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?
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…
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?)
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?