The Final Faraday Files Book Is Finished

It’s been a long time coming.

I started The Deathsniffer’s Assistant — the first time — almost ten years ago. It was a germ of an idea with no outline, no endgame, and no real vision. I just wanted to write a cool mystery novel in a fantasy world, something I’d dreamed of reading since I was just a kid who loved Nancy Drew and unicorns.

It grew over time. It developed new angles, new depths. Themes about societal change and the power of hope and the importance of self-acceptance. A simple mystery story became part of a larger tale of conspiracy, betrayal, and monumental change. Characters appeared and took over, and they infected my life with their stories. I came to love them like they were real people.

Now, The Spiritbinder’s Key, the forth and final book in the Faraday Files series, has left my hands. And let me tell you, finishing the final book of a series like this feels a lot different than finishing any of the others did. I’m torn between elation — because I think the ending is good, and I think you’ll all love it — and a soft kind of sadness.

I’ve been on the other side of this a lot. I cried through the last one hundred pages of The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett, knowing I’d never see Ivy, Rafferdy, and Eldyn again after that last page. NK Jemisin’s The Broken Earth is my favourite series of the decade, and I still haven’t started The Stone Sky because that will be the beginning of the end. Just this week, I finished Witchmark by C.L. Polk, and I’ve laid awake, having a hard time getting to sleep, mourning the brief but incandescent time I spent in Kingston with her wonderful cast. I form strong attachments to characters, and parting with them is always hard.

But it’s very different on this side of the keyboard. From the moment I conceived of these characters, I knew how their stories would end. I knew who would live and who would die. I knew the final destinations for all their relationships. I often wish I could spend more time with the casts of my favourite books, but I have enough faith in my own writing to know that I’m leaving my own characters at the right moment.

But I will miss them. So much! I’ve been with these characters for so, so long, you guys It’s staggering to imagine them going on into their lives after the final page without me there beside them. Each of their endings are perfect. Everything came together better than I could have dreamed. I’m utterly thrilled to have been able to tell their stories.

But there’s always something bittersweet about even the best goodbyes.

I look forward to sharing everything I’ve worked toward with all of you. As soon as there’s any news about release, you’ll be the first to know!

For now, it’s time for me to start work on something new… which is pretty scary, honestly. I haven’t sat down and sketched out the borders of a new world in a dog’s age, and I’ve gotten used to playing with an established cast, a set of parametres, my readers already knowing at least some of what’s going on. It’s overwhelming… but exciting, too. The thrill of the blank page calls to me, and I’m up to the challenge of filling it.

Advertisements

Interview for The Illustrated Page!

3 The Heartreader's Secret final front cover final

It’s almost time! Tomorrow is The Heartreader’s Secret release day! To celebrate the launch of the third of Chris and Olivia’s adventures, I sat down with Sarah Waites over at The Illustrated Page to talk about the history behind the Faraday Files books, writing strong female characters, and the future of both the series and my work beyond it. Check it out over here, and don’t forget to grab your copy of THS over on Amazon!

The Heartreader’s Secret cover & preorder!

I’m so excited to finally be revealing the gorgeous cover for The Faraday Files book number 3, The Heartreader’s Secret! In THS, Chris and Olivia are leaving the big city and their murders to solve a missing persons case in the country. You’ll get to see the world beyond Darrington, explore the motivations and hidden desires of the heartreader Rachel Albany, and, what everyone has been waiting for, finally meet Olivia’s mother!

3 The Heartreader's Secret final front cover final

Chris and Rachel look so amazing on this cover. Thanks so much to my wonderful cover artist, Amalia Chitulescu, for knocking it out of the park once again. Don’t you love the blue highlights and how they bring life to the image? Amazing.

You can pre-order The Heartreader’s Secret here on Amazon.com.  More links to other vendors will be added later! The book is out in less than a month, which is just so exciting. I can’t wait for you all to read it!

The Glories and Pitfalls of Writing Fanfiction While Dreaming of More

Like almost all authors in my demographic, from the most wildly successful to the most pie-in-the-sky aspirational, I cut my teeth on fanfiction.

I was writing it before I even knew it existed. Family members and old friends can recount countless stories about me as a tot, directing the other kids in my elaborate games of “pretend,” which were really just live action recreations of my fanfics. From Nancy Drew to Rescue Rangers to The Adventures of Sinbad and right down the line to obscure Christian Middle Grade/Young Adult mystery novels, I was always thinking up new scenarios, characters, and relationships to explore in my favourite pieces of media.

I took my first early steps into original fiction in this timeframe, too! Of course, almost all of it was “inspired” by my favourite books, shows, games, and movies. And by “inspired” I mean “basically just recreated.” My characters and settings were reskinned clones of the stories that thrilled my imagination.

A particularly egregious example was the ten book series I wrote from the time I was eleven to thirteen. (Why don’t I have that sort of writing output anymore??) You can track my parade of interests and obsessions across the series’s timeline as characters and plotlines sprout bulbous tumours inspired from the next big thing I was into. I more or less abandoned the series when I got into Star Wars — it was impossible to graft that into my basic high fantasy universe, sadly.

It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I found out that fanfiction was real. It was an actual thing that people did, a popular and active hobby with websites and discussion boards and social networks devoted to it. It was a revelation. You mean I didn’t have to disguise my interests as other things? I could just actually write twenty thousand words of post-canon Final Fantasy VII where Jenova possesses Aeris’s body and comes back as a zombie and also write a bunch of frothing polemic about why Cloud should be with Tifa? Nobody is going to like… sue me for that? Not only that, people will read it if I post it?

And that was it. From the moment I posted my first chapter of my first fic, I was addicted. The instant feedback, the feeling of community, the ease with which you could connect to other writers… it was amazing! I spent all my classes scribbling fic away in my notebook, and I’d make revisions when I typed it up at my old Windows 3.1 computer later that night. I’d sneak upstairs at midnight to the internet-enabled family computer, drape myself over the modem to muffle the sound of the dial-up connecting, and then post the new chapters. The next morning in computer class, I’d be greeted with an inbox full of new comments, each one as precious as gold.

Even to this day, over fifteen years later,  I can’t overstate the value of that feeling of community. Every day is a writing conference. You can find anyone willing to engage with you about anything. Some just want to talk about the characters and the plots and the concepts. Others want to connect on a more technical level. I learned more about the nuts and bolts — about how to tell a compelling story, about how to make prose flow, and how to engage an audience — from fanfiction than I ever did on any more “acceptable” platform. I’d spent years looking for books and mentors to teach me how to write, but I got all of my best lessons from those early fandoms.

Shout-outs to them, now, by the way. Hi there, Final Fantasy. How are you doing, Seiken Densetsu 3? Always have a place in my heart for you, Fushigi Yuugi. Congratulations on curing me of my internalized homophobia, Gravitation. What’s going on these days, Fire Emblem? When I hear Bryan Adams sing about the Summer of ’69, these are the halcyon days of youth I go back to. I even met my future wife in these communities.

But there was a solid downside to those years. Though I was writing all the time, reading constantly, learning and growing and developing as a writer… I’d completely stopped writing original fiction altogether.

There were a lot of reasons for that, but I think it comes down to two major points.

1. Original fiction and fanfiction share a very similar toolbox, and one can teach you invaluable lessons about the other. However, they don’t share an identical toolbox. While focusing completely on fanfic, I lost touch with a lot of the tools you need to write good, compelling, publishable original work.

2. The feeling of community and collaboration and camaraderie are central to the fanfiction experience. And while enjoying those things, I developed an almost pathological dependence on the rush of immediate, gratifying feedback that writing and sharing fanfic gives.

Any moment I could spend on my original ideas seemed wasted. I could be devoting that time to a fic, which I could post immediately, which would get me immediate feedback. Writing an original project felt incredibly, suffocatingly lonely. No one cared about the characters I’d invented. I was lost without the feeling of engagement I had when working with familiar faces and playing to an audience who loved them. It felt terribly and echoingly empty. And maybe I could have gotten through it, but it also felt impossibly hard to introduce concepts, characters, and world building. I’d come to rely so strongly on the shorthand of fanfic that not having it made writing incredibly difficult. I’d become incredibly frustrated with my inability to operate without the “vocabulary” of a given fandom, its cast, its world, its rules. Even in the most AU (alternate universe) of fanfics, you’re using an entire canon’s worth of context to communicate with your readers. And after doing it for long enough, establishing your own vocabulary for that stuff is incredibly hard, and it only gets harder the longer you go without practice.

I wanted to write my own stories so badly, but the more time went by, the less and less I felt equipped to do so. My efforts made me feel isolated and discouraged. I started resenting fanfiction, blaming the amazing community for my own discontent, and I ended up in a place where I wasn’t writing anything at all. I had to slowly build myself back up to the place where I am today.

So this is the part where I say that you shouldn’t write fanfic, right?

Well, wrong. Like, super wrong.

The fact is, I still write fanfic. I still write a lot of fanfic. And I love doing it. It’s important and valuable and incredibly rewarding. Fanfiction still helps me improve, still lets me be experimental, still gives me a freedom that I can’t get anywhere else. It’s taught me so much about interacting with fans and how to interface with the people who consume my work. And that amazing community I talked about is still alive and well. You can get feedback and appreciation and concrit and then go on the pay it forward. I’m still learning and making friends from the community, and I don’t intend to stop.

There are also a whole lot of writing jobs where the skills you learn from fanfic are incredibly important. Ghostwriting, working on licensed fiction, and working in a writer’s room on television are all great career paths, and your fanfic skills will make you an expert at capturing voice and tone.

It’s good for you to write fanfiction.

It’s just not good for you to write only fanfiction.

Don’t let your original fic muscles atrophy. Put aside time so that you’re spending a good ratio of your writing hours on both. Learn to wean yourself off that rush of instant feedback, treating writing like a marathon with long term rewards instead of a sprint with instant gratification. Find friends and contacts who’ll engage with you about your original work. (The last is surprisingly easy if you put yourself out there! You’ll find the fanfic community is full of other aspiring professionals who need the same thing in return.)

It’s also good to read not only fanfiction. Open yourself to meeting new characters and going to new places. Don’t cling too hard to the comforting blanket of the wonderfully familiar. Take a moment out of your day to engage with a fanfic friend about their original work. Express interest in their characters. Pick up a book and try and make time to read it, especially indie and debut authors. Leave reviews and/or connect with the authors. Don’t do this instead of engaging with a fan community! Do them both, because both are extremely awesome and important and irreplaceable.

(I should also note here, just at the end, that not all fanfiction writers/readers are aspiring professionals. Some just really love fic for what it is, and it’s all they’re interested in. That’s awesome! None of this is for you. If all you want to do is fic, all you should do is fic! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, or that your hobby is ‘lesser.’)

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly isolated and insecure, I still boot up a word processor to write fanfic just for the feeling of being connected and accessible and easy. And that’s not only okay — that’s healthy, smart, fantastic. As long as we don’t drink so deep we don’t want to venture back out.

The Heartreader’s Secret pubs April 12, 2018!

At long last, it’s here! The promised, anticipated, long-awaited release of Faraday Files #3, The Heartreader’s Secret, has a firm release date! The book will be coming from Curiosity Quills on April 12, 2018, and will be available at most digital retailers!

This one has been a trial to get out of my head and into your hands. The actual writing process took forever. I didn’t outline nearly enough, and just told myself that I’d figure out the ending when I got there. Bad idea! I can’t make this work. I never could. I finally finished the book less than a week before my wedding to my frequently credited partner in crime, Elzie, who didn’t have the time to go through and edit my work on the book for almost a month, because… well, she’d also just gotten married! She finally got done with it only to inform me, on no uncertain terms, that the book was Extremely Bad.

Oops.

So then began another several months of deep edits, which took longer than they otherwise might have, because, have I mentioned, I’d just gotten married? By the time it got to my agent, the book was looking strong, but we were miles behind!

It only snowballed from there. My agent was swamped, my publisher is in the midst of some really cool internal development that unfortunately slowed down publishing, and both my previous editors were unavailable! Just the act of scheduling this release date has taken two weeks longer than it usually does!

But here it is, written in stone, promised from the bottom of my heart. The book is no longer Extremely Bad. I have it on good authority from the wife that it is now, in fact, Extremely Good! Everyone who’s read it has said it’s easily their favourite of the entire series so far, and things are finally smoothing out and gliding to a graceful finish on the pub side of things. On April 12th, the book will be in your hands, and you’ll finally be able to experience the next chapter in Chris and Olivia’s story together.

More information, such as preorders and event info, will be forthcoming! For now, mark your calendars and get ready.22

*embarrassed cricket noises*

Ahem. Is anyone still here?

It’s been a quiet 2017, hasn’t it? Almost a year since my last update on this site. I’ve written some posts and then declined to post them out of guilt for talking about anything that wasn’t a release date for The Heartreader’s Secret…

Well, good news!

I still don’t have a release date that I can share with you, but we are close to giving you one. It’ll be in the first half of 2018 if all goes well. This book was hell to write and edit and get together, but I couldn’t be happier with where it is right now and I’m so, so excited to get it into your hands. I think it’s the best one yet, and my early readers have all agreed.

Thank you so much for all your patience with me and my business people during these long delays! Watch this spot for actual, firm news very soon, of which there should be a bunch coming all at once!

And now… back to work on the forth and final Faraday Files book. Because don’t worry! While The Heartreader’s Secret has been stuck in editorial hell, I have been hammering away at the first draft for The Spiritbinder’s Key! Hopefully it’ll be in your hands a whole lot faster than its prequel.

Experience The Deathsniffer’s Assistant in a New Way December 15th!

The date is coming up on the audio book release date of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant!

51uxsbppcnl-_aa300_
cover for the audio edition!

Maybe you’ve been meaning to check out the book and haven’t been able to make time in your busy schedule. Maybe you’ve already read it and want to reread. Or maybe you’re like me, and think of audiobooks as a form of adaptation, and just want to see TDA adapted to a new format! There are tons of reasons to pick it up in either digital or physical format!

The audiobook of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is published by Tantor Audio, performed by Romy Nordlinger, and proliferated by Audible. Here are some places you can pick it up!

Tantor’s Site: You can get the book here in physical form as either an Audio CD, which can be played in most CD players, and an MP3 CD, which will not work in a base model CD player, but will contain an MP3 that you can access from a computer or MP3 CD player!

Audible Site: If you’d rather go digital, you can get the audiobook off Audible! It can be purchased with either credits, if you have an Audible membership, or normal money! Through the audible app, you can listen to the book on your phone or computer easily.

Amazon: Finally, you can buy it in either physical or digital via Amazon! The physical version has Amazon Prime attached to it, so if you’re a Prime member, you can have it at your house in two days! Amazon also has the awesome functionality where, if you’ve already bought the Kindle edition of the book, you can get the audible version for only four dollars!

People are already asking me the big question, of course, which is — will The Timeseer’s Gambit also be out, and if so, when? And what about books three and four? The short answer is, it depends! Tantor wants to see how the first one sells before it commits to the sequels. The best way to make sure you get to hear Olivia’s first official serial killer case is to pick up the first one and give it a listen!

The Heartreader’s Secret is Complete!

After a solid two months of writing 40 hours a week, I have finally written the last word in the first draft of The Heartreader’s Secret, Faraday Files number 3!

It’s only been done for a few hours now, so there’s no news on when it’ll be in your hands. Hopefully not too long, but publishing takes a while… and there’s a lot of work left to do on the book. But this stuff is honestly the easy part, and I can’t wait until the book is in your hands!

Here are some quick facts about The Heartreader’s Secret:

1. The first draft has clocked at 144k words. The Deathsniffer’s Assistant finished at 160k. The Timeseer’s Gambit was 132. That puts THS firmly in the middle of the three so far. It’s worth noting that word count can change a lot in revisions, of course! TDA and TTG ended up essentially the same length as TDA lost scenes and TTG picked some up.

2. It’s the darkest book in the series. The Faraday Files book are meant to act as both self-contained stories and four acts of one narrative. THS is very much the lowest point for the heroes as we head into the climax and finale in the final book.

3. It isn’t set (entirely) in Darrington City. Olivia and Chris’s case in this book takes them out of the big city and to the rambling country estate where Olivia grew up. Summergrove has become a hotbed for activity, with Rachel Albany, Rosemary Buckley, Emilia Banks, and Francis Livingstone all out there — not to mention Olivia’s mother, Elouise Faraday! It’s inevitable that Chris and Olivia would find themselves out there, and in this book, they do.

4. The titular heartreader is Rachel Albany. Rachel has always been my most challenging character to write, and her prominent role in this book is part of why it’s taken me so long to finish it! But despite her title call, Rachel doesn’t play as prominent a role as Olivia and Will do in the first two books, or Rosemary will in book 4, The Spiritbinder’s Key. THS is the most ensemble book in the series, and pretty much everybody gets a lot of stuff to do.

5. It’s been the hardest book to write by far. TTG stayed miraculously on-point. It only very occasionally diverged from the outline, and only in minor ways. TDA was a far more rambling, out of control creature… but it was also my first book and was a simpler narrative. It was easier to course correct when it strayed. But THS would not stay on topic. Chekov’s guns refused to fire. Entire characters wouldn’t fulfill their designated role. Planned dynamics didn’t play out. New characters appeared. Events played out differently than I envisioned. This book just would not behave, and with so many moving pieces I needed to get squared away for the final book, it was a pain to restructure everything over and over again!

6. I know a whole lot about apples, ciders, and horticulture now. Like, too much. Olivia’s family runs a famous orchard, mill, and cidery. I have something like fifty pages of research about apples, of which I’ve used maybe three lines. Oh, well. I got to drink a lot of different hard ciders for research 😉

Hungry for more? Keep your eyes peeled for more information about The Heartreader’s Secret, coming… hopefully soon!

Backstage Character Pass — Rayner Kolston

With the release of The Timeseer’s Gambit a solid month behind us, and, hopefully, most of my readers having had a chance to dig in and discover Chris and Olivia’s new adventure, I’m ready to start talking about the book here on my blog! I’ve got so much to say! But first up, the Backstage Character Pass series is looking incomplete.

How about those characters who solidified their position in the main cast a little later than the others?

Rayner Kolston was what I refer to in my notes as a “mystery character” in the first book. What that means is that, like Evelyn val Daren, Grandmother Eugenia, and Elisabeth Kingsley, he existed in the story primarily as a potential suspect and a source of investigative information for Olivia’s sleuthing. He established the val Daren’s family’s debts and acted as a slightly more reliable outside perspective on the Duke’s life. In the earliest outlines, this was Kolston’s entire role in the series, and he would disappear in future books once the case was solved.

But as I outlined his role and, eventually, got around to actually sketching out his scenes with Olivia, I found that I… actually really liked the guy. He provided something new and unique to the cast, and there was a role I could see him playing in future books. And I jumped on it, because the truth is, he’s just a lot of fun to write!

While most of the cast of these books are relatively respectable and on the right side of the law, Kolston is most definitely not. Chris often describes him like a rodent or an insect, and it’s a pretty apt comparison. Kolston scuttles around the edges of things, exploits the economic crisis to make his own personal fortune, and collects nuggets of information to sell to the highest bidder.

All of those traits are surprisingly useful. As you can see in The Timeseer’s Gambit, Kolston provides a window into the darker sides of Darrington city. He’s a contact Chris and Olivia can use to scrape the underbelly, which makes him a great character to have around for the mystery-solving aspects of the plot. He’s also great for when they need something untoward done and don’t want to or can’t do it themselves. In TTG, this all leads to Chris making a devil’s bargain with Kolston that will definitely come back in later books. And, of course, Kolston’s presence helps remind us of how grimy Darrington is getting as it loses more and more of its prestige and sinks deeper into a depression.

But I don’t think any of that is Kolston’s real purpose in the story. The true appeal of having him in the mix, for me, is the conflict he brings to Olivia and Chris.

I really wanted to show Olivia as a sexually confidant woman who doesn’t care about societal expectations. I also wanted to make it clear that she isn’t sexually attracted to Chris by demonstrating how she acts when she is interested in someone. But I didn’t want to clutter my already large cast by adding a character specifically for this purpose. However, I realized writing their first scene together in TDA that damn… she really digs on Kolston. He’s clever, willing to flirt shamelessly, and can actually keep up with her.

Not to mention, he’s just a good-looking guy!

3uytgx3
I’ve come to realize that my biggest inspiration for Kolston is the minor character “Badger” from the television series Firefly. Badger only has about thirty lines in the whole series, but I guess he made an impression on me!

Does that surprise you? After all, he’s always described as being sleazy, greasy, and rat-like. But remember… you’re seeing Kolston from Chris’s point of view, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Chris can’t see past what Kolston is: a carrion eater who lives in the sweaty buttcrack of polite society. But what Olivia sees is all rakish good looks and slick charm.

Kolston also helps remind both Chris and you all reading that Olivia’s moral compass is… crooked. She genuinely believes that he committed a horrible murder in cold blood and got away with it. It just doesn’t bother her. After all, she didn’t know the victim, it was just business, and legally, he’s been cleared. As Olivia starts opening up more to Chris and showing her softer sides, I like to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind that she hasn’t stopped being what she is.

As for Kolston himself? What he wants, what he values, what he loves, where his loyalties lie? Does he have hidden depths, or is he as petty and small-minded as he seems? Does he sincerely care about Olivia, or would he sell her out for a fiver? Is he bad or good or just pragmatic? I know the answers to those questions, but they’re definitely obfuscated on purpose! You’re just going to have to keep reading and find out. Maybe he’ll end up surprising you… and maybe not.

Do you like him? Or does he make your skin crawl? Do you think Olivia deserves better, or are they perfect for each other? Let me know what you think!

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant Backstage Character Pass Series:
Chris
Olivia
Maris
Rosemary
Rachel
Will