My next novel to be published (as far as I'm aware) will be Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising, coming from Tor Books/Visionary Books on September 20.
You might notice--if you can look past Aaron Riley's stunning cover painting--that the book is being published under my full name, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, instead of the name that's been on all of my other tie-in books, Jeff Mariotte. There's a reason for that, but it's a little convoluted.
My first published fiction--the short story "The Last Rainmaking Song" in the history-making Full Spectrum anthology, way back in 1988, was written by Jeffrey J. Mariotte. After that it was a while before I published any prose fiction, and in between, I started writing comic books for WildStorm Productions/Image Comics. To differentiate between the comics and the prose work--and to keep my name short for comics covers and credits pages--I wrote those as Jeff Mariotte.
But when my first novel came out, it was a tie-in based on a comic book I had occasionally written, Gen13. Since I'd written the comics as Jeff, it made sense to put the book out under the same name.
That book led to other tie-ins, set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel universe. Because I had one tie-in novel out as Jeff, we decided to keep Jeff on those, too.
When my first original novel, The Slab, was released in 2003, I could have--and should have, in order to maintain consistency with my later work--put Jeffrey J. on it, but it was published by IDW Publishing, then as now known mostly for comics, and all the comics I'd written for them were by Jeff, so... (When The Slab was rereleased as an ebook, in 2011, I brought it in line with the other original novels, so it's now a Jeffrey J. Mariotte book).
My next originals were the Witch Season teen horror novels. Those were written with the specific goal of appealing to my Buffy/Angel audience, and since the Buffy/Angel books were written as Jeff, so were the Witch Season books. The publisher kept that name on them even when they rereleased the quartet as Dark Vengeance.
After that, I made a firm decision. Original novels--to differentiate them from tie-in work--would henceforth be by Jeffrey J. Mariotte. That was true from Missing White Girl through 7 SYKOS, and will continue to be.
But I've never published a tie-in as Jeffrey J. Mariotte before. Why now?
Partly, it's because I think Thunder Moon Rising is the best tie-in I've written, head and shoulders above the rest. Not that the others were bad. But they didn't feel like mine.
Most of my tie-in work has been based on preexisting TV shows or comic book characters. As such, although I can and do invent the minor characters, the main focus of the book is necessarily the characters already known to the audience. I can put those characters through the wringer, but at the end of the book I have to return them to more or less the state in which I found them. I bring the plot, the style, the craft--but at the end of the day, the book is not wholly mine, because the characters aren't mine.
Thunder Moon Rising, though, is based on the Deadlands RPG. It's a great universe to play in, but it doesn't require that I write about existing characters. In this case, it's the setting that's important, the Weird West as it exists in the games. The characters, the story, and everything else--except for certain locations and tropes from the game--are mine.
It also doesn't hurt that I have a bit of a reputation in the world of weird westerns, through my comic book series Desperadoes and Graveslinger (the latter written with Shannon Eric Denton) and a handful of short stories in various books. The weird western milieu is familiar and comfortable and beloved, and I really let myself loose.
Another aspect is that I keep growing as a writer (as all writers do, I think--you either grow or you don't, and if you don't, there's not much point in continuing). I'm still learning the craft, and will until I stop writing or die--probably both at the same instant. Empty Rooms was, I think, a step beyond Season of the Wolf. (7 SYKOS, written with my wife and partner Marsheila Rockwell, belongs in a different subset; as my only collaboration on an original novel, it stands alone.) And I wrote Thunder Moon Rising after Empty Rooms, and everything, I think, came together well. The craft is solid. The characters come alive, and the story means something. It's a good book; a very good one, I think.
So, while it's not an original novel, it feels like one. It's a Jeffrey J. Mariotte book. Come September, I hope you'll agree.
Side note: I've written a few other books set in game universes: the Age of Conan: Marauders trilogy and Dark Sun: City Under the Sand. Although the Marauders books were set in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian universe, I was specifically told not to use Conan as a character, but to create new characters and adventures in that setting (I cheated, and worked a Conan appearance into one of my books, but it's not about him). Had I published any original novels as Jeffrey J. Mariotte before those came out, I might have tried to publish those under that name, but it never came up. The Dark Sun book is another story. Although again, the only thing I had to use from the game was the setting, and all the characters are mine, the book itself was the victim of editorial malfeasance. While writing it, the game itself was undergoing changes in preparation for the launch of the 4th edition. I kept getting notes about the world of the game, some of which conflicted with other notes. Finally, my deadline upon me and many decisions about the world still not made, I sent my editor a very rough first draft with the understanding that I could make changes once those issues were settled. Presumably, they were at some point, but I never got editorial notes or a chance to polish the draft--which was far less polished than anything I'd ever turned in. Instead, my editor ignored it until the time came to turn it into production, and the rough draft was what got published. I seriously considered having my name taken off it altogether, but it was published so quickly that there wasn't even time for that. You'll notice there's no link above. I was thrilled to be able to write a sword & sorcery adventure in a desert setting, but the overall experience was so bad that I can't recommend the final product.