The sequel to The Heron Kings is officially happening

The sequel to The Heron Kings is officially happening

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I really should say a sequel rather than the sequel, since The Heron Kings’ Flight is, like the first book, a standalone story, set about a hundred years later with all new characters. This is the story I first began to write years ago around 2006-2008 as a grad student, writing in bits and pieces in cafes on weekend mornings as the cliche goes, with no plan, outline, experience or expectation of publication. I eventually wrote 200,000 words of rambling, incoherent mess that was never going to go anywhere. I had been inspired by various historical fiction and fantasy works over the years, and I had become interested in the idea of insurgents resisting occupation similar to the situation in Iraq at the time, but in a preindustrial (or medieval, if you like) context. So I had this idea of Robin Hood-like badass forest rangers but instead of robbing the rich they ambush and terrorize the invaders when any actual government had either fled or dissolved.

In 2014 I decided to set it aside and start over with another, similar story dealing with the group’s origins (indeed, for a long time the filename on my computer was HKO, for Heron Kings Origins). I wrote a brief outline to keep myself on track with a few key anchor scenes mostly already formed in my mind. About a year and a half later the first draft of The Heron Kings was finished, and after four more years of rewriting, revising, editing, cutting, querying and rejections, the book came out last April, released by the small publisher —. No one paid any attention and fewer than none bought it. Still, I remain immensely grateful to my editor Don and my first agent Nathan.

Emboldened by this most unlikely of outcomes, I returned to that first dusty old mass of wordage I had strung together with spit and bailing wire years before, and thought that just maybe, with the meager lessons I had somehow managed to pick up since then, I could rework it into something that might see the light of day. I felt I owed it to the characters, whom I had lived with for at least fourteen years by that point and still feel I know better than almost anyone in real life, and who very much served as prototypes for the characters in The Heron Kings.

I was shocked at how quickly I did it. I have written several short stories in the interim, mostly ripping off chapters of The Heron Kings for ideas but sometimes projecting forward in time beyond the initial setting of medieval-level Argovan into a kind of steampunk early industrial style. You can read some of these stories on my short fiction page and some of my favorites are “The Heron King” (singular), “Illicit Alchemy”, “A Hard Peace” and a few others I haven’t managed to get published yet. These provided fertile ground for the new version of the novel, with which I was able to introduce at least one speculative element so that I could more plausibly call it fantasy. It takes place in a more late medieval / early Renaissance time period but with hints of what might come after. I kept a lot of text from the first version, and some parts, especially the introductory chapter for the villain Phynagoras, are almost unchanged from what I first wrote. It struck me as a bit sad that there’s a lot of youthful intensity there that I know I couldn’t reproduce today. Just getting old I guess. But I was able to use some of my increased technical ability to try to bring the best of both of those worlds to the final version. Around the same time that The Heron Kings came out, I finished a revised draft of the sequel with the working title The Heron Kings II. I sent a polished draft to my editor, and he said he liked it but I never heard anything definitive for eight months. I was concerned that it would never get published, since sales of The Heron Kings were anemic at best. I was completely prepared to go through the process of self-publishing, though it would’ve been very expensive.

But finally, last week, I received the completed, fully-signed contract for the book, which will be called The Heron Kings’ Flight. I wasn’t sure about the placement of the apostrophe, since although it’s clearly correct it always looks clunky on a book title. But that’s what Don suggested and I was happy to defer to his better judgment. The contract says (c)2023, though I’m hoping that’s just a placeholder and we can make it come out in 2022 or even maybe late 2021 if I can push things. But considering the glacial pace of publishing, that’s not very likely. So we’ll see. I hope this book is better received than the first, since it’s much less grimdark and gruesome, though it still has its moments. You can read a draft of the first chapter here.  I assume the cover will be almost identical to the first one, but in the meantime I put together a quick and dirty teaser poster using Canva, GIMP, and good old MSPaint:

The Heron Kings' Flight Teaser

And after this? Well I haven’t written much of a third book, since what would be the point if the second never sees the light of day? But you can read an early draft of the first 1200 or so words here. Tentatively titled The Heron Kings Rampant, it would be set in the same proto-industrial time period as the short stories I mentioned above.

That’s all the information I have for now. I’m so glad that this story that I’ve had in my head for so many years will finally have some kind of life, and I remain beyond grateful to all the people who’ve helped me along the way, though critiques, query reviews, beta reads, engagement on (anti)social media, purchases and book reviews. I’m also grateful to the many who didn’t believe in me. They were equally…motivating.

I will post updates when there are any. Until then may the gods light your path, and darken your enemy’s.


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