I got a message from a friend on Discord the other day asking about progress on the next Cartographers Guild Book. I told him that I’m working on it, but progress is slow. The book deals with the Cartographers searching in Turkey for the lost city mentioned in the documents found in the shrine of the jade mask. Their work is hampered by interference from the outside–Maes Titianus, probably, but there are other shadowy figures on the board. The Cartographers (well, Verity….the brains of the operation) have just realized that someone is leaking information to their adversaries. But who? And why?

I realized two things about the book last week. First, I’m writing a spy novel. Second, I know very little about spy novels. I’ll keep plugging on the book (tentatively called The Cartographers Guild and the Mercury Crow), but I want to bone up on some spy novels as I work. Most of my spy fiction experience comes from the James Bond movies, but those are more gadget action movies than paranoid, who-can-I-trust spy stories. Off to Half Price Books for some John Le Carre and Leon Uris!

Seriously….if any of my readers have favorite spy books, let me know. I’ll check those out.

In the meanwhile, I’m working on some other things when I’m stuck on the Cartographers stories.

First, a Bronze Age story about lifelong enemies forced to rob the tomb of an Egyptian sorcerer-priest. This one is sword-and-sorcery in the tradition of Robert E Howard.

Second, a 20th century story about a bootlegger searching the Ozark mountains for lost treasure. Nothing weird or fantastic, just straight-ahead adventure. And maybe a touch of romance, if I can pull it off. (Not heavy stuff…more like Romancing the Stone than a rom-com).

Third, a short story set on the medieval Silk Road. A pair of scoundrels get caught with a hot potato and have to get rid of it before the wild hunt catches up with them.

I’m also trying different approaches. In the Cartographer books–both Mercury Crow and Jade Mask–I used detailed outlines. I had an overall outline for each story and also put together an outline of how each scene plays out.

The Ozark bootlegger book has an overall outline, but the scenes are improvised as I write.

The Bronze Age story is 100% seat-of-the-pants.

I’ll see which one works best for me.

Is there anything you would like to see in a book, whether it’s one mentioned here, or something completely different?

Let me know in the comments.