between Jersey City and Chicago at the moment and driving fast through the night. Then again, if you saw what was chasing them, you’d drive fast too.

That’s the update! There’s a big, exciting year ahead, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

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A Word of Thanks

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A Word of Thanks

This book almost didn't come out.

It was a long road to the creation of Sworn to the Night, and what held me back more than anything was that old familiar companion of doubt. As a writer, I want to take chances, to push my boundaries, to create new and exciting things for you; as a businessperson, on the other hand, I know that the path to financial reward is marked by the stale and familiar. The last time I took a big artistic risk was the Revanche Cycle, which remains my lowest-selling, least-known series.

But you know me, that's not enough to stop me. Even when I could play it safe, I generally don't, which is why the Daniel Faust series has become less about magical powers and fighting monsters and leveling up, and more about a man finding his place in the world. From the feedback I've been getting on the last few books, that wasn't the safe choice, but it was the right one. Not every book I write is a hit, but this is a journey, you know? I'm still figuring this stuff out.

So, Sworn. I knew from the moment I started outlining that it would be a step outside my wheelhouse and outside my comfort zone. I was going to have to take a lot of risks and put my heart on the chopping block. When I shopped it around to a few publishers, the feedback largely boiled down to "we can't sell this." It's a book that involves a romance, but you're told on page two that there's no guarantee of a happily-ever-after (and also, the presumed-missing heroines just might have hunted down and murdered God, for reasons unknown). It's a book involving a dominant/submissive relationship, but it's not erotica. It's a dark contemporary fantasy almost guaranteed to disappoint someone hoping for a "good guys battle monsters while making snarky quips" urban-fantasy romp (i.e., exactly what sells right now). One of the women we're supposed to be rooting for is...to avoid spoilers, let's just use her preferred nomenclature, "lovably quirky."

It's a complicated salad of a story.

But real artists take chances. So last week I took a deep breath, hit the button, and unleashed Sworn to the Night upon the world. And you know what? One week later...it's arguably the best-received book I've ever written. As I write this, it's sitting at #3 in LGBT fantasy, has a plethora of five-star reviews, it's at an unprecedented (for me) 4.70 on Goodreads (my previous best-rated book, the Faust novel Double or Nothing, is 4.40), and readers seem to really dig it.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me that I can take chances. Heck, thanks for showing me I need to take chances, because when I have the courage to dig deep and paint these shadows on the page, you're willing to join me in the dance. It's gratifying and wonderful and makes my heart swell. Again, thank you.

You've also shown me that I need to knock the next two books in this trilogy out of the freakin' park. I mean, these things have to be printed on gold plates, to live up to book one. That's a tall order. But in times like this, I look to my spirit-guide Barney Stinson, and echo his timeless words of wisdom: "Challenge accepted."

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