what power, what comfort lies in the naming

You know what’s weird? Everything, right now. What’s somehow even weirder? That I still have a book coming out in three months, which is both the most surreal and most mundane thing, at a time when everything else is bonkers.

But there it is! I have a book coming out in three months, as you can see on this very spiffy countdown clock.

Not just any book, either. This one… is very special to me.

My first book, Mornnovin, came into being after many years and many drafts. The first time I started writing it, I was in elementary school. I always intended for it to be just the beginning of a series, but it took me a long time to resolve – out of all the possibilities – just what would come next. That makes sense, because I was young. I hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted or needed to say. At that point, I was just transcribing my favorite fantasy novels into my own universe.

That’s not to say I wasn’t racking up life experience. I was, in fact, racking up too much life experience. By the time my teen years rolled around, I was living in a soap opera at least partially of my own making. It was stupid. I was stupid. Then poof! hey presto! I was pregnant in high school, then marrying my rapist to raise our child together.

Everything I’d planned for my future vanished in the blink of an eye. The stories I had in me all turned dark. That year, I wrote a sequel to Mornnovin in which I was most definitely punishing myself for “ruining my life.” It was bleak, but it was what I needed to write at that time. I’m glad I never published it.

Time passed. Things changed, or didn’t. I grew up in some ways, clung stubbornly to immaturity in others. I stuck out my time in that terrible marriage, and got the hell out the minute my son and I had an escape route. It took eighteen years.

That was eighteen years with someone who, at best, thought of my writing as a waste of my time. Something annoying that pulled my focus away from him and housework, and gave me unrealistic ideas, and wasn’t even earning any money.

Free at last, and having just finished writing what would be the final version of Mornnovin, I set out into my new life with the goal of finally being able to give my writing career the earnest attention it deserved, now that I no longer had a judging naysayer hovering over me. I wrapped up final edits on Mornnovin in late 2015, took a short breather to work on my query materials, then started writing a new Trajelon in January of 2016.

I finished it only six months later.

My experiences over the previous years of living with my abuser – of surviving gaslighting, sexual and emotional abuse, crazymaking, constant manufactured drama and unnecessary financial hardship, my physical and mental health needs being minimized, watching my son suffer daily emotional trauma at the hands of his father, my identity being suppressed and warped to survive the toxic environment, and all of the accompanying depression and anxiety – gave me a different perspective than I’d had the first time I wrote Trajelon. Beyond simply feeling sorry for myself as I had all those years ago, I now had something to say about going through all of that and coming out the other side.

It was quick work to write, but not easy work.

All of this is a story that I’ve actually told before, but I wanted to add something to it today. If it sounds to you like Trajelon is probably going to be a huge downer to read, well. Maybe. Maybe it will be. Writing it was certainly difficult at times, when I would have to walk away and practice some gentle self-care before returning to the keyboard and putting myself back into the necessary headspace. I am lucky that I finally had the safety and space to do that. I recommend taking that approach while reading it too. But I do think, without any trace of ego, that it is an important story to have brought into the world. This is not torture porn; this is a story of survival. Of triumph against darkness, pain, and loss, and against those who would weaponize your own vulnerability and empathy to hurt you.

How many fantasy novels have you read that are about defeating your abuser and choosing to stand fast against your depression to fight for the hope that tomorrow will be better?

(Seriously, if there are others, point me to them. I’d like to read them too.)

It might sound odd to say that I’m excited about debuting a book of this character, but I am. It genuinely fills me with joy to know that in three months, this story will be born into the world for all to see. I kept my pain in for such a long time – a lonely, heavy burden. By setting it free, I deprive it of its power. I name it and sever its hold on me. I show the way to others carrying the same kind of pain. I give them the tools to take back their strength. That makes me incandescently happy.

I was excited to publish Mornnovin because that was me finally realizing my life-long dream of publishing a novel, any novel. Being a teller of fantasy tales, which is all I ever wanted to be when I grew up.

I’m excited to publish Trajelon because I truly feel that this story adds something necessary to the universal library. Writing it was arduous, often harrowing work, and every piece of it has been crafted with care; I’m proud of what I created. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Just three months now!

TRAJELON comes out on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 from Dogwood House LLC. You can pre-order your print or digital copy on Amazon today.

So It’s the Middle of August

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday August 14th, 2020:

Whew, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been out here tearing it up and living my best life, but that would be the utter opposite of the truth.

In reality, in June my post-surgical recovery ran into a ditch big enough for a megalodon to peacefully nap in, and I’ve been spending all of my energy each and every day trying to claw my way back up and out. There was even an ER visit.

I also wish I could say that I’ve tenaciously continued to do the pre-publication work that needs to get done before the book launch in November, but that would be a gross exaggeration of what I’ve actually been able to manage during the last two and a half months. I mean, some things that needed to get done have been done. At the very least, I am now sitting on a hoard of physical copies of Trajelon like a particularly nerdy dragon.

So many books. It’s a beautiful sight.
And a beautiful book.

So there’s that.

And, hey, absent being able to manage any of the heavy mental lifting necessary to do promotion, I did finally get around to creating a merch shop for branded Asrellion and Dogwood House swag. There’s still a lot I want to add to it, but I’d been meaning to just make the shop for a long time and kept getting distracted by other things, so it’s nice to have taken the plunge. If any of you happen to have a favorite line of dialogue or something like that you’d wear on a shirt, let me know and I’ll think about incorporating it into the shop.

Also, requiring no additional work from me, the Kirkus reviews for both Mornnovin and Trajelon are in. The reviewer loved Mornnovin. As for Trajelon, I feel the review neglected to mention certain critical aspects. It paints a somewhat breezy picture of the action, and for the sake of covering my own butt I want you to go in completely forewarned that this is an adult-rated novel with dark themes.

But hey, I’ve got a blurb for the release poster!

I’m maybe? starting to get my recovery back on track (knock on wood), and there are wonderful people trying to help me with the pre-launch work I haven’t been able to manage myself. The paperbacks, as I said, are already here. One way or another, to greater or lesser fanfare, this book is coming out on November 24th. (If the world hasn’t utterly imploded by then. I guess I shouldn’t dare 2020 by speaking with too much certainty about the future.)

Thank you for being patient with me and for believing in my stories! Please keep talking them up if you can wherever possible. I need all the help I can get driving interest in the world of Asrellion before the release, since I’m decidedly not up to the big marketing push I’d hoped and planned to do.

And remember: Hento loves you and wants you to stay safe.

Back in the Saddle Again

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Saturday, May 2nd, 2020:

Hey, friends. How are you doing? Crazy, stressful times, but I hope you’re finding ways to cope.

It’s been completely mad over here, too. After several months of buildup, my medical situation finally exploded into an emergency early in April and now the dust is settling. Not to get too much into it, but I’ve had a full thyroid removal in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, because it was slowly choking me to death, and it turned out after the fact to have been cancer.

Drama!

Also apparently I had (Have? Had? Is it the kind of thing you can ever be rid of, even if you no longer have a thyroid? I’ll have to find out.) Hashimoto’s disease. So, whew! Glad that thing’s out of there.

To head off any concern, that’s that. No further worries or ongoing cancer treatments. For all intents and purposes, as much as anyone can ever say this about any cancer, I’m “cured.” Now it’s just about the recovery and settling into the right dose of the meds I’m going to have to be on in perpetuity, going forward.

While this whole episode obviously sidelined me temporarily, a few things have still been happening on the book and I’m slowly starting to get back to work.

I did manage to get the emails sent out with the short story and Mornnovin eBook download links before I went in for surgery, so if you didn’t already get yours, let me know.

I also spent the last hours of my pre-op time working on a new page at my blog where all of the Asrellion short stories will live permanently behind a give-what-you-think-is-fair paywall. You can find that here. It will continue to be updated as time goes on and more stories are written/added, so consider that a living page and check back often. For the time being, the reward short stories for this fundraiser (“Witness” and “Black Books”) will remain available only to those who backed this project at the relevant reward tiers. Probably until after the book release.

Also – and this was a lovely get-well-present – the first proof copy of Trajelon arrived the day I came home from the hospital. It looks amazing, inside and out. I did submit an updated cover file because the alignment of the spine was a bit off, but other than that it’s perfect. The second proof is in printing as I write this.

Given the current pandemic situation, Kirkus has shifted to a digital-only review model until further notice. Meaning, they’re not accepting physical book submissions at this time. That being the case, there was no reason for me to keep waiting on a perfect proof copy and I went ahead and submitted Trajelon for review. That was incredibly scary to do and felt super legit. There’s obviously no predicting how that will turn out, but a good review from Kirkus would be a big deal for an indie publication. Fingers crossed!

And because I’ve already got the book in to Kirkus and have my estimated review due date in hand, that means I am now in a position to announce a solid release date for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2. This bad boy will hit the market on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020. Backers can expect to receive their copies at least on November 17th if not earlier, mail systems willing.

Luckily, I’ve got some time to work on the other backer rewards. While I am beginning to feel more myself, I discovered this week when I tried to begin work on some of the jewelry that my hands and focus are still a bit shaky. That’s getting better all the time, but it was a reminder that I need to allow myself to keep a reasonable schedule on all of this and not push. I definitely don’t want to put a pen to that lovely parchment I ordered for the maps while I still have shaky hands!

So that’s where we’re at on this first weekend of May. Waiting on the second proof, waiting on Kirkus, waiting on my body to heal. Waiting, waiting, waiting. This is probably a good time to look into other review and publicity options, while I’m not quite ready to do much else and it’s still too early to know whether or not I’ll be able to make launch party plans.

I will also, as my feeble meatsuit allows, begin in the coming days to package up and send off the paperback copies of Mornnovin that are due to backers. Do feel free to message me with any questions about the project or the world of Asrellion in general and avail yourselves of the lovely FAQ. We’re going to get this thing done.

I’ll talk to you all again soon, and please, please: take care of yourselves and stay safe.

Project Week One

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Sunday, April 12th 2020:

It’s been a hell of a week.

The Kickstarter funds did come through finally! Yay! I immediately placed an order for the first of the supplies I need to begin making backer rewards. (The vellum for the maps has already come in and it’s glorious.) And by Wednesday, I had submitted my files to the printer, which were approved on Thursday, at which time I placed an order for a proof copy of Trajelon.

Why did it take me until Wednesday to get the files in? There may have been a tiny, terrifyingly dystopian trip to the ER in the first half of the week there. And I maaaaaaaaay be scheduled now for an urgent surgery this coming Thursday as a result. (Yes, in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, that’s as awful as you imagine it might be.) The second half of my week has been consumed by surgical prep and the attempt to have a little fun in the midst of all this because it is my birthday on Monday.

I’m going to be okay, and the book is still going to come out as planned in November or December. Just. Please bear with me over the next few weeks about the other backer rewards.

It had been my intention to get the short stories out this past week, which obviously has not happened. The longer of the two stories, “Black Books,” is ready to go, but the shorter piece, “Witness,” is undergoing one final beta read before I upload the file for you. The promo code for the free digital copies of Mornnovin is all set up – it’s just the email blast I still have to create. I’m going to try my damnedest to get this phase of rewards out and away before I go under the knife on Thursday, if for no other reason than because I’ll be able to rest better with it done.

Tl;dr: don’t be alarmed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everything is under control, but everything is being managed. Expect an email from me in the immediate future with your digital content.

And to those who celebrate it, Happy Easter.

fuzzy Dogwood face

March was, truly, The Longest Month.

At the beginning of it, I was halfway through my fundraiser, just focused on raising the money to do my art. Working with my cover artist. Starting to make publishing plans. Feverishly writing project updates to keep up the momentum.

By the middle, I’d secured my funding but was in limbo waiting to receive it, while having to shift my focus to changing how we go about our daily lives in the midst of a growing pandemic. I threw myself into formatting the novel for printing, researching art supplies for backer rewards, and of course following the news as it changed by the hour.

By the end, we were fighting to figure out how to protect my husband at work, because he doesn’t get to stop going just because there’s a deadly disease tearing through the world community. Still waiting for my funding after what felt like an eternity of processing time. Wondering how we’ll manage without my income for the foreseeable future, because no one needs a dog walker when they’re stuck at home. Like everyone, struggling to obtain necessary supplies in the post-apocalyptic landscape that our grocery stores have now become. Trying to help my husband figure out how or if he’s going to be able to make the movie he was supposed to start filming this summer. Square into survival mode.

All the while, the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head in the form of a non-COVID-19 health issue that I’m not able to get treated for right now because local health services are closed to everything but emergencies. When will my thing become one? Big shrug. Who knows. The minutes tick on.

And now that we’re four days into another month (my birthday month, incidentally,) it already feels like March was a lifetime ago. An eternity of waiting, of wondering, of holding patterns and hope and disappointment and sudden loss that we’re all experiencing together, in our own ways. Planning is one thing that’s especially painful for an autistic person to have to give up on. Indefinite uncertainty is not something I do well. All we get to do right now is react and that’s… exhausting.

That’s why we’re all so tired.

Already I can’t remember what my larger point was going to be when I decided to write this post. I had one. But that was half an hour ago, and in April 2020 time, that’s like at least a week. All I can remember is that I wanted to share something good with you in the midst of all of… this.

I wanted to show you this lovely thing that was made for me by my wonderful artist daughter-in-law, Katelynn Cuciak.

Last year (by which I mean 2019, not March,) when I was getting ready to publish Mornnovin, it was my intention to secure a logo for my publishing imprint before the book went to press. That didn’t end up happening in time, but now it is my absolute delight to present to you the logo of Dogwood House LLC, the publishing house of The Way of the Falling Star:

Dogwood House logo badge border

You may recognize the handsome model.

model

Hento basking in the sunlight under his favorite window.

I think she did an absolutely stellar job of turning my beautiful buddy into a lasting icon. From now on, this excellent face will be appearing on all of my books.

And that’s what I wanted to leave you with on this the nine hundredth day of the year C-19. Stuff is scary right now, and weird, and there’s so much to worry about — and I still, still don’t have my funding (although I tentatively expect to see it hit my account on Monday.) I’m off to go sew some homemade face masks because that’s apparently what we’re doing now in this dystopian timeline, but first I wanted to give you something nice: the fuzzy face of Dogwood House.

Stay safe, stay healthy. Stay home.