So. 2018. That was a year, huh?

Looking back, the best part of my year was the wonderful response to the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy. Your support means so much to me, always, and reading about how many of you were touched in some positive way by these books has been a wonderful thing. Beyond that, much of my 2018 was spent – as writers do, with our work stretching out for months and months before us like a ribbon in the wind – preparing for 2019. So let’s put this year in the “done” pile and look at the next one!

On April 9, 47North Publishing will be bringing you Ghosts of Gotham, a stand-alone novel set in a brand-new universe. This is a special book for me, one that touches on ideas and places and people close to my heart. If you’d like a little more of a hint about what lies in store, here’s a really nice and non-spoilery ARC review.

As I mentioned in my last update, I spent a good chunk of this last year working on a follow-up to Ghosts, another tale of New York’s secret history set in the same world but with a different cast of characters. And, as I mentioned in my last update, it’s not good enough. It’s just not. It’s not up to the standards I set for myself, or the experience I want to deliver to you, so I’m back to the lab and trying to figure out how to reconfigure this patchwork monster so that the right bolt of lightning can bring it to life properly.

(Having to tear apart a book I’ve spent months working on, plus seasonal blues, plus clinical depression is one hell of a combo. I may have spent most of the last two days laying on my office floor, staring at the ceiling. But I’m up and fighting now, and that’s what matters.)

An ongoing theme, I think, is that 2019 is going to be a year of experiments. Ghosts of Gotham is a total break from my established universe, continuity, and my usual style, as I try to grow and improve as an author. Another experiment (how’s this for a segue) will arrive with another 2019 release, the long-overdue continuation of the Harmony Black series.

In the wake of the events of Cold Spectrum, not to mention Wisdom’s Grave – with a time-jump of six months or so in the process – the status quo has changed. It’s a shifting world with new threats, and a new and revitalized Vigilant Lock is stepping up to the challenge. I think I’ve used this analogy before, but this is going to be the Casino Royale of the series: not a reboot, exactly, but a re-framing and a (hopefully) fresh take on the concept. I’m aiming for a streamlined, taut thriller feel, focused and tense and very dark.

(To stretch the analogy to the breaking point, this is very much the Daniel Craig version of Harmony. She’s had her black-and-white ideology shattered, realized how dirty her hands are going to have to get in order to survive, and seen the world for what it is. And when one of her operatives is ambushed and killed on a mission along the Florida coast, she and Jessie set out with two goals: uncover the truth, and exact vengeance for the fallen.)

The book is done and in my editor’s hands. I can tell you the title – it’s called Right to the Kill – but I don’t have a release date just yet. This is where things get tricky. See, as a hybrid writer (part self-published, part traditionally-published), I have to work around my publishers’ timetables and contractually I can’t release any of my own work within a certain window. It makes sense: they don’t want me competing with myself, so to speak, and if I put out a book too close to the release of Ghosts of Gotham, it’d potentially dilute sales (if people only buy one or the other) and sink both on the charts. Better to spread them out so they both have room to fly.

What that comes down to is this: if my editor finishes up with Right to the Kill in January, I can get it out early in 2019. If not, it’s going to have to wait a while so as not to overlap with Ghosts. Will she do it? I do not know and I will not pester her, for editors are subtle and quick to anger. Wait. That was wizards, not editors.

Eh, same thing.

So basically even I won’t know until the last minute. If the edits get done, I can jump on layout and finalize everything and pull a couple of all-nighters if I have to, but if they don’t, they don’t. Don’t expect a lot of advance warning on this one, if it happens. Fingers crossed!

Summer brings experiment number three. This is something I mentioned obliquely last year, but now I can give you the full details. I’ve said in the past that when I was a kid just getting hooked on reading, thrillers and crime novels were one of my first loves. I’m pleased to say that Thomas & Mercer Publishing has given me a crack at the genre and signed me for two books (maybe more to come, if you like it and, y’know, buy it) in a new series.

Book one, The Loot, finds Sergeant Charlene McCabe on her way home from a long tour of duty in Afghanistan. Charlie left a war behind only to find a new one waiting for her on the home front: her gambling-addict father is in deep with a violent Boston bookie – twenty thousand dollars’ worth of deep – and the clock is ticking. Meanwhile, her new job as a professional bodyguard takes a turn into chaos when her client’s deadly secrets come to light.

Toss in a shady arms dealer, the ex-con remnants of a 1960s radical student union, and a legendary unsolved diamond heist, and the stage is set for a string of risky deals and double-crosses. If Charlie makes all the right moves, she might be able to save her father’s life, save her client…and walk away with the loot.

We recently finished developmental editing; the book is shaping up and it was a blast to work on. And as always, trying new things and stretching my wings is how I stave off burnout and grow as a writer. It’s all a part of the artist’s journey: evolving, learning what works and what doesn’t, finding and kindling that core of passion that makes a story worth reading.

Busy year ahead; how should we round it out? Trick question. There’s only one way to cap off 2019, and that’s with the return of Daniel Faust in The Locust Job. I’m breaking theme a little as this isn’t really an experiment, but it should be noteworthy nonetheless. Big things are in store as the major players are moving into position and hatching long-laid plans, and we begin our steady ramp-up to the final confrontation between Daniel and the Enemy. I’ll just say this: I’m going to try to schedule the follow-up book close on this one’s heels, because when you see how it ends (assuming my outline doesn’t radically change for some reason), you’re going to want the next one ASAP.

So that, friends and owlets, is the coming year in a nutshell. I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, they always feel like promises tailor-made to be broken before the snow thaws, but I’ll gladly renew the one I make every year. I resolve to keep working hard, to try to grow as an artist and a storyteller, and bring you my very best. Because, in the immortal words of the acclaimed poet Vanilla Ice, anything less than the best is a felony. Have a great New Year’s Eve, be safe if you’re out on the roads tonight, and I’ll talk to you soon.