And now it’s December, and we’ve reached the final blog post for the year. Somehow I managed to keep this up for a full twelve months! I’m as shocked as you are, though I have to confess it took me a while to decide on a topic for this last installment for 2022. There are so many things I could and will talk about, but what tripped me up was the notion that this entry needed to be special, something different. I wanted to reward us all for reaching this milestone. It took some time to figure out what would work for that, but just like December hitting us full force with terrible Christmas music and present-buying anxiety, it came to me in the end, so here we are, and here we go.
The topic du jour this month is 2022 and 2023. It’s both a look back at what I’ve done this year as well as a sneak peek ahead at my goals and writing schedule for the next year. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not good at praising myself. I’ve written all these books, published and unpublished, and yet nothing ever feels like an accomplishment. It’s been my New Year’s resolution so many years in a row, and it’s one I consistently fail to address because… well, I just don’t know how to fix that. I went to Yougei asking him what I should write for this, and he immediately said “Do a reflection on all you’ve done this year.” I then responded, “All that would be is me complaining about not doing enough.” It’s a problem, that sort of mentality. I’m recognizing it here, and despite my knee jerk reaction that a topic like that wouldn’t be worth doing, I’ve decided to do it anyway. Because I have made strides! I have accomplished things! Let’s talk about them!
I think most obvious and present in my mind when it comes to accomplishments right now is Carnival, my October novella event winner. It’s done, it’s posted, and by and large, it seems to have been a success. I always stress over these events specifically because it’s… you know, a pretty huge undertaking. I have so many people who ask me if I do NaNoWriMo and I just stare at them like… first, I don’t need a month to write a novel, I do it on the regular, and second… That’s literally what October is for me every year. I bite off a lot to make this event happen for my patrons. The story may only be 5-6 chapters, but they average these days anywhere between 70-90 pages. I’ve stopped trying to write them all piecemeal in October—when I only wrote them to be around 4-5 chapters, that was more doable, but anymore, I need some extra time to prepare, plan, and get a head start if I want the end product to be the best it can possibly be given the circumstances under which it was written. I don’t tend to feel proud of myself when I finish writing something, but I do feel satisfied when these projects come to an end. It’s me testing myself on my flexibility, creativity, and perseverance. If I come out with time to spare, it’s a huge win, and this year, I managed to do just that with Carnival. A lot of the time, I’m still writing into October.
But beyond the obvious and most recent thing, what else have I accomplished this year? Well, I’m unreasonably negative towards myself when I fail to publish something. I’ve got so many things active and ready for it, but I can’t always get my way when it comes to finding an artist with time to spare, or if my editor is bogged down with their own projects. A lot of things conspired to throw a wrench in my plans this year, but I did manage to prepare two stories for publication—all I’m waiting for is art. When I’ve got that locked and loaded, all I have to do is send out for proofs and hit publish. I managed this year to prep so much content. Even if nothing managed to come to fruition for 2022, I’ll be able to hit the ground running in 2023. We’ll have a few rapid-fire releases that way, and I’ll be in a great position to finish some high-profile projects and get ahead for once in my never-ending schedule.
Given how much I work and put on my own plate, I’m not always in the best position to help out other people with their own projects. I was able to help Sun, one of my dearest and most valued friends, with her new A Little Rain Oracle Deck, and honestly, that’s probably the accomplishment I’m most proud of. She asked for help during my busiest month (September, when I’m in the deepest of hell-deadlines for the October novella), and I managed to completely rewrite and revise her guidebook with time to spare for her own deadlines. She’s announced and ended her pre-order, but there’s still time to check out this beautiful deck and see how to grab a copy for yourself. Help support Sun by checking out her website: https://ambisunart.com/shop/
Beyond all of that, I’ve made great strides in my ongoing projects. My Patreon serial, my monthly novella rotations, and all the other projects I’m working on in the background have progressed on schedule. I’m not behind in anything beyond Hiraeth (more on that later), and I’m actually finishing up the last few chapters of Apotheosis this month so I can get a head start on my next serial early, thus allowing myself even more time in the future for things not on my monthly rotation list. It’s hard to do double-chapters for large projects each month, but I’m trying to view it as an investment in future-me. The more I can churn through now when I’ve got some holiday downtime, the more I’ll be able to take my time in the future when I need to take my time. If I prep and stockpile chapters now, I’ll be in a better position when I inevitably get sick, go to conventions, or have a bad productivity month later on.
And I do plan on doing more conventions. This year saw me attending and tabling at my first long-distance convention. I flew to Minnesota and tabled with my lovely friend Jack, something I never thought I’d be able to do given the logistics of transporting heavy books via airplane. I made it happen, and it worked! I reached an entirely new audience who hadn’t been privy to my work, and I intend to do it again in the future. I’ve reached new horizons and tested the boundaries of what I thought was possible when selling my work in person. It’s an accomplishment for sure, even if it’s not an obvious one in terms of publication or writing. What I do is considered a small business. I’m not just the talent—I’m the salesperson, the marketer, the graphic designer, the agent. Pushing the boundaries of where I take my business is so important, and while Covid is still very much a thing (y’all better still be masking!) conventions are reaching a state of equilibrium again. I’m excited to try my hand at new conventions I’ve never been to before. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet more of you while I do it!
But what about next year? I know I’ve teased a lot of future projects over this past year, but I haven’t been able to give too many concrete dates or time frames for a lot of them. Most of you don’t really know how I schedule or plan out my projects when it comes to publication timelines. I’m very organized, as you can imagine (sarcasm) and I have it all on a sticky notes app on my desktop.
This is sort of my tally chart on how projects are progressing, how much more is left on them, and it gives me general goalposts to aim for as I move forward. I also have a sticky note just for my monthly commitments as well.
This is more a to-do list that gets deleted as I check things off the list, and then the chapter tally is updated on the main screenshot from before. I’ve also got an actual paper schedule notebook where I schedule out my weeks in terms of what project gets worked on when, and when stories conclude, when they go on pause (like in the case of October, every project tends to stop updating except for the novella event offering), and when new stories get to begin.
Of course, I’m always running behind. In an ideal world, I’d keep to my schedule exactly and finish everything in the least amount of time necessary, but I get sick sometimes, or a family member gets sick, or my convention schedule gets hectic and I lose entire weeks to prepping and traveling and recovery, or holidays happen and my family monopolizes me, or any other numerous setbacks that happen when you live your life. In an ideal world, I’d publish 2-3 times a year. In 2022 alone, I wanted to publish Infaust, Ossuary, and even if there was time, one of the vigilante books. Unfortunately, this year was a busy, hectic year. My usual artists can’t drop everything for me, and I wouldn’t expect or ask them to. When you work independently like this, you just have to get used to having your self-imposed deadlines break.
But when I’m in a lean year like this, I don’t stop working towards publication. If anything, I do even more so that when I do have covers ready, I can hit the ground running. I do all the formatting. I pre-make promotional material. I spend money I would’ve earmarked for cover art on commissioned character art to generate interest, and I dedicate time I would’ve lost in publication hell towards other projects. Do you see how many things I’ve got in my Edit Block up there? I’ve been able to finish and stockpile so many completed manuscripts over the course of 2022. My editor, NIL, has already recreationally read at least half of these offerings. We’ll be able to start 2023 in a great position when it comes to the vigilante series since we’ve both spent so much time poking around on the documents as it is, and Nil’s has already been able to give me a head start on my personal edits for Lambent and Carnival as well, so when we get around to working on those titles seriously, a lot of the bigger issues will already be taken care of.
So, what does that mean in terms of what to expect in 2023? Well, the delightful and supremely skilled AmbiSun (illustrator and graphic designer behind The Tempest Series) will be returning to make Ossuary, the cursebreaker witch/elder vampire erotic horror novella, a reality! She’ll be sending me thumbnails this month and we should have a completed cover before we hit March. Expect a spring release on that title, and more information and teasers around then!
I know I’ve been teasing Infaust over the past few months, and this book is just a good representation of how my intense work schedule doesn’t always translate well for others. I’ve got an insanely talented artist on board for this Pied Piper inspired dark romance, but working around our schedules and fitting things into our busy lives has proved challenging. I’d wanted to release this book back in June, but it’s looking now like it’ll be a 2023 release, perhaps before Ossuary, but maybe after it. We’re playing it by ear, and that’s fine. I will tell you guys that I do have some fun publication plans for this book when it does drop! I really want to do more for pre-orders, and I’m working right now on making a pre-order book release bundle that will hopefully become the norm when I release full books (not novellas, though we may do something fun for compilations like the vigilante trio.) The goal is to have a cute themed box of goodies to go along with the new book. This will likely involve some character manjuu, a sticker sheet, mini prints, and perhaps even acrylic standees or charms! All of the merch will be available for individual purchase after the book drops, but we may have some exclusives just for early birds.
Here’s where we get a little indulgent and pretend that I can concretely deliver on three releases in one year. Following these two books, my publication team and I are planning on going all in when it comes to the vigilante novella trio. If you haven’t read my vigilante teaser blog, go do that now so you know what you’re waiting for! Like I said in that blog, I’ll be working with Skelefarts (or Skeletal Creature, as I think Linden told me she wanted to be known as for the book credentials) over on Twitter when it comes to art. The current plan is to focus on editing all three novellas, starting with Pride/Stray (still using the working titles for ease of the team). Once NIL and I are done editing it and have it all formatted, Linden will do her art while we set in on the next manuscript, leap-frogging it like that so we’re always editing, drawing, and publishing until we’re through with all three novellas. Usually, I have to stop everything when I’m working on late-stage publication, but we’ve all spent enough time with these novellas that it shouldn’t take too much focus to get them out. If we’re lucky, expect Pride/Stray in late 2023 and the other two in early-to-mid 2024. A merch box for all three titles may follow the final publication, but that’ll be dependent on how the Infaust box does.
I would say this is all you can expect currently when it comes to physical releases, but that’s not all you have to look out for. My Patreon is always chock-full of so many ongoing digital releases to tide you over in between physical publications. My current Patreon serialized novel Apotheosis, the prequel to Letifer and the second installment in my Dark Vagaries vampire series, will end by April of 2023. It’ll likely be a 2024 release and be given high priority since it’s part of my main ongoing series. I don’t expect its publication deadline to move around much, barring some major life event occurring or my DVerse artist, Y. Dan (Yougei) needing more time to get the cover out. Either way, you can read it on Patreon right now for just $5 a month. In fact, you can read literally all of these stories right now on Patreon if you’re too impatient to wait for physical releases XD Their first drafts are up, and while they may be missing a chapter or two here, they’re still good representations of what you have to look forward to as my team works on publication.
Since Apotheosis ends in April, May will start off the next serialized work, a rewrite of Aubade, a Norse fantasy story. I wrote up a blog post about this story a couple months back, so if you want a teaser on what to expect from it, I highly suggest checking that out. The current goal right now is to finish writing Apotheosis before New Year’s so I can spend January-May churning through my rewrite portions of Aubade (the first eight or so chapters). The following 4-5 new, additional chapters will be written monthly, thus allowing me to schedule most of the book to auto-release on Patreon while I dedicate my time to finishing other projects I normally wouldn’t have time for while balancing a monthly serial like this. I’m also excited to announce here that a really talented artist will be working with me for this Patreon release! He’s asked to be kept anonymous, but I’ll tell you that he’s a huge fan of Aubade, has been for a long time now, even though I really don’t like the fic version much these days. He’s been champing at the bit in hopes of me picking the story back up and, as a show of his diehard love of the story, has offered to make illustrations for every chapter of the Patreon release, as well as a Patreon cover for the story, too. It’s going to make for a very immersive, very thoughtful exploration of this book, and I really can’t wait for January to come so we can begin our collaborative rewrite of this emotionally challenging story.
I also do a monthly patron pick poll on Patreon, one where I keep up a monthly rotation of several different short story/novella concepts that update based on my patrons’ tastes. We’ve currently got three on rotation, a Gladiatrix/Noblewoman lesbian romcom that will end after one more chapter, a spiritual sequel/tie-in to a previous novella poll option currently titled The Raven King involving courtship through mutual story telling and folkloric creatures beyond our ken, and one with the working title Courtly Love, another romcom set in a pseudo-Arthurian setting with a romantic, hesitant troubadour and the inexperienced prince determined to get this guy to make a move before it’s too late for either of them to act on the flirtations they’ve been exchanging for close to a decade. The latter two won’t begin until next year—everyone has really been feeling these sweaty Roman lesbians—and a third option will likely be added then too, since I like having three on rotation. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll add to the poll just yet, but it’s always a banger and always a ton of fun.
Similar to the patron poll options, my October Novella Event for 2023 will come as it always does, and voting on the story will begin around May or June, just to give me some extra time to plan and get a head start on things. As of right now, the poll options for that event will include two losers from this year (a sequel to Ossuary named Reliquary that is pretty dead dove XD and another, final installment in the vigilante-verse involving a milfy they/them ditz of a villain and a young, yandere-in-the-making hero who enjoys being held hostage a little too much), a sort of pseudo-horror romance involving the ringleader of a carnival of the dead and a denizen of Limbo who refuses to fall victim to his whims (kinda Corpse Bride-meets-Mushishi flavored, if that gives you some vibes to consider), and something else I haven’t come up with yet. I’m sure I’ll do more teaser blogs about these and other works once I get closer to actually working on them. Just fun stuff to keep in mind, and hopefully you’ll be enticed enough to join us in October for the big reveal!
And finally, the last project I want to discuss is the one I keep getting grilled on: Hiraeth. The final installment of The Tempest Series has been a thorn in my side for several years now, and I’ve offered about as many excuses as I can on why it still isn’t done yet. I just want to reiterate that I WILL finish this story. It will not be scrapped or canceled. It’s going to be published. As you can see in my sticky notes, it is on my radar and always, always, ALWAYS on my mind. The issues I’m having are namely of my own making, but as I said before, I’m always running behind, and with Patreon rotations that have to be published on a schedule, I’m forced to prioritize some projects at the detriment of others. Earlier this year, I managed to squeeze in a chapter of Hiraeth into my monthly rotation, but as soon as I had to begin working on my October novella on top of that, something had to give. My goal is to keep Hiraeth on my schedule until it’s done or I’m forced to, once again, let something slide so I’m able to meet my monthly commitments. Given I’m so close to the end of this book, I think the former is more likely than the latter. The SECOND this story is done, it is going to supersede anything else my editor is working on for me. We’re going to beat it into shape and get it ready for publication, but when it’ll be published… I can’t say just yet. It’s going to depend on Sun’s availability, as always, but please know that this book will become my top priority the moment the draft is done. Until then, it’s always going to be the thing I push to the back burner because I have a monetary commitment to prioritize my Patreon offerings first, and while I did toy with the idea of making Hiraeth a serial on there, I opted to not since it’s too wrapped up in lore, previous installments, and context to work as a standalone for anyone on there who hasn’t read the whole series yet.
Please keep in mind I work a full time job and update roughly 50-60 pages a month publicly and another 30-40 that you don’t see. I’m not annoyed or frustrated that I keep getting questions about Hiraeth—to be honest, I’m just psyched that people care and are that excited to finally get to read it. I’m more frustrated at myself for taking this long on something that should’ve been done back in like, 2019. I’m going to do it, though. My Aubade rewrite sprint at the beginning of 2023 will free me up significantly, and I intend to use that time wisely by prioritizing this book again as much as I’m able to. I don’t think I’ll be able to publish in 2023, but my ultimate goal for this work is to give you guys a release date for 2024, or at the very least, confirm that the book is done and that all we’re waiting on is clearance for art before we announce when to expect it.
But that’s enough on that. You guys probably look at all these ongoing and future projects and think I’m insane, but honestly, this is how I work, this is how I update, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t give myself unrealistic standards and deadlines. I like having a full plate, and when I have lots of ideas, I don’t always like waiting years for their turn to come. Sometime I’ll show you guys more of my monthly planning strategies and maybe even show you guys how I format my physical schedule. To me, this is all very manageable so long as I don’t fall behind. It’s when I get sick or miss a weekend that things get stressful. Maybe that’ll be my next resolution for 2023—give myself even more padding for when things inevitably do happen to me, because even with all of these stockpiling tricks I’m pulling, it’s still likely to happen regardless.
Let’s turn to some questions now and see what else people are excited about for 2023. Questions come from Instagram and Twitter this time!
How do you do prior research and gather references to make your work more “real”?
More writing questions! Fun fun. Well, I mean, I read books and look for articles on the topics. It really depends on the sort of research you’re doing. If it’s something in a historical setting, you should be researching the fuck out of things—if that’s something you feel is important. There are plenty of people writing “historical” fiction where it’s just a setting, not anything more. Do you care about being accurate? If so, then read everything you can find about the time period itself. Find diaries, since those are great for actually hearing how people lived their day-to-day lives, and look for resources that can add flavor to your worldbuilding, like historical cookbooks or books/articles targeted towards taking you through the day of whatever class or group of people you’re writing about. You want to get boots on the ground, essentially, because just reading a history book won’t tell you how a person lived, just what they lived through.
If you’ve got access to JSTOR, you’re a lucky bastard. Use it and download as many articles as you can. If you don’t, hit up your local library. There are reference librarians who can find articles and books for you via WORLDCAT or interlibrary loan, and I’d recommend being pretty upfront with them when it comes to what you’re trying to write. My mother is a librarian and you’d be shocked what sorts of goldmines they’re able to uncover once they get going. Also, when I was in college, I asked my professors LOTS of questions when I was writing stories set in their areas of focus. If you’ve got access to an expert in the field, use them. I’ve served as a historical consultant before for comic authors—though I’d hazard to call myself an “expert.” Just… don’t be too shy to tell someone like that what you’re trying to do. You don’t have to tell your Medieval History professor “Hey, I’m writing a gay erotica about a viking and volva, can you tell me more about things that pertain to that?” Have some tact, if you think they’ll care or whatever, but just tell them you’re working on a personal project and could use more context. They’ll tell you everything they know, or be a great resource when it comes to pointing you towards other resources instead.
I’d also suggest setting your story in a place you’re familiar with, if you’re basing it in a real world place. That’s not always possible though—and God knows I’ve never been to France XD—but if you don’t have real world experience in the location you’re setting a story in, you’re going to have to do even more research to level the playing field, because a reader who DOES know about that location will drag your ass for inconsistencies—I’ve got a European reader who corrected me for having two French characters drinking tea with milk in it. Find someone who lives there or has a lot of experience being there to read over your work and tweak it for issues, interview people about their own experiences, and like, Google Earth is a thing. You can literally take a walk down a Parisian street to see what a character sees. I can’t tell you how many walking tours I watched on Youtube to get a feel for the public portions of the Catacombs as well. The more you know and have seen of your setting, the more authentic your descriptions will be and feel.
Finally, while I don’t believe in only “writing what you know,” I still suggest you write within your wheelhouse. If you know nothing about the Industrial Revolution and you don’t really care to learn about it beforehand, maybe don’t set your story during that time if the setting itself is a big area of focus in the story. There’s no shame in giving your fantasy a historical bend to it. It gives you a lot more wiggle room and more grace in terms of the finicky little details that may give you away. I guess… just identify what your goal is in telling the story. Are you trying to make it accurate? Do you want people to come out of reading it learning new things? If so, put in the work. If not, then don’t sweat it, but also don’t sell it as accurate historical fiction.
Ultimately, what makes a story feel “real” can come from the setting, but largely, it’ll come from how realistic and authentic you make your characters feel. The more you demonstrate this person is a well rounded character with thoughts, feelings, and goals of their own, the more the reader will feel immersed and find the story believable. Don’t just write a character—write a person. The set dressing will help us understand them, but I’d ignore the presence of a tomato in 14th century Europe a lot easier if the character I’m reading about feels tangible.
Is there any trope in fiction that you love but might not have written yet?
Hmm well I’m pretty good about writing things that I like or want to try exploring, clearly XD But off the top of my head, I really want to do some noir inspired works sometime, as well as more detective stories. One of my favorite type of stories to read are locked door mysteries, the sort of mystery where someone is murdered in a locked room and you have to try to figure out who did it and how—sort of like Clue meets Agatha Christie.
I’m also a fan of arranged marriages/political marriage tropes, and while I’m sort of satisfying some of those requirements with Apotheosis, I haven’t gotten to truly explore that trope just yet. I’ve also got a divisive relationship with isekai type stories, but I lowkey have plans I want to explore for a story involving alternate realities and a character being brought into a world that seems familiar but has a few marked differences. I’m toying with some story notes as we speak but I don’t have anything concrete enough planned for any sort of formal write-up or teaser just yet.
What conventions are you going to next year?
Great question! I do try to keep my Events tab on my website up-to-date as I make plans and get into alleys, but as of right now, I’ll be at Anime Crossroads in February (Indianapolis), Anime Minneapolis in May (Minneapolis), Colossalcon in June (Sandusky), and Youmacon in November (Detroit). I’ll be for-sure tabling at the first three (Colossalcon likely just the traditional Thursday), with Youma still being a TBA. I’ve also applied for Matsuricon, ACEN, and will be trying for JAFAX, Anime Iowa, and perhaps a few other smaller Michigan conventions as well. One of my goals for 2023 is to try applying to more conventions outside my normal rotation. Wish me luck on all these lotteries and juries!
It’s been a great year, now that I’m reading over all of this. I’ve made new friends, worked with new people, explored new topics, and set myself up for some really great launches next year. I’m entering a new era of my business and creative life as I attempt new things and try different dynamics within my fiction, and I’m really excited to start offering more merch in new and fun ways.
I hope you guys had a good 2022 despite, y’know, everything bad that’s done it’s best to stain it for everyone. We’re not living in easy times. We’re actively challenged every single day to get out of bed and keep our heads high, to move forward with what makes us happy while life around us conspires to drag us down. Fiction is an escape and always has been. It can be hard to get the words on paper some days with the news beating down on the back of my head, but it’s an escape for you guys, and for me as well. It’s… important. Silly little stories are important. If I’ve been able to give any of you some levity in darkness, I’m glad. It makes it all worth it, and I hope you’ll stick by me for another year as we continue to laugh and cry and shout at these stupid characters as they fall in love again and again and again.
Thank you for 2022. Let’s say hello again in 2023, and make it a good year, even if we have to do it ourselves by any means possible.