Coming Into Winter 2023

With the weather turning quickly and the days feeling noticeably shorter, my release schedule is only likely to get more erratic. Some winters I manage to hide from the world by getting deep into a story, but sometimes that’s less successful. Right now, I’m on a bit of a roll, so with any luck I can continue that. I thought, though, that at least the occasional reader who’s been following what I write might have a question or two. The biggest one is probably, “When are you going to finish Transposition?” I’m going to try to explain the status on that and why it’s going slowly. There are three parts to this:

1) How I’m writing and what’s affecting that,

2) Where I’m posting and how that’s affecting what I write, and

3) A quick summary of my out-of-control list of writing projects.

How I’m Writing (and what’s affecting that)

I’ve always spun stories in roughly the same way: get an idea, create characters, turn them loose, and watch what happens. The older and more experienced I get, the less time I have to spend on replacing characters that don’t work and trying to thin out story sidetracks that are just a waste of time. I’m better at finding the plot buried in the rest and focusing at least mostly on that. That doesn’t mean that it all wants to stay neatly in a novel structure, because that happens less and less, but I’m more efficient at writing overall.

I’m probably older than you think – I was born in the mid 70s and I’ve been writing madly since the late 80s, with a few interruptions due to dire mental health events. (That doesn’t mean I feel that old!) A lot of what I’ve written is outright garbage that no one’s ever seeing but I keep it to remind myself. (There’s a letter to my 15-year-old self elsewhere on this blog.) But there’s less of that all the time.

I always have multiple projects on the go. My brain refuses to stay with a single story for an extended period. If all’s going well, I might be able to manage about a month, but that’s only if nothing in real life disrupts the flow. I’ve been fighting depressive episodes and generalized anxiety for years now, severe enough that I can’t hold a job anymore, and they make it very easy to get off-balance. Just to make things more challenging, I discovered while doing research for Rusty the autistic squirrel faeling that I match the profile of an autistic girl to a really astonishing degree. I looked into the possibility some years back but don’t fit the presentation for boys at all, so concluded that I couldn’t be. There is no chance I can get a proper, formal diagnosis. There aren’t enough resources locally for kids even if they’re in crisis, let alone anything for adults. If it matches so perfectly, though, and if trying management strategies from that perspective work, that seems like fairly good evidence. I’ve only recently managed to get my head around that one and start doing some deeper research, and at this point I’m pretty sure that the reason all the treatment for depression and anxiety failed is because they were not treating the correct condition. So, coping with all that is taking some mental and emotional energy right now, although I hope in the long run it’ll help.

Since I can’t stay focused on a single story for long, this means I’m forever jumping between several. It’s virtually impossible to predict when any single story will be done, although I’ve been known to try and completely fail. This is one of the really big reasons why I decided against trying to turn writing into a job. The stress would be off the scale, trying to force my mind to focus on something that I’ve been promoting and promising. It would be much more likely for the writer part of my mind to just go on strike and refuse to give me anything at all. This means that readers are more or less going to get whatever I can manage to hold onto long enough to complete it. Sorry!

I honestly didn’t think anyone would read Transposition. I released it with only the first arc completed. I regret that, and I feel bad about it. I am going to finish it, I promise! A possible additional factor making it hard to concentrate on this one is that I was working on this when my beloved unofficial emotional-support cat got sick and died. Yes, it was in early 2022. Yes, it’s a long time to struggle with that. I didn’t realize until I lost him just how good he was at helping me stay stable and focused and helping me recover from bad days more quickly. The associations might still be part of the difficulty I’m having getting my brain to go back in that direction. I don’t know. It just hasn’t come back around on the Wheel of Projects yet, but it will!

Other than that… I have chronic insomnia, and the provincial disability health plan doesn’t cover the only thing that lets me actually sleep properly, which is one specific type of CBD capsule. I can only afford to buy it intermittently. Rent and groceries are nice, and our two senior cats need very specific and expensive diets and meds that we cover before anything for humans. There are people who have it worse: for the moment we do have a roof and food. But not sleeping is not great for productive days, y’know?

Where I’m Sharing What I Write (and how that’s changing what I write)

I’ve tried several options for places to share whatever worlds and characters come out of my head. Smashwords is a great place for releasing novels, but if you suck at marketing (which I do) then you won’t get much attention. WattPad was interesting for a while and I met some cool people but it was clearly not the right place for me. Royal Road’s anti-LGBT+ and anti-healthy-sex attitude and culture makes it emphatically a bad place for my work. I’ve looked at others and haven’t found anything that felt right.

Scribble Hub has been the best I’ve found so far, although there are aspects I don’t care for. (Why is there no simple “Transformation” tag? No “Polyamory” tag for non-harem multiple relationships?) I have a few readers who keep coming back, and that’s keeping me motivated to keep finishing stories. I don’t have views in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but I can write what I want to write and some people seem to be enjoying it. Given my poor marketing and self-promo skills, I’m okay with that. A number of recent stories exist only because of the freedom I feel on Scribble Hub in many ways. Lamia is finally out in the world because of that, and I’m grateful. Haunted, The Rose Bridge, Quincunx (coming), and everything in the Bondage collection exist because of that.

The single largest issue with Scribble Hub is that the only stories that are getting any attention are the ones that are tagged “Transgender.” The stats are dramatically different between the ones that are and the ones that are not. Everyone has their own tastes, that’s absolutely fine and I’m not questioning that. It’s troubling, though, when I’m looking at a work in progress that I care deeply about, and I find myself trying to decide whether to 1) abandon it and grieve for it, 2) try to shoehorn a trans character into it somehow at any cost so I can use that tag, or 3) finish it and release it knowing it’s a good story that will only ever have a few readers and I’ll feel a different kind of sadness every time I look at my dashboard.

I’m no more comfortable with trying to force trans content into a story than I am with trying to edit it out. The characters and story and world build each other somewhere deep in my head, and it’s not as simple as “Well, just make someone trans.” Kayla, from Transposition, wasn’t supposed to be but she evolved that way, while nothing in the world could make Learning Curve work if Tavi was trans. I don’t consider myself a writer of transgender stories. I’m a writer who lets the story and characters be whatever fits, and that often includes transgender the same way it includes a lot of other things: transformation and shapeshifting, or poly relationships, or friendships.

So, I don’t know what to do about that. I haven’t found any site that would be a better alternative, and I like my readers (and the comments) on Scribble Hub. At the same time, I can’t do my best work if I feel like I have to include any one thing in every single story in order to get it noticed at all.

Due to some other circumstances, I’ve recently been introduced to the Fediverse. It’s possible that I can expand outwards in that direction, given some time.

I also set up a Patreon page, not because I will ever paywall anything I write (I’m too familiar with how it feels to be broke) but to offer a few bonuses like earlier access, epub versions, and possibly simple author-read audio versions. With a megacolon cat (my mother’s, but with health issues of her own she can’t cope with his, and he’s a sweet boy) and my own brain being a bit of a hot mess sometimes, a fixed income is problematic, and anything helps. It’s also another place I can refer potential readers to if they’re curious and don’t want to read on Scribble Hub.

Expanding in other directions will, I hope, allow a bit more flexibility, but I’m not abandoning my SH readers!

What I’m Writing

Okay, brace yourselves. This is a summarized version of my current list of works in progress – and I’m leaving out any that are just ideas with absolutely nothing written and no preliminary work done on them, or old ideas that I think I might have a way to fix to make them viable. (At least a couple of those have worlds and premises I really like!)

Transposition: Finish the rest! They still have to figure out who else is out there that snuck in the spies, and get the various faelings sorted out to start sending them either home or somewhere else safe.

Possession: This is a monster epic in a pseudo-Victorian-ish city called Etria, with a group of mostly-trans performers (dancers, musicians, an animal trainer, a stage magician) and a couple of their friends trying to save the city and possibly the world from a very bad magic-user; they stumble over the magic protecting the device the bad guy wants, and gain some cool abilities they can use to try to stop him. It has a bit of an ancient-super-weapon trope at heart, maybe with a touch of superhero. Yes, I did a save-the-world story. I don’t usually do those.

Quincunx: I decided to write my version of an isekai harem story, which I will leave to your imagination, but it isn’t exactly an adolescent male power fantasy about collecting busty girls. Let’s just say I’m not worried about this one having trans content. Shouldn’t be a long novel (ie, should be <100K).

Just A Game: This is an erotic novel that, I kid you not, never actually has any sex between two or more people in it (really!). It’s about three couples playing a magical board game that’s stirring up lots of fantasies and forgotten feelings, with a rule about no messing around on the side, and it includes some magically-enhanced costumes and toys and such. One of the six is a trans man. I quite like it, but there’s one extra issue: I can only work on this when I have the CBD capsules that let me sleep, because they also counter the damage done to my sex drive by all the mostly-useless anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds that I no longer take.

Triad (working title, I’ll be changing that): This is a slice-of-life urban fantasy based on the idea that Homo sapiens is not, and has never been, the only intelligent humanoid species, but the explosion of population and the Age of Reason have been a problem for the rest. It’s centred around a trio of non-human kids who were rescued and grew up pretending to be human within a human family who know everything and love them, until things happen that make hiding at least from their partners impossible. I had a lot of fun creating species for this one, but the current state of the world made it incredibly depressing to have a humanoid species adapted to, say, the Arctic or the SE Asian rainforest, so I’m rebuilding this one to have two parallel worlds. The only “trans” character so far is a shapeshifting polymorph with no internal gender, so… Idunno. I’m really fond of the characters, and a lot of it is likely to be their interactions with regular human society, with the invisible non-sapiens culture, with their human partners who had no idea until now that non-sapiens existed, and trying to re-evaluate who they are and where they fit into all that, while helping said partners adjust.

Familiarity: This one includes a modern world with wizards as official first-response protectors against doorways that periodically get opened from another plane full, apparently, of hostile monsters. Since it has no trans characters and the attempt at rewriting it to make a major character trans was, well, not exciting, I may abandon this one even though my roommate likes it and wants me to finish it.

Fair Trade: This one is women-centred kinky erotica, about a woman who isn’t happy with her life discovering that her best friend is a ridiculously-powerful fae (not the same world as Transposition!) and that there are laws allowing them to bargain for things the human woman wants but she has to pay for them. If you’re discovering that you’re feeling unfulfilled and bored with your respectable lawyer boyfriend and your soul-killing job and your efforts to be as ordinary and conventional as possible, finding out that your best friend is a rather dom melusine and her husband is a good-natured satyr and they have friends who have interesting human favourites might shake things up a bit. No trans characters in this one, so I might abandon it even with 182K words on an erotica site and more waiting for editing. (Also, same issue as with Just A Game above.) 

My playground world, which I will probably release as Dragoncat Tales: I have, for years, been writing an immense volume of story about one sprawling extended family that lives straddling a version of the real world and another world, some from one side, some from the other, some born knowing both. Humans are a minority within the family and there is lots of magic, shapeshifters, gender and orientation all over the place, multiple other-world cultures, rock music, pro dancers, some semi-immortal healers, and lots more, not so much a single story arc as a lot of personal interconnected stories. I don’t know whether anyone’s interested or not, but it matters to me a lot.

Brightside: This is another erotic project, although there’s much more to it than the explicit first few chapters that are sitting on an erotica site, and a lot of it is non-sexual. The two main characters are a straight (kinky) couple, but there have always been plans for a trans friend (possibly lover?) to wander onstage before much longer. Another kind of life-in-two-worlds project, which I guess makes three of those, with different ways of travelling back and forth and very different worlds on the other side.

Sequels to Lamia and Shaman, further Moonblood stories, a few short slice-of-life bits (or more) following The Rose Bridge, a possible novella sequel to Black Wolf, and I would dearly love to write the next half a dozen books about the crew in Renegade and their kids, but it bombed and still won’t likely be trans-heavy so probably I won’t.

Shorts to add to the Bondage collection turn up when they turn up.

And a long, long list of others that I’ve never actually explored or, like I said, older ones I think I could fix. I’m trying very hard to avoid starting anything else. I’d like to finish the ones that are already on my list. Ideas strike when they strike, though.

How many is that? Too many.

I’m working hard on finishing stories I can post. If I can’t stay focused on any one long enough to make this linear and organized… sorry, my brain doesn’t work like that. But while I’m breathing there will always be more sooner or later!

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