I am pleased — and relieved — to report that MJ-12: Shadows, the sequel to this year’s MJ-12: Inception, is now in the capable hands of super-editor Cory Allyn over at Night Shade Books.
Why relieved? This book kicked my ass.
MJ-12: Shadows will be my fifth novel, and it was the hardest one to draft. Part of that was due to the material, part of that was due to circumstances, and part of that was just…something else, that writerly thing where you gotta grab the story and drag it kicking and screaming into the light because it doesn’t wanna go.
The material was complex enough — there are two main storylines in the book, a couple of subplots and several POVs. It’s set in 1949, which was a very busy year for the Truman Administration, the U.S. intelligence community and the Middle East, where one of the storylines is set. One of the main historical characters from MJ-12: Inception died that year under mysterious circumstances, too.
So on the one hand, the history was an absolute blessing — you can’t make some of that stuff up. But there was a lot of juggling going on in writing MJ-12: Shadows. So there’s that.
Then there’s life. I was plowing through the drafting process while preparing for the launch of MJ-12: Inception and through the launch, which included events at DragonCon and in San Francisco, plus a ton of guest blogs, interviews, podcasts and assorted bits of marketing. I know some authors loathe the marketing stuff, but it’s kind of what I do for the day job, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it, so I don’t mind it. But it was all happening while trying to write MJ-12: Shadows, so I was moving between stuff quite a lot.
Oh, and I do have that day job, and I happened to have the busiest autumn in said job in my nine years here. It’s nice to be in demand and appreciated, of course, and let’s face it — the day job pays the bills. On Monday, I’m about to head off on my seventh business trip of the year, so yeah, they keep me busy.
And I do have a family, which takes precedence over…well, everything else, frankly. But it’s kind of unfair to list that here, because family isn’t a burden. To me, it’s a privilege.
But story and circumstance aside, this was just a tough nut to crack. Prior to MJ-12: Shadows, three of my past four novels kind of came together easily — as easily as a major project like a novel can happen. The Venusian Gambit, which I wrote in 2014, felt like a hot mess when I was writing it, but that was largely due to my mother’s passing that summer. Cory and the NSB gang were great about giving me extra time to wrap it up, and I had apparently done a better job than I thought in the end — Gambit got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
But MJ-12: Shadows was different than Gambit. Sometimes, the story is stubborn, and finding the right threads to follow and the right words simply takes longer. Getting the pieces in place and the characters lined up just took more out of me. It’s kind of hard to explain, really, other than it just took longer to get it right.
With all that said, I’m happy with how MJ-12: Shadows came out. It’s got some mystery, some slow-burn intrigue, a bunch of cool action and the ending…the ending I’m rather proud of. It explores the nature of the Variants, the source of their power and the responsibility in using that power in the world.
And now? I’m holding off on getting the third book started until Cory finishes the edits on MJ-12: Shadows and we have a chat as to how best to approach the next one. But I have a few other things to work on….