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State of the Schaefer, December '18

Every once in a while I like to go beyond a simple status update and give you a look “under the hood,” showing what goes into the process from concept to finished book. (And that reminds me, I’ve got to do another “ideas that got cut” article at some point.) Which makes it a great time to talk a little about Ghosts of Gotham, coming from 47North Publishing in April!

Ghosts is something new. After writing over a dozen books in three connected series all wrapping up with a universe-breaking trilogy, “new” was something I badly needed. It’s a self-contained story with no connection to anything else I’ve written, set in its own continuity. It’s also a conscious attempt at evolving as a writer. I started out writing pulp fiction (and still do, with the Faust and Harmony books), and there’s nothing wrong with that — pulp is fun! But it isn’t enough.

(Friends of mine are aware of two facts: one, I am obsessive about my work, and two, I am emotionally incapable of being satisfied for more than a few passing breaths here or there. I am amazed and grateful that they actually put up with me.)

Ghosts of Gotham is fantasy, but don’t expect a Faust-style urban fantasy action adventure. It’s more of a character piece and a slow-building dark mystery (but when the magic does show up, oh boy, watch out.) Think more along the lines of Neil Gaiman (not daring to compare my skill with his, just tone.) The book is a nightmare, and a love letter.

So, here’s that “under the hood” bit, where we get into the rough mechanics of writing. For months I’ve quietly been working on a follow-up to Ghosts, another self-contained story set in the same continuity. (The idea we’re working with is a series of one-shots with light connections, all charting the secret occult history of New York City.) It’s done, my publisher has it, and yesterday we had a meeting.


And that’s a problem.

The story’s solid, the characters are engaging, there aren’t any truck-sized logic holes, it’s fine. Perfectly publishable. But. But it’s supposed to be the follow-up to the book we’re hoping will be a landmark in my career as a writer. Fine is not good enough.

Sometimes you absolutely need a new perspective. My editor walked me through it, point by point. A little too fast to get to the “good stuff” here, when subtle menace would have served the story better. Too little mystery here, too little magic there. And I don’t mean the in-story kind, but the kind that wraps around your brain and makes a story linger long after you’ve closed the book.

There’s also a structural problem; the sequel involves buried secrets from the Revolutionary War, and I carried the story with extensive flashbacks to 1776. And they just don’t work. Each one jars the reader out of the narrative and leaves the modern-day characters, who they’re really supposed to care about, in limbo. The flashbacks gotta go, and since they involve key plot points, it’s not like I can just rip the chapters out.

We came to a final decision: the entire book needs to be restructured. Out of a 130,000-word draft, maybe half is salvageable, and the rest has to be re-outlined, re-thought and re-written from scratch.

Am I going to do it? Bet your butt I am, because fine isn’t good enough.

But god, this hurts. William Faulkner once said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” The words have to serve the story. It doesn’t matter how much you love a subplot, a scene, a single line of prose: if it’s not working, it has to be cut. That’s part of the editing process, and I’m used to it; not a single one of my books has reached your hands looking just like the rough draft (nor should they, editors are vital.)

Now? I’m looking at cutting entire characters, people I adored. Historical scenes I spent weeks researching. Chapters I loved writing. It’s…kind of a depressive day over here. And a hopeful one. This process sucks and it hurts, but the end result is going to be a sequel far stronger than it ever would have been otherwise. I’m up for the challenge.

And with that, I should get back to work. Have a great weekend!

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New Paperback, and a Tiny Update

Happy Tuesday, friends and owlets! Just a quick update for you today. The paperback version of Bring the Fire is now (finally!) available. Normally it would have been ready a lot faster, but Amazon was having some issues linking it to the e-book version and getting everything on the same page.

Speaking of Amazon issues, some of my overseas readers have noticed a few of my books mysteriously and randomly vanishing from the United States marketplace, showing as “not available.” I checked into it, and this is apparently an issue plaguing the entire storefront; it looks like this is a bug, possibly relating to some kind of overhaul with how they handle international sales. They’re aware of it (many authors have been making them VERY aware of it, trust me) and hopefully it’ll be resolved soon. In the meantime, you should still be able to find my books on your local version of the site (for instance, if you’re in the UK, check for me on amazon.uk).

Early response to Bring the Fire has been wonderful, and I’m so grateful! It may be corny, but it’s Thanksgiving week in the states and when I think about what I’m most thankful for, well, it’s each and every one of you. You’re the reason I can do what I do (heck, you’re the reason I’m still here at all), and your support means everything to me.

The new Harmony Black story is coming along nicely. Both it and the next Daniel Faust novel will take place after a time-skip of six months or so, right on the heels of the events of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy. As always, I’ll do my best to keep each series separate for folks who only want to read one and not the others; there will be a “The Story So Far” segment right at the start to bring you up to speed.

Suffice to say that our heroes will be dealing with some serious changes. The new Harmony story finds Harmony and Jessie on the trail of a missing operative, from a suspicious marine-biology lab in Tampa to a mist-shrouded fishing village off the New England coast. There’s something in the water, and it isn’t friendly. Meanwhile, the next Faust story will open with a funeral (if you’ve read Bring the Fire, you may be able to guess whose), as Daniel prepares to teach his young new apprentice the art of pulling a Locust Job. Things do not go according to plan, because if they did, it wouldn’t be a Faust story.

We’re going to have some fun next year. And in April, there’s Ghosts of Gotham, the story I’m most excited to share with you. Honestly, the story I’m most excited about ever. I’ll be telling you more about that as we get closer. Anyway, time for me to get back to work. Talk to you soon!

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Bring the Fire - Available Now!

Happy Friday! I’m pleased to announce that Bring the Fire, the final book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, is available now. It’s been a long, rough, occasionally explosive road, but this brings the saga (and quite possibly the entire multiverse) to an end. You can grab a copy of the ebook version over at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KCHTKV9 – the paperback is still in layout and should be available in just a couple of days. Audio is coming; Susannah’s booked up through December, but on the first of January she’ll be in the recording studio.

It’s always an intimidating feeling, writing the end of a big story like this one; I think most writers probably feel that way. We want to deliver a truly satisfying ending, with a landing that makes the long journey feel worthwhile. I hope I’ve done that here, but ultimately, you’re the judge. I may be a tiny bit nervous. Okay, a lot nervous. I’ll stop talking now and let the story speak for itself.

I’m still hammering out some schedule details, but next month I should be able to give you a whole rundown on what’s coming in 2019. I can tell you for certain that the return of both Daniel Faust and Harmony Black are in the works (though if you can’t wait, they both appear in Bring the Fire. I mean, I’m just saying.)

And that’s it from me – have a great weekend, and stay safe out there!



Slight Delay (But Only a Slight One!)

Happy Monday (hopefully)! When last I updated you on Bring the Fire, I mentioned that there may be a slight delay due to one of my production team members facing an impending baby-arrival. Well, now I can call it for certain: while the good news is that the delivery went great and mom and baby are both well, it is taking us a little longer than expected to wrap up the book and I have to push the expected release date back by about a week.

Right now, I’m hoping for a release around the weekend after next, somewhere between 11/9 and 11/12, and I’ll update you again as soon as I have a hard, confirmed date. We’re all excited to get this book in your hands (well, the team is excited, I’m terrified) but we’ve got to make sure it’s as polished and ready as possible before we unleash the trilogy’s conclusion.

Meanwhile, work is well underway on the return of Harmony Black. It’s too early to tell you much about the plot, save that there’s action, chills, occult espionage, and also maybe Jessie finally gets some overdue sexy-times. (Hey, it’s hard meeting that special someone when you’re a wolf-blooded undercover agent).



Bring the Fire -- New Cover Reveal!

Happy Tuesday, everybody! I hope it’s a happy Tuesday. I’m having a productive Tuesday, so that makes me happy at least. I thought today would be a nice day to…do a new cover reveal! The final art for Bring the Fire is done, thanks to the awesome talents of James T. Egan, and I think it’s a fine teaser of what lies ahead in the final book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy.

I’m still hoping for a Halloween release. That said, a critical member of my production team (not sure how public they want to be about this, so I’m gonna be vague about exactly who it is) is going through a most understandable delay – they’re having a baby! So I hope you’ll forgive me if we run a little late, but that’s one of the few production slowdowns that really can’t be argued with in any way, shape or form.

Believe me, I tried. I was like “Baby, do you know who I am?” And the baby was all, “No, idiot, I’m a baby.” And that was the end of the argument. Anyway, bottom line, still hoping for Halloween but we’ll see. I’ll give you a firm date the second I have one.



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...And Back Again

Happy Friday, everybody! I’m back from a research trip to New York, scouting locations for the followup to Ghosts of Gotham. Oh, did I mention my publisher put up a pre-order page? It’s not out until April, but you can check it out (and its snazzy new cover) over here.

I also had the pleasure of attending a showing of a new immersive theatre piece, Through the Wren, which I hugely enjoyed. Many of you know that I’m a big theatre fan, especially immersive shows, and this one didn’t disappoint. For those unfamiliar, immersive theatre is a medium where there is no stage/audience separation. You’re on the set, actually integrated into the show to one degree or another, and the story unfolds all around you at point-blank range. When done right, it’s stunningly intimate and often transgressive, and Through the Wren is done right.

It’s a small show, with only four main characters, following the course of one tragic night in a Gothic manor. I’ll say no more about the plot, but the crew of actors is absolutely top-notch and every one of them impressed the heck out of me. I believe the first, short run of the show is already sold out, but if you happen to be in NYC when it comes back again, check it out. I will be. (Disclosure: I don’t have any financial stake in the show, but if you happen to go and check out the manor’s hall of portraits, you might spot a familiar face among the cursed Galloway family’s ancestors…)

Soon it was time to return home, with fresh inspiration and a notebook crammed with new ideas. That’s when things got a little sideways. I was flying south, and the remnants of Hurricane Michael were flying north. We spent three hours on the runway at La Guardia, waiting for clearance to take off, wondering if the flight was going to be canceled. Eventually, we got the green light. The course took the long way around, doubling the one-hour flight, bouncing on turbulence all the way. Then we finally arrived at Raleigh-Durham and made what was supposed to be the landing approach.

If you’ve never been on a plane that’s slipping out of control, it’s hard to describe the sensation. It’s not just turbulence. There’s bouncing and chop, but it’s more than that — you feel the plane list like a boat in high waves, slashing to one side and then the other, wind roaring off the hull. You’re suddenly weightless, helpless. The plane tilted, dropped, then rose hard, as the engines screamed, banking upwards until we broke above the clouds once more.

“We can’t land here,” the captain said. I can’t say if he sounded shaken; we all were.

I’ll make the rest of a long story short. We made an emergency landing at Norfolk, medical personnel were on site waiting for us (no serious injuries, thankfully!), hours of waiting were followed by more hours of waiting, and then a late-night cross-state bus ride straight through the storm to finally make it back home again.

(Also, top praise to the flight crew, who were the absolute best — especially the flight attendants, who went way above and beyond the call of duty, trying to make sure everybody was okay. That’s one heck of a long and thankless job, and they deserve more appreciation than they get.)

As for today…well, today I’m freakin’ exhausted, but I’m home, safe, thinking a lot about mortality. I don’t know how much danger we were actually in, in that ten-second span of terror, but I know what it felt like. And I kept thinking about all the books I haven’t written yet, the stories untold, the art unmade. A moment like that definitely puts things in perspective. For me it’s a reminder to work hard, to stay healthy, to stick around as long as I can and give you all that I have. There’s a lot to be done.

Speaking of lots to be done, I’m still hoping for a Halloween release for Bring the Fire, the conclusion of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy. We’re still in editing, so no guarantees, but we’re gonna try. You can look for a cover reveal soon. As for me, I’m going to crack open a bottle of wine and toast to the future.

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New Audio, and a Production Update

Good morning, everybody! I’m pleased to announce that the audiobook version of Detonation Boulevard, narrated by Susannah Jones, is available now! Susannah knocked her performance out of the park (like always), and I think it came out great.

Bring the Fire, the final book in the Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy, has been in my editor’s hands for a few weeks now and we’re hammering it into shape. I’m hoping to have it out in time for Halloween because…well, really, do I need a reason? Because Halloween is awesome, that’s why. No promises just yet, the manuscript needs a lot of work between here and there, but we’ll do our best.

Writing Bring the Fire was a bittersweet and purgative experience. After writing four series and over a dozen books all set in one connected universe, with lore and setting piling on and piling on, it was time to make a change. Time to pare some of it back and — just like Nessa sets out to do — burn some of it down. Not everybody makes it out of the story alive, and I had to write the final scenes for some people who have lived in my head for years. Not easy, but necessary.

Also, I’m showing you my cards this time. No new mysteries. Just answers. Want to know exactly what the Kings of Man really are? You’re going to find out. Want to know what happened to the creator of the universe, and why there seems to be a hell but no heaven (or for that matter, why there are hundreds of parallel worlds but only people from Daniel Faust’s earth seem to end up in hell)? I’m going to straight-up tell you, and reveal some secrets I’ve been keeping since I wrote The Long Way Down. So that’s happening.

Meanwhile, work is well underway on the next Harmony Black novel. I don’t even have a title to share yet (the working title is Found Footage, but that’s almost certainly going to change), and since the series is now totally in my hands after my publisher decided not to continue it, I’m trying to come at it with a fresh eye. The aim is to make book five an “on-ramp” for new readers, continuing the story while making it accessible for folks to just jump right in.

Part of that is getting back to basics. The biggest complaint about the later Harmony books was that the metaplot was getting seriously overstuffed, as I tried to give the series its own identity while also keeping it tied to the Faust novels. As a result, there was just so much stuff going on. We had the courts of hell, the Network, Bobby Diehl, Bobby and Nadine maybe teaming up to back Senator Roth, the whole metaplot about the real purpose behind Vigilant Lock…it was a LOT.

Obviously not going to spoil anything, but Bring the Fire is going to shuffle the board, change things up, and take a few pieces off the table. The next Harmony book begins with a time jump, picking up around six months after Cold Spectrum ended, and I’m aiming to go lean and mean with this one. It’s just Harmony and Jessie, one creepy mystery to solve, and a whole lot of dead bodies.

(And of course, I haven’t forgotten the angle I set up in the epilogue to Cold Spectrum. Bobby Diehl is in hiding, his financial empire in ruins, but he’s still dangerous as a cornered rat — and Team Evil has had six months to plot their big comeback.)

Okay, that’s enough chatter from me, I should get back to work. Have a great weekend, everybody!



Long-Distance Foreshadowing

Y'all know I tend to set plot points up in advance. Sometimes way, way in advance. I'll admit, part of that is because I play a long game, and part is for the fun of hiding little surprises for you. Now that Detonation Boulevard has been out for a few days, I can finally point out a tiny Easter egg I planted three years ago and have been waiting to unleash ever since. Don't worry, I'll keep it spoiler-free for people who haven't read it yet.

In chapter 22, Freddie Vinter shows up and makes a surprising statement, referring to an event that couldn't possibly have happened. Or...did it? Once you've read that, pick up A Plain-Dealing Villain, and check out the first page of chapter 36. Look for a name. It's even in all-capital letters.

Yes. Detonation Boulevard calls back to an event that was foreshadowed in January of 2015, because that's how I roll.

I hope you're enjoying the book, or will be enjoying it soon! Now I've got to get back to work on Bring the Fire. Given how it's the final book of the trilogy, you can only imagine how many moving parts and plot lines I'm juggling, trying to wrap everything up in a satisfying bow. We'll see how it goes!



Detonation Boulevard: Available Now!

It’s about seven hours ahead of the expected midnight launch, but this book just didn’t want to wait. Detonation Boulevard, the second book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, is available now! You can grab the e-book version at Amazon now, and the paperback version should be available by this weekend. Meanwhile, Susannah Jones will be in the recording studio at the end of the month to perform the audiobook version.

What can you expect from this book? A doomed love affair, fast cars, explosions, interdimensional travel, a demon singing the blues, kissing, deeply improper uses of occult tools, and a shopping mall that isn’t quite right. And some other stuff. It’s a long story.

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on Bring the Fire, the third and final book. I’ll be honest, this is scary. The Wisdom’s Grave trilogy is the biggest story I’ve ever written, in terms of scope and impact. It’s a personal story, where I have to put a lot of myself on the page, and it’s thematically about some concepts that are really important to me. So of course, I’m worried I’m going to botch the third book and screw it all up.

That said, the outline is holding up, and the work will get done. After that I’ll be turning my sights to the return of Harmony Black, though I don’t have a release window beyond “sometime in 2019.” And needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), Daniel Faust will be returning as well.

So, that’s that. The book is out, and I really hope you enjoy it. I’ll be over in my office, pacing, nervous. What’s good for opening-night jitters? Wine, right? Wine sounds good right about now.



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.