In December, 2014, I published 4 books. They were Rangers, Shaman, Psychic, and Warrior, the first four books of the Sam & Sam series, a plot, a set of characters, and a universe that I am persistently preoccupied with. After that, life happened for a while and I didn’t publish anything again until King of Miami (A His Dark Mistress novel) in May of this year. Near as matters, a year and a half without publishing.
I did not stop writing.
I’ve been promising Dragonsword, book 5 of Sam & Sam, for a long time, and we finally have a concrete plan to get it published sometime in the middle of next month. The tentative date on the calendar is September 15. I have a cover. (I even have a print cover. Zounds.) I’ve written the blurb. The final word-level edits are in process, and then I’ll hand it over to JJ for the obligatory button-pushing.
He’s very good at that.
And so it is time for my introductory piece on Sam & Sam, since I have not ever written anything *about* this series, other than what exists in its cover copy.
Someday, I am going to write a blog about origin stories, and how any character worth his salt needs one, and that, no, it isn’t a big, shadowy flashback sequence in the *real* plot. Well, sometimes it is, but it doesn’t need to be. There’s no reason a reader shouldn’t be in on the events that form a hero (in the literary sense, though also in the superhero sense) from the very beginning, and that’s largely where my stories pick up. Obviously no real person’s story actually starts where we pick it up, but that formative moment when something *new* happens that’s going to be core to the thread of what goes on afterwards in a series – I want to start with that moment. Well, I want to write a book that *ends* at that moment.
In the case of Sam & Sam, I wrote four of them.
Let me start with this: the fact that two of the three core characters of Sam & Sam share a name is not marketing. I go through phases with names, and they sneak in on me when I don’t see them coming. (Cassie from Portal Jumpers was supposed to be Callie. That’s who she was in my outline, that’s who she was in the first hundred pages. But after that Calista du Charme went from Callie to Cassie and there was nothing to do about it. She suddenly shared a name with a villain from a later Sam & Sam book, and my fingers wouldn’t type anything else. My Jamie O’Connor name came into existence around the same time as the lead character from Jamie Bond, a book that is a long way from hitting shelves, but is written nonetheless.) Sam and Samantha hit an unfortunate convergence when I was naming male characters Sam and when my female characters were Samantha. Living through the plot in my head, it turned into a game. Whenever anyone says ‘Sam’, both of them answer ‘What?’.
I’ve been chastised in reviews that the same-name thing makes readability harder. Mea culpa. It is what it is.
Sam & Sam is a dark(ish) urban fantasy that should have been all one book. Let me take that in two parts.
First, dark. It’s a funny term. Sam & Sam is not horror. I’ve shelved it there now and again, but it doesn’t go there. It doesn’t have crucial horror elements, notably the brand-crucial horrific suspense. The knowledge that something terrible is going to happen and you’re helpless to prevent it because you can’t see it coming. There are no hard-and-fast rules to this kind of thing, but Sam & Sam doesn’t go in horror. The problem is, it’s violent. Sam, Samantha, and Jason spend all of their time hunting stuff down and killing it. Some of those things are pretty close to human. Some of them are human. It’s not drippy, it’s not despondent. (Jason is one of JJ’s favorite characters because he’s funny. I would never say that about Jason, because I have no documented sense of humor, so the idea that one of my characters could be funny is absurd. But there it is.) If anything it’s a bit light, in the non-romantic paranormal playing field. But I had a beta reader, after finishing Shaman, tell me that she couldn’t read Sam & Sam any more. It was too dark, too violent, too intense. So I’ve struggled with how to get people comfortable with what they’re getting themselves into, when they read these books. I figure a chick with a chainsaw on the cover isn’t a bad start. Samantha hasn’t laid hand on a chainsaw in anything I’ve written yet, but boy, I swear she’s going to. It suits her.
Next. All one book. Yeah. By my math, if you combined all four books together, you would get a single work that would be 1900 pages, give or take. No kidding. They’re decently-sized books all by themselves, but the four of them are a single arc. They have breathing points, and that’s where the three breakpoints come from, but it’s never sat with me well, how I left Rangers. JJ is furious with me for the ending of Psychic, and he’s well within his rights. All I can say is… I tried. That isn’t how I like to end a book. Warrior is well and truly the end of the *first* book of Sam & Sam, and Dragonsword is a single book (of 600 pages…) all by itself. The box set of the first four books will be coming to e-book before November, if all goes correctly, if you prefer your 1900 page story to come at you all at once.
Sam & Sam is dark urban fantasty, hunting demons, sorcerers, and ghosts. We meet witches, mages, psychics, the possessed, an angel. Jason sleeps with about any girl who winks at him. Samantha dances. The politics of Heaven and Hell play out as most people go about their normally-scheduled lives.
If you’re worried about series that quit short, while I can’t promise I’ll get them all published on a schedule (see previous evidence, best intentions aside), I’ve got another three novels and two novellas in this universe drafted – two more Sam & Sam, one following another character, and two novellas that are prequels featuring a third character. I plan on getting two additional novellas done yet this year (hope, hope) to put them out in a collection either late this year or early next year.
I grow universes like weeds, and Sam & Sam has held my preoccupied attention for a number of years now. There’s so much yet to come, and I can’t wait to get all of it into print.
Welcome to Sam & Sam, root of the Anadidd’na universe. This is my favorite place to be.
What I’m reading: The Art of War Sun Tzu
What I’m watching: Cutthroat Kitchen (If you don’t know this one, it’s worth a shot. Cooking contest show where they cook in toy kitchens wearing oven mitts.)