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.

Long Time, No Post

Well, it’s been a minute.

I haven’t updated this blog much, mostly because of a tandem of life events. If life events are meh, skip ahead to the more writing-related sections below.

The first: I now work full time and have health insurance through my job! Woo! As a person with chronic health conditions, health insurance, or the lack thereof, has been a fear hovering over my head since I was 14. For the hell of it, I once calculated what the uninsured cost of my life-preserving meds would be for a year (just the meds) and it came out to $136,000. Which is just, um, terrifying. And that’s just for the one condition (the MS) and for a good year (just the “keep it controlled” meds, not the “save me from my own rebellious immune system” meds, which are a great deal more expensive). To my everlasting gratitude, my work has promoted me to full time and now I health benefits!

Which neatly brings me to the next life event: part of the deal for full time was to also get my Master’s in Library Science, so I’m back in grad school and trying, oh so hard, to finish this whole program by summer of 2022. Because I refuse to turn 30 and still be working on (another) Master’s. I have rules. They may not be wise rules, but I have rules.

And thirdly, I gave myself the self-imposed deadline to finish drafting the current novel within the year. Because it would mean that I wrote a novel in a year, which is often the timeframe of publishing contracts, and my last, er, four books were each written over the course of two years+ (I think a year and a half was the shortest, but most averaged two and a half to three years). Specifically, I set December 10th as the deadline.

WHICH I HIT! AHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!

*ahem*

Though I failed in my original endeavor of writing fanfiction, I did, however, succeed in writing a 157,000-word novel in a year (started Jan. 6, finished Nov. 27). Well, I say finished, but it’s quite ready yet for beta-readers. I still have to name things. Because proper nouns are my great enemy and there are a lot of placeholders waiting for proper terms to be created. And in order to create those terms I, er, have to invent a language. So the draft is done, and hypothetically, you could read it through and it would make sense, it just…would have a lot of random ______ lines everywhere. Because that’s how I make placeholders. ______. Basically, the book looks like an a giant game of adlibs right now, but I’m working on it! Goal is to have a finalized, legible draft by January, and start lining up beta-readers for it.

Tentatively titling it Prophecy’s Exile. So, er, PE for short?

And because I can, the (also tentative) query blurb:

The Remdari Empire needs a navy to cover their retreat from an ill-advised war. The island nation of Odiřa has such a navy, but no reason to lend its services to their expansionist imperial neighbor. As the decennial treaty renegotiations loom, an alliance could be finagled—and naval support procured—if only Odiřa’s negotiator wasn’t a xenophobic nationalist whose most ardent prayer is for the entire Remdari Empire to sink into the sea.

Odiřa does have a prophecy, though, one foretelling the return of a great war hero who will kill the gods to teach them true divinity. Anyone attempting to fulfill it gains near instant renown, the kind that may stretch so far as replacing a certain anti-Remdari negotiator with one secretly loyal to the empire. The Remdari need a spy, an ambassador, an accomplished liar and cheat.

What they get is Gev Hyromius Caerus, a forty-year-old quartermaster with more of a talent for supply line logistics than killing mortal 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 spy. His goal: fake the prophecy long enough to earn a place at the negotiating table and save his empire’s ass. His reward: removal of the exile brand and the reinstating of his old life. The problem: that prophecy isn’t theoretical.

Bonus points if you can guess what IP sparked the idea for the failed fanfic that ultimately led to the novel.

I itch to start edits on it, but must wait till I complete this semester. Soon, though! Very soon. All those placeholders will be removed, words cut, words added, y’know. The usual.


I also attended my first in-person convention (WindyCon) since before the plague. It was good. It was also a bit nerve-wracking. Still not used to large crowds yet, and I question if I ever will be. However! The experience was incredibly validating for a multitude of reasons.

  • I sold books! Myself and a few other local writers often split a dealer’s room table to sell our books, and I not only sold out of the stock I’d bought for the convention, but made a good dent in my back-stock from pre-Covid times. I, shockingly, even managed to make a profit. Egads.
  • I did panels! I was even a surprise panel moderator (surprise, as in, surprise to me) on a panel with two highly successful professional authors and I was scared out of my wits! Wee! (Jody Lynn Nye and Seanan McGuire, who were both lovely to interview for this panel but also, -hyperventilates slightly-)
  • I received a contract for a story I sold and signed it! (More on that at the end of this post)
  • I received a partial request from an agent! Aaaaaah!
  • A representative from the convention art show tracked me down from one of my freebie bookmarks and demanded to know why I didn’t have my art in the art show. Which…I mean, there’s no actual reason, I’m not boycotting it or hiding from it, it just wasn’t on my radar? However, I did promise to submit my art to the show next year, so that’s now a thing? And it also gave me the impetus to pick up the digital brush and start painting again, which, I’m happy to note, that even after a year of stagnation, my skills haven’t atrophied. The muscles in my right hand, however…

DGB Query Trenches Stats:

  • 20 Queries Submitted
  • 2 partial requests (1 rejection, 1 pending)
  • 1 full request (ultimately rejected, but a nice one!)
  • 11 rejections
  • 9 still pending

I’m going to take a break for the holidays and come back to this in January, especially seeing that quite a few agents on my to-be-queried list have closed for the holidays as well. I’ll be honest, I’m actually rather shocked by my request rate, seeing that this book is an “unsalable” 186k words. 15% ain’t bad!


And lastly! My weird west short story, “A Cold Dark Line to Cross” will be published in Wicked West: A Summerstorm Press Anthology on December 1st! Sometimes, being dead gives someone a chance to be a better person than they were in life. To earn his permanent death, undead outlaw Gabe Dunn has one last member of his former murderous crew to kill, but doing so will mean confronting the man who made him into a monster. Teenage necromancers out for revenge, their personal ex-outlaw attack zombies, magic users with strange powers over animals, all chasing each other across the Mojave Desert in an alternate late 1800’s.


Here’s where I’ll wrap up. Happy holidays to those celebrating holidays during the coming season! Maybe next year (ye gods, I’m not ready for that!) I’ll finally reintroduce the month of books wrap-up posts. Or maybe I’ll try something new.

Either way, signing off.

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.