As I announced in my newsletter, the contracts are signed and the deadlines are etched in stone (gulp), so it’s time to talk about my four-book contract beginning in 2023 with Falstaff Books – and the return of Sara Harvey!
Not to be confused with brilliant writer Sara M. Harvey, a dear friend who kindly loaned me her name for the heroine of a novella I wrote mumblety years ago and probably didn’t imagine she’d then be featured as the heroine of a series. The real Sara has never been a Marine or fought zombies and monsters. As far as I know.
The Blackfire series began with a short novel titled The Cold Ones, originally published through Sam’s Dot Publishing, but its origins actually go back to my first publisher, New Babel Books. The amazing Frank Fradella, then owner of NBB, was putting together an anthology of novellas by the Sleepwalkers, a wonderful and sadly defunct writers’ group of midlist beginners, each tasked with writing a conventional monster in a nonconventional way. I thought Frank was going to stick me with vampires, because I was just coming off the success of the Nocturnal Urges series, and I wasn’t all that keen on trying to find a new take on vampires since I’d already done that. He gave me zombies, and I said, “But I’ve never written zombies.” Exactly, Frank replied.
I decided to try for zombie fiction that wasn’t extreme body horror, that didn’t aim for the gross-out. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But that was the conventional zombie take, and I aimed for something else: a psychological horror stemming from some of the original legends rather than the more American takes stemming from Romero films.
I thought, “What is the scariest part about zombies?” It’s not the brain-eating or shambling or the rotted corpses chasing you. It’s the time between being bitten and turning, knowing you will die and it can’t be prevented, and worse, you will become the monster yourself. You will become a threat to everyone and everything you ever cared about. So I did it to a warrior, and let wackiness ensue.
It seemed to work out pretty well. We premiered the first book at Archon in 2009, and offered a free “zombie bite kit” with every purchase. We sold out the entire print run in 48 hours, and by the end of the weekend the publisher wanted a sequel. That was Blackfire, which came out in 2011, and was followed by short stories in literary magazines after Sam’s Dot closed and the books went out of print.
The latest was Yanaguana, a prequel set in San Antonio published by Crone Girls Press in 2020 as part of Foul Womb of Night, a ebook trilogy of military horror stories and later released in print as a limited-edition chapbook.
Every time I do a public appearance, readers will ask me when they’re getting more Blackfire. I did kind of leave them on a cliffhanger, with another book planned… and now it seems there will be even more of them.
Also pending as part of this Falstaff deal: Banshee’s Run. A blockade runner in a time of plague is pursued by a bounty hunter who believes she is responsible for the death of his wife. Wackiness ensues. I’ve played in space opera before, but this is a much bigger scope than any of those short stories and I can’t wait for you all to see it. Note: I was writing this tale of space leprosy long before COVID, but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a COVID novel…. stupid virus.
I’m delighted to be working with John Hartness and the fine folks at Falstaff Books, self-described as the misfit toys of speculative fiction. That definitely describes my work, and I hope you will enjoy these books as much as I’m enjoying playing with them. It is also a great way to re-enter novel publishing, as I’ve kind of set aside novels in favor of short stories and novellas all through my grad school experience. With graduation looming in May (!!!), it’s time to get the novels rolling again.
The first Blackfire release will be a compendium of all the previously released stories, including the really rare ones, and a new novella bringing the story forward to Phase 2 (see? just like the MCU!). Look for that in 2024, with Banshee’s Run to follow.