Updates! Including an Unexpected Novel Ambush, Discussions of Food, and Some Art

*creeps out of stress-cave*

*attempts to dust blog off with dirty rag*

Well, hi! Um. I may have neglected this blog a bit these past many months. Life has been…hectic. While I hope that it will soon become less hectic, it’ll probably remain fairly hectic for the next few months, though I’m hoping to restart the Month of Books series. I miss the Month of Books and I’ve read some fantastic stuff recently that I’d like to share.

I also may have been ambushed by a new novel. There I was, working on Prophecy’s Incarnate, when out of nowhere, I introduced this one-off side character who gets mentioned but never is on-screen, and I found myself wondering, Huh. Who’s this guy? Aaaaand next thing I know, I’m writing a spinoff prequel novel that, in the space of slightly less than three months (egads), I have written over 100,000 words of. Yes, I almost succeeded in two consecutive NaNoWriMo challenges, though sadly not in the month of November.

Is this stress-related? Oh, definitely. Am I enjoying it greatly? Also, definitely.

For unlike Gev’s story, Asheru’s is…almost entirely plotless. It’s just this guy. Living his life. Doing things. Having tiny adventures. Mostly just living with his family. Very slice-of-life. Where Gev is my under-emoting potato, Ru is my exceedingly emotive dandelion who has feels about everything and opinions. Mostly about cooking. Why, yes, I am currently writing a character who is 100% in love with food—the eating of it and the making of it, and I get to write about cooking.

*whispers* Spoilers, but I love to cook. I also love to eat tasty food, so you have no idea how much of a joy it is to write a character who understands food and can describe it to an excessive degree. Gev? He eats and it tastes good more often than not, but he doesn’t describe it deeply. My previous book, Dead God’s Bones? Kossa mostly eats because otherwise, he’d starve and die? It’s a means to an end. Maiv has a similar kind of single-minded focus, but can at least describe a nice take-out dinner. Luko likes to eat, but lacks the vocabulary to describe it in any depth, because why would he? The book before that? Bunch of semi-immortals on a mostly liquid diet, so food…wasn’t really a high point.

It is so much fun to write a foodie who rants philosophic about chili oil.

So I’m a 100k into an unmarketable spinoff prequel that takes place about six years before Prophecy’s Exile and I have no idea what I’m going to do with, but hey! It’s a thing. I’m aiming for about 160k, but it might end up longer. Since it’s utterly unmarketable by itself, I’m caring less about fitting it into the proper boxes for a query and more about just writing the story however I want. It’s gloriously freeing.

Speaking of things, I also decided to paint what had started as a sketch of an Indros warrior on a war-garn that was mostly for me to work out armor and saddle designs, and it, er…got out of hand.

Cue random lore-dump: It’s a bit tricky to see, since the rider’s leg is shadowed, but he is buckled into the saddle. Because garn, particularly war-garn cavalry, pitch and rock and rear and jump nearly twice their height from a standing position, and the most common injury for Indros cavalry are broken legs if their garn rolls and they don’t have time to release the saddle straps. The saddle is designed for one rider, and has a high back like a chair. The armor is a lacquered wood laminate, which can basically be painted pretty much any color they wish, though it’s usually in family/bloodline colors. The wealthier the warrior (or their family) the more intricate the carvings and inlaid with more gold and enamel. End of lore-dump.

As I was painting this, it occurred to me it looks almost exactly like a Magic: The Gathering card illustration, so for the fun of it, I made it into one. I have been told it’s a rather expensive card for what you get, but in my defense, it’s been easily a decade since I played.

In other news, a short story of mine is slated for inclusion in Neon Hemlock’s Luminescent Machinations and, I am told, will have an accompanying illustration that I absolute can’t wait to see. More on this as things progress.

Still querying Dead God’s Bones, but it’s quieted as I’ve started to question the trajectory of my career and what I want as a writer. More and more, I question if I need the validation of a traditional publishing deal, or if what I really want is someone (preferably many someones) to read what I’ve written and—my hope—enjoy it. And whether or not I need a traditional publishing deal to accomplish that desire. I’ve been mulling. My mulling has, so far, been rather fruitless. I watch developments on Twitter with a mounting sense that something in publishing is going to give and change of some sort is immanent. But we’ll see.

So that’s it for now.

Prophecy’s Exile Updates!

So! After many, many weeks of first-pass revisions, Prophecy’s Exile finally had all its placeholders replaced with actual words! Bringing the wordcount up to *cough* 167,000. And so the first-pass reading and editing commenced and brought the wordcount down to (drumroll please!):

Exactly 160,500 words (excluding the header and contact info and such).

I swear, that was pure chance.

It is now ready to begin its rounds with beta-readers, and is in the hands of three so far. And, because I’m extra and I enjoy making maps, here’s the novel’s map!

So this is the island nation of Odiřa (which looks a bit like a jalapeño, no that wasn’t intentional), where the VAST majority of Prophecy’s Exile takes place (there’s a bit at the beginning in Remdar, but only two chapters out of twenty-six). Not all locations are named (yet), since Gev mostly sticks around in the middle-western region in the mountain foothills between Emarazet and the Umoreshca camp, with some detours. The second book, Prophecy’s Incarnate, will go more into the eastern coastal areas, so all those places will get actual names rather than just be…dots on the map. You can probably track Gev’s travels in this book purely by what places I have proper names for so far (well, mostly). Secretly, Exile is a homage to 90’s epic fantasy travelogues, while also poking fun (a lot) at 90’s epic fantasy travelogues.

I also realize all those islands should be named. Am I going to name all those islands? Maybe. Just…maybe.

And, for the sake of “it’s fun,” the blurb!

The Remdari Empire needs a spy, an ambassador, and an accomplished fraud. With the first choice dead and no one else on hand, what they get is Gev Hyromius Caerus, a 40-year-old quartermaster with more of a talent for the logistics of supply lines than hoaxing prophecies about killing literal gods. Gods of living flesh and probably mortal, but still gods.

Abducted from Remdar, deported to an ancestral homeland he’s never seen, and magically branded a criminal exile, Gev is pressed into service as an imperial agent—supposedly by clandestine order of the emperor of Remdar (a mistake, surely). His task: fake fulfilling a prophecy foretelling the return of a dead war hero who will kill the gods to teach them true divinity. At least, long enough to finagle an alliance with the xenophobic island nation of Odiřa. Succeed, and the exile brand will be removed and his old life reinstated. Problem is, though he might look the part, he knows next to nothing of Odiřa—its culture, its language, its people—and he has less than a year to accomplish his mission. 

Worse yet, that prophecy isn’t so apocryphal. It has a mind of its own, and it wants to be fulfilled.

Though I know it’s generally discouraged, I have, um, started writing book two, rather than start something brand new. Because I just am really, really enjoying this world, these characters, this story, and I want to stay in it a bit longer, especially since Exile, unlike my previous novels, is definitely designed as a book one and I’m itching for book two.

The short pitch for book two, by the by, is “Gev does side-quests.” And is, exactly, that.

-dun dun dun- The Query Trenches!

The first batch of queries for Dead God’s Bones have officially been submitted! The novel has embarked upon its journey to agents and I am now, once more, wading into the query trenches. The number of submissions this time around is, quite honestly, small, but I’m trying a new approach to querying. With In Blood, I tended to shotgun query (even when they were personalized, they weren’t, per say, strategic). In the end, I submitted 43 queries, had two partials and one full request, but ultimately shelved the book.*

With DGB, I’m going for strategic. I am also trying damn hard to not only choose agents to submit to with intention and careful consideration of who and what they represent and what I, personally, am looking for in an agent, but to actually express this in the query letter itself. The letters are, by extension, taking a great deal longer to write, but I feel a more confident in the submission. With IB, I always feared I was pestering. With DGB, I have done my homework and chosen these agents specifically, so I feel less like I’m wasting their time. What will the end result be? I have no idea, but the immediate effect is that I feel more centered. So there’s that.

Fly, novel! Fly to inboxes! Fly and be read! And maybe garner a request or two!

In other news, still plugging away at the new novel. At 110K or so, and things have, necessarily, slowed. Because I need proper nouns. Like names. And locations. And words in this conlang I’ve been putting off semi-constructing. So! For the past week or so, I’ve been poking at phonetics and grammar and working on making it have a consistent “sound” so I can mash consonants and vowels together in a way that has an internal rational behind it so I can finally name some things. So far, I have letters and phonemes. Rules for what can and can’t follow certain things and what syllable you stress. Most of this will not be in the book, but I need to know something of it, otherwise, it’ll all be a garbled mess.

As for drafting, I’ve gotten to the point where the book starts drawing in some horror elements. My main character, Gev, has a sixth finger growing out of the back of his hand and can’t touch anyone, else he’ll curse them with extra unwanted digits sprouting from unexpected places. Soon, he’s off to meet the wizard in the magic, floating rock-castle-thing for a consultation. Drama will occur. The finger will be addressed. And then it’s smooth-sailing to the end of the book.

Well.

Smooth-sailing for me. For Gev? Not so much.

Also, have a potato-Gev, courtesy of a joke with a coworker that led to some spudsy doodling.


* This was not due to rejections, but rather, a new understanding that, really, that book, as much as I love it, had little marketability and wasn’t up to snuff, not for publishing. So it has been shelved, but fondly.

When You Accidentally Start Writing the Wrong Novel

So I hit my self-imposed goal of 30,000 words by January 25th. Yes, I realize now in looking over my 2021 Goals post that I’d said 20,000, but proceeded to then forget the actual number and went with what I vaguely remembered—30k.

The other…interesting hiccup is that this…isn’t the novel I started with. See, I was about 15k into a different novel, then this thing came along and blindsided me. Words were coming slow for the 15k one, so I decided, on a lark, I’d try my hand at fanfiction just to shake things up.

The attempt last less than a day. I categorically failed at writing fanfiction.

What I did succeed at, though, was starting a completely different book, a book that I humored for the first 1,000 words. Then the second. Then the third. And by the time I hit 10k in less than a week, I had to admit to myself that, er, this was the new book, not the other.

Essentially, I’ve written 30,000 words in three weeks. That’s probably the most productive I’ve been in sheer word count since undergrad. Huh.

In retrospect, I tried to pull the other one out of the proofing drawer too soon, and while it looked risen at first, the more I tried to knead it, the more I realized it hadn’t built up the gluten. This thing is more like the baking equivalent of three ingredient no-knead bread.*

It’s also an absolute blast to write. I’m currently sitting at 32K and honestly, my output has only slowed because grad school started this week and I’m still acclimating to that.

This is not the novel I intended to write, but it is the novel that’s getting written. Which is…interesting, to say the least. In many respects, this is the first novel I’ve worked on without a formal outline planned. Yes, I know where it’s going, but because it’s rather more linear that my previous ones and, so far, has just the one viewpoint character, it seems to require less pre-writing, less balancing of story threads, so I can fall back more on plain-old play. “Oooh, if I introduce this complication, what’ll happen? Oooh, if it instead jinks to the left here instead of the right, where does that lead?”

It’s also rather refreshing to tackle a project that’s rather finite and, hm, constrained. It’ll probably be a duology, but only because it’d be impractical, size-wise, as one book, but it is one story. There are no standalone components. And, as it’s just the one viewpoint character doing the one thing, I have to juggle fewer future timelines and reveals because, er, it’s rather simple in its structure.

Which brings me to the grand reveal: it’s Chosen One fantasy.

I swore I’d never write Chosen One fantasy. It’s boring, it’s familiar ground, it’s been written to death. And yet…exploring it, directly engaging with it, balancing homage with subversion, has been a fascinating sandbox in which to play.

Also, I really enjoy the idea of a chosen one who’s fast approaching middle age and is, essentially, a level 1 hero but a level 50 quartermaster; all his skills are with numbers, ledger books, and logistics, not with waving swords around and challenging gods. And I’m having far, far too much fun with a character who is ethnically from a certain land, but culturally from another, and struggling to adapt in the land supposedly his homeland when his heart belongs to a completely different place, one that, frankly, is more often the aggressor…

I realize this is incredibly vague. I tend to do that. So! In light of vagueness, I instead present—drumroll, please—concept art!

Because why not riding dinosaurs? No color version yet, but their feather crests are almost macaw-bright, with the rest of their scaly selves more alligator/crocodile in coloration and texture. And with this one, fantastical change, suddenly, I have so much freedom with designing the local flora and fauna. So far, it’s limited to the dinos and a sort of cross between a ring-tailed lemur and a skunk, but I expect this to continue, because why not? Because if I’m going to explore such familiar territory as the Chosen One, I might as well go completely ham with everything else. At the very least, it’ll push my creature-design skills to their limits.

As a challenge, I aim to finish this draft within the year. Step up my production schedule, ’cause three years for a novel is rather long, just in the scheme of making this a career. So! 120K by January 2022.

That’s the goal, at least. We’ll see how this goes.


* Have I been watching a lot of The Great British Baking Show? …maybe.

DGB Updates and Art

After a many month break, I’ve returned to Dead God’s Bones refreshed and ready to get it into shape for querying, because I will NOT have a repeat of In Blood, where I sat on a completed manuscript for three years waiting for…god knows. For the time to be right? For that sudden bolt of inspiration that turns it from a so-so novel into a great one? For my courage to stop cowering in a corner?

Either way, we shall not have a repeat. DGB is going to be submitted, and in a timely manner, before I change too much as a writer and as a person and grow to loathe the thing I’ve made.

So I took a chance.

I posted a call for betas on Reddit.

I’ve been frequenting the Reddit beta readers forums to find beta projects I’d like to work on, but this is the first that I’ve ever put out a call. It’s…a little intimidating. Most of the time, my betas are drawn from a group of other writers I personally know, some through my grad program, some through undergrad, and some through my in-person critique group. I don’t have much need to foray into the wilds of forum boards to find betas.

But, this time around, I wanted someone who doesn’t know me, who hasn’t read an excerpt of this novel somewhere, who will be, more or less, objective. I also find myself in need of someone who loves pointing out mistakes, seeing that I apparently created continuity errors during my last editing pass and I’m not all that great at catching them myself. Thus, beta reader. Thus, Reddit.

Egads.

The plan is to start querying either at by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. I think I’m just going to have to embrace this book at 180k, since trimming just seems to lend itself to further expansion elsewhere, and by the end of an editing pass, it’s nearly the same length. So I guess 180k is where it needs to be for now, and I want to get started on the next step, since this is as good as I’m going to get it at this point in my writing skill level. Which brings me to queries.

So far, I have two versions, the long one and the short one. For funsies, I’ve posted the longer one here, since I used the shorter one for my Reddit call.

Three years ago, Investigator-Prefect Kossa en Bekhir failed to capture a serial murderer targeting magical practitioners in the city of Balara. It nearly ended his career. Now, the killer is back, and has graduated from preying on low-ranking government officials to the upper echelons of society, their throats slit and bodies drained of blood.

Complicating matters, he’s partnered with his boss’ daughter—a newly-minted investigator-brevet with no experience, a hair-trigger of a sword-arm, and questionable loyalties. As the investigation into the murders becomes increasingly convoluted, Kossa draws connections between the murderer’s method and his own secret past. For Kossa en Bekhir doesn’t exist. His name is a lie, his voice is a magical fabrication, and his skin bears the scars of the hundred-and-twenty stroke legacy of a dead man found guilty of treason. Every step forward brings him closer to a place he never wanted to revisit: the home that betrayed him and ripped the magic from his veins. 

He won’t survive the encounter a second time.

DEAD GOD’S BONES is a 180,000-word adult high fantasy set in a sub-tropical island city rife with drugs and dragons. It’s THE ANKH-MORPORK NIGHT WATCH meets THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE.

Another beta pass, maybe two, and I plan to descend once more into the query trenches and send this out. I’ve already started preliminary research on agents and putting together my list. Once again, feeling rather out of my depth, but there we are.

Oh, I did say there would be art, didn’t I?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t freehand doodled with an actual pencil on actual paper in almost a year. I discovered I’m out of practice, but not in the way you might think. I was able, for the most part, to accurately translate what was in my head to my hand to the page. Rather, my muscles have apparently atrophied and I don’t have the fine motor control. Which was…frustrating. Need to build that back up. Also, forgive the off proportions, I wasn’t working from reference.

So these three are the main viewpoint characters of Dead God’s Bones, Kossa at the top, Maiv to the middle-right, and Luko bottom-left. As you might note, yes, in my head, they’re totally elves. On the written page, it’s less apparent, though they are varying shades of blue, ranging from a pale noon horizon blue to an almost blue-purple, and their sclera is black rather than white.

You can’t see it, but the impetus for beginning this was a desire to draw Kossa’s marriage ear-cuff…which can’t really be seen because I drew his head too small. I’ll probably draw another at some point or a closeup of his ear and just the ear. A lot of my doodles are born of a need to visually work out some worldbuilding detail, and it spirals out from there.

Also, don’t believe Luko. He does get paid, just not right now due to plot reasons.