Well, better late than never! Sorry for the delay, but Double or Nothing is now live on Audible. As always, Adam Verner returns to narrate the seventh chapter in the Daniel Faust series and he did a great job with it. (And on my end, I'm doing some behind-the-scenes tweaking to see if I can do a better job of lining up audio with ebook and paperback releases. Cold Spectrum is through 47North and they've got their timing airtight, so that book should be available in all formats just in time for Halloween night...)
Back from a whirlwind week in New York City, filled with location research and an amazing time at the annual Thrillerfest writers' convention, and now I'm setting my sights on 2018. I'm scheduling my team, booking editing and design time, and we're full steam ahead on next year's book releases. Meanwhile, I'm working my way through David Mamet's Masterclass on writing for the theater. No, I'm not turning my sights to the stage -- I leave that to people who are way more experienced than I am -- but I've found that studying different styles of writing can spark insights into my own craft. Learning is a lifelong process (and I've got plenty to learn!), and always worth the pursuit.
I think it's time to finally spill the beans on the project I've been working on -- and teasing -- for the past year or so. January will bring the first book of the Wisdom's Grave trilogy. It's a very big story that begins in a very small room: a stone-walled cell, where an aging fantasy author and her interrogator square off in a battle of wits. Something has happened to the world outside the cell. Something terrible. And as their dance begins, they're both hunting for answers.
"You're a storyteller. Tell me a story."
Carolyn spread her hands as far as the chain between her cuffs would allow. "I can do that. One of mine, or one of the classics?"
"The Witch and her Knight," he said.
Carolyn fell silent. Pursing her lips, her gaze dropped to the table. She stared at her reflection in the brushed steel, distorted and blurry.
"You want a fairy tale," she said.
"We want to know what happened. The truth. All of it."
"Fair warning," Carolyn told him, "this isn't some sweet Disney bedtime story. This is a real fairy tale. Old school. The kind with death, and blood, and suffering. And I never promise a happy ending."
A serial killer is stalking the streets of New York, a brutal predator who preys on sex workers. Marie Reinholt, NYPD detective, has vowed to bring him down. Her badge means more than a job to her: it's a crusade, a never-ending battle to protect her city, and she pushes herself to exhaustion night after night.
When she dreams, she dreams of being a knight. Donning armor and a blade in strange worlds and strange wars. She chalks it up to her favorite pastime, the pulp fantasy novels she devours when she's not on duty, but her nighttime visions seem vividly real. Almost like fragments of lost memory.
Vanessa Fieri-Roth knows that feeling all too well. She's the bored and restless wife of the city's biggest real-estate mogul, as well as the daughter-in-law of Senator Alton Roth, and an unwilling prop in the senator's presidential ambitions. Nessa is also a fledgling witch, haunting the city's parks and experimenting with poppets, blood and rusted razors. Sometimes her spells seem to work, sometimes they don't, but a sense of greater purpose leads her onward. A siren call to explore darker mysteries and forbidden secrets.
When Marie's investigation draws her into Nessa's path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind romance; it's the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are victims of a curse, a doom that's pursued them for centuries, across countless reincarnations and parallel worlds. They're trapped in a twisted living fairy tale that always, inevitably, ends in misery and death. Now their tragic story is about to repeat itself in modern-day New York, but with a twist.
This time, somebody's spoiled the plot.
Forewarned and armed, Nessa and Marie have one chance to break the cycle of death and reincarnation, find the source of the curse, and free themselves. If they fail, they'll be trapped for eternity. And they aren't the only players on the chessboard...
Daniel Faust leaned against the bank of steel refrigerators and tried to catch his breath. Blood trickled down his arm and his back, plastering his dress shirt to his skin. He gently tugged the ripped shoulder of his jacket and winced at the wound underneath. Seeing it just made it hurt more.
"Yeah," he muttered to himself. A pulled muscle flared in his hip as he stepped over the dead man and stumbled to the kitchen door. "That's gonna need stitches."
Outside, the others were waiting for him. Maybe a dozen people in all, from the waiters to the diners in their fancy dress, steak knives in their eager hands. Their hungry eyes glinted in the candlelight, shimmering turquoise.
"I realize this looks bad," he said. "And I might have ruined your cannibal dinner party, killed your chef and stolen a couple of priceless artifacts, but you have to take the circumstances into account. I only did it because a crazy immortal witch in a cave told me to. When you look at it that way, this is really just a big misunderstanding and I think we can agree to let bygones be bygones."
"Dibs on his eyes," one of the waiters said.
Daniel slumped against the wall and left a slug-trail smear of blood on the eggshell paint. His deck of cards launched from his hip pocket in a flurry of pasteboard, landing in his pale hand.
"Okay," he sighed. "So, we're doing this."
In Nevada, Daniel Faust is recruited for a deadly heist. In Texas, Harmony Black and Jessie Temple uncover a drug cartel massacre with ties to the occult. Eventually all three will converge upon Nessa and Marie's quest -- and they aren't the only forces in motion. The criminal underworld, the courts of Hell, and the shadowy masters of the Network all have a stake in this fight.
To sum it up, the Wisdom's Grave trilogy is an epic crossover between the Daniel Faust series, the Harmony Black series, and the Revanche Cycle, though I'm aiming to make sure it stands alone and doesn't require any knowledge from any previous books. If I've ever written any character that you've liked (and if they're still alive), they've probably got a cameo. This story is huge, it's ambitious, and there's a very good chance I'll fall on my face but I'm going to try to tell it anyway. Look at it this way: if it's a triumph or a train wreck, it'll be entertaining either way, right?
It's also a story that's been in the works for a very long time. I've been actively working on it for over a year and planning it well before that. How long before? Well, let me put it this way: there's a one-line easter egg buried in A Plain-Dealing Villain that's pivotal to the plot of book two. I'll point it out when we get there, if nobody finds it before then.
We'll also be shining light on some of the longer-buried mysteries of my shared universe. Like what's lurking in the Shadow In-Between. Or what, exactly, the Kings are. Hey, want to know what happened to God? So do Nessa and Marie. And they're going to find out, if it means kicking in the gates of the after-world and storming the place.
They've been denied justice for a thousand lifetimes, and someone is damn well going to answer for it.
“This is our hell,” Nessa's reflection seethed. “For the first time in our lives, we find love. And then it’s all torn away from us. We die in flames and then we start over, only to suffer anew. A curse more cruel than any I have ever woven, I assure you, and I have taught lessons in cruelty. Make no mistake: someone did this to us on purpose. Is it a punishment? A sick joke? I don’t know. But if you’re receiving this message, then my quest ended in failure. Now I’m you, reborn, and it’s your turn to fall, unless you can accomplish what I couldn't.”
Marie's hand tightened around Nessa's.
“Listen to me,” said the woman in the mirror. “Hunt for Wisdom’s Grave. It’s the wellspring of magic. The resting-place of the first witch who ever lived. If there is any weapon, any spell capable of shattering this curse, that’s where you’ll find it.”
Her twin’s eyes blazed. The ribbons of blood wreathing her began to boil as her voice broke.
“You are our only hope, Nessa. You are my vengeance. You are the Owl now. Allow no mercy into your heart. Not one shred of compassion. Terror and madness are your tools: use them. Spread the shadow of your wings across the world like a living nightmare, because that is exactly what you are. Then break this curse and find the architects of our pain. And when you finally track them down? Make. Them. Bleed."
This is gonna be a dark ride, let's just establish that up front, and it won't be to everyone's tastes. I have a feeling this is going to be a love-it-or-hate-it deal for a lot of people. It's not gonna be a blockbuster trilogy and it probably won't be earning me any award nominations. But that's okay! Sometimes you've got to write the story that speaks to your heart, and this one...this one speaks to me. I had some themes I wanted to dive into -- about feminism, politics, and the constant erasure of LGBT characters in genre fiction, among other things -- and a desire to visit the outer limits of my fictional setting through a new perspective. At the risk of sounding impossibly pretentious (too late) I'm aiming to explore some big questions about fiction itself; about the structure of stories, how they change in the telling and re-telling, why people gravitate to certain characters and themes and why I tell the stories I tell.
But that's all theme and background, and if I do my job right you won't even consciously notice it. When it comes to the meat of the tale, what we've basically got here is a full-tilt rock-and-roll road trip to the edge of the multiverse. Gunfights, fast cars, black magic and body horror, doomed and desperate romance, interdimensional alien conquerors, a suspicious number of Macbeth references, mad scientists, eldritch cults, neon lights and kissing in the rain, a desperate cop on the edge of a breakdown, and one very, very pissed-off and murderous witch. By the end of the trilogy there will be, as Uma Thurman phrased it in Kill Bill, "a roaring rampage of revenge." Maybe even two.
(Oh, and of course, in between installments of the trilogy I'll be bringing you more Faust and Harmony stories; nobody's gonna be neglected, no worries.)
So that's the announcement! We're aiming for the first book of the Wisdom's Grave trilogy to debut in January of 2018 (tentatively titled Sworn to the Night, but we've gone through three or four titles at this point and it may change again before the manuscript goes to my editor; we're workshopping it.) My usual awesome editing and design team is all on board, and stage actress Susannah Jones -- who did such a fantastic job with the Revanche Cycle -- will be narrating the audiobooks. We'll all be working extra-hard over the next few months to bring you an adventure to remember.
“I suppose we should start things off properly,” Carolyn said. “So: once upon a time, in a magical kingdom, there lived a valiant knight. But she didn’t know she was a knight, not yet, any more than she knew that she was fated to die. And in this same kingdom lived a witch who would have been peerless in wit, majesty, and wickedness, but she’d fallen under a vile sorcerer’s spell—”
“Get on with it,” the interrogator told her.
Carolyn's fingertips riffled against her legs, like a pianist getting warmed up for a grand performance.
“Never rush a storyteller.” Her eyes narrowed at him. "You might miss an important detail. And here…we…go.”
Good morning, everybody! So the first reviews for Double or Nothing are in, and...sounds like people are enjoying it? Hurray! On that note, the paperback version is now available, sorry again for the delay there. (The printer rejected the original manuscript for an unspecified pagination issue. I went over it, couldn't find it, THEY couldn't find or explain it, then I re-submitted the exact same manuscript and they said the new version was correct. Yes, I facepalmed.)
Meanwhile, I'm getting back to work on The Neon Boneyard, prepping another manuscript for my editor in October, AND packing for Thrillerfest. I'm not presenting or anything, just going as an attendee -- I learned a ton last year, and can't wait to go back. Also, doing some more book research, because if I'm setting foot outside my office, it's probably for research.
Oh, and to celebrate the new Faust novel coming out, The Long Way Down is on sale for ninety-nine cents for the next week or so. Because that's how I roll.
Good morning! (Wow, very morning, it's 4:30 here. I don't sleep well before new-book days.) I'm happy to announce that Double or Nothing, the seventh Daniel Faust novel, is on sale now; in the US you can grab it at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071GLNMM1 and it should be making its way to the amazon.uk and other international storefronts as we speak. The paperback version is delayed but on its way. We had a little hiccup in transit, but I approved the final proof copy yesterday and now it's just a matter of waiting for it to be added to the purchase page -- it should be up by the end of the week at the very latest. Audio is coming too, Adam Verner is hard at work in the narrator's booth and I think he's forgiven me for some of the words I threw at him this time around.
(Seriously. I made him say "Teotihuacan." You don't make an audiobook narrator do that without sending a note of apology and flowers.)
In other news, Cold Spectrum -- the fourth Harmony Black novel -- is in good hands over at 47North Publishing and they're ramping up for a Halloween release. I just finished approving the final proofreader edits, so that's pretty much in the bag. There's also a short story coming up in August, in the Urban Enemies anthology, entitled "Sixty-Six Seconds." It's about Fontaine versus the remnants of the Redemption Choir, so, y'know, things are gonna get a little rough.
Launch days are strange. There's a sense of celebration, but not relief. An endlessly held breath and a feeling of keen vulnerability, nestled in the sense that you've just put your inner landscape on public display. Delight in the idea that people are exploring the story you've created for them, and the aching fear that it isn't good enough. Of course, I never think anything I write is good enough. The only cure for it is to go back into the office first thing in the morning, sit back down at the keyboard, and get back to work on the next story. But not today. Today I'm fuzzy and distracted, and probably going to go on a movie binge to get out of my own head for a bit. Seen anything good lately?
And that's about it from me! I've got some fun special projects in the pipeline, which I'll tell you about soon -- and in three weeks or so, I'll finally spill the beans on that secret trilogy project I've been working on for most of the last year. Finally. I promise. For real, this time. We've got a release date and everything. Catch you soon; stay cool out there, and stay safe.
I woke up this morning and realized we're exactly one week from the release of Double or Nothing. That's when the panic set in. There's so much to do before a book launch, from finalizing print layouts to lining up the audiobook production, and the whole checklist has to be timed just right for a perfect launch.
(It helped when I became experienced enough to realize there's actually no such thing as a perfect launch, and if it does happen, it's basically by accident. Publishing is a giant machine with a hundred moving parts, and inevitably something is going to turn out weird. It's more about the 'catching whatever screwed up and fixing it as quickly and gracefully as possible.')
Fortunately, I'm still fired up from my short trip to NYC. The Sycamore Theater Company put on a wonderful production, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art was sublime, the food was fantastic, and the hospitality at the McKittrick Hotel was, as always, terrifying. I mean, warm and welcoming. I came home with a bounty of inspiration, some new projects in the conceptual stages, and enough surplus energy to, well, launch this book.
I wish I could release it today, if only because this is right about the time the stage fright and "oh god they're all going to hate it" nerves begin to act up. It's a writer thing, can't be helped. One week isn't too long to wait, though.
Two weeks after that I'm jetting back to New York for this year's Thrillerfest convention, visiting with dear friends, and doing research for a new book. And once I return we can talk about...you know. That secret project I've been hinting at. That one I can't talk about. We're gonna talk all about it. Promise.
Happy Monday, everybody! Well, hopefully a happy Monday. An okay-ish Monday? Tolerable at least? Just a quick update to let you know that preorders are live for Double or Nothing. And we are absolutely locked in -- no way out of it now -- for a launch in two weeks on June 27th.
In the meantime, your diligent scribe is running on fumes, wrestling with an outline and badly in need of inspiration. I learned early on that you can't wait for inspiration to come to you; you've got to go out there and hunt it down. I've also learned (a harder lesson, and grudgingly) that sometimes you have to take a couple of days off.
To that end, I'll be hopping a flight to NYC in the morning. Tomorrow night I'll be attending a performance of "Sleep No More" (one of my favorite places to spend an evening in New York, if you caught the dedication at the beginning of Glass Predator), and on Wednesday I'll be seeing my friends in the Sycamore Theater Company performing their new play "Between Friends."
Meanwhile, I'll be keeping a lookout for any curious graffiti. I hear these odd messages about owls have been appearing at an increasing pace...
We're less than a month from the release of Double or Nothing (coming your way on June 27), it's a beautiful Saturday morning, and I'm on my second cup of coffee. What does that mean? It must be time for a cover and blurb reveal! Here's the back-cover synopsis of what you can expect:
Daniel Faust – sorcerer, thief, and newly-minted Las Vegas crime boss – has debts to pay. One of those debts has just come due, an IOU to be paid in the form of a high-risk heist, and it’s a job he can’t refuse. The mark? Daniel’s arch-nemesis, a man with a Cheshire smile and the powers of a living god. The score? A sacrificial dagger buried under layers of electronic, occult, and human security, snug on the far side of a custom-built deathtrap.
Normally, a heist like that would be the end of Daniel’s problems. This time, it’s only the beginning.
Caitlin, Daniel’s lover and the right hand of a demon prince, faces her own threat. She’s adept at navigating the politics of Hell, keeping the peace with diplomatic grace and a whip, but a plan years in the making has left a ticking time bomb under her feet. When it explodes, it will send shockwaves through the infernal courts – and expose one of Caitlin’s darkest secrets. A hidden enemy has targeted Caitlin and Daniel for destruction, and aims to lure them into an impossible snare. For one of them to escape, the other must die.
The only way out is through a maze of demonic bounty hunters, psychic assassins, unlikely enemies and even more unlikely allies. Daniel Faust has spent his life as a trickster, defeating his enemies with the art of the con. He may have finally met his match. Las Vegas is the ultimate chessboard, and his opponent is already two moves ahead.
Hey, there! Taking a short break from spinning plates to bring you a quick update. And I do mean spinning plates: I've got multiple projects in the pipeline at various stages of completion, with various editors, and my attention is at five places at once. Of course, I've got the best team in the business backing me up, so with their help I can get it all done right.
Double or Nothing, the next Daniel Faust novel, will definitely be out on June 27th. My editor Kira is due to send me her revisions next week, which is a very important stage of every novel's development. That's the part where I sit down, stare at hundreds upon hundreds of pages of red text and underlined mistakes. Then comes the part where I drink. Then, once I sober up and stop crying, I make the necessary corrections. With Kira's help, it may actually turn into a readable book.
I've confirmed that Cold Spectrum, book four of the Harmony Black series, will be out on October 31st. I'm tickled by the timing, since a big chunk of the book actually takes place on Halloween. Harmony, for the record, is not a fan of Halloween. (She calls it Amateur Night.) Cold Spectrum has gone through developmental edits, which is the stage when my editor Andrea and I work through the plot, check it for flow and content, and try to "punch up" any weak scenes or places where the story could use structural improvement. The next stage is copy-editing and proofreading, where editors check for concrete grammar and style issues.
As for that secret project I've been teasing for a while, 47North (my publisher) is coming to a decision on whether they want to pick it up, and I may know in a week or so! I can't wait to announce this, it's something I've been super-excited about since the project got underway.
And now I'm buckling down, trying to get ahead of the curve and work on the stories I'll be bringing you in 2018. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to drop a little screen-shot of what I started on this morning...
There I was, working away, starting my second cup of coffee (I got a late start), when a reminder popped up on my phone. Three years ago today, The Long Way Down made its debut, and I became a professional writer. Just like that. Of course, 'just like that' came after twenty-odd years of practice and study, and even then it was just the beginning of a very long and sometimes-rocky road that shows no signs of coming to an end anytime soon. I look back and I'm amazed at how much I had left to learn. Then I'm amazed at how much I still have to learn.
There's no end-game. Writing isn't the kind of job where you can say "Okay, I know everything there is to know, now it's just about showing up and collecting the paycheck." The game's always changing, the landscape always shifting, and you can always -- always -- become a better writer. I'm not as good as I want to be, but I'm better than I was, so at least I've got momentum in the right general direction.
The anniversary's got me feeling reflective. I've got my coffee, there's a new moon tonight, and I'm just sitting here feeling grateful. Yeah, I put in the work to get here, but all that work wouldn't mean a thing if it wasn't for you. A writer without readers is, well...nothing, really. Nothing at all. I write because I have to; it's in my veins, and there's nothing else I want to be, nothing else I can be. But it's my readers who give me life and keep me moving.
It's a special kind of magic that we make together. The translation from the printed page or the narrator's voice to the reader's heart, my characters coming to life in your mind's eye. A story isn't real until it's been read.
So much coming down the pike in this next year. Double or Nothing and Cold Spectrum are both in various stages of editing, and I'm getting very, very close to announcing the special project I've been working on for the better part of a year now. And maybe a few other little surprises along the way.
None of it would be possible without you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Happy Friday, everybody! Got a little something for you. Last year, I contributed a Daniel Faust short story, "A Drive in the Country," to an anthology. Well, the anthology is out of print and the rights reverted back to me, so this weekend I'm setting it loose. If you didn't catch the story the first time it came out, you can read it over at http://craigschaeferbooks.com/drive/ for free.
It's a sordid little tale about The Heist That Went Bad, a tragedy that sent Daniel's life off the rails before the events of The Long Way Down. Probably not safe for work. Or safe for anybody. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!