Writing

Indie Book Covers on a Budget

A few weeks ago, I talked about the process of having a professional cover artist create my covers. For me, this is the biggest expense I have when publishing my books, but covers matter and I know I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to cover creation, hence why I’m willing to save up and pay. My first covers were done by my partner who has a degree in art, but eventually, I felt I needed to update them to stay competitive. A lot of authors starting out don’t have that sort of budget, so today, I wanted to talk about ways to do this on a budget.

$200 or less

If you have a small budget for your book cover, I might suggest checking someplace like Fiverr to see if there are any good budget cover artists out there, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s a scam and what’s legit or how much the added fees will be once you get your cover made. There are also plenty of new cover designers who have fairly low pricing since they’re just starting out. Once again, the problem is that you are taking a chance that it may not be what you hoped or expected.

Something that can be very useful to new authors is premade covers. A lot of cover artists make “for fun” covers or extra covers that they sell on their websites as is. You basically plug in your title and author name, and it’s ready to go. Most of these are $150 or less with the vast majority on premade cover websites under $100. These covers are typically ebook only, and it will cost extra should you want the cover to be altered into a paperback cover (which is why I made the budget in this section this high). If you write cozy mystery, YA, SFF, and romance, you typically have a lot to choose from. There are plenty of websites that sell these, but one I particularly like is The Cover Collection. They seem to have a nice mix, and the cozy mystery covers are graphic and gorgeous.

The downside to a premade is that it may not be exactly right for your book and you can’t change it. The other issue arises if your book is part of a series. You can’t brand the books perfectly if different people made the covers, which means you may end up with disparate styles between books in the same series. Some people try to buy covers together at the same time or buy a premade and reinvest their book 1 money on a cover for book 2 that is made to match. You might also consider rebranding in the future when you have more money and just using the premade as a temporary cover.

No Budget

This always has me sort of tense up because I have seen some BAD do-it-yourself covers. I would suggest that if you aren’t halfway decent at Photoshop/CSP/other art or editing software, don’t try this yourself. Your cover is something people are going to see first online, and if it looks like a hot mess, they aren’t going to buy your book because they will [wrongly] assume the inside looks like a hot mess. If you have no budget, I might suggest bartering with a friend who has better graphic design skills than you. Please do not read this as go pester your artist friend. Most of them don’t make a whole lot of money either, so unless you’re willing to do something decently large for them (clean their gutters, watch their kids for a week, edit their manuscript, etc.), do not be upset if they say no. A simple but clean cover is far better than something that looks like someone did a bad job in Paint. Know yourself.

If you are going to forge ahead doing it yourself, I do have a few suggestions.

1) Look at covers within your genre on Amazon and other distributors. See what is often represented on those covers, the colors used, the styles of fonts, etc. Even if your cover isn’t perfect, you can at least sort of blend in. You don’t want to stand out in a bad way. It might also give you direction on what stock photos to look for, which leads me to point 2.

2) Look for stock photos. You cannot grab any old picture off Google and use in a book cover. Someone owns the rights to it, but using Shutter Stock or Pexels will give you tons of photos and vector art that is royalty free, meaning anyone can use it. You may need to alter them with editing software, but the photos are there for you to work with.

3) If you decide to go the Penguin Classics route and use an old painting, make sure you can use that painting on a cover. There’s a small issue with copyright when it comes to works of art. Museums and galleries have the rights to the images for many of them, so you may not be able to slap that picture on a book cover. A lot of museums, galleries, etc. do have websites where you can browse their pictures and see which ones are for commercial use. It’s a pain in the butt, but I’d rather not deal with copyright issues.

4) Show your finished product to other people to get their opinions before putting it on your ebook. Think of this like getting a tattoo. You want someone else to look at their artist’s portfolio with you in case they notice the flaws while you are enamored with the art. Your book cover will be out for everyone to see, so it’s better to catch a weird line or unreadable font now before it’s all over the internet. Be willing to take feedback from people because they will be your customers. The Courtney Project on Youtube has a great playlist of book cover critiques, which may be helpful in showing you what you should look for when making a book cover.

Final Thoughts

Your book cover is an investment in your brand and in your book. If I was going to spend money on one thing, it would be the book cover, BUT I am pretty sound with grammar and editing. If you aren’t great with those things, then, your money is better spent on editing.

At the same time, premade covers can be a great way to get a cool looking cover without breaking the bank. If you have no budget and want to make your own cover, I would definitely be realistic regarding your art/editing skills and make sure to follow the genre conventions for books within your genre in order to make something that will appeal to readers of your genre. Once you finish it, make sure to get feedback from others as you may not readily see the flaws in your cover design.

The Reanimator's Heart

A Preview of The Reanimator’s Heart

As a little treat and to whet your appetites for The Reanimator’s Heart, I thought I would share the first two chapters of the story. Keep in mind, it is still undergoing editing, so there may be a typo or two. The Reanimator’s Heart is the first in a new queer paranormal fantasy series and is an off-shoot of Kinship and Kindness as both take place around the New York Paranormal Society.

If you like what you read, you can preorder an ebook copy of The Reanimator’s Heart at all major retailers here:


Prologue

The Hand of St. Catherine

God only granted Sister Mary Agnes glimpses of the sublime on Thursday nights when the moon rose high enough to peek through the tallest windows of the monastery. Despite praying with the other sisters five times a day and spending hours in solitary prayer and study, she only received visions in secret. Stealing across the courtyard to the chapel, Sister Mary Agnes paused to gaze up at the darkened windows of their sleeping quarters to make certain she hadn’t awoken the other sisters. So far, she had been lucky in that no one had noticed her leaving in the night. Perhaps they thought it merely insomnia cured by meditative prayer. The Mother Superior might tolerate that, but would she put a stop to it if she knew that one of the sisters had lied by omission about having visions for years?

As she pushed open the chapel’s oaken doors, a beam of moonlight broke through the stained glass windows floating high above the altar, casting the faces of Christ and the Virgin in stark relief. Motes danced before the crucifix as Sister Mary Agnes fell to her knees, relishing the way the cold stone burned through the layers of her habit. She reached deep into her pocket until her fingers found the rosary her mother’s family had carried all the way from Bohemia. This wasn’t the plain rosary she used in daily prayers or when she prayed beside the sick. It was beautiful and far too fine for her. Its lush mahogany and gold medallions smacked of the decadence she had forsworn at her vows. She couldn’t flaunt the piece in public for obvious reasons, but she also couldn’t trust that it wouldn’t suddenly reveal her secret during the day. The timing of the holy visions had been consistent, but she wasn’t ready to tell the world yet. At the tug of the spirit within her, she pressed her forehead to the ground.

She should know better. If God wanted her to lose control, it was his divine will, and she had to trust him. She let the wooden beads slip between her fingers in time with the movement of her lips. With each prayer, her mind cleared until she brushed against the center pendant representing the First Mystery. Her heart slowed, then hastened as every muscle in her body seemed to tighten and go slack all at once. Sister Mary Agnes should have been afraid, and she had been when her mother presented her with the rosary of some long forgotten cloistered great-aunt and the visions began. At thirteen, she knew she was destined for sainthood. For who saw visions of the Almighty and the Holy Mother but saints?

Sister Mary Agnes’s lips parted and her eyes rolled back in her head at the wave of toe-curling ecstasy overloading every synapse in her body until she could sense nothing but her soul pulling through time to meet the soft brown eyes of the Blessed Mother. Today, she wore the guise of a weary woman about her mother’s age, her face lined with age, silver threads weaving through her ebony hair. For one tender moment, she held Sister Mary Agnes’s face in her gnarled, olive hands. Light flooded the nun’s vision. Love purer than any human could know bore down upon her, terrible and beautiful as the woman holding her. Blood dripped from the corner of the Virgin’s eye, and Sister Mary Agnes knew. She knew, and she wasn’t afraid. She would be returning to the Lord.

Her sisters would find her papers, and they would know. The friend she had been writing to for years about her visions would help publish her writings. He would see things through. She could die in the Blessed Mother’s arms knowing her last vision would go unrecorded as long as the others would live on. With a sear of light, Sister Mary Agnes left this world.

***

Sister Mary Agnes’s body slumped forward, limbs akimbo before the altar. The shadow in the nave waited, watching the nun’s still back to confirm she was truly dead. He would end up in hell, of that, he was sure. If all the other things he had done hadn’t put him firmly there already, this sealed it. Standing over her body, he knelt and carefully rolled her onto her back. Her eyes were half-closed and her lips lax, but even in her habit, he recognized her face. It was the same face he seen and loved throughout his boyhood when she was still called Maggie. They had both gotten out of the tenement and made something of themselves but only one could survive. As he closed her eyes with the lightest brush of his fingertips, he winced at the blooming pinpricks of blood left behind by what he had done. He wasn’t sure he regretted it, but he was sorry it had come to this.

Sitting back on his heels, he checked her empty palms and invaded her pockets only to find paper and a medal. He couldn’t risk lighting a candle and drawing the attention of anyone who could see the chapel windows, but he had to find it. If the sisters got their hands on it, he would never see it again and killing her would have been for nothing. Prostrating himself before the altar, a flash of gold glinted from beneath the nearest pew. The moon still hung high in the night, so he wrapped his handkerchief around his hand and carefully pulled the rosary out by the chain. In the faint light, he could scarcely make out the miniatures engraved in the softness of the gold medallions, but even without seeing it, he could sense the relic humming within the crucifix.

Peeling the fabric back, he stared down into the face of Christ, barely more than an impression of features. Unlike most crucifixes, this Christ’s arms were not attached to his body, but that wasn’t obvious unless you knew that once upon a time, the thin form of Christ had been the bone from a saint’s palm. Saint Catherine’s visionary magic and the belief of her followers had permeated her very bones. While most of her body resided in Siena in pieces under glass, someone had the forethought to keep a fragment of her hidden away in the most unassuming reliquary. There were few things he appreciated about those who came before him, but the people of the Middle Ages knew how to sense magic and grab onto it with both hands. For centuries, there had been rumors that someone had the hand of St. Catherine somewhere in Europe, but it had been lost for over a two hundred years. It wasn’t until his friend had doodled on the margin of a letter that he realized what she had. She never knew. Maybe that was his one regret, but perhaps it was better she died thinking the visions had been a blessing and not a fluke of fate.

Wrapping the rosary up tightly, he stowed it in his pocket and turned his attention to Sister Mary Agnes. He could leave her to be discovered in the chapel, her body looked whole enough, but the nuns would surely sense something was amiss. Pleasure and pain warred in her ecstatic expression, beatific as St. Teresa. The eyes would give him away. Lifting her into his arms, he backed out the way he came through the darkened halls to the kitchen and the snowy trees beyond the cloister. Sister Mary Agnes’s head lolled against his chest, but he pretended she had fallen asleep and he was carrying her home. This was why he had volunteered to do this himself. It wasn’t cruelty, it was mercy. None of the others would have been as gentle in the face of such awesome power.

Graves of past sisters and the local faithful broke through the ground like gentle hands reaching for her. Beside them stood a lifestyle statue of the Virgin on a pedestal of rough stone. This was where he would leave her, safe among the people she had longed to be. The others had said to burn her or bury her or drop her in the nearest river. He couldn’t. He would just have to leave her here and trust the sisters would think she had frozen outside. Laying her before the statue of Mary, he carefully arranged her body to look as if she had fallen asleep on her side.

“Good night, Mags,” he whispered, pressing his lips to her temple. As he walked toward the tree line, he stopped at the sensation of eyes boring into his back, but when he turned, all he found was the Blessed Mother’s all-knowing gaze.

Chapter One

Foolish Choices

Dead people had been at the center of Oliver Barlow’s world for as long as he could remember, but that didn’t mean he liked them. On one hand, they were the optimal patient. They were quiet, they could be put away when he was tired of dealing with them, they didn’t hide things they would have in life, and they truly couldn’t help any weird noises or smells they made. Unfortunately for Oliver, they rarely stayed so innocuous in his care. Taking one last long swig of coffee, Oliver steeled himself for what he was about to do.

Mr. Hezekiah Henderson had come all the way from the Pennsylvania countryside sealed in a lead-lined casket laden with preservation spells. That should have kept him, but as Oliver well knew, it didn’t always work. He had read the man’s file three times to better understand what may have happened to him before his death and to put off his least favorite activity. Mr. Henderson had been found disemboweled in the woods outside his home. Oliver sighed. Preservation spells could only do so much. With a final breath of uncontaminated air, he cautiously freed the latch and opened the casket.

Inside, Mr. Henderson rested with his sightless eyes staring ponderously at the morgue’s ceiling and his mouth agape. The man inside still looked like a wealthy businessman with his well-groomed, albeit now askew, mustache, uncalloused hands, and what remained of an expensive pinstripe suit. A suit that had now soaked up a considerable amount of blood and offal, but that was unavoidable as his chest and neck had been flayed opened by what looked like claws and teeth. According to their report, the investigators thought it could be a werewolf attack or something far more esoteric from beyond the veil. Craning his neck and pushing up with his knee on the table, Oliver measured his hand against the claw marks. They were large, but werewolf attacks tended to be far less messy than this. Wrinkling his nose at the familiar metallic, meaty tang of innards, he carefully tidied Mr. Henderson’s remaining entrails into his abdomen and buttoned his jacket over it. At least Mr. Henderson wasn’t too far gone yet.

After washing his hands and double checking that all sharp instruments were out of reach, except for the scalpel tucked into his pocket, Oliver leaned into the coffin and laid his hand over Henderson’s forehead. He closed his eyes and focused on the faint glimmer of life still clinging stubbornly to the man’s body. The microscopic organisms crawling through his intestines, the muscles that fought to clench and unclench as his life slipped away, the minor storm still cascading through his brain. Oliver’s breath hitched as the hook caught and Mr. Henderson took a shuddering breath. The tether burrowed deeper between them, sending Oliver’s heart sputtering until the other man blinked his still dead eyes and sat up in his coffin without seeming to notice the holes in his chest.

“Who are you?” Henderson rasped, his voice whistling through the tear in his throat.

Oliver straightened and schooled his features against the familiar discomfort. “Oliver Barlow, sir. Now, this may be alarming to you, but you are dead. You have died and are at the New York Paranormal Society in my lab. I just want to ask you a few questions.”

“Dead! I’ll have you know—”

Like clockwork with the older men, but at least the less than freshly dead were easily distracted. “Mr. Henderson, what is the last thing you remember? Did you summon anything from beyond the veil recently?”

Henderson recoiled like he had been slapped. “Summon anything! What do you take me for? I have never summoned anything in my life. My gift is speaking to beasts. If I had summoned a demon—”

“Sir, what is the last thing you remember?” Oliver stood with his arms crossed and resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. These people were infuriating.

“I was petting my cat, Shiva.”

Oliver looked from his hand to the deep scratches across the man’s body. “Shiva is a Hindu god, isn’t he?”

The dead man’s eyes lit up, though Oliver could feel his hold slipping. Mr. Henderson would soon realize he could step out of the coffin and that would only led to problems. “Why yes. I named him after the deity. His sister is Durga.”

“And how long have you had Durga and Shiva?”

“Since they were cubs.”

And there it was. “Durga and Shiva are tigers, aren’t they?”

“Of course, they are, but—”

“Thank you, Mr. Henderson, you have been most helpful. Have a good rest.”

Before the man could say another word, Oliver snapped the tether. Mr. Henderson fell back into the coffin with a squelch as Oliver wretched at the horrid sensation of being covered in bugs. He hated the awful feeling of every hair standing on end when he cut the tether and the remaining energy raced across his skin. He rubbed his palms on his trousers and gagged again. It never got easier, and the longer he let them prattle on, the longer the feeling lasted. Shaking out his hands and taking slow, deep breaths at least helped. After a long moment, he steadied his breathing long enough to slam the lid shut and lock Mr. Henderson in for good. Oliver hurried over to the sink and washed his hands again. He winced as the water burned his chapped flesh, but it was worth it to be rid of any traces of Mr. Henderson and his energy.

“And all for death by pet tiger,” he murmured under his breath with a derisive sigh. He would have to take measurements and do sketches to confirm his findings, but at least there wasn’t something supernatural wreaking havoc in their world. Death by foolish choices was a far too common cause of death for Oliver’s liking. Half the people the Paranormal Society brought to him died by their own thoughtless hands and not on purpose. A spell gone wrong, thinking they could persuade a lesser demon should submit to their will, a box haunted by a spirit that they just had to open. While the cause of death didn’t say it, death came because they lacked a healthy respect for their own gifts or the otherworldly creatures that lived among them.

The one good thing to come out of his job was a healthy fear of his own abilities. For most of his life, Oliver Barlow hated being a necromancer. People weren’t keen on those who could raise the dead, and when you factored in his “unsuitable” temperament, he felt like a pariah at the best of times. But he highly doubted his ability to raise the dead would get him killed. He had too many fail-safes and rules to ensure that didn’t happen.

Rolling the worktable over to the storage drawers, he shoved the bespelled casket out of sight. He would deal with the particulars of Mr. Henderson’s case later. Now, he would write up his report for the head inspector. Hopefully the tigers hadn’t gotten too far. As he put pen to paper, he paused at the sound of a slow click behind him. He focused on his chest, but the tether had broken. Certainly, it couldn’t be— He had only half-risen when the laboratory door flew open and slammed into the wall. Oliver jumped, whacking his leg into the desk and knocking over the stool. Biting back a murderous look, he was relieved to find Gwen Jones standing on the landing, admiring her handiwork.

“Apologies, Ol. I don’t know my own strength sometimes,” she said between wheezes. “The door and wall are all right, though.”

Tripping over the fallen chair, Oliver rushed to her side. Her usually rich brown skin was startlingly pale and flushed with sweat that flattened the tight curls framing her face. He slipped an arm around her elbows and quickly steered her into the room’s only other chair. She rolled her dark brown eyes but didn’t stop him.

“I’m fine.”

“Forgive me, but you don’t sound fine.”

Oliver darted over to the bench under the window and grabbed one of his personal mugs. Decanting a cup of syrupy, overcooked coffee, he winced at the astringent smell of burnt grounds. It would have to do.

“Here, inhale the steam for a bit, and then, drink it. The heat should help.”

“If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were trying to poison me.” Gwen took a slow sip and grimaced. “That is disgusting. Please tell me you don’t drink it like this normally.”

“I got involved with,” his eyes drifted to the preservation cabinet, “something.”

“I’m sure I don’t want to know, though that would explain the smell.”

“Try not to talk until you can breathe, please.”

“Yes, Doctor Barlow,” she rasped sarcastically but without malice.

Taking another cautious sip, she watched Oliver from over the cup. She knew he was practically vibrating on the inside. He had given up practicing medicine as a doctor almost as soon as he started, yet old habits died hard, especially when it came to Gwen. As she drank, he listened for the echoing wheeze of her breath, but after refilling the cup a second time, the crackle had mostly disappeared. Asthma could kill as swiftly as tigers. The thought of that made his chest tighten as he sat stock-still on his stool.

Sensing his mounting anxiety, Gwen released a sigh and lightly patted his arm. “I’m fine. Seriously, Ol. I’m fine now. The drink helped.”

“Good. So, what was so important that you had to risk your life to visit or were you running from someone?”

“Ugh, I think it was John Marsh’s godawful cologne that set me off. I walked into a cloud of it, and it took my breath away. I wasn’t even close to him!”

“And you came running to warn me to stay away to avoid a cologne headache? Or do you have more corpse-related questions for your research.”

“You wish. Unless you’ve had vampires in here, you are of no help to me.”

“There’s no such thing as vampires.”

“So says you.” A sly smile graced her lips when she added, “Actually, I came to get you because a certain Inspector Galvan is back in town, and he would like to speak to you.”

Oliver’s cheeks flushed all the way to the tips of his ears. Quickly averting his gaze, he emptied the remaining coffee into the sink. “Any idea what he wants? I was about to write out my report about—”

“Oliver!” Shaking her head, she gave him that sad, barely piteous look. It was mostly exasperated amusement, but he still felt that minor sting of pity. That he must have no idea he was self-sabotaging when he full-well knew he was and couldn’t help himself. “The dead can wait. Go talk to Galvan.”

He opened his mouth to speak, to refute the urgency of reporting a tiger attack, only to deflate. “Will you come with me?”

A grin shot across her lips as she moved to catch his arm and haul him up the stairs. “Of course, now let’s go before you lose your nerve.”

He sniffed and froze. “No, wait.”

“Oliver.”

“Two minutes outside first, that’s all. Don’t give me that look. It’s important. I don’t want to smell like a corpse.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Two minutes.”

“Two minutes.”

With a fleeting glance over his shoulder at the morgue, Oliver slipped out the door to the loading bay and pressed his back against the cold brick. A flurry of snow swirled across the pavement and over the black leather of Oliver’s boots, but it did little to cool his nerves. No one was around, so he shook out his hands and paced in time with his breath. How could he want something so badly, yet dread the very thought of it? Panic coursed through his veins as he sank to the ground in a tight ball. He would just be very still. As long as he was still, he couldn’t say anything foolish or weird. Counting to forty, he braced himself and went back inside before Gwen could fetch him.


If you enjoyed this snippet of The Reanimator’s Heart, I hope you will preorder it by clicking the button below. Liking and sharing this post on social media also would help me immensely and is free ❤

Monthly Review

July 2022 Wrap-Up Post

July was a weird month for me, mainly because it’s my birthday month and I ended up having to last minute prep for a summer class I wasn’t sure if I would be teaching. Surprise, I’m teaching it, and I found out like last week that it was a-go. If you aren’t in academia, everything depends on enrollment, and in this case, I was not privy to how many students had signed up until the admins told me. If it looks like I did A LOT in the admin section, I have been panic working in case I did end up teaching that class. Anywho, here were my goals for July:

  • Finish Writing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Start Editing the beginning of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Figure out what to do with old room furniture/prep for reno
  • Start drafting newsletter freebie, at least a little bit
  • Do the cover reveal
  • Start making release graphics
  • Read 8 books
  • Crochet something?? Or do some other art project??

I can already tell you, the last bit did not happen. I didn’t crochet or do any art projects at all this past month, but I did play some video games.


Books

I aimed for 8, nearly failed, but I did read 8 books this month. Thank god for graphic novels.

  1. The Unmatchmakers by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, parents with baggage try to break their adult children’s budding romance and create havoc in the process (Kobo only)
  2. The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris- 4 stars, fascinating read about the man who became the leading plastic surgeon during WWI and the people who influenced him
  3. A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall- 5 stars, I LOVED this book, a Regency story featuring a trans woman who falls for her ex-best friend. It is just so emotional and lovely.
  4. Saga volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 5 stars, rereading for volume 10
  5. A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske- 4 stars, an Edwardian MM story where a civil servant stumbles into the world of magic
  6. Lore Olympus volume 2 by Rachel Smythe- 4 stars, I love watching Hades and Persephone get closer, letting their walls down while also dealing with less than savory characters
  7. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen Brusatte- 4 stars, highly interesting read about the evolution of dinosaurs from their origins to their extinction
  8. Saga vol 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading for volume 10

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Finished throwing out all the trash from my room/office reno. Everything is empty at this point and ready to go, but now, that room is hot and hard to work in. The reno is now on haitus until September because I’m not sweating to death and having paint peel off the walls from the high temperatures.
  • FINISHED WRITING The Reanimator’s Heart! The main draft of it is DONE. I AM FREE.
  • Made lots of promo graphics for TRH
  • Made a book trailer for TRH
  • Finished beta reading a book for a friend and send them their feedback
  • Prepared for that summer class that was semi sprung on me by creating a Blackboard, tweaking the syllabus, setting up my virtual workspace in the basement (I look like I’m in a hostage video, but it’s better than the 100 degree office)
  • Made the syllabi for my fall classes
  • Got all my cover stuff squared away for TRH
  • Had the cover reveal for TRH and launched the preorders (see blog post below for links)
  • Set up the preorder for TRH at all major retailers
  • Started working on a freebie story for my newsletter subscribers (won’t be out for a while)
  • Edited some bits of TRH that I had on my list that were in need of tweaking (larger things like resplicing a chapter)

Blogs Posted


Writing

I feel like I spent a good chunk of July feeling behind, panicking, catching up, falling behind, repeat. Luckily, I managed to pull ahead and finish The Reanimator’s Heart at 97,680 words (pre-edits). This total is also not counting work I’ve done on the newsletter freebie story during the last week of the month.

  • Week 1- wrote 3/3 days, 1,000 words total, 333 words/day
  • Week 2- wrote 6/7 days, 3,200 words total, 533 words/day
  • Week 3- wrote 5/7 days, 2,700 words total, 540 words/day
  • Week 4- wrote 5/7 days, 4,100 words total, 820 words/day
  • Week 5- wrote 4/7 days, 3,680 words total, 920 words/day (finished the book on Thursday)

I am very proud of the work I’ve done on The Reanimator’s Heart, so I’m really hoping you all will like it too when it comes out in October. As you can see, once I got toward the end, I sort of hurtled through the last few weeks. I’m finding it interesting to track the speed and fluidity of my writing at different stages in the story. Act I takes forever, Act II part 2 takes a long time, but Act III seems to flow so well once I get going.


Hopes for August

  • Stay on top of my summer class stuff (that runs from the beginning to the middle of August)
  • Set up the Blackboards for my fall classes (*quiet sobbing because I hate doing it*)
  • Edit the majority of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Continue working on the newsletter freebie story
  • More graphics for TRH
  • Set up Google form for ARC copies of TRH
  • Read 8 books
Writing

The Indie Author Cover Design Process

With my recent cover reveal for The Reanimator’s Heart, I have had a few people reach out to ask me about the cover design process, and I thought this might be easier than trying to string together several Twitter posts.

So far, I have worked with two different cover designers, both of whom I love (Cover Affairs and Crowglass Design), but they each have different processes. Before I get into this, I want to be upfront that I don’t think either process is better or worse than the other. They are just what works best for the artist. Also, I will not be showing the mock-ups and such that I’m going to talk about here. It’s like showing someone your first draft, and without permission from my designers, it would be very rude.

The General Process

  1. Go online and find a cover designer– sounds simple, but you have to keep in mind that you should find someone who jives with your genre, does good work, is within your budget, and can work with you during the time period needed for your book. This can take time, so I suggest doing your research ahead of your book being ready for publication. I found Cover Affairs by looking at books within my genre whose covers I liked. I asked the author who designed their cover (and/or checked inside the book for the cover designer info) and reached out to the cover designer. Sometimes you run into the problem of your cover designer being very popular and having openings 6 months out. You may have to wait to put your book out, or you might opt to find someone else to do your cover. This is why I seriously suggest reaching out months before you’re ready.
  2. Book your cover designer and settle on a deadline– Contact the cover artist, find out their lead times, settle on when you want to schedule it, and then go back to working on your book.
  3. Your cover designer will send you a form to fill out- Both cover designers I’ve worked with have sent me a Google Form to fill out, and the questions were fairly standard between both, so I will summarize the gist of it. Name, email, book title/subtitle/series (#), genre and subgenres, time period of the book, settings or specific imagery or objects that are important in the story, other covers you like or other book covers in your series, stock photos you might use for characters or elements you might want to include in the cover, general vibe of the book, back of cover blurb for the book, anything you do not want at all on the cover. Basically, your cover designer is trying to feel out what you want and the overall feel of what they’re going to create. This is also where you should probably tell your cover designer if you want an ebook, paperback, audiobook, hardcover version, etc. Tell them upfront, so they can find what they need (and so you can get an accurate bill/idea of cost). You can always add a paperback or audiobook cover later, but you will probably pay more as most cover artists would prefer to do everything in one shot.
    1. For my one cover designer, she worked off the Google Form and that’s it. For my other cover designer, he wanted to read the book to get the feel for the work. *Cue panicking as I wasn’t done and wasn’t expecting him to ask for it* Now, I know. It worked out though as he was fine with me sending chunks of it as he was working on the cover along with my Pinterest board and music playlist for the book.
  4. First draft mock up– this will probably be rough, so don’t panic. Your cover artist can do this several ways. They might send sketches, stock photos for your approval (Lou at Cover Affairs and I usually send stock photos back and forth until we find someone who works), or even rough cover concepts that are a patchwork of styles or ideas. You should send your cover designer feedback. Don’t just say it looks great to be nice if you don’t like the idea or it doesn’t jive with your book. At the same time, do not be a pain in the ass and shoot things down without looking for stock or giving direction. Sometimes you cannot find exactly what you want, and you need to compromise and pivot to a new idea. It can also be your wording in your Google Form that is throwing off your cover designer, and you may need to explain further what you mean. If you absolutely feel like you and your cover designer are not figuring things out, this may be the point to call it quits and find someone else. You might lose your deposit, but it’s better than paying in full for a cover you don’t like or that doesn’t fit your book.
    1. Things to keep in mind with the first draft mock-up: does it fit your genre? Does it fit the vibe of your story? Does it make sense? I air on the side of your cover should be unique and pretty but still fit the general conventions of your genre. I do not like the naked people romance covers, but they do sell. If you’re trying to be very commercial, I’d say follow the trend to a T. If you’re in a looser, more niche genre, you generally have more wiggle room for what can/will be successful online. Look at your genre’s Amazon top 100 section to see what styles are popular. Your cover should make sense among those other books. Standing out like a sore thumb isn’t great because people might assume your book is a different/wrong genre and skip it.
  5. Second draft/real draft– you have locked in a design with your cover artist, so now it is time to sit back and see what they come up with. At this point, major changes should be done. You and your cover artist might have some back and forth conversations about minute details like font, flourishes, weapon/item options, dress color, etc. But the design should not undergo major changes at this point. Once your cover designer comes back with the second draft cover mock-up, you should be happy with it. You picked the first draft idea, you approved the smaller details, and generally when this is done, you should be looking at a nearly completed book cover. Don’t hesitate to ask for small changes, most cover designers are more than willing to tweak, but we are past big picture issues.
  6. Optional paperback cover– if you have a paperback cover, your cover designer will generally make the ebook, then extend out to make the paperback. Once the main design is locked in, they will then work on the back half. Please send them the most updated back blurb because if you are like me, you have messed with it substantially since they first started working on it and now what they have in their Google Form is outdated. Also, they will probably want a guestimate of the size your paperback will be in pages and inches (6×9 or 5×8), so they can format the spine and covers correctly. When you get closer to releasing your paperback, generally you reach out and tell them the exact page count, so they can tweak the cover perfectly to fit the size.
  7. Optional audiobook cover– your cover designer will make an abbreviated or truncated version of your front cover for the audiobook since it’s square instead of rectangular.
  8. Optional hard cover– I have not done this, but if you decide to you, you will need to tell them if it’s an Amazon hard cover (no flaps/wrap) or an Ingram hard cover (has flaps/wrap), and you will have to decide what goes inside the wrap part versus the back.
  9. Sizing problems– this happens without fail no matter how fantastic your cover designer is because the printing/ebook companies are a pain. Files are too large, the cover doesn’t fit right, something isn’t bright/is too bright. Reach out to your cover designer and tell them the specific error. Mine reply quickly, and the crisis is averted without issue.
  10. Set up your preorders, buy your author copy, profit (maybe)- remember that your book cover is what is going to help sell your book. It should be something you love and are proud of, and this is where the vast majority of my budget goes. Put your best foot forward, and lure in readers with your cover for preorders.
The Reanimator's Heart

The Reanimator’s Heart Cover Reveal

For the past month or so, I’ve been working with Crowglass Designs as he created the most perfect cover for The Reanimator’s Heart, and let me tell you, keeping this under wraps has been HARD. He is an absolutely fantastic designer who understood the mood and tone of The Reanimator’s Heart to a T.

The Reanimator’s Heart is the first book in the Reanimator Mysteries series and will be out October 25th, 2022. You can preorder the ebook now, and the paperback will launch in October.

Check out the cover along with the blurb and the preorder links below:

Manhattan, 1897

A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.

Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of the enigmatic Oliver Barlow.

Oliver has two secrets. One, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. Two, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a medical examiner, he must hide his powers. That is, until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.

But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.

CWs include but are subject to change/not limited to: Death, dead bodies, murder, violence, grief, gore, Catholicism/Christianity, on page sexual content, mentioned/remembered ableism against autistic people, blood, consumption of relics/human tissue


You can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart at

| Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | Add it on Goodreads |

By the way, if you’ve read Kinship and Kindness, you may recognize some characters in The Reanimator’s Heart as both series share the New York Paranormal Society.

Once again, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you will share this post or pics of the cover if you’re excited about The Reanimator’s Heart.

Writing

My Editing Process

Two weeks ago, I posted about my writing process. This was originally going to be one GIANT post, but at some point, readers lose interest. It also made sense to me to break this up into before the end and after the end for simplicity’s sake. If you haven’t read the first post, you can do so here.

The End? Nope. Editing Time.

So the writing process typically takes me anywhere from 4-6 months, depending on how long the story is and how long it took for me to get past the beginning stage to start fully drafting. This is why I try to get the gooey beginning part started while finishing up another book if I can.

From there is the major editing stage. Something I started doing a few books back (I think while writing Selkie Cove) is to stop at the 33% to 50% mark and do some major edits early. This way, I tidy up the beginning, I make sure the characterization makes sense, and reacquaint myself with the beginning of the story and early stakes before moving on. This helps me a lot in terms of consistency, especially because it takes me longer to write the first half than the second half. Also, remember that I edit as I go anyway, so my book isn’t terribly messy after I’ve done the minor tidies throughout and the more major tidy at the halfway point.

Big Picture Edits

When I finish the entire book, it is time to do big picture edits. Typically, I don’t have anything too monumental because I edit as I go and do that 50% edit, but I do often have a list of things I need to fix or change but didn’t feel like doing while writing. I’m not someone who usually has to rewrite their entire book from scratch or move too much or insert whole scenes. This is probably because I go so slowly and have a lot of built in thinking time. An example of what I might fix is making sure character descriptions make sense, deleting unnecessary dialogue or lines of description, reorganizing scene breaks in a chapter to make it more dynamic/flow better, breaking a chapter in a new place, beefing up description if it seems lacking, etc. If I spot typos along the way, those get fixed as well.

Beta Readers and Round 2

Next, I send the book off to a beta reader if I have someone who is willing to take a look. I don’t always anymore, so if I don’t, then I put it aside for a few days while I work on something else and then dive into round 2 of edits. If I have a beta reader, I will still dive into round 2, but I may need to do another round of edits with their feedback. If anyone hasn’t heard of a beta reader, it’s typically a trusted friend or critique partner who is willing to give you feedback on your work. At this point, my hope is that their feedback won’t include major changes. As with any feedback, you should listen to what your beta reader(s) have to say, especially if more than one person tells the same thing, but if their feedback goes against what you’re trying to accomplish or just feels wrong in your gut, don’t use it.

Round 2 edits are line-level edits. Making sure things sound good, they’re clear, everything makes sense, etc. Smoothing lines, breaking out the thesaurus or double checking that words aren’t anachronistic. Inevitably, I will miss something, but I try. At this point (or after beta feedback), the book should be in pretty good shape and there shouldn’t be any massive changes.

Round 3 Edits (where the most weeping occurs)

Round 3 edits are copy edits. I tend to do this twice because I miss typos no matter how hard I try and something always manages to make it into the book, usually more than one. I read chapters out of order at this point to keep my brain from numbing out and not reading the words. I also use Microsoft Word’s speak feature to have it read me back my work a paragraph at a time to catch typos. It will miss homophones, though, so if you know that’s a problem you have, be like me and make a list of words you might screw up and use ctrl F to find them and double check (that and the verb tenses for lie/lay). Once I have finished rereading my work for what feels like the 800th time, we’re ready to format.

I will not go into the formatting process here, but I do my own formatting for paperbacks and ebooks. The good thing is, putting the book in either form also makes it easier to catch typos, so if you feel like you’re eyes are crossing looking at your computer screen, print it off on paper or read it on your phone/tablet to catch errors better. The change is format seems to help a lot.

I will admit that copy editing is my least favorite part. By the end, my eyes feel like their bleeding and knowing that despite reading my work so many times I still will miss things hurts. If you have enough money to do so, I highly recommend sending your work to a copy editor to find all those typos and grammar errors for you.

A Final Word

But yes, dear reader, we have come to the end of the writing and editing process. I’m sure some of you are appalled that my process goes against the usual advice you see online for writing books. Write a lot, write fast, but if you are like me and thinking about writing 30k, let alone 50k, in a month makes you feel ill, this may be a better process for you.

I will also add that I am a monogamous writer, meaning that I typically write one book at a time until I hit the later editing phases. Then, I might have an edit going and the early drafting process started. In order to keep my characters consistent, I need to be able to keep my projects separate in order to mold the best story I can. Some people just aren’t built for writing 3 things at once or writing 2k a day, and that’s totally fine. The point is that you need to find what works for you.

My process has evolved over time to become a process versus me just doing my best, feeling it out. I’m still feeling it out with projects, and over time, I’m sure how I write will change too, but as of 2022, this is what works best for me.

See you all next week!

Monthly Review

June 2022 Wrap-Up Post

June was an oddly good pleasant and productive month for me. Things, of course, were rocky with everything *gestures to the world* going on, but I think I’ve thrown myself into my work in order to cope. I will say, at this point, I’m feeling a little fried. With productivity comes the back swing of fatigue and minor burnout, so I’m starting July mindful of that. Here were my goals for June:

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal 13k
    • Real goal 15k
    • Stretch goal 17k
  • Finish the room/office destruction/cleaning
  • Blog weekly
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Approve cover design
  • Work on new reader magnet story
  • Play a video game/do some crafts

Books

I set out to read 8 books in June, and I read 9 books total.

  1. By Pain of Death by Suzanne Clay- 4 stars, a trans retelling of Hades and Persephone where the latter is a trans man. It was a tender hurt-comfort sort of story.
  2. Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray- 5 stars, an MM Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring a vicar and a dragon man in a cursed manor. I loved this so much, like I was upset when I finished because it was the right amount of tenderness and angst.
  3. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston- 5 stars, a mystery mixed with romance featuring tons of queer characters in a conservative school and how you can still find community and make change.
  4. Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading Saga in preparation for volume 10 in October
  5. The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes (#2) by Cat Sebastian- 5 stars, Robin Hood-esque story following a prickly woman who murderers her horrible husband to save her family/friends and the soft, animal-loving blackmailer who loves her.
  6. The Jade Setter of Janloon (#0.5) by Fonda Lee- 4 stars, a prequel story set in the same world as Jade City.
  7. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty- 5 stars, a nonfiction book about the strange questions kids want to know about the dead. As always, Doughty doesn’t sensationalize things and her authorial voice is *chef kiss*.
  8. Deceiver of Minds (#3.5) by Jordan L. Hawk- 4 stars, John, Caleb, and Grey try to find others who went through the same horrible experiments as John and end up in the crossfire as loyalties are tested and relationships turn out to be more than they appeared.
  9. Total Creative Control (#1) by Johanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm- 4 stars, a boss x personal assistant romance centering around a TV show about vampires. I love a prickly, complex character. Much like Sebastian’s book, it’s a bit of grumpy x sunshine romance, and I’m here for it.

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Nearly completed the entirety of my room/office clean-out. At this point, I’ve stalled out because I need to put a lot of stuff into the garbage and only have so much room in the can per week. But the bulk of cleaning and tossing is done.
  • Chose the direction for the cover design of The Reanimator’s Heart with my designer, and it is BEAUTIFUL. I’m waiting on the final mock up from my cover designer, but once I have that in the next few weeks, the preorder will go up. I can promise you that it is absolutely lovely and fits this book so damn well it hurts.
  • Created a detailed release plan that scares the shit out of me to look at for The Reanimator’s Heart. It is the most thorough plan I have had in years, and that scares me a bit since my last release was in the middle of the pandemic while I was running on fumes mentally.
  • Played/finished TWO video games. I have been trying to make an effort to actually play some games to help recharge, and I finally succeeded. They weren’t the games I initially bought, but both were good.
    • Unpacking is quite short, but it is super low stress. It tells a story through the objects a person brings from house to house as throughout their life. It is cute and sweet.
    • The second I played was Strange Horticulture, which takes place in a creepy British town where you run a horticulture/plant shop that sells rare and strange plants. You need to figure out what people need while also helping/hurting a strange figure take over. I don’t want to giveaway too much, but if you like puzzles, plants, and murder towns, it’s really good.
  • Made a list of Amazon genres for The Reanimator’s Heart when it comes out
  • Outlined the entirety of the newsletter freebie, which has a new title, “Flowers and Flourishing.” I did not start writing yet, but that’s fine because I’ve been focusing on The Reanimator’s Heart.

Blogs Posted


Writing

My minimum goal for June was to write 15k words, and shockingly, I wrote 18k! I was amazed at how much I wrote. It’s an exceptionally high number for me as I tend to be a put-put writer, but once I hit the middle of the book, things tend to speed up a little (thank god).

  • Week 1- 2,500 words and missed 1 day, 625 words/day (5 day week)
  • Week 2- 5,000 words and missed 0 days, 714 words/day
  • Week 3- 3,000 words and missed 1 day, 500 words/day
  • Week 4- 4,600 words and missed 1 day, 767 words/ day
  • Week 5- 2,900 words and missed 0 days, 725 words/day (4 day week)

I would like to know how I managed to blow my goal out of the water, but I do sort of know. Hit the right part of the book, not teaching any classes right now, and plenty of alone time to work. I feel like my writing muscles are finally coming back to how they were circa 2018. If I could keep them going while avoiding burnout, that would be magnificent.

I really like how this book is shaping up, so fingers crossed, the editing process should be fairly smooth. If you’re interested in my writing process, check out last week’s blog and stay tuned for next week’s blog, which is about the editing process.


Hopes for July

  • Finish Writing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Start Editing the beginning of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Figure out what to do with old room furniture/prep for reno
  • Start drafting newsletter freebie, at least a little bit
  • Do the cover reveal
  • Start making release graphics
  • Read 8 books
  • Crochet something?? Or do some other art project??
Writing

My Writing Process

This week’s post was inspired by Magen Cube’s newsletter, Notes on Monstrosity, where they discuss their writing process. Finding out how other writers writer is something I find incredibly interesting, to the point that I will watch Youtube videos of writers trying famous authors’ processes or daily schedules. It’s fascinating how what works for one author would probably trample my brain into exhausted dust. In my creative classes, it’s a topic my students ask about and how they can best streamline the process. I’d like to make it clear that you will need to figure that out on your own and try what different writers do or venture out on your own and see what your brain jives with.

Some of you are going to read my process and be mad. So be it. My process is not what is preached by many writers. I do not hurdle to the finish line as fast as I can because, frankly, I am not fond of cleaning up the mess after. That’s it. I’m lazy. I do not have the mental fortitude to clean up the same draft 6+ times because I decide to speed through it the first time and now have a 100+ things I need to remember to fix AND do copy edits and such after. That’s not how this is going to go, so if you’re looking for how to write a book in 30 days or write 5k a day or whatever else the hustle culture is pedaling these days, this is not the blog post you seek.

Consider, I have written and published 7 (going on 8) books this way, so it works for me *shrugs*

The Beginning

Typically, my ideas start off with two characters or a single character, and everything sort of grows out of that. I spend a lot of time at the beginning feeling out who they are, what’s wrong with them, what they want, what their core personality is. From there, I think about how these characters would meet and interact because that will be the majority of the story. Then, I get stuck for like 2 weeks trying to figure out the conflict/plot. How do I figure this out? Usually thinking how I can best traumatize these characters. At the same time, I tend to start making a Pinterest board because I’m a very visual person. Once I start throwing together what they look like and where they are, more concrete aesthetic and plot things start to gel for me.

During this part, I’ll often try to start the story to better feel out the characters and have a few false starts. This happens more often with brand new characters than when I’m adding on to a pre-existing series, which makes sense because with new characters, this is more exploratory writing, not word count writing. During this early stage, I need to remember to be kind to myself because my first month or so of working on a book is SLOW. There is a lot of feeling in the dark until things make sense. At some point during this process, I can mentally see the ending or something toward the end to work towards. With that in mind, we get into the drafting stage.

Drafting

I want to make it very clear that I am a “slow” writer. Slow in comparison to the people who can bang out a 60k book in 2 months and have it ready for publication 2 months later. My books are usually 90k+, and I only write 500 to 1500 words a day with the latter being a *really* good day or me playing catch up because I skipped a day or two due to not feeling good. My monthly word counts average around 15k with the first month or two of a new draft often having less. Early on, I tend to write in 20 minute sprints, something akin to the Pomodoro Method. It forces me to write and move forward when I’m feeling hesitant.

But here is my cardinal sin, according to other writers. I EDIT AS I GO.

Yes, dear reader, I go back and edit what I wrote during my previous session as a warm-up. I do this because

a) I am an underwriter, so I need to add more detail. Often, after I’ve written a scene, that detail becomes clearer, and it makes more sense for me to add it now while it’s still fresh in my mind than 2 months from now when I don’t remember what the hell the room is supposed to look like. My brain is like a sieve or a browser with 25 tabs open and you can’t figure out where the music is coming from. I try not to over-complicate it if I can.

b) It’s less work for me later. Future Kara doesn’t appreciate it when Past Kara leaves cryptic messages in a draft that make no sense. [ADD CHAIR] For what, Past Kara?? Why and for what purpose do they need a chair?? I know some people can do this, I cannot. It just frustrates me. Then again, I am not a perfectionist, and as someone is who at least somewhat full of themselves, as many artists are, I tend to read my work and think it’s pretty good and editing it is just tumbling that shiny rock further. Ego is key for this process to work. I am self-conscious about many things; my writing is not one of them.

Once I have reacquainted myself with where I left off, it is time to write. As I said, I tend to write 500-1500 words a day, and this is either done in the morning around 10 AM or late at night with little in between. It’s when my brain works best.

Outlining or the Lack of

You may have noticed I didn’t mention making an outline. That is because I don’t make a traditional outline before I start writing. I do make a retroactive outline covering what I’ve already written, so I can go back and reference it as I move forward, which has been VERY helpful to me. I have a blog post about it here. Something I have been doing with The Reanimator’s Heart is using Sarra Canon’s Three Act Structure outline, which is based off Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and a few other structure books. I have been filling in scenes I think fit into the general structure to help me figure out the order of things and where I’m going, but I do this one act at a time. Act 1, then Act 2 part 1, Act 2 part 2, then Act 3 and not a moment ahead of time if I can help it. It is a very loose outline that is subject to change, but seeing everything laid out helps me keep the flow going.

Ironically, if I’m writing a short story, I tend to make a loose outline, but I think this is because, at most, I can hold about 30k words worth of direction in my head. Beyond that, my brain gets overwhelmed and sort of melts. My process is avoiding the brain melting stage at all costs.

To be continued…

Originally, this was going to be one MASSIVE blog post, but I have decided to break this up right here before the editing process. Truthfully, the drafting process and editing process feel very different to me, so it’s a good place to stop for now. In 2 weeks, the post on my editing process will come out, so I hope you will come back to read it.

Personal Life

On Supportive Partners

Be forewarned that this will probably be a little gushy. Today is my 17th anniversary with my partner, so the thing that is first and foremost in my mind today is how much I love him and how much he supports me on a daily basis.

First off, let me introduce my partner a little. He is a programmer who also does cosplay and art, though his creativity really lies in 3D mediums (like cosplay armor). He is incredibly handy, a loving dog parent, and my goblin wrangler (I am the goblin in the relationship, every good relationship has one of each or that’s my theory). The Morticia to my Gomez, blah blah blah. I love him immensely and will happily gush about his many positive attributes, but I will spare you all for now.

I feel like today’s post is a no-brainer, but one of the best things that has happened to me is finding a partner who supports me and my creative endeavors. I should probably also define support in this case. I don’t think your partner needs to share all your interests. My partner and I certainly don’t. I don’t cosplay, he doesn’t write stories, but we’re both artists. We both respect the creative activities that we’re interested in. Earlier in my life, I thought my partner had to like the same things as me. I tried to get him to read my work or read books, and my poor ADHD-brained partner just couldn’t do it. At first, I was mad. How could my partner who loves me dearly not be actively involved in my projects? Was that not what support is?

Well, not really. Just as I am not hot gluing helmets made of foam, my partner doesn’t need to read my work in order to help. For one, he is the person I bounce ideas off of the most. Often, he’s just a sounding board because talking an issue out tends to speed up the process of figuring out where I’m going. He’s been helping with The Reanimator’s Heart and my other projects so much that he asked me to draw out a relationship diagram in order to keep everyone straight when we talk about them. While he isn’t likely to sit down with my book and read it cover-to-cover, he is the person who helps me the most on a daily basis, and I’m kind of glad he doesn’t because there are spicy scenes and part of me would be mortified if he read them. Don’t question the logic of it; it’s just embarrassing.

This past year or so, I’ve struggled a lot with self-worth and whether or not I can get my writing career back on track and try to rely more on that income. My partner has been the one to constantly remind me not to get down on myself and that I can eventually get to the place I want to be. It just might take some time. Whenever I mention wanting to learn some new craft or potentially trying to get back into more traditional types of art, he always agrees that I should. Trust me when I say my partner is not a yes-man. He will happily bring me back to earth when I start to spin off, but when it comes to my art or trying different things, he’s the first to tell me I should if it’s calling to me. I think part of it has to do with us both being artistic people who are also neurodivergent. We understand the siren call of a new skill or craft.

I posted this on Twitter the other day, but I think it’s very apropos for this post:

I found someone who appreciates me and all the weird shit that comes with loving me. He listens when I gush on and on about Our Flag Means Death and looks at the thousandth piece of cool pottery I’ve found on Instagram. I’ve been remodeling my office, and he’s gone along with every idea I’ve had in order to make it the perfect gothy oasis I’ve dreamed of. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when my partner acted like what I loved was cringe-worthy or weird or juvenile. I’ve seen a lot of people’s partner’s say things or roll their eyes when the other person starts gushing about their special interest or a new hobby. Or they’ve fully bought into the capitalist notion that every hobby should be profitable, and if they aren’t, they should be abandoned for more serious pursuits. Whatever those are.

It made me immensely sad to think about people who are in relationship where their partner doesn’t love them for all their weirdness and silly hobbies or their special interests. They don’t have to love that thing too, but they have to love and respect you enough to understand that you love them and that it is all a part of you as a person. While my partner doesn’t crochet or write or like arcade carpet, he would never dissuade me from my pursuit of those things. He knows the weirdness is what comes part and parcel with the things he loves, and trust me, he’s a fan of the weirdness too.

Happy anniversary, Peaches! I hope he knows how much I love and appreciate him and how he’s been the tent pole that props up my dreams when I struggle under their weight.

Book Reviews

12 Queer Books to Read Now (Pt 2)

Last week I posted a list of 12 Queer Books to Read Now (Pt 1), and because I read a shit ton of queer authors, I wanted to do a second post full of authors you can check out. I may also do a list of authors I have on my to-be-read pile but haven’t gotten to yet. We shall see. You may have also noticed that I changed the title from queer authors to queer books because I don’t think an author needs to be out to write a queer book, so this is more inclusive.

  1. Anna-Marie McLemore– McLemore’s books are an auto-buy for me because their books are so rich with texture, magic, and queer characters. Many of their characters are also neurodivergent and/or trans, which speaks to me. I highly recommend Lakelore or When the Moon was Ours.
  2. Tehlor Kay Mejia– Mejia has teamed up with McLemore before, but I also really enjoyed her dystopian, Latinx fantasy duology We Set the Dark on Fire, which has a really interesting sapphic couple at the center of the story.
  3. Keito Gaku– Gaku’s 4 volume manga Boys Run the Riot is the first I’ve read featuring a trans masc character by a trans masc author. The story is about friends, fashion, and going after who you are and what you want to be.
  4. Margaret Owen– I adored all three of her books so far (with Little Thieves being my favorite), which all feature lots of queer characters and have asexual rep as well. If you like heroines who are a bit rough around the edges and softer, dorkier love interests, her books are for you.
  5. Talia Hibbert– While Hibberts Brown Sisters series is M/F romance, Dani Brown is bi and Hibbert is nonbinary, and that queerness shows in the books. Hibbert’s books have queer side characters with the promise of future queer stories. Also, great neurodivergent rep in the Brown Sisters series!
  6. Lara Kinsey– Kinsey writes quite a bit of f/f romance, and I absolutely loved Budding Romance and Blooming into You. She manages to cram so much development into novellas. They’re perfect if you need a short, compelling piece.
  7. KJ Charles– I would be remiss if I didn’t include KJ Charles’s books on the list. Her queer romances are *chef kiss* and run from magical fantasy to political intrigue.
  8. Joanna Chambers– Chambers’s work is reminiscent of KJ Charles’s as they both write historical, political/historical focused MM romance. My favorites from Chambers are the Winterbourne series, which are shorter and follow different characters. They’re soft and sweet and just warm.
  9. P. Djèlí Clark– I don’t think Clark has a single book that doesn’t have a queer character. The main pair in A Dead Djinn in Cairo is sapphic, and his books have complex characters, amazing stories, and interesting magic with lots of rich texture.
  10. Yuki Fumino– Fumino’s I Hear the Sunspot is one of my favorite manga series. It features a very slow-burn MM pair and talks a lot of deafness and what it’s like to be hard-of-hearing with an immense amount of detail. One MC is losing his hearing and the other works for a company that tries to make things more inclusive for the deaf community.
  11. E E Ottoman– Ottoman is a trans masc author who writes some really fantastic romance featuring trans characters. They’re smart, cozy, and usually have quite a bit of heat.
  12. Nina VarelaCrier’s War and its sequel were books that I read and sort of sat there in a daze after because I enjoyed them so much. A robot princess, a human girl in the midst of starting a rebellion, and the collision course that brings them together. Who can ask for more?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope you have a bunch of new books to add to your TBR pile and stay tuned for EVEN MORE authors to add in a future post.