Back in motion!

I mentioned previously that I hoped life could resume something like normality in early March. I’m extremely grateful that so far, that does seem to be the case. It’s going to take me a little time to get everything moving again, since so many different projects all stalled from lack of attention–and not only writing projects. But I’m feeling optimistic!

So optimistic that I’ve begun to release the first chapter of the new Moonblood adventure, as of this past Friday. That may not have been the wisest plan while the adventure itself is still incomplete, but at this point, 38k words into it, I doubt it’s going to involve any really major changes in the earlier chapters while I’m hammering out the later ones. Since the location, which is near the Garden of Umako that they visited previously, is very vaguely West African, I admit to feeling a bit nervous about possible accusations of cultural appropriation or related racism. One person’s “cultural appropriation” is another person’s “inspired by” and it’s not always a matter of insider vs outsider.I just can’t stand the thought, however, of the entire Moonblood world of Evanir, or at least the large continent our heroes wander, being an endless series of loosely medieval western European cultures, so I guess I’ll just have to hope for the best.

Overall, while looking back through the earlier adventures to remind myself of relevant information, I haven’t been entirely happy. As you’ll see if you looked at my main site, my usual format is the novel, generally one of substantial size. My work is, invariably, all about the characters and bringing them to life. To tell you the truth, I usually have only a very vague idea of what a new novel is going to be “about” since I create the characters (which can be a more difficult task than a non-writer might think) and then drop them somewhere to see what happens. Sooner or later, often thousands of words later, I spot something that looks like a plot and start to angle in that direction. I don’t know how many pros would consider it professional, but it’s a lot of fun and it means I know my characters very well. Usually I then put it aside for several months before editing it. Thanks to one person taking time, I now know how to edit the resulting mass of words into something coherent and consistent, though I generally keep a bit more of the “character development” material than conventional wisdom calls for. The thing is, none of this applies to Moonblood.

With Moonblood, I tried something new. I took a handful of very old characters (Neoma, Kieran, Tyrel, and Madoc have been around since I was in high school, and Kaveri nearly as long) and reimagined their world and their lives. The various adventures aren’t really stand-alone. They follow a sequence, and description of characters and all tends not to be repeated. They are, however, extremely compressed. Places where I would have included a scene showing something, I’ve summarized it into a paragraph before getting on to the next big event, trying to keep the pacing fast and something immediately interesting in each individual post (and not always succeeding). Some of the less-direct character interaction scenes that I’d have included in a novel have been cut or never written, and as a result, there are more places where I’m telling the reader about the characters instead of letting the characters demonstrate. Despite that, chapters are repeatedly broken into 2 or 3 posts to bring them to manageable size. I’m also finding things that I probably would have fixed or changed with more time to revise. I think I have to consider myself poorly suited to writing serial fiction. That shouldn’t come as too much surprise, since my short stories are few and far between. If an idea or, more often, a group of characters is interesting enough for me to do two or three thousand words, then it’s probably interesting enough that I’ll want to explore it or them in much more depth.

Which means that once I finish Return, I am going to take a more deliberate break from this particular project. At some point, between other writing projects, I plan to seriously revise it from a different approach. Instead of treating it as web fiction, I’ll consider it the rough draft of a novel of sorts with an unusual internal structure, and see what happens. I think it will give me the room to flesh out the characters the way they deserve.

That said… I do have one old but rather good idea that would be hopeless as a novel but might someday work in serial format… so who knows?

While this has been all about Moonblood so far, that isn’t the only thing I’m doing. Leaving the overall arc unresolved has been nagging at me, so it became the first thing to pick back up. Lamia‘s revised re-release is coming up, I hope before May. Once that is done, that’s it for my earlier novels, the ones that I previously finished and put on my old site essentially expecting only friends to see them, generally after years being kicked around and re-written and taken apart and stitched back together, and everything from there on is shiny-new and made from whole cloth, so to speak. (I really should write something about the difference, someday soon.) I’m hoping to get Shaman released by June. I’ve had requests for print versions of books, though that’s only available for Yin-Yang currently, so I need to get that sorted out. (That project costs a bit, since I have to buy test copies, and the household budget is tight… but I’ve had a few voluntary payments for ebooks, which I think will cover it.) I think I’m going to re-issue Renegade with the introduction, explaining its history, at the end, in hopes of scaring off fewer people–although I do find it interesting, and probably indicative of current demand, that the urban fantasy with expressly LGBT content has sold 4 times as many as the other-world fantasy that I can’t really tag LGBT. And… all the others, novels and blog posts, waiting in the wings for me to get my feet back under me and get back to work.

Since my household is now in a new and safer apartment that humans and felines consider an enormous improvement, the health and other crises seem to be winding down, and spring is in the air, getting back to work is definitely a high priority. Writing isn’t just something I do, it’s a central part of who I am, and a stretch of several months with only a small amount of sporadic writing is difficult. While I’m not attracting large numbers of readers, I am attracting a few, and given the huge amount of time and effort that goes into polishing a novel for release, it’s good to know that they do interest people. I have my fingers crossed that the LGBT urban fantasy will appeal to people, but I have too much fun to give up doing the occasional other-world fantasy!

No updates or releases? Why?

Even a quick look will show that everything writing-related has come to a halt: no blog posts, no new novel releases, no new chapters in the serial Moonblood. No signs of life for several months now. I know if I came across that, I’d assume that the writer had given up or moved on to something else.

That isn’t the case. I’m still around, still writing (or trying to!), and still have every intention of releasing more novels, more blog posts, and wrapping up neatly with Moonblood.

Recent months have swamped my household with human health issues, feline health issues, housing issues, and a variety of other complications that have had to take higher priority as far as my time and energy. (That includes several unexpected days in the hospital myself, plus recovery time.)

Despite that, the final draft of Lamia is underway (although I haven’t come up with a plan for a cover yet). I’m rather looking forward to doing the final revisions on Shaman and releasing it, even though I admit to being a bit apprehensive about reception of a novel with a trans main character written by a cis author. The next installment of Moonblood is sitting on my netbook, waiting for me to have the concentration to work out a tangle in the thread so I can get on with it. I wrote a piece on gender and pronouns for an online magazine I was briefly associated with, and plan to revise it and post it here. Faerie Tale‘s first draft is about 75% complete, and still looking very promising (if a bit unusual). I have several other novels begun, in varying stages.

In other words, nothing has been abandoned, just put on hold, and I very much hope that the series of crises resolves very soon so I can pick up where I left off. Tentatively, life should begin to quiet down in early March. I’m not optimistic about it happening before that, however.

I was somewhat surprised to drop by Smashwords and discover that, while I’ve been distracted, there has been a slow but steady trickle of sales. I freely admit that I am very bad at self-promotion and networking. I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere before that being disabled, I have to choose where to put my finite personal resources (how to spend my spoons, to use a recent Internet analogy) and if I have to choose between creating or promoting, creating will win. I can only hope that my work speaks for itself. That said, my attempt at honesty about the origins of Renegade seem to have backfired, since very few copies of it have sold compared to Yin-Yang and Black Wolf, even taking the time since release into consideration. That does make me somewhat sad, since I think it’s an excellent story on its own. Maybe that will change at some point.

But I digress. Those of you who have enjoyed my work enough to download it or read it on Prysmcat Books directly, and the very few who have left ratings or reviews or let me know privately what you think – thank you, and please bear with me. There’s plenty more of my own slightly odd fantasy coming, I promise!

Novel Release: Renegade

renegade-ebook-200It took a while, and there were several distractions, but Renegade is now officially available!

It’s as close to a heterosexual romance as you’ll ever see from me, which really is not all that close. I am, however, extremely fond of this novel, in many ways more so than the more “serious” ones. Kisea has a lot to say about fear and its consequences. And there’s a reason why the dedication says:

For everyone who has ever been certain that the world has no place in it for them,
and those who help to create a place.

Currently, however, it’s available only on my own site.

Why? Because the attempt to upload it to Smashwords proved, yet again, to be a massive exercise in thump-head-on-desk frustration. A novel is uploaded as a doc file, and the automatic system called the Meatgrinder spits it out in various file formats, like epub and mobi and pdf. Well… following instructions meticulously and to the letter does not necessarily mean that you get the result you want. Worse, the attempt to diagnose what in a doc file is causing undesirable results in the epub and so on is just about impossible. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother downloading, even for free, anything that looks as unprofessional as what comes out, and that includes my two previous releases. I am trying to decide whether it’s actually worth it, essentially just for the distribution, and at the moment, I’m leaning in the direction of, “No, it isn’t.” I know enough HTML and CSS that it’s actually easier to create the epub myself and convert that to mobi than to spend hours, if not days, in a battle with the Meatgrinder. In theory, I could then upload the epub to Smashwords, since that’s the only other format they allow uploads in, but then I’ll still have to give them a doc version to convert into the other formats, and I’m back at square one.

So, right now, Renegade is available in nice clean pretty pdf, in two sizes, on my writing site, and I’ll be adding epub and mobi formats as quickly as I can. Budget allowing, I’ll look into a print-on-demand version of Renegade when I do Black Wolf‘s, which I hope will be soon. I may also start looking into other options. For the record, Amazon is not a possibility, since I have personal objections to it that I won’t bother getting into.

Until then, I hope you’re forgiving enough to put up with pdf or home-made epub and mobi, for the sake of a story that surprised me when I wrote it!

Looking for test readers! (Shaman)

NEED NOVEL TEST READERS!!!

I expect to have “Shaman” ready for my victims, er, beta readers, by Monday – I’m just finishing up one last scene that I realized needs to be in there. If you’re interested, and if I have some idea who you are (I don’t know who reads this blog, but for test readers, sorry, I prefer to send my unpublished work to people I know), email me or use the contact form or reply here in the comments so I know and I can send you links to the files when I get it done. (I generally do pdf, but will do others.)

You can find a more detailed description on the Shaman page, but here are the key points. It takes place in another world. The main character, Vixen, is a transgender shaman and healer. Her best friend Dayr is a shapeshifting puma. They go on a journey to save a man who was important to Vixen before she effectively died as a man and found a new life as a woman.

** Above all, please note the trigger warning at the end of the description! **

I’m hoping to have this officially released late this year, so… is September first a reasonable goal for finishing? I can be flexible if something comes up and delays you or if that’s too fast, but I find that having a target date helps a lot. :-)

My usual speech to test readers:

I don’t have specific questions. My various readers have varied skills and notice different things. This should be pretty clean, so if you notice ytpos or horrendous grammar (keep in mind that there are times when my grammar gets a bit idiosyncratic for the sake of effect), feel free to tell me! Any inconsistencies in the content, anything that strikes you as implausible, anything that you don’t feel was explained properly, anything you feel just doesn’t work… pretty much whatever your personal thoughts are while you’re reading it. Let me get inside your head and see how it looks to someone who hasn’t been living, part-time for a very extended period, within this world! Anything you think does particularly work for you is also useful, not because I’m fishing for compliments (but hey, can’t deny it feels good to know it’s enjoyed), but because it gives me information to use in the future.

Given how valuable test readers are, I wish I had a useful way to say thank you beyond… thank you. Between the household budget being tight and the fact that I’m releasing these priced very low (I can sympathize with those who have little money to spend!), I can’t do appreciation gifts beyond free copies via Smashwords or email in your format of choice. If I can find a way at some point in the future, I’ll be sure to do so, I promise. I’ll also include a thank-you page, as usual, so make sure you tell me how you want your name to appear (if at all).

Upcoming Projects

This is going to be a busy year for releases. I just took a look at the current list of projects that are finished or in sufficiently late stages that I can be reasonably sure they will be soon.

This is a highly tentative schedule. I haven’t yet decided whether to space them out at every second month or every third – chronic depression makes me wary of how long I can continue this kind of pace, and I’d like to have them spaced out. On the other hand, the satisfaction of actually releasing something once it’s finished is a wonderful feeling that gives me a motivation boost to keep polishing stories into novels (a lot more work than just scribbling bits and pieces for my own amusement!), and it’s frustrating when something is finished but I haven’t been able to share it yet. So, we’ll see! Titles are linked to their respective pages on this site.

Renegade: I’m planning to have this one officially released before the end of April (Edit to add: due to circumstances, this didn’t make the release date, but it will be out as soon as possible.)

Lamia

Moonblood: possibly, I’ll put together a compilation of the first six adventures from the serial, and a second volume of the next couple; whether I’ll do this or not, since I’m not 100% happy with it as-is, I haven’t decided yet – but if I do, I will probably wiggle it in between two other releases

Shaman (probably, pending reactions of test readers, who as of mid-May have it to read)

Faerie Tale (working title, and again, probably, pending reactions)

Future projects include: at least one sequel to Renegade, one possible sequel each to Black Wolf and Lamia, and depending on whether the audience for Moonblood increases enough to make it feel worthwhile, I’m considering either or both of two that I think would work better as serials. I have a list of other ideas, including a couple that I think have a lot of potential, and new ones wander in and set up camp at random. I’ll keep you posted. :-)