Happy July! The thick of summer is upon us and everything feels like it’s ramping up in terms of heat, workload, and travel. After so many years of just not doing much or going anywhere, I feel a bit out of practice with the hustle! As of right now, I’m now in a lull between conventions. Thank god, really. After two conventions and nearly a month of being sick as a dog, I feel like I need the break to get caught back up on things. But that’s not what you guys are here for, right? I’ll save my bellyaching for another time and get us onto the topic of this month’s author blog. Namely, another teaser to an upcoming project!
Now, some of you may be aware that at any given moment I’ve got like, at least three or more irons in the fire. I do my best to finish projects entirely before moving onto new ones (Hiraeth is a big exception to that rule, but in my defense, I am working on it and the world as a whole sought to waylay the project OTL) but I’ve found that interspersing larger projects with short ones can help keep up momentum on both. Humans are suckers for instant gratification, and anyone who’s ever tried to write a book before can tell you that it’s not an easy or short process. It’s easy to get burnt out or worn down by the slog of working your way through a 500+ page story. At some points, it doesn’t feel like making progress at all. Taking a month or two to divert focus to write an 80 page novella, though, is a much faster prospect. Five chapters feels a hell of a lot more doable than 28, and switching between both builds up momentum that’ll help get through each a lot quicker than if I’d kept them independent.
It’s because of all of that that I’ve really been grateful for Patreon as an avenue to creating short content alongside my longer stuff. The yearly short story event lets me carve out a portion of the year to dedicate to hammering out something to completion all at once and the monthly patron pick poll rotation helps me put out a constant, steady stream of progress on a variety of novellas. Without the monthly rotation, getting through the three vigilante novellas wouldn’t have been nearly as easy, and this way, I get to dabble in a bunch of disparate ideas that keep my brain fresh and inspiration juicy. That goes for genres too. A lot of my current long-project work involves heavy lore, intense plot, and characters of a very specific persuasion. Novellas let me write comedy when all I’m surrounded by is serious drama, horror when I’m drowning in fluffy romance, and adventure when the political intrigue becomes stifling. In essence, I get to write movies instead of epics, and I really, really enjoy that change of pace when I can fit it in.
But I digress. So, what’s the new IP, T.D.?
Well, as I described it on Patreon during the lead up to last year’s October novella event, survival horror but make it horny!
-cue the sound of cheers, jeers, and final girl screams-
As you may have gathered, this story, Ossuary, is solidly in the category of movie when it comes to my dichotomy of project types. To be perfectly honest, I originally conceptualized Ossuary as my attempt at writing a slasher movie in the form of a novella. By "slasher" I'm being a bit loose. This story is much more The Descent than it is Scream or Halloween. I’m a huge horror fan and, while some of my work certainly has horror elements or themes at times, I’ve never gotten the chance to write what I’d consider a horror book before. Thankfully, my patrons last year were really receptive to letting me have the chance to do just that! It was a lovely surprise when that option won the overall poll. Sometimes I operate under the assumption that the whole world prefers soft, fluffy things and I’m the only one aching for blood and fear and complete party-wipes in my fiction, so every time my patrons prove me wrong I gain another twenty lifepoints.
The summary for Ossuary is as follows:
Work as a Curse Breaker is anything but glamorous. It’s difficult, gruesome at times, and it takes Curse Breaker Thierry Pryor to places better left untouched. The Paris Catacombs were once a symbol of French identity, the true sign of death making all equal in the end, but after centuries of layered spell work, ancient hexes, and more than one hastily patched protective charm, the resulting magical amalgam has begun to break down, tainting the surrounding land. It’s up to Thierry and his team to figure out the source of the miasma and quell it before it begins having an effect on those living above the city of the dead.
But unlike the jobs before, there’s something at work in the catacombs much more sinister than some moldering family curse. Sometimes the dead sleep more soundly than the living, but then again, maybe some of the dead don’t sleep willingly at all...
Surprising absolutely nobody, this novella combines a lot of my favorite things: a sad, beleaguered and alienated protagonist, a yandere vampire half-out of his mind with loss, thirst, and obsession, and a dynamic that toes the line of off-putting and intriguing. If you guys haven’t gathered by now that I have an eternal hard on for vampires, I don’t know what to do at this point. A lot of the vampire things I’ve been working on for the DVerse (which will probably get its own blog post—or six—later on this year) are more mystery oriented than outright horror. Ossuary gave me a vampiric outlet that satisfied my need for something DIFFERENT, something fucked up! It’s not much of a romance. Maybe if you squint? But if you like high stakes situations, life-or-death decision making, corruption of the protagonist, and destruction of the self in preservation of staying “alive”... You may just like it too!
I’ve had this premise cooking for… at least three years? Something like that. I remember wanting to write something involving a witch with an affinity for dark magic and curses living and working in a magical world that maligns that. I don’t normally write up story notes by hand—my handwriting is atrocious and I’m so much faster at typing than writing that it just doesn’t work well for me as a medium for recording my thoughts—but for a time I did dedicate some effort towards working out of notebooks in the vain hope of improving my out of practice penmanship. I’d driven to the next city over to meet with a seamstress I knew in order to get some measurements taken for a Hua Cheng cosplay XD and arrived a bit too early to meet her. To kill time, I drove to the library in town. Once there, I found myself a table to sit at and pulled out my hedgehog notebook and proceeded to write up the very first story notes on the premise that would, in time, become Ossuary.
They weren’t detailed notes. They were largely just basic aesthetic ideas involving how Thierry would look, some of his family history, and the dynamic I wanted to achieve between him and his… to call the vampire a love interest seems mean XD The highlights are kind of fun though.
Aesthetically, Thierry and the vampire are modeled off of Ferdinand and Hubert from Fire Emblem, namely in the long red hair/wavy dark hair dynamic, and in the vampire having Hubert’s facial bone structure. Those cheekbones had a hold of me big time.
Character trait-wise, I used Draco Malfoy as a base when it came to extrapolating Thierry’s backstory/reputation within the magical world. Fuck the terf-who-must-not-be-named, but Draco’s always been a criminally underutilized and underexplored character in my mind ever since I was a kid, and I wanted to take some of those bones and do something More with them.
Since this was meant to be a novella-take on slasher movie, I wrote the surrounding cast as if they were common character trope types within a horror movie, so there’s an “asshole jock”, a “red shirt”, and “a mediator.” Each has a lot more going on with them than those wide brushstrokes, but at their core, they’re there to serve those purposes.
The plot specifics themselves didn’t come until later on, and they went through a lot of revision and tweaking as I sorted out what sort of story I wanted to tell. I’m a huge fan of the idea of “hero corruption,” and initially, I wasn’t going to let Thierry be a hero. I wanted him to be a “burn the world that’s always burned me” sort of character, but as the story unfolded, it did not end up being that at all XD To be honest, I blame myself and my predilections for that. I have a terrible habit of always sculpting my protagonists to be outcasts in some way. Thieves, freaks, rejects, bastards… Either they are born that way or are made that way through bad luck and fickle turns of fate, and Thierry, the poor thing, is an unfortunate combination of both. He comes from a family of magic users who were, once upon a time, renowned for their ability to use dark magic to hunt down monsters. While their dark magic served a purpose and protected the innocent from a common threat, they were lauded as heroes, but after perceptions shifted and the monsters they hunted were found to be more cognizant than first assumed, their luck shifted. Their dark magic became the new threat. The monsters became victims. The Pryors bloody deeds, once viewed as heroic, simply became bloody, and Thierry? Thierry just became the latest link in a sordid chain that society no longer trusts or respects.
He could’ve easy turned his back on things and let it all burn at his feet, but the truth of what actually happens isn’t nearly so cathartic—life as a whole, and the horrors he encounters and confronts in the catacombs, refuse to let it be, and while I once again failed to achieve my long-held goal to write a proper corruption arc… I achieved a very fun story of a different kind with Ossuary, and let’s be honest… there’s always next time XD
At it's core, Ossuary is what the summary implies. It's a story about Thierry just trying to do his job the best he can and society refusing to see him as anything but what rumor and generational stigma wants him to be. He is incredibly gifted but never valued or treated better for his skill set, even among his own peers--something we see in lurid display as he and his team move through the Catacombs in search of the source of malignant, broken curses poisoning the watershed up above. The truth of his family history is never far from him, and positive first impressions corrupt faster than the groundwater when fanned by the flames of those who already hate him. Thierry always thought he understood what his family had done to earn such negative associations. The fun thing about this book--fun for us, I should say. It's never fun for Thierry--is that his family truly was that bad. In fact, they were worse, and the vampire slumbering so unwillingly beneath the earth proves it in time, and certainly in his own way.
What can I tell you about the vampire... Not a lot, unfortunately. So much of who he is and what he's about is tied into the myriad twists of this story. What I can tell you is that this is a take on vampires I've never tried writing before. It's a very unique study on vampires as a different species from humans. No human can be turned into a vampire. No vampire ever used to be human--at least, none that any are aware of. They are not human. They do not have human sentiments, morality, or compunctions. There was a reason they used to be hunted, even if Thierry's generation refuses to acknowledge it. They can be dangerous beings with immeasurably long memories.
In fact, if there's one thing you can count on when it comes to this vampire, it's that he remembers everything.
So, he's an antagonist. He's a love interest--though to Thierry, he's likely just a nightmare. He's our Frankenstein's Monster and our bloodthirsty Lord Ruthven all at once. This story leans towards the Victorian in terms of Romance with a capital R, so I can't in good conscience call it even a dark romance. It's animal obsession, animal fear, and a testament that no good deed goes unpunished, and every choice we make comes with a pound of flesh that must be paid. It's probably some of the darkest stuff I've written and will likely have to have some warnings tacked onto every sales page it graces, but if you're like me and into subversive dynamics, fear as a motivating device, and "survival horror but make it horny," you may be into it too.
Ahh, I love getting to tease upcoming stories but I hate how limited I am in what I can say without giving too much away. Ossuary is, unfortunately, the sort of read that really does benefit from the reader being kept in the dark as much as possible beforehand, to the point where I really only feel comfortable discussing Thierry and not his… love interest? Antagonist? Worst nightmare? I’m the sort of person who will gleefully tell anyone the entire plot of a book if given half a chance. I’m not really the kind of person who minds spoilers, but I know that’s a minority opinion. With any luck I’ve given you guys enough to whet your appetites! And if I haven’t, you can always leave a comment and let me know your burning questions <3
I’ve really fallen for this story and the characters. You’ll understand more once you’ve read it, but it’s the sort of story that has a lot more that goes unsaid at the end than can be tied up neatly in a blood-spattered bow. This is a story with no good ending but an open one, and that means that it’s the sort of story that can, in theory, keep going long past the point of closing the book. Because of that, I’ve been tinkering around with a sequel of sorts. I don’t know if I’ll ever bother publishing it—it really depends on if I decide to end that one or carry on in the vein of letting things end ambiguous and openly—but it’s been a ton of fun to toy with when I’m craving a certain kind of buzz. I’ve always really enjoyed premises that have no satisfactory End. No “happy” ever. Sometimes, I’ve found, the only happy ending—or the happiest we’re capable of achieving—is one in which we never encounter the end. This is all sounding very vague XD but I promise, it’ll all make abundant sense once you’ve read Ossuary yourself.
This story is currently on the active editing block and will maybe be out at the end of this year? I don’t have an artist lined up for it just yet, so that makes it a little harder to predict on that front. With any luck, my editor and I will get through the last of the edits before we hit August. If it sounds like something you’d like to check out now, though, the first draft is available on my Patreon for all tiers. We’ve already voted this year on what I’ll be writing for everyone this upcoming October, so it’s a great time to pledge, catch up on the backlog, and buckle in for the next novella on the docket. It’s a rewrite of an ancient piece of original fiction I wrote back when I was 16 involving a misanthropic goth who enjoys long walks in cemeteries at 3am, an archdemon simp with more fixations than common sense, and a trip to Hell redolent of Carnival. I’m really excited to begin work on it.
That’s it for this month! I hope you guys are amped for Ossuary and the other fun things I’ve got cooking in the background. I may have a publication announcement (?) to share with you guys soon as well, so if there’s another blog update between now and next month, don’t be too surprised! Keep your fingers crossed and, as always, until next time!