Major Author Update on Judging Angels Sequel

Red Announces a Milestone
Milestone: 83,000 Words

UPDATE: 4000 words written today, or one entire chapter. I call it, "RISK."

I am pleased to join Red in announcing a milestone in writing the second book in the Rubricatae Chronicles, which began with the award-winning Catholic-ish urban fantasy novel Judging Angels.

The sequel now has 83,000 words, or about the typical length of a novel. Judging Angels had twice that. In other words, if the sequel were to be the same length as Judging Angels, it would be halfway done.

The deadline for Christmas release is October 1st. I'm doing my best. Oddly enough, that's 666 words per day if I'm going to meet my deadline.

I am projecting a book about two-thirds the length of Judging Angels.

How will it be different from Judging Angels?

Less of a Stand Alone Novel

It is unlikely to be as much of a stand alone book as Judging Angels is.

While the possibility for a sequel was obviously left open, the story was properly ended and the characters had arrived at wherever their trajectory naturally took them within that story. In other words, you could finish Judging Angels, and lay it down having read a single adventure from beginning to end, and followed the character arcs to a reasonable landing within that story. The themes I wished to explore got explored to my satisfaction.

The sequel - Book 2 in the Rubricatae Chronicles - is more complex, introducing two new sets of characters and expanding much on a setting only hinted about in the first book. I think this will be a real treat for those who enjoy a richly realized, original fantasy world that offers some mordantly humorous commentary on our own.

One bit of advice: Please don't think "angels," "demons" and "humans" and imagine a Young Adult romance series. No cosmic beings debating whether to give up their wings or horns for the love of a mortal maid or man, although a teenage boy is a major character.

I am not criticizing YA authors at all. My mom was one, with her book Yellow Leaf, about her Indian great-grandmother. Rather, I'm distinguishing my work from a very popular genre which contains some fine work with which talented authors are doing well.

This just isn't that.

Is there romance? Oh yes. But where it happens, it is less rapturous than problematical and everybody is supposed attending to more serious business, after all! If I had to summarize, I would say the romance is not the story, but is one of the means by which characters are developed and themes explored. It was essential in Judging Angels for reasons that are obvious to the readers of that book.

Where the focus of Judging Angels remained on the plucky Able family, the sequel pulls back to reveal their adventures in the context of a web of sinister plots.

It tells three stories, each taking up about a third of the novel, and all three colliding two-thirds of the way through the whole. This is why the sequel will not be a stand alone novel like the first one was. To bring all three stories and their characters to a satisfying ending would require a book longer even than Judging Angels.

This one will not be longer than Judging Angels!

In fact, it will probably be shorter. At least one more book will be needed to wrap up the Rubricatae Chronicles. I am full of ideas for characters old and new, and the Judging Angels universe is as interesting and roomy as an old Victorian mansion, at least it is to me. I love writing about my characters, even while I am not above killing them off unexpectedly or otherwise abusing them for the entertainment of the masses.

Three Story Lines, Three Sets of Characters, Two Settings

The timeline picks up three weeks after the last page of Judging Angels and quickly answers a few leftover questions. The first third of the book takes place in just one action-packed week. A couple of old characters are reintroduced (and reunited), a couple of minor characters are promoted to major ones, and some new and memorable, ones are introduced. Best of all, the first setting is the original, mordantly humorous, cockeyed version of our world barely introduced in the first book.

The second story line flashes back to the timeline and setting of the previous novel, but shows other important, related events going on among different characters at the same time the plucky Able family is on their adventure. Behind everything seems to be a well-known and unlikely officer of the Federal Government known historically more for gaffes than ambitious plots with sketchy visitors of dubious origin.

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The third story line is the one readers will be waiting for, even as they get sucked into the first two. One week after the beginning of the new novel, three weeks after the end of Judging Angels, and following a significant flashback to a bigger story running parallel with the original Judging Angels story, the hands of three clocks tick to midnight, and all three story lines collide in the present.

The cast of characters in Judging Angels - of which we will have so far seen only a couple - must join forces again to meet even greater threats. They do not start in the best positions, as you might imagine, given the mayhem they left behind them. Someone's got to face justice for a massacre of historic proportions, after all.

They gain new allies, but can they be trusted? And can they make up for the absence of a couple of Team Sandy MVPs from the first book? Alice finds herself under suspicion, pregnant and alone.

If the first book was a cozy little family crime drama, the second book promises to change everything. (I mean everything. Do you understand what "everything" means? No, you only think you do. More "everything." No, more. Now you're starting to get close.)

Not Even as "Catholic" as Judging Angels

Judging Angels was marketed as a "Catholic novel," and I suppose that's fair enough, although it does not rely on the usual Catholic tropes, and there's not a model Catholic to be found among the characters. One of the biggest problems the characters face in Judging Angels is that no one takes the supernaturally seriously enough to offer advice - not even the Church.

Judging Angels does deal intelligently and realistically with "Catholic" (really, universal) themes of temptation. It has very few Catholic elements for a "Catholic novel," and was always intended as a book for anyone, although educated Catholics might recognize a few more references. There are a few lines meant to recall current controversies in the Church, but they are not necessary to understanding or enjoying the book. (There is also quite a bit of lore about the tarot - used by the bad guys - that might a be fun game for someone familiar with hat, but others won't miss much.)

The sequel will be even less of a "Catholic novel," and more of a straight urban fantasy novel that deals with important themes from a perspective that is congenial to Catholic teaching, but not explicitly based upon it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but in the publishing business, the "Amish pregnancy genre" is more popular than the "Catholic novel." The gatekeepers of Catholic culture are few, and have little tolerance for Catholic literature whose purpose is not to promote the friendly parish priest as the answer to all the characters' problems. Personally, I think I wrote a great book for Catholics that was respectful, but at the same time showed a snapshot of the current Church when she's looked better. My characters are wounded, lost and groping for truth. In other words, pretty much like most of us.

I can reasonably hope that if Catholics enjoyed Judging Angels, they should find the same reasons to enjoy Book 2


Book 2 has to fill an author with dread. I've got a full head of steam up and I am cruising through the icebergs at 25 knots. I am pretty sure I know where I'm going, and the passengers seemed to enjoy the first part of the voyage. And yet, it isn't Judging Angels again. I took risks in JA, and I'm taking even more risks in this one. It's the only way I can write: to commit without reservation to my personal vision, no matter how silly it sounds when I try to explain various things to people.

If you liked 16-can-pass-for-18 Brian, you can watch him try to overcome his psychopathic upbringing and  deal with his premature exposure to murder and magical redheads. I think you'll like the kid, though, as he teams up with Pecksley's assistant, Tech-23, now known as Dr. Sucklow. He may yet have an unprecedented role in "changing everything.

Pleasure in language is something I hope shines through all of my writing, whether on St. Corbinian's Bear's ephemeris or my long fiction. The Judging Angels that was published was the result of a ridiculous amount of editing and rewriting. Years. 

It was my first. 

This one benefits from a surer hand on the reins, unless I've deluded myself. I'm liking the broader canvas for my Boschian details and a collection of different and fascinating characters I can't wait to introduce you to. Including many more Reds. Because you haven't seen envy and backstabbing until you've seen envy and backstabbing in a family of red-headed sisters.