July 21, 2024

'Voices in the Briars' Blurb, Et. Al.

So I'm winding down and am on the final round of edits for Voices in the Briars. And since it'll be another week before I open the file for further polishing work, I figured I might as well work on the book blurb and get that part rolling. It'll make for an easier process when I finally upload the manuscript and put together all the required info for different stores. 

Anyway, here's the blurb, which is still open to changes before the book's release:

The reserves of St. Jerome’s orphanage have never enjoyed an easy life. Born with disabilities or deformities, they’re separated from the rest of the orphans and are marked for a future working for the guilds or in noble households as servants. At least that’s the belief for as long as the orphanage has been around.

Lóránt Kárpáthy was born mute and as such has become the target of bullies. He’s also drawn the attention of fiery-tempered Dávid Bodnár, an older boy who gladly takes on the mantle of Lóránt’s protector. The two friends find solace in each other’s company through shared daydreams and hopes for the future.

It’s a close bond that’s soon tested when David is adopted while Lóránt becomes the special beneficiary of a mysterious patron. A patron who sees to Lóránt’s education and sudden exclusion from the rest of the orphans when he’s sent to live in near solitude in St. Jerome’s north tower.

A childhood of colorful daydreams in spite of heartbreak falls prey to dark hallucinations that devour time. To the blood-soaked secrets of a family descended from a line of legendary hunters. To the appearance of a strange nobleman claiming the hand of a young man, a nobleman who brings his new husband to a sprawling manor hiding its own secrets behind its shut doors, its sepulchral corridors, and its army of silent servants. There are secrets outside as well—among seductive roses and hungry, whispering briars.

And woven among those secrets is the terrible truth behind St. Jerome’s reserves.

Set in the dark dreamscape of 19th century Hungary, Voices in the Briars is a gothic gay romance and a retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.

It took me quite a bit of digging around to make sure I'm referring to physical disabilities and deformities correctly in a general sense. Those needed to be specifically addressed in the blurb -- especially Lóránt's mutism -- because they play a very significant role in the plot. So hopefully I was able to nail it and bring the blurb up to speed with current accepted terms. 

As noted, this book is set for a November 1 release, and it still stands. It's over three months out, and that's a good enough gap that will still allow me some last-minute tweaking if needed. 

In other news, I'm already writing a crap ton of notes for The Perfect Rochester, in the process of which I'm being tempted to write another book in the Nightshade universe. That's very much up in the air, of course, as I've already sworn off series books, but the fun thing about the Grotesqueries collection is that I can still write non-series stuff in specific universes, making the books wholly independent of each other while weaving recurring characters into the plot as needed. 

Like The Perfect Rochester focuses on Narcisse Nightshade, his story being completely unrelated to his twin's misadventures in mortal-immortal romances. True, Narcisse will still be enduring the inevitable melodrama that comes with being a primordial god, but it's not a continuation or even a partner piece to Viktor's story in Nightshade's Emporium. But both stories will be taking place almost simultaneously and will be overlapping here and there. 

Also I have a tendency to over-explain things, so do bear with me. I've been up since 2:30 this morning, and that's keeping to my normal workweek schedule.  

EDIT: Okay, I tweaked the blurb a little and might do so again down the line. 

EDIT (7/23): One more edit of the blurb, and now it's in its final version. I've also uploaded the manuscript to Draft2Digital for pre-order, and that's also for me to download the .epub and see how the book looks. Further polishing may still be done, but we're nearly there.

July 14, 2024

Warts and All

Revisions and edits are coming along just fine for Voices in the Briars, and I'm trying to be extra careful when it comes to my linguistic weaknesses. I'm Asian-American, born and raised in Southeast Asia, where I enjoyed the benefit of intensive English language education. I also grew up watching nothing but American and British TV programs and movies, so it's safe to say I got the hang of English pretty well. 

Immigrating to the US in 1984 wasn't as big of a culture shock in terms of language barriers and all that, though it was really all about smoothing out my accent that was my daily challenge as a teen. 

I do have two major weaknesses, though, when it comes to English, and those are (1) prepositions and (2) the past perfect tense. You guys have no idea how much I struggle with those still even decades after English turned into my primary language -- to the point where I can barely speak the language of my birth. 

And I know my previous books read fairly wonkily (is that a word? I say it is) because of those issues, so please excuse my erratic grasp of prepositions and the past perfect tense. Hey, at least I own those mistakes and will always be the first to admit to them. 

I actually slowed down my revisions and edits even more for this book because I want to make sure I get at least one of my warts fixed (or at the very least, barely noticeable). It's a never-ending process, and having enjoyed every English class throughout my childhood and early adolescence in Asia, I'm very keenly aware of my shortcomings. I'm also not deluded enough to believe myself an expert now that I write and publish books and even majored in English Literature in college. If I were that good, I'd be writing like Edgar Allan Poe or M.R. James.

So to reiterate: I apologize for any and all mistakes that still got missed in all of my previous books. And I'm sure even after all the careful combing through for Voices in the Briars, the warts will still show themselves (though hopefully minimally).

Oh, in case anyone's wondering, my pen name was purposefully chosen to be a generic Western name because I wanted it to be as far, far removed from my real identity for privacy reasons. My family already knows I write and self-publish books, and they also know in what genre, but they've been very supportive of what I do, so I'm not hiding from them.* I'm hiding from the rest of the world. I just don't like having my real life self be put out there and be subjected to careful scrutiny or even just passing interest. I'm okay outing myself to my site visitors as Asian (now a naturalized American citizen), but that's the extent of that.

And I'm sure there are a few linguistic warts in this blog post as well, but I won't bother cleaning anything up. God knows I've done enough of that this weekend. 

At any rate, I expect to spend all of July polishing this book and will be diving right into The Perfect Rochester in August. 

* bless them, they also respect my wishes not to be outed to their social circles and extended families by marriage

July 07, 2024

'Voices in the Briars': Done!

As threatened, my "Bluebeard" retelling is now finished in first draft form. Oof! Where do I begin with this? Firstly, it's vampire fiction, with the vampires being more of the classic Dracula type in the sense of the count being that archetypal suave European aristo while surrounding himself with the more mindless, ghoulish incarnations of the undead (the "lesser revenants" being more along my preferences for vampire fiction). 

The story straddles folktale and our more modern take on vampire lore, and I made sure to work significant elements of the fairy tale into the plot since the story is my original vision in spite of the Perrault's influence. The key is there. The mysterious locked rooms. The blood on the key. The ball to reassure the bride (in this case, the ball is there to celebrate the groom). The "business" that takes the count away, allowing the groom to explore where he shouldn't. The discoveries of the count's secret and of the groom's movements. The final confrontation.

Above all, the idea of obedience / subservience, which is a theme of Perrault's fairy tale, is also worked in more extensively and even starts early.

Finally, there's a nod to the Estonian variant in that the friendship between Dávid and Lóránt plays a key role in the plot. There's also a hat tip to the legend of the Blood Countess with the setting being in 19th century Hungary and of the count being fed the blood of innocents (of which he has a steady supply). 

So, yeah -- done! I expect edits and revisions to be lighter than usual since I've been doing quick edits and revisions whenever I open my story file and reread the last chapter I wrote (sometimes last two chapters). And I'm grateful for a more chill polishing stage before I dive into the next book because there's no rest for the wicked. 

And I always celebrate with a music video. Before I'd post a disco video for campy fun, but I figured I'll mix things up a bit and share what I believe is the greatest intro theme of any TV series in human history. Yeah, the gauntlet's thrown because BEHOLD THE GROOVY AND WEEP!

They don't make intro music like this anymore. I've always loved this theme. Also after a few days' worth of excessive heat here, we now have the infamous fog back, and I'm looking out the window right now, adoring the gray scene and the cold that's blowing through my partially open window. I love it. 

Or, to be more specific, I love Karl. Why, yes, our Bay Area fog is nicknamed Karl the Fog, and I'm here for it.

July 05, 2024

Bless Long Weekends

Oh, my lord, I didn't expect this. Firstly we were given today off when it wasn't in our work calendar until now. I guess it helped that we're also so far ahead in our workload that we can afford to chill for a four-day weekend. Booyah to that!

Secondly, with the Bay Area going through a heat wave (as in heat advisory levels all the way), I've confined myself indoors for two days in a row. Thursday and Friday being normal work days for me, I was at a loose end yesterday even after doing the laundry (a normal Thursday chore). Sooooooo...

I dug out the file and wrote another chapter even after completing the required single chapter earlier on, and I ended up getting two chapters done, a shocker of an event that was repeated today, too. I originally had next weekend pegged for the completion of Voices in the Briars in its initial draft form, but it's going to happen this weekend instead because of the unexpected holiday break. 

I only have two chapters left to do, which means I'll be able to tackle each on Saturday and Sunday. 

So yay!

That said, I'm not changing the release date from Nov. 1, however tempting it might be to do just that given this early completion. I'll just keep going with whatever's next on my plate once the edits and revisions are done.

July 01, 2024

Now Available: 'The Dubious Commode'

And my beloved series' swan song is finally here. The Dubious Commode is the third and last long novella sequel to Ghosts and Tea, and as I've mentioned before, I only had enough sequel ideas for three books, and none of those ideas were hefty enough to justify beefier novels. So long novella sequels they are!

Here be the blurb:

Another wave of suspicious calm follows Freddy and Jonathan's successful solving of the singing skull mystery, which means Fate isn't quite done with the lot of them. Prue carries on with her beloved priory upgrades, stocks up on Felicity's products (arcane and otherwise), and endures the trials of being still of the living world. Freddy and Jonathan are madly in love with each other as ever, their bond growing stronger by the day.

Things appear to go swimmingly for a time, indeed, with Jonathan's workaholic publisher paying Hoary Plimpton a visit for health reasons and Mr. Headley entering the picture with a dragon's hoard of romantic smut for aunt and nephew alike.

But Brody's artistic gift comes under unexpected scrutiny, threatening a horrible shakeup in the priory and a permanent upending of everyone's lives. Then Mr. Headley decides he'd dearly love to be haunted and acquires a few oddities with ghosts attached to them.

Family isn't immune from drama, naturally, as Linford's increasingly panicked letters suggest. Lucinda's trapped in her spiritualist retreat where ladies' pocketbooks are gradually draining their contents, and Antigonous involves his committee in the mystery of the haunted antique commode. It's a haunting that baffles everyone, forcing them to resort to a few foolish and drastic measures to get to the bottom of things—even reconsider old prejudices against the very people who hold the key to ghostly mysteries.

Prue and Freddy's madcap ghostly adventures conclude in this final installment of the Ghosts and Tea series.

The book has its own gallery page over here, in which I share more tidbits about how this epistolary series came about as well as more character inspiration for Felicity Smedley, Jeremy Brody, and Osbourne Headley this time around. I really, really loved writing this series, and I'm glad I gave myself that challenge. It really helped my confidence, and I'm looking forward to using that narrative form again in my future books. 

The book is 50K words and is available in e-book format for 99 cents and in print for $9 USD. Those are my standard (and permanent) rates for every book now that I'm fully settled in the long novella camp. 

For everyone who stuck with the series since The Ghosts of St. Grimald Priory, thank you so much for your support. I really hope this final book proves itself to be a nice, tidy sendoff to characters who mean a lot to me now. Thank you again, and I hope you enjoy the book.

And a bonus update! I added the 2026 calendar banner to my Book News page, but as with the 2025 banner, there's no date on any of the books highlighted. And that's to allow for changes (especially unexpected ones) in my schedule, energy levels, health, motivation, etc. 

If we were to follow my calendar from this year -- which will likely be followed next year as well -- then we're looking at a March 1, July 1, and November 1 calendar cycle for 2026, too.