The first Cobalt City tale was a short story, maybe 8,000 words or so. On a challenge, i wrote the first novel–Cobalt City Blues. It had been intended for friends, but spread out of that circle to other readers unfamiliar with the characters at the heart of the novel. They suggested a prequel, and I obliged, writing Chanson Noir (which was recently re-released as an e-book after having been out of print for a few years).
At that point, I had it in my mind to turn the Protectorate story into a three-book arc. A trilogy, as was the style at the time. So when I commissioned covers for Cobalt City Blues and Chanson Noir, I commissioned a cover for the third book as well (Requiem of Ash), and listed them as a trilogy.
I don’t have many regrets in life, but that is a big one.
See, Requiem was meant to be the final book, the closing chapter on the Protectorate Era of Cobalt City. And there are far too many stories left to tell in Cobalt City. Between the three anthologies (Cobalt City Christmas, Timeslip, and Dark Carnival), the books that take place during the Protectorate Era (Los Muertos and the recently completed Thicker than Water), the post-Protectorate de la Vega novels (Greetings from Buena Rosa and Ride Like the Devil), and the post-Protectorate books written by others (Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei, Rosemary Jones’ Wrecker of Engines, Nikki Burns’ Tatterdemalion, Erik Scott de Bie’s Eye for an Eye, and Minerva Zimmerman’s The Place Between), I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface. Hell…and that’s even with the award winning audio dramas.
And that’s not a bad thing.
See, the three Protectorate books (ok, two and projected third book), aren’t really a trilogy in any real sense. Yes, they take place in order. But they are not one big story. They’re more like a triptych: three separate novels that tell big stories of the team of superheroes known as the Protectorate at the beginning, middle, and end of that era. And there are a lot of smaller stories that take place in between those novels. The Protectorate has, at its peak, eight active members and two reservists. The Protectorate novels are full-team stories. More epic in scope. The other novels are smaller and include fringe characters who are not part of the Protectorate. For example, Los Muertos features three heroes, of which only one, Mister Grey, is a member of the Protectorate, while Gato Loco is a solo vigilante and the Tatterdemalion is even less of a team player. The all-women cast of Thicker than Water, which I will be publishing next fall, features only Velvet from the Protectorate, while Roberta “Bantam” Pak and Xia Lo enter the story from other directions.
I still intend to write Requiem of Ash. I have the story sketched out, and I’ve dropped some hints as to what happens in Greetings from Buena Rosa. But I’ll be honest with you: that book is a long time away. And that’s intentional. If you’re waiting for the third book to come out to start reading the others, it really isn’t necessary. I admire your dedication, but each novel is meant to be read as a stand-alone.
If you want big-adventure, start with Chanson Noir, which brings flavors of cosmic-style horror to the superhero mix. Cobalt City Blues isn’t a sequel, but it does touch on concepts introduced in the earlier book and brings in several more characters and is more straight up adventure.
Likewise, each of the individual novels is a stand-alone. They might mention superheroes that don’t appear in the book, but no prior knowledge is required to jump in and enjoy from the ground floor, as it were. The smaller books also let me explore different kinds of stories and different ways of telling them. Los Muertos was a lightly spooky homage to the Weird Hero phase of 70’s comic books that brought us Swamp Thing, Doctor Strange, and the brilliantly strange Dracula comic from Marvel. Thicker than Water gave me the chance to write about human trafficking, modern slavery, and organized crime. On deck, I have books about time-travel and legacy heroes as well as rock ‘n roll refugees from space outlined and ready to go.
Eventually, all of the individual heroes from Cobalt City Blues will get their time to shine. The current plan is to write a Cobalt City novella-novel length work or two every year. I’ve got two done now, and two more fully outlined. I have rough ideas for three more.
Then, and only then, will I consider writing Requiem of Ash. Until that happens, there are a lot of adventures waiting to be shared.