What I Did on My Summer Vacation …

I don’t know if kids still do this, but used to be when school was back in session after the summer break, the obligatory first assignment was to write a short essay entitled '‘What I Did on My Summer Vacation.’

​In the spirit of that tradition—if a couple weeks early—I thought I might revisit that with some updates and odd undertakings over the past few months.

First off, though, I have to note that it hasn’t felt like summer here in suburban Washington, DC. Normally it’s brutally hot and humid, and the brief rains seem to miss my yard entirely.  Not so in 2023. 

Not only has it been unusually mild, but every few days a nice, drenching rain refreshes the grass and shrubs. Recalling that I’m from Buffalo, New York, and that temperatures over about 75 degrees Fahrenheit nearly cause my skin to melt, that’s been very welcome. I’ve been able to be outdoors a lot more this summer than in any other I can recall.

I’ve kept busy indoors too. I spent a couple weeks in a local recording studio reading The Unsealing into a microphone for its forthcoming audiobook. That was a new experience for me, and I had fun with it. 

And there is nothing like reading a book out loud to remind one that the ultimate test of written language is the spoken word. In short, if it doesn’t sound right when you read it, it can be improved. So now I’m reading all of my material aloud, to myself, and experimenting with new apps—such as Natural Reader—to give my written words the spoken test.

Meanwhile, my editor, designer, and I have been finalizing the pages for Current of Darkness, the next installment in the Avenging Angel Detective Agency Mysteries.

Yet as engrossing as all this is, I find that if I’m not writing, I feel a little at sea. So—based on requests from a number of readers eager to read more about the Pan-American Exposition of 1901—I dreamed up an unusual, off-series book set exclusively in and around the ‘Pan’. The book explores the notion that Jack the Ripper has resumed his bloody career, but on this side of the Atlantic and thirteen years after the Whitechapel Murders of 1888. It’s a little different from most Ripper material, too, in that the story is told (mostly) from the perspective of the victims.

In the spirit of ‘be careful what you wish for’, my publisher got excited about the concept and suggested that it ought best to come out by Halloween (for obvious reasons). That was great on the one hand, but on the other, writing a full-length novel in a handful of weeks is something like sprinting up Mount Fuji. But I got it done, and I think it’s a good read. Stay tuned for more news on that soon.

I expect to do other off-series books, too. I have just begun fiddling around with an idea that is closer to Gothic than anything I ever thought I’d write, and so far I’m having fun with it. Since the next three installments in the Avenging Angels series are already written, I have the freedom to dream a little and explore concepts and characters that wouldn’t fit into the series.

My publisher and I have also been hard at work with Blackwing (Blackwing.co) on a Robert Brighton x Blackwing collaboration. This will include a special-edition Blackwing Slate™ notebook and a bespoke Blackwing™ pencil. Both are really cool. 

For years I’ve taken all my notes, and scribbled down my various ideas (good and bad), in Slate notebooks and using Blackwing pencils, so when Blackwing got wind of that, it seemed to both of us like a natural collaboration. I expect those to appear late this year or early next, so try not to buy pencils or notebooks until they do!

And that, dear readers, is how I’ve been spending my summer vacation. I’d love to know what you’ve been up to on yours. Next time you hear from me, it will be Autumn—my favorite season of the year!