Life has a tendency to sneak up on you when you least expect it, and things have been crazy busy for the last few months. Since my last post, Places Beyond the Wild launched and got a coveted Amazon “orange tag” signifying it’s best-seller status for its category. I’m more than a little proud of that, but I’m also happy for the authors that contributed to the anthology and made it such a resounding success. If you haven’t read it, go do that now, and then come on back. I can wait.
All right, so now that the anthology has been out for a while, I’m going to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about its structure, what makes it different than the typical anthology, and what it means fro the Z-Day universe going forward.
One of the more fun things I did while writing the first three books in the series was to sprinkle in little bits and pieces of what occurred in the larger world while Miles and gang fought for survival in their little corner of the world. Consider the Marines talking to Charlie about the last resting place of General Mattis on the grounds of the Pentagon, or the Alaskan bears who carved out their own niche in a post-apocalyptic world by kicking zombie ass.
In a normal anthology (with a few exceptions) the editor will pitch a story hook, go through the submissions, and put together a collection of the best shorts. This usually tends to line things up thematically, but the stories are all over the map in terms of connectivity.
What I tried to do with Places was more akin to the old shared-universe Wild Cards series, where all of the writers are working in the same world, and each individual story has a tangible impact on the larger world. In my case, this worked out one of two ways. I knew there were several stories that I’d hinted at in the first three books that I wanted to explore more, and in those cases I pretty much gave authors homework assignments based on their strengths. When it comes to balls-to-the-wall action, it doesn’t get more chaotic than Declan Finn, for example, so he was a natural pick for Last Stand of the Mad Dog.
That wasn’t the case for every story, which took a bit of a balancing act and a leap of faith on my part. This is my baby, after all, and I didn’t want to “cheat” by saying that the events of the shorts aren’t canon to the universe. (Well, except for one story, but that ‘works’ as presented.) Stories like Caterpillar and A Place to be Alone were spawned entirely by their creators; I just made sure that the serial numbers lined up. (Though I do admit that J.D. Beckwith’s reveal of what Henry Schantz’s computer password was made me laugh hysterically.)
In the end though, I’m ecstatic with how things turned out and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The antho gave me a chance to share one of the stories of Miles and Sticks’ friendship. We learn in Wild of Sticks’ tragic end, but we don’t experience much of him as a character. Of all the editorial decisions I made when crafting the first book, that’s one I regret most, though the structure works in the end. The opening of the book was originally far more linear, telling the tale of the beginning of Hope and progressing through the early months after Z-Day until eventually jumping forward to the point it does now.
I decided that, if you’re gong to hit the audience with shock, best do it quickly. That put a significant chunk of story into a folder of scraps and notes, and that’s the origin of the opening story, Black Friday. The uplifting ending of the story is bittersweet with what we know is coming, and it was fun for me to write a version of Miles who hasn’t had the benefit of years of survival to hone his abilities.
Which brings us to the closing novella of the collection, The Staked Plain. Molly was one of my favorite characters to write in A Place for War, and it seemed a natural fit to center the following books on her, Hatch, and a few others to be named. (Hey, I can’t spoil all the good stuff, right?)
I’m currently about a quarter of the way through the fourth Paxton Locke book, and once I’m finished with it I’ll begin writing the fifth in that series. This spring, once I’m done with those two, I’ll begin on A Place for Peace to have it ready for you sometime in the winter of 2020.
Until then–keep reading. I’ll keep writing.