Weekly Musings #10

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After about a week and a half break, I couldn’t stand being away from my manuscript so long and I finally started to tackle my revisions for my paranormal romance.

I thought it would be hard to attain the necessary objectivity as I felt pretty attached to my characters, but I started working on it in December so the first half of the book was far enough away and I was surprised at just how quickly my professional editor’s reflexes kicked in. I have demolished at least three chapters already. It started off at just over 100,000 words and I hope to cut it down to 90,000 words, which is a bit more appropriate for the genre; but only if I can tell the story efficiently enough. If it needs more words, then it needs more words.

I feel much closer to the second half of the book so I think it will be a lot harder to kill my darlings in that section. “Killing your darlings” is writer-speak for cutting out stuff you’re attached to but do not add to the story in the long run. I am attached to a side character romance between Eamon and Isaiah and I may have spent too much time on that, but as Eamon is one of the three POV’s in the book, I may have to keep it. I didn’t want it to be too predictable, either. But maybe those chapters just need to be backstory. Something to ponder later on.

I have also decided, after looking into the cost of hiring an editor (anywhere from $600-1800), commissioning cover art ($50-150 on Fiverr, $350-600 for some artists), and investing in Atticus formatting software ($149), I have decided I am going to submit to small presses first instead of self publishing, and keep self publishing in my back pocket if the small presses don’t give me what I want.

I think I have a pretty good chance, considering as paranormal romance, crime and queer characters are big sellers right now for debut authors. And I think small presses are a good compromise between self publishing and querying. You don’t get as much of the control or the royalties with small presses, but after investing in my team I don’t expect I’ll get much in royalties anyway. I’d rather have an established business do that work for me, if I can get accepted, as long as it is not a vanity press or hybrid press. If I have to pay money to publish, I’d rather self publish and pick my own team.

I’m not interested in querying because this is a very niche market, and ownvoices is very trendy right now. I am a queer author but I am not queer guy, but I’m writing about queer guys in love. Besides, querying takes too long. You often spend a year getting rejected by agents and then a year getting rejected by publishers your agent pitches, especially if it’s not a trending topic. I want my book published faster than that. It can happen faster than that if your book has the right magic sauce, but reading the tea leaves of the rapidly changing publishing industry is complicated.

So I have been looking at small publishers who are interested in LGBT paranormal romance crime thrillers and compiling a list of people to submit to. I figure I’ll give it a good six months and if I get buried by rejections, I can still go about hiring an editor and proceeding with my original self publishing plans.

And I also recently read Richard Russo’s essay “Getting Good” that ultimately persuaded me to try small presses. It helped me understand the value in rejection and how having a community of professional people in the publishing industry can help improve your craft and help you grow as a writer. I am fine with running my own publishing house and thinking of it as a business, but I also don’t want to pump out 30 books a year just to be remembered by the algorithm. I want to take my time, be inspired, and get good, be the best I can be with my craft.

But first things first: The edits. Had to take another little break from it because I was starting to get too obsessed. Can’t find your romantic leads annoying, after all, or the reader will. I’ve been saving multiple drafts as I make major changes to the first half, then I compile everything into an ebook format and read it again on my Kindle – I always manage to find typos I missed versus when I look at it in Scrivener. I’m actually surprised at how ruthless I’ve been. I was really finding my way in my first half and just racing to achieve a word count, I think. I found my footing in the second half, which won’t need as much work.

I’ve also closed down my Patreon and I’ll only be keeping up with my Ko-fi from now on. I just wasn’t getting enough interest in previews of upcoming works, but I think people would be interested in my short stories if they were free on a donation basis. I still have to work on building a fanbase for my writing, after all. I get ahead of myself sometimes. I also decided to discontinue my newsletter because after a year I only had 15 subscribers. That’s the advice that people always give to new authors, but frankly I’ve had more luck with my blog so that’s where I’ll focus my efforts for now.

That’s all my ramblings for now. Until next week!


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Weekly Musings #9

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My enormously exciting news is that I have finally, at long last, after five months of steady work, finished my first draft of the paranormal romance crime thriller.

Clocking in at 100,071 words, it is finally done. Well, not done, because I still have massive amounts of editing to do, but considering all the half-finished manuscripts littering my hard drive the past few years, it’s a huge accomplishment for me. Have to celebrate the wins when you get them.

I took a week off from writing even though it made me itchy and worked on my reading. I have an enormous list of books to catch up on and some more pre-orders on the way. This weekend I thought I had enough space from it so I compiled my Scrivener file into a Kindle ebook and read through the whole book.

I thought I had been good at editing as I went along but other than a few typos I was mostly just good at proofreading and producing clean copy. I can really see the split between when I was working on it just once a week while writing another project; and when I really became immersed in the story and the world and began working on it every day. There is a subtle shift in tone.

That said, I think the first draft is not terrible; what mainly needs work is fixing up the copy, have more show and tell and less body language, and I need to totally gut the first half to make it align with the second half. There are a few gems that I will keep but I need to do some serious rewriting.

I think I need another week off from it to regroup though. I am far too obsessed and fixated on it right now. The second half is much better than the first half but like I say you can tell when I found my footing, got to know my characters and warmed to the plot. Life of a pantser. But I find I am looking forward to editing. Drafting was a nerve-wracking rollercoaster, like diving off a cliff; editing will be polishing the turd into gold.

I may start working on some short stories although mainly I need to clear my brain space, which is hard to do because I’ve worked so hard on that thing. I’ve decided I will also purchase Atticus for formatting, hire a cover artist from Fiverr and hire an editor, after I finish my own rewrites. This is my baby and I want to do this self publishing thing right, even if I end up losing money, which I probably will. It’s also a passion and I have to invest in it.

In other news, I decided I will close down my Patreon in June once the serialized version of my story ends. I only ever got two patrons and I think it was hard to get people interested in the paywall. From July on out I will focus on my Ko-fi and a serialized fiction site like Kindle Vella or Radish Fiction and post my fiction for free to build up a fan base. The plan is to keep on submitting short stories, then post the rejections to Ko-fi, hopefully compiling enough to publish in a collection.

Until next time, friends! I finally finished something for once… I cannot believe it. I am still pinching myself. It’s been years in the making and you can do it too.


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Weekly Musings #8

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I don’t know what got into me but I way surpassed my weekly target goal this last week. I am feeling a really odd mixture of excitement, trepidation and nerves as I near the end of my first draft of my paranormal romance crime thriller. I think I was feeling inspired by getting so close and pushed through, and I kept getting good ideas and had to run with them.

My WIP is now up to 98,586 words. I have one more chapter left to write, the marriage proposal chapter (I don’t mind telling you that my paranormal romance has a Happily For Now ending. Happily For Now since this is only Book One of a trilogy!) I for one appreciate HEAs and HFNs (Happily Ever After and Happily For Now endings) so I don’t mind spoiling you on that.

I was going to push through and finish today but I think I’ll stretch it out over the next week and really take my time with it. I didn’t manage to write a short story, but there will be time for that tonight when I was going to plug away at my novel some more. I did, however, write a blog post. I usually write my short stories to submit on Sundays because I have all day and I can work on them in 20-minute chunks of time between doing other chores, and my emotional headspace is cleared from the weekday triggers of the day job.

After that I’m planning on taking a month off from working on the paranormal romance. I’m still too close to it so I don’t think I could dive straight into editing with the proper brutal touch. My characters Mal and Noah have become like living, breathing beings to me and it feels like introducing my children into the world. Being a novelist is kind of like playing God.

I will spend that month working on short stories and Bablyon 5 slash fanfiction under a pen name. If you follow me on Twitter I’ll whisper my pen name on there if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I also plan to catch up on my enormous backlog of reading and write some book reviews and maybe some Medium articles. These are all a different kind of writing mentality than producing a novel, and I don’t want to take a break from writing completely to lose my momentum.

Then I’ll be able to detach myself from my darlings and approach editing my first draft with the proper brutality. I’m looking forward to the revising process. I plan to spend two-three months on it.

I’m finally feeling better from my cold as well, so my other goal is to get back into my exercise routine. I need to go to the gym and pool at least three times a week.

Feeling very excited that I will finish my first draft this week. I started working on this project on December 5, 2021 according to my Scrivener writing history. Now I’m nearing the end, and I’m an odd mix of chaos, panic and reverence.

Until next week, friends of the pen.


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Weekly Musings #7

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I came down with a cold this week so I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked, but I still met the small goal I had set for myself for the week so I’m satisfied with myself.

My WIP now sits at 86,608 words. As I near the end of my first draft, I decided to add to it more incrementally to make sure it packs enough of a punch and to breeze past the inevitable doubts and overthinking. I’m planning to make it 100,000 words but after I get to 90,000 I won’t restrain myself to a certain word count; I will end it when it feels right, when I have done the story justice.

I’ve been working on this manuscript so consistently that even taking a few days off to recover from my cold made me feel guilty and restless. I don’t like it when I don’t write these days. I have so much fun with my characters and my universe that I don’t like leaving it behind. It’s not always fun, sometimes it’s quite emotionally involved; but it’s still always something I have to keep coming back to, again and again, to get all my story ideas out of my head. Even if it’s not always fun, it’s usually fulfilling and therapeutic. At the very least, it’s a distraction from my very boring life.

Even when I feel like I’m stuck and I don’t have an idea for the next chapter, I start with a general setting or theme, and because I’ve been writing regularly and practicing that muscle, the words usually flow eventually and I’m not staring at a blank screen for long.

But even muscles need sick days and recovery days. If you’re trying to force yourself to write through a migraine, don’t. In my case, I had low energy, brain fog and fatigue for a couple of days, so I didn’t even try. (I took a covid test and it was negative, thankfully.) I felt better over the weekend so I added a few more words and my writing sessions were more productive because I had rested.

It made me realize that maybe I need to add in weekends to my writing schedule. My “weekends” happen whenever I don’t feel up to writing, but it might be good to schedule in time off to just do nothing or to work on my other hobbies, just as I schedule in 25 minutes to sprint after a weeknight dinner or on a weekend morning. Too much rest can make it hard to get back into the flow of it; but just enough rest can be just what our creative muscle needs.

I am already feeling better even though my cold’s not quite done. Another few days of taking it easy and I think I’ll be able to get back to the gym and do more of my normal activities. And back to writing – almost every day.

I also thought I’d mention, I decided to take down the first three episodes of my story on my blog because I plan to completely rewrite them. You can see on my Patreon how much my first draft changes from my final product.

My plans this week are to write two short stories, one to submit; get over this cold; and reach 90,000 words in my WIP. Happy Easter, Passover and Ramadan if you celebrate, happy Spring if you don’t, and until next week.


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Weekly Musings #6

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Apologies for my absence. Haven’t felt like blogging for some time. It doesn’t get the same kind of immediate interaction that posting to Twitter or Tiktok gets you so it can be hard to keep up with it sometimes, and frankly, I get so busy writing that I don’t leave as much creative energy for the marketing side of things. I have been writing almost every day though and making significant progress on my novel.

It’s also hard to figure out what to blog about on a weekly basis when I’m in the drafting process. Only so many times you can report on your word count. The actual act of drafting is pretty tedious stuff really; 30 minutes a day, 500-1,000 words pumped out. Then it becomes a habit. Like doing the dishes, or taking your medication. The same thing every time, even if the writing is exciting. But you can’t say much about the writing because spoilers. I’ve shared excerpts on social media but I don’t think these really say much about the story, just show people a taste of your writing.

I’ve hit 83,214 words in my m/m paranormal romance crime thriller, which makes it officially book length no matter how much longer it grows, and it continues to be the longest manuscript I’ve ever stuck with. I am in the home stretches of the ending so the words are coming more slowly now, 300-500 words a day versus 1,000-2,000. I feel a little bit of imposter syndrome kicking in, as I get nervous about wanting to build an unpredictable ending and to tie all the pieces together in a way that will satisfy my readers.

I decided I will look at Fiverr for my cover art; I don’t want to spend $300-500 on it, because I probably won’t make $300-500 in book sales (I’m a pragmatist here!), but I am willing to spend more than $50 for a good cover. Graphic design just isn’t my strong suit. I’ve thought about commissioning character designs too as a marketing tool. (I made the mistake of mentioning this on Twitter and I got mobbed by people using bots soliciting their services; if you send me one of these emails I will delete it without looking at it and block you. Just saying.) I want to see my characters come to life, though.

I plan to spend 2-3 months on editing after I finally type “The End” on my manuscript. I need to rewrite the first 30,000 words at least, and fix some continuity issues, and insert more action into some dialogue-heavy scenes. I’m good at self-editing so I feel pretty confident with this step. Then I’ll need to learn formatting but seeing as I do that for a day job on legal documents I think I’ll be able to figure that out too.

I’ll probably be looking for volunteer beta readers after I get it edited into a decent shape. Then comes the task of finding ARC reviewers; I’ll probably sign up for a site like Booksprout once that time comes around.

I also decided to turn this book into a trilogy since they sell better than stand-alones, I’m not quite ready to leave this universe just yet and I have a few more ideas up my sleeve. For the rest of the year I will be working on that as well as novellas and submitting short stories.

I have episodes scheduled out on my Patreon through May 10. Nearing the ending of a first draft is a whole slate of mixed emotions – fear, excitement, giddiness and nerves. But this one will happen, I can feel it in my bones. I haven’t finished a book-length manuscript since my creative writing thesis at age 23. Now, at age 40, I’m actually doing it. Just goes to show that you can start following your dreams any time. You just have to put in the work to make them happen.


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Weekly Musings #4

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Things are progressing with my paranormal romance. I didn’t write for a couple days and it was stressful not writing, honestly; it’s become kind of addictive. I don’t see it like work anymore, I just see it as fun. Stress relief. A nice distraction from impending World War III and the terrible news in Ukraine.

Wrote 2,106 words this morning to make up for it and scheduled out Patreon posts three times a week through April 5. I have reached the point in the story when I have hit the second act and I need to deal with the villain element so I have been introducing suspects. Trying to cast just the right clues and misdirection in this puzzle I am building.

My latest episode will probably piss off Mal/Eamon fans if there are any of those. Talk about a heart wrencher though. I don’t know why this is so fun to write when I put Eamon through a lot of pain and introduced his backstory more. I could have made everyone polyamorous in this I suppose but I decided monogamy added more drama. Wolves mate one at a time after all.

I am now up to 54,224 words total so I am pleased with my progress. More than halfway through my first draft. I think I can finish a first draft in another month.

As I was looking at graphic design courses for book cover design I decided I would splurge on cover art for my main investment up front. It’s going to take a lot of work to learn cover design and that’s still something I want to do. But I don’t know anything about color theory and white space, just general ideas of what I think looks good visually. However, a good cover is a better advertisement than buying an ad on Amazon so I think it’s worth it to make that investment, and that’s what my day job is for anyway. It funds my art. Trying to invest as little upfront as possible though because even though I have the money it seems like a waste of money when you only expect to sell 10 books.

So, I’ve been a bit depressed and haven’t done anything else but write, but I’m happy I have my werewolf universe to escape into. Another thing that I think is interesting to explore is I’m not doing any research into werewolf lore or tropes; I want something totally fresh and different, so I’m inventing my own mythology and creature design. It might piss off some purists but maybe the controversy will help sell books, who knows.

Looking forward to the coming week, my goals are to get to 60,000 words, keep writing every day, plan out a photo shoot with a model, sign up for a gym again and go back to swimming in the morning. Also need to plan out some more blog posts for the coming weeks; a blog post I wrote last fall about running keeps gaining traction so I’m considering more fitness and wellness content. We’ll see.

Weekly Musings #3

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I have reached 45,523 words in my WIP, CRY WOLF, and am starting on the 31st chapter. This is generally the point in a manuscript when I tend to give up but I am determined to see this one through. I find something compelling about doing it in an episodic format that makes me want to stick with it; it’s like writing a string of interconnected short stories.

Although I have again slacked on self care, I have written every day this week again except for Friday. I got stuck and I realized I needed to figure out the bones of the middle of the story even though I knew who the killer was and what the end would be. That could always change. On Friday I made a, gasp, outline. I realized I didn’t want to introduce the killer too late, or have a predictable mystery. I have reached the point in the story where I need to deal with the murder mystery subplot and introduce the suspects. Until now it’s been hovering in the background as the romance has taken precedence.

Previously, I was scared of outlines, finding them too constraining. I like the thrill and adrenaline rush of discovering the story as you go. But I also don’t want more continuity issues, and I needed to figure out if the story had legs for a longer book.

Some scenes I come up with organically are worth keeping, though; I do not have to follow my outline exactly. And I realized there are many different types of outlines you can do. You don’t have to prepare a detailed spreadsheet with your characters’ backstories down to their mother’s maiden name and their favorite way to cook an egg. What I did is I started a process notebook in a spiral college-ruled notebook, and I wrote out each chapter and what the total word count would be after each chapter. Then I summarized the chapter to make sure I could build the plot into my desired ultimate word count. The goal is 90,000, but if it needs to be shorter, then it needs to be shorter. The story is driving it. Since I’m indie publishing it, I don’t need to worry about arbitrary industry standards for word counts.

Trick here is not getting too predictable, nor getting too melodramatic. This is not Magnum PI. Building a mystery is like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I feel a bit intimidated by it but I’m also excited by the challenge.

I also realized that at this point in the book I basically have to write another 40,000-50,000 words to finish this manuscript. So it’s like I’m starting a second book with a new inciting incident, raising the stakes and adding more conflict. That has helped me attack the midpoint with fresh eyes.

My goals for the week are to keep writing every day; by the end of this week I think I’ll be able to easily reach 50,000 words. And to work on self care again. No more rice and cheese for lunch and I need to start exercising again. Swimming or yoga in the mornings, running at lunch, hiking on the weekends. At least I have proved to myself that I can write every day no matter my mood or stressors, if I am excited about the story.


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Weekly Musings #2

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I was out of town this holiday weekend visiting friends in Portland and completely forgot to post this column, so I have renamed it to “Weekly Musings” so I am still in the clear. It was a fun weekend. I’ve felt rather socially isolated lately working from home, so I feel out of practice being in a group these days. It was good to get my social juices flowing.

On Sunday, we had fondue and taco night. Couldn’t decide between the two, and both sounded good. Saturday evening we made pizzas in a portable clay-fired oven. Both days we went on hikes. I even brought my computer and got some writing done.

That’s my biggest takeaway from this last week. I can’t not write every day these days. It’s become like a drug to me, and I have to have my fix. I keep thinking up new scenes for my paranormal romance and then I have to get them out of my head and pound out the words on the page. I didn’t always feel this way about writing, so I don’t know what has gotten into me.

I used to be one of those “Writing is hard, stressful and full of emotional pain” type of writers. You know, “It’s open a vein and watch it bleed” or however that saying goes. Maybe it’s just that I have found my genre and hit my groove, I don’t know. Maybe it is that I have released all attachment to the outcome of this book. I literally do not care what happens to it; I don’t care if no one else loves it as much as I do; I know I love it and that’s all that matters.

I at first was going to publish it to Kindle Vella, but then I decided to self publish it. I still question myself on my decision of course; you hear so much about querying that it’s impossible not to be influenced. But this book in particular is made for indie publishing. I can always query other novels. I don’t even care if it’s a success. I don’t even care if I only sell 5 books.

I just love writing it. I feel joy in the process again. I feel like I’m addicted to my couple and I have to know what happens next. I’m completely discovery writing this so when I look back over it I notice some continuity issues that will need to be edited. It will definitely be going through a few different versions, I’m sure, but I doubt a total rewrite will be necessary. I love it too much. Every time I read it over I love it more. I know, I know, I may have a conflict of interest in that assessment.

Next I plan to take some Udemy courses in book cover design for Photoshop. I know I can probably outsource all these things and people should do that to improve the standards in indie publishing. But then I start adding everything up. You pay $1,000 for developmental editing, you pay $200-500 for a good cover, you pay x amount for a good formatter, you buy ads, et cetera, and soon you are spending $3,000 to make $50.

I mean just take editing. Every writer needs quality editors, but editors also need to make a living and deserve to get paid. But you do the math on 25 cents a word for 90,000 words, which is hardly a living wage on an hourly basis, and it doesn’t make much sense for an indie publisher. Think too carefully about the economics of the market and it can completely ruin your desire for creativity. So I’m not thinking too much about that yet. Just trying to write the best book I can.

Even though my day job funds my writing and creative efforts and I think nothing of paying for studios and hiring models for making no money at photography, I still want to think like a business about my books. I also want to have a quality product, which will help you stand out amid a crowded field. And I know hobbies can be expensive and sometimes you just have to eat the costs, but something about that business model of hiring your own team with no guarantee of even making your investment back strikes me as too much of a risk. So my goal is to invest as little upfront as possible so I can still end up in the black.

Maybe one day when I am successful with these books and have a fanbase, I can run a Kickstarter campaign to fund those sorts of things.

I’m a photographer though and I like to think visually and have always wanted to learn book cover design, so it’s something I’m going to put some real time into studying. I’m excited about it and I have definite ideas of what I think looks good graphically.

All in all, it’s been another successful week in the writing world, even though I’ve slacked on exercise and all my other self care activities. I learned I can still get myself pumped up about writing even when I am feeling moody and exhausted. Even today I have to get this blog post done so I can get my ideas out of my head and onto the page. I now feel fairly confident that next week I’ll be able to hit 40,000 words in my paranormal romance. So this is what NanoWriMo is like when you’re actually winning at it.

Until next time.

Sunday Musings #1

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I’m starting a new column on my blog called “Sunday Musings.” This is where I will share insights into my publishing and writing journey this year and these will publish every Sunday. I hope to avoid focusing in granular detail on my emotional state and my word counts and instead offer useful and engaging posts about creating with mental health issues, creativity and productivity in general, publishing, marketing and the like.

This last week I learned the importance of sleep for your creative mindset. After having an extremely productive week I guess I just needed a week of laziness. But seriously, it’s difficult to be productive when you’re tired all the time. You have to force yourself to get to the computer and the excuse of “I’m too tired” becomes all the more compelling.

Sleep and the creative mindset: Check. I need to be better about having an evening routine and winding down electronics before bed. I am experimenting with writing for an hour after dinner in the evenings; sometimes it can be overstimulating, as I go to bed with my mind racing with ideas for my stories.

Meditation and reading essays, short stories and poems would help with that.

I turned things around and wrote this weekend, mainly focusing on a story I am serializing to Patreon before releasing it on Kindle Vella in my grand experiment in web publishing for 2022. It’s the tale of a werewolf reporter who moves back home to help his pack investigate a series of murders, only to find himself falling for the local homicide detective. Added about 3,000 words yesterday and 1,566 today, meaning I was able to schedule posts out for three episodes, significantly reducing the pressure.

I actually am really enjoying this web publishing game; I find it’s not really that much pressure, in fact. I’m having loads of fun with it. I’m still editing myself and giving it my best, of course; but it’s different than publishing a book. Got its own special magic. It’s part of my efforts at building a platform this year and attracting new audiences for my writing.

Speaking of platforms, I also need to think some more about reinventing my newsletter. Everyone says email marketing is where it’s at, but I’ve found more success with my blog than with my newsletter. People just don’t subscribe. I skipped doing a January update because I’m dreaming up some changes for more engaging content. I just read Mary Oliver’s essay collection Upstream and I’m considering doing something like that. Creative nonfiction expounding on the creative life and nature sounds interesting to me.

I’m feeling good about the week ahead on this Sunday, now that I have written all weekend. My goal is to keep working on my horror novel, which I have ignored far too long, and finally hit 50,000 words. I have an idea for the ending at last so that’s not what’s stopping me. Guess I just get distracted by all these shiny other projects and ideas. Curse of the writer, eh?


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The anthology featuring my story is now available for preorder.

I have some good publishing news to share again. The anthology that accepted my story DRAGON GIRL is now available for preordering!

The ebook edition of Dragon Soul Press’s Fairytale Dragons Anthology can be preordered at http://books2read.com/dspfd.

My story DRAGON GIRL is a feminist retelling of the Grimm’s fairy tale GOOSE GIRL, except with queer characters and dragons. I wrote something new from my usual style; high fantasy.

The anthology features fairy tale retellings except the twist must include dragons.

I would be honored if you checked it out.

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