Me, Self Publishing

State of the AKC 2022

No, not the American Kennel Club. Me.

If Sanderson can do this, so can I.

(Well, okay, that is a gross overstatement, I just mean I can attempt anything he does because why not?)

First, A Retrospective

What did I even do in 2022? Well, I actually had to go and look, and it turns out, I published The Willful Inheritor way back in January of this year. That completed the Vacancy trilogy and closed the door on a six-year-long project that went from web serial to audio drama to trilogy of novels. And it also sort of…freed me? I put a lot of myself in those books beyond even what I think is obvious to those who know me, and it’s scary to have people read them, but once they exist in the world, they’re out there for good, and knowing that is like a small deliverance from cowardice and anxiety. I never felt like those stories held me back when they were undone, but finishing them showed me I really can do a number of things: I can expand on a small idea, I can write a coherent series, I can craft a sprawling world, and I can finish something big. And it also taught me what I like to write about: love. Mushy, sticky, disgusting love. So that’s what I set out to do in 2022.

I’d already plotted Throne in the Dark and had written some of the draft, but it was meant to be just one book, much more of a parody, and the working title was Bad Blood. Writing that book was supposed to be a gift I gave myself after finishing a series, a palate cleansing standalone to clear the cobwebs from my brain before diving into the next, long series. And then I expanded on Damien and Amma’s story because I realized I wanted to do a true romance, and I only know how to do a slow burn, and also the world had so much more to give. So I set to drafting, and I knocked out book one in the shortest amount of time I’ve ever finished a draft, and it felt so good. Not just finishing, but actually writing. The story was indulgent, the magic and world ridiculous, and the characters? Reader, I just fell in love with them.

Almost the entire year has been writing and revising these three books. I took a small break to plot future stories, and half-drafted some side projects that never really went anywhere, but I basically immersed myself fully and went all in. And I think it was worth it to have Throne in the Dark releasable in September and then Summoned to the Wilds follow that at the end of November.

I also started running ads which has been expensive, but ultimately got my books in a lot more hands. I took some courses and started paying for them on Facebook and Amazon, and I’m teaching myself how to promote my stuff on Instagram and TikTok. It’s stressful to attach my face to my work, especially when I’ve barely got confidence in one of those, and it’s not my face, but it’s necessary, so I’m doing it. Blah.

In my personal life, 2022 was rough to say the least. I hit a major depressive episode early in the summer that refused to let up as external struggles bore down. I want to leave all that behind, but it’s worth mentioning because it slowed my production, but it also made me fully embrace “the good.” I’m trying hard to move on from my cynicism and tendency to hate on things. Don’t get me wrong, I still think rants can be funny, and I also believe that good-faith criticism is necessary, but also…I just wanna like stuff, ya know? And I want to surround myself with other people who like stuff too.

Villains & Virtues

I’m leaving 2022 with books one and two out and book three planned for release on February 1st. I am extremely nervous about this date. I lost a lot of time in the last three months that should have been devoted to Eclipse of the Crown but had to be given to Summoned to the Wilds. My plan for these releases was lofty, but it was doable until I had to orchestrate a move, deal with my own illness, and tackle the death of a cat and a family member. The actual time one takes off to work on the things that must be done to juggle these kinds of events (moving day, doctor appointments, euthanasia) is paltry in comparison to the emotional cost to process them. I still have moments where I just burst into unexpected tears or I blink and realize I’ve lost an hour staring at the wall. All that is to say, I’m doing my best, and I really want to stick to my deadline, but Eclipse of the Crown has to be good. And good takes time.

I’ve also been plotting out a little companion novel to the V&V series. It’s a spin off of sorts, not focusing on Damien and Amma or the events of the series. It would be a standalone (for sure his time) and much shorter (75k?), and focus on a set of new characters are only alluded to in the existing story. While it would take place in the same world, it would qualify as a cozy fantasy romance. No questing or big battles, but way more vibing and the same sorta squishy, lovey-dovey sentiment with a serving of steam. Will it actually get produced? I don’t know! But if it does, it’ll be a palate cleanser (for realsies this time) between Eclipse of the Crown and my next big project.

The Lockport Mysteries

In 2023 I intend to head back to the Vacancy universe, but leave the suburbs of Moonlit Shores and instead troll the gritty, urban streets of Lockport, a harbor city and sanctuary for charmed, hexed, fae, and nether beings. Like The Association (also in Vacancy’s universe), these will be supernatural murder mysteries following an amateur sleuth, but she gets roped into helping a set of magistratus (magistrati? basically the charmed FBI). I’m not sure if we’re looking at four or five books, but they’ll be shorter individually than books in my other series (she says to herself as if willing the fact into existence). Each book will follow and solve a specific murder while the mysteries of the individual characters and a larger mysterious thread will be woven throughout the series as a whole.

I’ve got most of the plots sorted out for these already, and I’m really excited to introduce these characters and this city to readers. I know I called Lockport gritty up there, and to be fair, we are talking about homicide at the core of every book, but I do intend to inject some camp and lightheartedness into the magic, so hopefully the silliness of Vacancy has an opportunity to shine through.

And romance too. Because of course. Expect another slow burn, probably low spice, but high stakes and the angstiness of dealing with one’s unchecked and dubious necromantic and mind-reading magical powers. If I’m fruitful enough, maybe even the whole thing gets released in 2023? The first in series probably won’t be out until the third quarter of the year, but if I write and revise on a clean enough schedule, I might be able to “rapid” release the series. What a dream that would be!

Audiobooks

One of the most talented people I know, Ellen Quay, has narrated and produced The Association and The Weary Traveler for audio. Her voice is to die for. Somehow she takes my insanely long, too-many-thoughts-packed-together, insert-a-dick-joke-in-the-middle, seventeen-em-dashes-and-twice-as-many-commas sentences, and makes them sound natural. I’d love to just dump my catalog on her and be like “bring it to life, queen!” but audio is expensive and time consuming–as it should be, it’s a lot of work–but that makes it a little harder to get going. This year though, I’m excited to say we’re getting Vacancy completed, and if everything shakes out right, Villains & Virtues will be getting an audio version too (and that might come with a bonus surprise).

In Person Event

I’m going to the Vermont SciFi and Fantasy Expo this year as a vendor! I’ve never done anything like this before, and I am terrified of interacting with people online let alone in person, but I decided it’s time. I’m going to load up on physical books, set up a booth, and try to do some selling at a real-life con. Oh, gods, what am I thinking??? The good news is, people at these kinds of things are usually friendly and super interesting, so there’s nothing logically for me to be worried about. Just, ya know, illogically, like any good anxiety disorder would inspire. Vermont is, like, far away from most of the rest of the US, but if you’re around, obviously I would love to meet anybody who’s ever read my stuff, so come on out! I assume the tail end of April isn’t freezing here, but I could be wrong.

Christmas Novel?

Every year I’ve wanted to put out a Christmas novel to capitalize on the true meaning of the holidays: capitalism, and every year I start way too damn late. The upside in 2022 has been that I actually plotted a whole holiday-themed book, but I didn’t have the time to, ya know, write it or whatever which is apparently necessary before release–who fucking knew?! That means, though, I might actually be set up well enough to produce something for next year if I work on it piecemeal throughout the non-holiday months.

If I do feel inspired enough to write about freezing weather and Christmas trees in the heart of summer, you should be expecting another Vacancy-universe tale, set in the mountains (specifics undetermined), focusing on a half-elf and a human who have to fake date through the holidays. Yes, it’s very Hallmark, no, I don’t care that it sounds sappy, yes, it’s going to be cute as fuck, and also yes, they’re probably going to fuck because I’m going traditional holiday romance here with the door wide open. No promises, just possibles, but please cross your fingers and toes and tails for me so I can get this out of my system.

The Future of Fantasy Romance and Me

Unsurprisingly, I fell in love with fantasy romance as a genre this year. I just want to read and write about hot half-humans falling in love despite their magical worlds screaming at them not to and then borderline-kinky hooking up in a barn or a dungeon or whatever. So, the project I’m planning to work on after Lockport is something I’ve been calling Dragon Race. I wrote the initial draft of the first half of the first book of this story as my 2019 NaNo project, meant as only a distraction from whatever else I was working on at the time, but the story has never left my head. It simply refuses to go away, so I’m not going to chase it off, I’m just going to zhuzh it, and if by “zhuzh” you think I mean sex, you’re right.

Well, actually I mean romance, of which sex can and will be a byproduct. I always intended there to be multiple romantic pairings in the big tale that is Dragon Race, but I didn’t center them to the story because I was afraid to explore those things too deeply (keep in mind, this was before I published anything). I think that I believed too much romance might “cheapen” the underlying quest as a whole, and I also definitely didn’t believe I could do very silly humor and very serious love side-by-side, but I’ve since learned that not only can I, but I must–it’s my favorite thing!

So, I’ve been reimagining the original plot of Dragon Race through this new genre lens, and my gods, Dear Reader, is it ever perfect. The tropes and pairings play into the story so well, and with these new relationships to juggle, the characters are really coming alive in my head. The only issue I’m having is how to pace the whole thing because unlike almost everything else I’ve written where there is a single, limited-3rd POV, (or just two, like in V&V and She’s All Thaumaturgy), this will have something like ten. I’ll still be writing in third person, but using each chapter to follow a specific character very closely (a la A Song of Ice and Fire). The characters will be sprinkled all over the world, crossing one another in their travels, so jumping around will really break up the narrative flow. Conversely, staying with a small group of them for too long and then leaving might make the individual books feel unsatisfying. It’s all very exciting for me, but presents a lot of challenges. Hopefully by the time I’m drafting this behemoth of a story, I’ll be a good enough writer to pull it off.

Final Thoughts

Looking over what I’d like to do this year, very few things have changed from 2022. I think that’s probably a good thing–these projects are still exciting to me, I love writing more than ever, and I’m feeling like self publishing is actually viable going forward. I want to do more for the writing and self publishing community as well, and give something more to readers. I don’t know what that is yet, but I hope to discover it in 2023. The past year was so strange–so much went absolutely wrong while my writing finally began to find an audience. It’s been a little painful, to be honest, to put on this cheery face online, which is often genuine but does sometimes have to be forced, when inside I feel so fraught. There’s a lot of guilt when I’m actually happy, and there’s perhaps even more when I’m indulging in the worst feelings too. The only saving grace feels like it comes from the fact that the internet can be an escape, and I’d like to, for now, really keep it that way.

I don’t want to end this on a borderline sad note though, so here’s a #1LineWed that I forgot to post here that I hope makes you laugh:

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