June 22, 2024

Down the Homestretch (a Ballroom Scene and Calendar Updates)

This video is worth a repost because reasons.

Actually, no. I just wrote the chapter that involves the ball scene meant to celebrate the union of the Bluebeard character and one of the heroes though the sequence is switched compared to the fairy tale. In the Perrault version, the ball is held to assuage the would-be bride's fear of Bluebeard and convince her to accept his proposal. In my book, the ball is a celebration after the union. 

I also had to use this video for visual references of the overall look I was aiming for (setting, dancers, and fashion). Alas, no swords are involved in the book, however hot as hell the male dancers look waving those things around.

I'm now down to under 20K words left to write, which is nail-biting, but since I'm also on the actual fairy tale part of the story, it's going to wind down a hell of a lot faster than I expected. I'm looking at sometime mid-July for the first draft to be done, and as far as edits and revisions go, there won't be much to do since I've been rereading and polishing whenever I open the file before diving into a new chapter. 

And even though the book will be finished and ready to go way before November 1 (the planned release date), any changes to the publication date will be no more than one month (October 1 if I decide to move the release forward). I've talked non-stop about this wave of energy and motivation I'm currently riding, and I've got every intention of taking full advantage of it. 

That means I'll be writing and completing every book following Voices in the Briars earlier and earlier until I likely have half a year at least between the final edits and the actual publication date, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth and take a break (or at least not longer than a week). These surges of inspiration are very rare, and if I end up working on a book a year sooner than planned, so be it. I'll keep on keeping on until I run out of steam, which I hope won't be for a good long while.

I should be getting started on The Perfect Rochester in August then even though the release date isn't until March 1 of 2025. That's what I mean by my rambling nonsense above. And speaking of calendars and release dates, I'm still on a three-book-a-year turnaround -- at least through to next year. And while I've got The Bells of St. Mark's Eve, Doppelgänger, and The Shadow Groom currently earmarked for 2026, that calendar is still pretty open and may change if my energy levels flag.

June 16, 2024


One of my blogging heroes finally took his final bow and posted his farewell at his blog. I've read just about all of Don Travis's books from Dreamspinner Press, and I've enjoyed them. I refer to him as a blogging hero because he's stuck it out for years, blogging without fail once a week, demonstrating a dedication and discipline I honestly don't have when it comes to my online presence. I've bounced around so many different social media platforms, enjoying them for a short time before things got toxic beyond repair. Even my brief spell over at Mastodon -- really my favorite micro-blogging platform -- turned into more of a slog, especially when drama ended up permeating what were touted as safe spaces on the Fediverse. Where there's social media, there's drama. It's in the genes.

I pretty much mentioned in a couple of past posts and on my Book News page that my default setting has always been to sit back and listen in on conversations, engaging whenever I actually have something to say. I've never been one to share EVERYTHING, which is the requirement of social media use, and I hate having algorithms rub my nose into stuff I don't want to be a part of. I've also resurrected, deleted, and resurrected blogs over here over the years when things got too much elsewhere, and even then, I placed too much pressure on myself to "perform", which led to me ultimately giving up on blogging and deleting my personal space.

And it's because of that I look to other bloggers (especially writers) who, like Don Travis, kept the machine going on their own. They'd post like clockwork, and I wouldn't see them anywhere else online -- only on their blogs (which double as their sites). They got shit done, and they did it on their own terms. I wanted to grow up to be like them. 

But as you know, time catches up with us eventually, and even dedicated bloggers regardless of the size of their fan base will feel the weight of the years on their minds and their bodies. Heck, I keep joking about me not getting any younger when I talk about my writing schedule and publishing calendar and stuff, but nothing really grounds that home like loss. I've had my share recently though I'm not going to post about it here. Suffice it to say, I've reached that stage in life where mortality is slowly making itself felt in a variety of ways, and all we can do is adapt.

And what on earth does that have anything to do with a writer whom I've always admired and respected finally deciding to retire from the market? Well, I've come to expect consistent updates and new material from him given his track record, so seeing that farewell post was yet another reminder of how good things are bound to come to an end. Don Travis isn't the first writer to vanish from my radar, and he's not going to be the last. There have already been other writers I've known through the years who simply stopped writing and publishing, and I do hope they're doing well. 

I also shouldn't be depending too much on others for motivation, but one lasting influence he has on me is my final decision to settle down here -- on an ancient blogging platform so often derided by advocates of shinier, sleeker ones -- and blog as needed. Not to perform, no, but just to share what's gotten me so excited or happy in some way or another. Whether it's a book I'm working on or future books and what inspired them or entertainment that grabbed me -- it's all going to be in one safe space (for me), and I'm really glad I took the plunge and cut ties with all the popular places where the wild parties are happening. 

Anyway, I wish Don Travis well and publicly thank him for his books. And for showing me just how swimming against the currents by sticking to one place, however "archaic" and pretty much forgotten, can really be a great source of peace and calm online. He got shit done on his own terms, carving out his own modest corner in cyberspace, and I'm hoping to do the same with zero regrets.

June 15, 2024

Recycling Titles and the Problem With Fairy Tales

As I'm now nearly careening toward the finish line with Voices in the Briars, I'm getting myself ready for the next book on my to-do list. I'm also at that somewhat vulnerable point where I'm looking all over the place for inspiration. I blogged recently about doppelgängers and how a piece of music got me rethinking a story idea that kept getting stuffed back in the trunk. 

This time around, I got another needed boost at the day job while I was listening to my favorite Halloween-themed ambient playlist, which reminded me so much of one of my favorite fairy tales when I was a kid. Back then I remember it being titled "The Boy Who Didn't Know How to Shudder", but apparently the Wikipedia page for it calls it "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was". That's a mouthful, innit? 

But I was able to find parallels between the playlist I was listening to -- since the sequence of the songs followed an actual storyline -- and the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale (which I still love following a reread). With that connection also came a recycling of an old fanfic title of mine -- whose bare bones plot actually inspired the idea behind The Twilight Gods years after I wrote it -- because it was the only title that actually fit the plot of this new story.

And since the muse-feeding was in full swing, I got the main plot pegged, and it's pretty rock-solid, soooo...

Why, yes, I'm exceptionally proud of this title. :D And it'll enjoy a second life as a published book (wholly different story in case that wasn't clear) that I'm aiming to release in 2026 following Doppelgänger. The cover art is pretty set though I might be tweaking the colors and overall effects later. So add this to my calendar, yes? 

As for the second part of this post's title, it's an ongoing challenge for me whenever I write something that's my take on a fairy tale. Rewriting fairy tales or giving them your own spin allows you a pretty basic story template to manipulate, but fairy tales being fairy tales, they're all very generic and broad in terms of plots and characters. So it's up to you to expand on those further, color them with your own special ideas, etc. 

Voices in the Briars is my own version of the "Bluebeard" fairy tale, but it's a gothic horror and gay romance that's set in Hungary (as a nod to the legend, however false, of Elizabeth Báthory). The original fairy tale also has variants, and I opted to go for the Estonian one that involves the bride's childhood friend who's instrumental in helping her escape and subsequently marries her. So since part of my focus is on that friends-to-lovers trope, I have to give my MCs a pretty expansive backstory to justify what happens in the second half of the book. 

With nothing to go by even by way of a passage or anything on the Estonian variant, I'm pretty much on my own coming up with that history between Lóránt and Dávid. The tricky part, of course, is not letting the new details run off with the story so that you're tumbling down a wholly different canyon before you know it. I've done that so many times before and ended up dumping the draft and starting over. Not fun. So far it's been a bit of a tightrope act with this WiP, but now that I'm finally hitting my stride with the actual fairy tale part of the book (the first third is dedicated to the two boys and how their lives are entwined), the template's guiding me more effectively.

And I can see something similarly tricky in the pipeline for Compline (a gothic retelling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin") and The Shadow Groom (see above). Compline will pose more of a challenge since the original fairy tale reads more like an analogy than a straightforward story, but I'll need to read up some more on its possible sources before diving in. The Shadow Groom, which will also echo the dark humor of the original Brothers Grimm version, won't be as nutty to take on, but I expect it to be a lot of fun. Seriously, read the fairy tale. I laughed at some of the scenes because of how ridiculous they are plus the fact that the boy is an utter dingbat all the way to the end. 

At any rate, it'll be great to turn that story into a dark comedy with a healthy dose of dry humor a la Nightshade's Emporium.

June 10, 2024

And the Bunny Takes a Nibble

So while my Hungarian hunters are busily staking vampires in my WiP, I figured I might as well take advantage of this faint smudge of free time to share a new bit o' shiny. It's really weird how one thing -- pretty innocuous and even gorgeous -- can give a darker idea a nudge. Again and again. Then a massive kick in the 'nads for good measure when things not only gel, but actually make a hell of a lot of sense. 

Anyway, while re-centering myself with some favorite music on YT (mostly classical since it always calms me down), I realized I haven't listened to Karl Jenkins' Palladio in a dog's age. It's one of my favorite modern compositions, and it occasionally cuddles ye olde plotbunny and feeds it some much-needed noms though I really hadn't been inspired by it completely.

Until now.

The piece itself (this is actually just one movement but is the most famous one*) was written in honor of Andrea Palladio, an Italian architect from the Renaissance who championed an architectural style that was all about symmetry and balance. Jenkins' piece perfectly encapsulates Palladian architecture, but one can also argue that it can stir up some darkly twisted stuff given the right time and environment.

*points at brain*

Dat be my brain, y'all, all of yesterday. I'll be able to rescue a languishing plotbunny that was originally intended for The Twilight Lover, which underwent a bit of surgery and came out of it a wholly different story, and I ended up ditching the original idea yet again (it'd been resurrected, killed off, resurrected, killed off, etc. for quite a few years now). 

And this time it'll work -- thanks to the idea of symmetry and balance, which can be turned into something quite creepy and unsettling. So I now have one more solid story to add to my running to-do list, and Doppelgänger will follow The Bells of St. Mark's Eve. We'll be back to my favorite genre of Victorian ghost fiction in this case, so I'm stoked. 

* this performance actually drops a very short section of the piece, but it doesn't detract from the final effect; it's also (so far) my favorite interpretation because it's snappier and more emphatic than others, which usually take on a slightly slower and more graceful approach

June 04, 2024

'The Dubious Commode' Gallery Now Up

Finally! The gallery page for The Dubious Commode is finally up and running, and you can go here for some bits o' stuff behind the book as well as the entire Ghosts and Tea series. The final version of the manuscript has also been uploaded to Draft2Digital for e-book and print publishing, and it'll be out on July 1. Farewell, Hoary Plimpton! It's been a blast through and through. 

In other news, I'm roughly halfway through Voices in the Briars and will need to get going on the brainstorming front for The Perfect Rochester. And even though I'm always sorely tempted to look far, far into the future with possible story ideas, I'm fighting the urge and will keep to what I have currently set up all the way to The Bells of St. Mark's Eve. 

At this rate, I'll probably find myself getting way ahead on the writing front until I'll be more than 6 months out for my WiP's publishing calendar. But yeah -- I know I tend to go back on my resolution whenever the wave of energy and motivation hits me, so I'll have to remember (or remind myself) that three books released per year are my maximum. And so far that's what's set for this year and next. The Bells of St. Mark's Eve will kick off 2026, and it's a blank after that for the time being. 

Well, at the very least, I'd like to keep writing through the end of 2028, which will mark 20 years of me writing and publishing. I'm not going to jinx myself, though. I'll keep writing until I run out of things to say, and then I'll bow out gracefully. I don't see that happening anytime soon, but I'm growing more and more aware of my limitations as I get older. 

You know how it is. In this instance, reducing my output will be to my benefit, and with any luck, I won't be turning back on that again once I decide on it. But, hell, who knows?