The Reanimator's Heart

The Reanimator’s Heart Preview 2

It is officially less than a month until The Reanimator’s Heart (The Reanimator Mysteries #1) releases in ebook and paperback form (October 25th!). You can read the prologue and chapter 1 in a previous blog post. Today, I wanted to share with you chapter two. Do you need to have read the prologue and chapter 1? No. You can definitely read this one independently. Hopefully this will whet your appetite until it releases in a month.

I’m also super excited because so far the reviews that have come from early readers have been very positive. If you’re interested, you can preorder it here at your favorite ebook retailer. Paperbacks will be available closer to launch day.


Chapter Two: Masks

Felipe stared out the window of his apartment at the back of the Paranormal Society, though he wasn’t truly looking. He had been back for nearly three days, and while he slept through most of the first day, he should have unpacked his bags by now. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He had used this apartment as a landing ground between trips and investigations for years, yet it never truly felt like home. At the other hotels and safehouses, he never unpacked. Why should he here? But it was his. His name was on the door, his extra clothing hung in the wardrobe, his daughter’s picture and their family portrait sat on the dresser. Putting the teacup of sherry he had been nursing on the windowsill, Felipe snatched up the last picture they had taken as a family.

It had only been taken two years ago, but he looked so much younger to his eyes. There was no stripe of grey near his temples to mar the sweep of walnut brown. Louisa had told him it made him look distinguished, but his father was sixty and had less grey and it made him feel old. Now, he had dark circles and more lines at the corners of his eyes. Beside him in the photograph was his daughter. Teresa had been seventeen when they had had their picture taken. Where there once was an unsure girl, Teresa had now grown into a woman with plenty of ideas and opinions and a whole future unfolding before her. She was studying at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women now. One day, she would go on to study design in Europe and have her work in the best department stores, he was sure of it. While he was in town, he should take the train to visit her.

He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. He should visit Louisa, too. She and her partner, Agatha, always knew how to snap him out of these grey moods. Vibrant, clever Louisa who never seemed to change in all the years they had known each other. She had, of course, but it always was in ways that made her more herself. Louisa grew out and up like a tree, stronger and better, while he felt the years creep over him like a fungus. With Teresa out of the house, Louisa had taken up new causes and spent more time at the gallery with Agatha. Felipe was happy for Louisa and Agatha finally having more alone time together. After all, his and Louisa’s reciprocal proclivities had drawn them together into their marriage of convenience in the first place, but it had been a long time since he had that sort of steady companionship.

Even without all the women in his life, he should be happy to be back in Manhattan. The city had everything he could possibly want: a wealth of entertainment, food he couldn’t find anywhere else in the country, the best tailors and department stores, a community of men who shared his tastes, yet he still felt hollow and alone. So unbearably alone.

At the solid rap of a knuckle on the door to his rooms, Felipe pulled himself together and put on his usual devil-may-care expression. The look fell off his face when he came eye-to-eye with Oliver Barlow. When he told Miss Jones he was looking for Barlow, he had never expected him to actually come. Barlow rarely came up to the society’s main rooms, except to eat, and almost never paid visits. Hell, he barely opened the door of his lab. In previous trips, Felipe had knocked but received no answer despite hearing the other man moving around inside. It wasn’t the worst outcome as Oliver Barlow had the worst effect on him, yet the other man didn’t seem to notice. Barlow wasn’t beautiful in the way most men were, but he was arresting. His skin was deathly pale, to the point that Felipe had thought him ill when they first met, which was only compounded by his severe black hair and grey eyes. He reminded Felipe of a drawing done in charcoal, all hues of black and white, which carried to his clothing, as he always wore the same nearly black suit and grey tie. The most color came from Barlow’s shapely mouth, which hung agape for a brief second before it snapped shut and the solemn, stiff man he presented to the world reappeared.

Behind him, Gwen Jones stood watching them with interest. Felipe often wondered if Miss Jones had taken to Barlow for the contrast alone. He was all stillness while she was all motion. She was full of warmth with her copper skin and vibrantly patterned dresses while Barlow exuded a sepulchral air befitting his job. She flashed Barlow a grin before slipping down the hall. He stared at her longingly as she mouthed, “You’ll be fine,” before he turned back to meet Felipe’s gaze.

“Gwen— Miss Jones said you wanted to speak to me.”

“Yes, please, come in.”

Barlow hovered in the doorway a moment too long, and for a second, Felipe thought he might book until he seemed to force himself to dart inside as if he didn’t trust himself to slow down. Closing the door behind them, Felipe turned to the tea service he had forgotten on the sideboard. Beneath the garish cozy, the pot remained warm. As he poured some tea into his remaining sherry, he watched Barlow from the corner of his eye. He stood in the center of the room with his hands clasped behind his back, but his gaze slipped over the furniture and hearth, lingering on the closed door on the far side of the room. Felipe thought Barlow lived at the Paranormal Society as well, though he could never figure out which room was his.

“Would you like some tea?”

Barlow hesitated again. “Yes, thank you.” He added in clipped tones, “One sugar and a finger of cream, please.”

“A finger? You don’t hear that often with tea. I have sherry if you’d prefer it.”

Crinkling his nose, he shook his head. “No, thank you. Tea is fine.”

Felipe poured him a cup, careful to follow Barlow’s specifications with the man’s grey eyes boring into him. He must have done it correctly as a ghost of a smile appeared when Barlow saw the color of his drink.

“Please have a seat.”

Trepidation flickered over the medical examiner’s face, disappearing as quickly as it came. Taking the chair across from Felipe, Oliver Barlow sat ramrod straight with his ankles crossed and looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but in Felipe’s sitting room. Better to get it over with.

“You probably know I recently returned from a trip out west with Inspector Monroe. While we were in California, we were asked to visit the estate of an anatomist of some renown who recently passed. The old man was into some esoteric things, but I came across a few specimens I thought you might be interested in.” Felipe’s lips quirked into a smile at the flash of interest that stole across Barlow’s features. “I have no idea if they’re what his records say they are, but I thought they might be of interest to you. I wanted to let you have a look before one of the junior archivists gets their hands on it and it disappears. You know how the archivists are.”

From behind the armchair, Felipe carefully hefted the crate and placed it between them. Barlow’s eyes widened as he abandoned his tea on the armrest. He stared at the box with a reverence that belied the grossness of its contents.

As Barlow reached for the nearest jar, he snatched his hand back. “I should probably look at these later, downstairs.”

“You can look now if you want. I brought them back with you in mind.”

“You thought of me?” Barlow asked, his gaze solely on the specimens, but Felipe swallowed hard at the way he said it. The way Barlow’s voice became huskier, softer, when his attention was focused on things he liked went straight to his groin. The voice he used when prattling with Miss Jones was so different from what he used with the rest of them, but in the quiet of the sitting room with a box of specimens before him, Felipe thought he glimpsed the man underneath all the irreproachable tidiness and polite austerity.

Of course I thought of you, Felipe wanted to say, but instead, he sat in the armchair across from him and watched Barlow slip from the chair to kneel before the box. “As I mentioned, the man who owned the house had passed and his family wanted the Paranormal Society to collect anything they thought might be dangerous or useful. It isn’t all paranormal, but I figured you might know what they are and do something with them. Dissect them, maybe? Or add notes for the archives? They probably would have been thrown out otherwise. His daughter wasn’t particularly thrilled by the collection.”

Inside sat nearly a dozen specimens pickled in unknown fluid or alcohol. A few boasted disembodied tissue, limbs, or whole organs while the rest were from animals or sea creatures. A wax model of a werewolf in mid transformation laid at the bottom beside a pile of notebooks filled with anatomical and life drawings. Or that’s what Felipe could surmise from his quick perusal. Looking at the more realistic drawings turned his stomach. He had seen enough things during investigations for his mind to fill in the horrific blanks.

“Some of these are new to me, but I already have a few of the more typical specimens. That isn’t a problem, though. You can’t have too many preserved hearts,” Barlow said, holding up a jar where a crusty, fist-sized heart sat serenely in cloudy, amber liquid.

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“I have a few in my personal collection already, but they’re all different. They usually look the same from the outside, but inside they might be thicker or scarred or clogged with oil. You wouldn’t always know that by looking at them. When you’ve seen one heart, you really haven’t seen them all.”

“And this is why you’re good at your job. You’re always willing to look beyond the obvious.”

Barlow’s ears and cheeks pinkened. Dropping the notebook he held in his other hand, he sat back on his heels and looked up at Felipe as if for the first time. “I never even asked how your trip was. That was incredibly rude of me.”

“It’s fine.” Felipe batted the thought away with a wave of his hand. “Honestly, I’m tired of talking about it. Everyone just wants to hear a good story, not the truth. I’ve retold the story at least five times. It’s hard to remember all the embellishments I added to make it interesting at this point.”

“You could tell me. The true version, that is.”

Staring at him for a long moment, Felipe nearly did. Oliver Barlow, strange as he was, wouldn’t ask for more than Felipe could give. He had never asked him to regale him with tales of monsters and saving the day. Barlow knew what the monsters looked like when he and the other investigators finished with them and what they could do to an unsuspecting victim. Felipe shook his head. The sherry must be loosening his tongue.

Instead, he put on his most affable smile and took another long sip of sherry-laced tea. “No one wants to hear about paperwork and estate sales. Tell me about your work instead. What have you been up to?”

“Nothing too arcane.” It didn’t seem like Barlow was going to elaborate, but when Felipe gave him a pointed look, he continued, “An investigator brought in a man they thought was mauled by a werewolf today. It turned out that his pet tigers tried to eat him.”

Gaping at him, Felipe laughed. “Is this a normal day for you?”

“Not really. Why?”

“Because you said it so casually, ‘Oh, he was eaten by his tigers,’ like it’s completely normal for that to happen.”

Oliver flipped through the leather tome in his lap without raising his gaze as he replied, “Stranger things have happened. Werewolf prejudice is all too common when, in reality, foolishness is the most common killer.”

“How did you figure out it was a tiger?”

Slowly putting the book and jars back in the crate, Barlow shifted back on his heels. Felipe watched as the other man seemed to slowly stiffen. The warm interest in his features had been replaced by something tight and bland. A lock falling tightly into place.

When Barlow spoke again, his voice had taken on a clipped, clinical quality. “The claw and teeth marks didn’t match a wolf. And the man owned two pet tigers, so that was the logical conclusion. I should really let you get back to whatever you were doing. I have a report to write about Mr. Henderson.”

Standing, Barlow returned his nearly full teacup to the tray and hefted the box into his arms as if it were nothing. Felipe wanted to say something. He wanted to ask him to stay and to tell him more about his cases, but there was a purposefulness and finality to Barlow’s movements that made that feel futile. Instead, he opened the door for him.

“Thank you for bringing these back for me, Inspector Galvan. I’ll make sure they make their way to the archives when I’m done with them.”

With a final nod of goodbye, Barlow briskly took off down the hall. Felipe stood watching his retreating back until he disappeared around the corner. Returning to the empty apartment, Felipe wished he knew what he said to make him leave.

***

Unlocking the laboratory door with the box balanced on his knee, Oliver barreled inside before he could drop it. The moment he put it down, he sank to his knees with his back pressed against the hard wall. His breath came in a panicked rush. Why did Galvan have to ask about how he knew? It had been going so well. “Well” being a very relative term, but Oliver had had many conversations go catastrophically wrong, and that certainly wasn’t one of them. But Galvan had to ask about the one thing he couldn’t discuss. When Oliver turned up at the New York Paranormal Society after being dismissed from Howard Hospital, they had been hesitant to take him on. On one hand, a doctor with extensive dissection experience and a tie to the paranormal meant they would have someone who could do forensic investigations without running out of the building screaming. Taking on a necromancer, on the other hand, was far less attractive.

From a young age, he had made certain his abilities were only a footnote on his record. The few who knew when he was hired worried they had made a mistake putting a necromancer in charge of a room full of dead bodies. Imagine the havoc he could have caused, but he made sure to downplay his abilities. After all, he could barely make a bone dance. Mostly because he didn’t try hard in front of them, but they didn’t need to know that. The less he said, the better. They couldn’t know that his methods were often as scientific as they were direct. His employers liked results and little mess, and as long as he gave them both, they rarely asked for specifics. But Galvan asked questions. Friendly questions any normal person would ask, but Oliver couldn’t answer like a normal person. If Galvan knew he could wake the dead, he would never think of him the same way again. He wouldn’t trust him, he wouldn’t bring him specimens from far-flung assignments, and he certainly wouldn’t take tea with him in his rooms.

Oliver pressed his eyes with the heels of his hands. Why couldn’t he have been born with telekinesis like Gwen? Hell, if he had been born a werewolf, his life would have been easier. People were afraid of them, but that fear faded. The fear of someone who could manipulate the dead, potentially manipulate them one day, always remained. He could never forget that. Releasing a tremulous breath, Oliver shook out his hands and rubbed his face. Keeping Galvan at arm’s length was the most sensible solution. He had done it for years, and he would keep doing it. At least Galvan would probably be heading out on another mission soon, so all he had to do was hide away in the lab for a few more days, a fortnight at most, until he was gone.

Picking up the box of specimens, Oliver had gotten as far as the supply closet when a heavy knock sounded on the lab door. “Just a minute!”

At least no one but Gwen would barge in. Oliver smoothed his hair and the front of his clothing before making sure his face was set. He cast his gaze over the laboratory tables and floor one more time for anything he missed with Mr. Henderson and opened the door. Head Inspector Williams stood on the other side, his military bearing obvious even after years on land. Despite being past sixty and having a wooden leg, he was always the one to come all the way down to the basement to fetch Oliver when he needed something. Sometimes Oliver wondered if that was because Head Inspector Williams liked to stay active or because those under him refused to venture to the morgue.

“Mr. Barlow,” he said by way of greeting as he walked past Oliver into the laboratory’s anteroom. Once Oliver shut the door, he continued, “Have you gotten the chance to take a look at Hezekiah Henderson’s body yet?”

“Yes, sir. I don’t believe the cause of death to be paranormal. The bites look to have come from a wild cat, not a wolf or demon, as far as I can tell. They don’t appear to have human influence in terms of placement, so I would rule out a shifter.”

The older man nodded thoughtfully as he walked toward the shelf where Oliver kept his medical texts. Oliver tried not to flinch as the head inspector picked up a wax model of an eye and twirled the wooden stand between his hands. “I expect your report will be ready soon, so I can pass it on to the investigators.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” When he put the model back with a thunk, Oliver’s shoulders relaxed a fraction. “Now, I need you to go out to the Corpus Christi Monastery in the West Bronx. A nun died, and the sisters suspect foul play— of the magical kind.”

Oliver frowned; it wasn’t often he was called out to the scene of a crime. “Why isn’t the body coming here?”

“The sisters aren’t comfortable with one of their own being brought to the Paranormal Society. They’re already going against their better judgement calling us in to take a look just in case.”

“Do you know why they suspect it’s something paranormal?”

“No idea, but you know how those types are, a superstitious lot.” As Oliver opened his mouth again, the head inspector held up his hand. “Save the rest of your questions for the nuns, Barlow.”

“Then, I’ll get my bags and leave within the hour, sir.”

 “As much as I appreciate your expediency, Mr. Barlow, you might want to wait for your companions. That way you only have to take one steamer.”

“Companions?”

“I’m sending you out with Newman and Galvan. They’re Catholic and less,” he made a vague gesture at Oliver’s person, “so they’ll smooth things over for you. It’s for the best that they go in first. The nuns are already jumpy.”

And you’ll make it worse. Oliver clenched his fist behind his back even as he nodded in agreement. “Yes, sir. I’ll meet them upstairs shortly, then.”

“Good. I knew you would be reasonable.” Head Inspector Williams took a step toward the door to leave but turned and said, “If you could clear this matter up quickly, I’d appreciate it. No dog and pony show if it isn’t necessary. Not everyone needs to be sliced and diced, you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied tightly.

When the head inspector left, Oliver stood very still watching the shut door. For his entire life, he had heard the same thing: too brusque, too to the point, too honest, too you, too much. He could make himself as small as possible and they would still say it; they still did. Sighing silently, he gathered all the things he would need into a gladstone bag and prepared himself mentally for the ride to the West Bronx. His hopes of avoiding Galvan were dashed, but luckily, the man would probably not want to talk to him anyway after how he bolted. Locking the laboratory door behind him, Oliver eyed the plaque that read, Oliver Barlow, Medical Examiner. It should have read, Oliver Barlow, unsuitable, as always.


If you’re excited to read The Reanimator’s Heart, you can preorder your ebook copy at all major retailers by clicking this link.

Writing

On Writing For Your Best Reader

So I saw this screenshot on Twitter from an interview with Melissa Febos and it made me think a lot about what a lot of writers grapple with, especially writers that haven’t been publishing for very long. You can read it below.

There is a fundamental difference between not wanting to accidentally include something that is racist or -phobic (aka being a conscientious writer) and constantly worrying about what someone might say about your work. The former is being responsible. The latter is setting yourself up for failure.

Someone will always interpret your work in the worst way possible. Someone who doesn’t like you or started off your work on a bad foot will read it wrong. They will purposefully skew things and misinterpret them, just as they would something you said online or in real life. It is an inevitability. I’ve had reviews of my books where the reader thought I was referencing something I had never heard of or media I’ve never actually interacted with/watched. It’s going to happen, but the best thing to do is say, “This book isn’t for you.”

My book isn’t for that reader. My writing, my characters, my genres, my inner voice isn’t meant for that reader.

There’s a push online for universality of work. That things should be sanitized for everyone’s palates. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t be “offensive.” Offensive doesn’t even mean racist or -phobic in this sense. It’s just don’t upset other people, which is, frankly, ridiculous. My mere existence as a nonbinary, queer, neurodivergent person upsets some people. Should I stop? Should I sanitize myself to placate others?

In the same vein, we can’t neutralize fiction to avoid things that could upset people simply because you don’t want to see a bad review or have someone be rude to you on Twitter. We put up trigger or content warnings as a heads-up to keep from ruining someone’s day. That’s enough. You’ve given people warning. They have time to opt out before they get too deep or brace themselves knowing it’s coming. If they continue on or don’t read the warning, that is on them.

I used to get upset when I would get homophobic reviews on my books. I still do when I see my second book get returned on Amazon. That means someone read book 1, totally missed the heavy pro-queer message and got upset when book 2 focused on a gay couple. Those people aren’t my readers. A part of me relishes that they were offended. Good. Be mad. I did my job.

After eight books, I know who I write for. I write for other queer people who want to see themselves in stories set in the past, to know that they could have had a happy ending. That the world can be messy and cruel but there will be people who love and support you. You just have to find them or carve a place for yourself regardless of what others think. I write for the people who want that, and I market my books while highlighting those things.

New/young writers, I am begging you to write for yourself first and write for the people who would love your books second. Do not be under the illusion that everyone will love your books or that you need to write for the largest swathe of people possible. Yes, that will help with marketability, but is it fulfilling? Are you happy writing stories for people who wouldn’t appreciate you as a person? People who would read your book and enjoy it but not support you as a person are not your audience, or at least, I don’t think they are. I will happily take money from cis straight people who enjoy my work, but I’m not writing for them.

Being an author or creative in general means making yourself vulnerable. You’re flaying yourself open in your art for people to see the bits of you beneath the surface: the dreamer, the darkness, the sadness, the hope, the traumas we’ve maybe not spoken of aloud but permeate our work. Locking those things away to avoid scrutiny will leave your work flat. You can’t present yourself as the perfect person or your work as the paragon of goodness and still make something worth reading. People are messy. Characters are messy and should be. As creatives, I think we often need to have a long hard look at purity culture and remember that it upholds white supremacy and its values. Would you rather have someone misinterpret your characters in bad faith or uphold white supremacist values by sanitizing yourself and your work?

The answer feels pretty clear cut to me. Any time someone tells you to take things that aren’t truly offensive (aka not ableist, racist, -phobic) out of your book/work, ask yourself why? What standard is this upholding? If it has anything to do with goodness or purity, I’d think long and hard before changing it.

Monthly Review

August 2022 Wrap-Up Post

Somehow August was simultaneously the longest and shortest month. This was probably due to teaching a summer class that went at a breakneck pace while trying to finish up my book launch prep.

  • 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

Books

My goal was to read 8 books in August, and I read 10 books.

  1. Cafe con Lychee by Emery Lee- 4 stars, two teens who don’t get along band together to save their parents’ businesses
  2. Her Unexpected Roommate (#5) by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, absolutely loved these two, high anxiety MC meets human golden retriever MC is always a good combo
  3. Empty Smiles (#4) by Katherine Arden- 4 stars, a decent wrap up of this MG horror series
  4. The City of Brass (#1) by S. A. Chakraborty- 5 stars, I finished reading it and sat back like wtf and immediately looked for the sequel on my shelf
  5. Second Spear (#2) by Kerstin Hall- 4 stars, such good world-building in this book. A creepy world with a maze and a Cheshire Cat grin, yes please
  6. Fence: Rise (#5) by C.S. Pacat and Joanna the Mad- 4 stars, another bridge volume but I liked seeing the two MCs getting closer (though this is the slowest of burns ever)
  7. The Governess Affair (#0.5) by Courtney Milan- 4 stars, a vengeful accountant/”fixer” bringing down a duke because he hurt the woman he’s falling for is chef kiss
  8. The Duchess War (#1) by Courtney Milan- 4 stars, a historical romance between a duke trying to level the playing field for society by destroying the upper class from the inside out
  9. Saga (#7) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 5 stars, reading in preparation for volume 10 coming out in October
  10. A Kiss for Midwinter (#1.5) by Courtney Milan- 4 stars, the ending sort of saved this book for me as I found the dynamic of the two MCs grating at times

Admin/Behind-the-scenes Author Stuff

  • Did round 1 of edits on The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Did round 2 of [micro] edits on The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Sent out ARCs of The Reanimator’s Heart to reviewers and peers
  • Incorporated beta reader feedback
  • Proof-read The Reanimator’s Heart and did all those edits (*laugh sob* should have done that BEFORE sending ARCs out)
  • Asked a few people to potentially blurb The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Formatted the paperback and ordered a proof copy, which looks awesome
  • Formatted the Kindle/Epub editions of the book (final, hopefully)
  • Set up all my pre-fall semester stuff for my classes (syllabi and Blackboard accounts- also realized I could clone Blackboards from previous semester, so yay time savings)
  • Taught my 3 week summer class and survived, lol
  • Made multiple book graphics

Blogs Posted


Writing

So there isn’t much to talk about here since I finished The Reanimator’s Heart in July. What I did do is plot part of my newsletter freebie “Flowers and Flourishing,” which I hope will not grow into a giant novel. *whispers* Please stay a novella or smaller; I am begging you.

This will follow characters you’ll meet in The Reanimator’s Heart but follows the format of Kinship and Kindness by being a queer romance featuring a shifter and a trans character, so it’s a sort of bridge between both series as they both involve the NYC Paranormal Society. In this case, it’s F/F romance with a lesbian jaguar shifter and a bi trans woman. The former is in a lavender marriage with one of the main characters in The Reanimator’s Heart.

PS- you can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart here.


Hopes for September

  • Maintain my mental health and a decent work-life balance while grading/teaching
  • Make my goals for quarter 4
  • Writing goal of 10k/12k/14k of “Flowers and Flourishing”
  • Deal with any last minute book BS that comes up for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Blog weekly and put out my monthly newsletter
  • Maybe make another book trailer/Tiktok for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • 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.

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.

Monthly Review

May 2022 Wrap-Up Post

Ah, May. The month when my allergies beat me up and steal my lunch money every year. But the semester is over, the grading is done, and I can fully invest my time in my work. I know we aren’t completely done with May, but I think the end of the 29th is good enough to capture most of what I have done. If anything earth-shattering happens those last two days, I’ll edit and add them. Let’s take a look at what my goals were for May.

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal: 15k
    • True goal: 17k
    • Stretch goal 19k
  • Blog Weekly
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Finish majority of room/office clean up
  • Play video games and craft more to unwind
  • Do a craft for fun (I’ve been slacking)

Let’s see how it went.


Books

I set out to read 8 books, and I read 8 books in May.

  1. The Hellion’s Waltz (#3) by Olivia Waite- 4 stars, wonderful sapphic historical romance between a union activist/weaver and a piano teacher
  2. Along the Saltwise Sea (#2) by A. Deborah Baker (aka Seanan McGuire)- 4 stars, a middle grade story with a sort of Wizard of Oz style voice and adventure
  3. Love Bites (Southern Gothic series) by Magen Cubed- 4 stars, origin short story for the Leather and Lace series. It’s interesting to see how the story developed and expanded
  4. How to Train Your Pet Human (Southern Gothic series) by Magen Cubed- 5 stars, erotic short stories attached to the characters from Leather and Lace. As always, Cash and Dorian are hilarious and wonderful
  5. Siren Queen by Nghi Vo- 4 stars, a sapphic historical-fantasy story set in pre-Hayes Code Hollywood, horrific and glorious
  6. The 7 Days Author Guide to Book Advertising by Matthew J Holmes- 4 stars, useful in deciding what sort of ads to use and how they differ, not very specific or fleshed out
  7. Saga (#3) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading in preparation for volume 10’s release in October
  8. Fevered Star (#2) by Rebecca Roanhorse- 4 stars, fantastic second book in a Meso/Indigenous American inspired world

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Researched AMS ads and ran one (yay for trying new things)
  • Made a book trailer and posted it on TikTok
  • Ran a free book ad with Free Booksy that was a FLOP, as far as paid promotion goes
  • Created a book launch/pre-order checklist for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Made a list of keywords for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Finished grading and posted my students’ grades
  • Brainstormed the future newsletter freebie “Jasmine and Jaguars”
  • I have been working on my disaster of a room/office. I have organized all my clothes/purged the ones I don’t want, thrown out a metric shit ton of my childhood toys and junk, organized my books and purged the ones I no longer want. I have the vast majority of the work done. The only things left to tackle is some more childhood stuff that needs to go and getting rid of old furniture.

Blogs Posted


Writing

My goal this month was to add 15,000 words at a minimum, and I am currently on track to hit that if I write 1,000 words a day for the next few days. I think I can do it, but it might be close or I might fall slightly short. Either way, it’s fine. My stats below do not include the 30th or 31st of May.

  • Week 1- 2,700 words and 2 missed days, 540 words/writing day
  • Week 2- 2,600 words and 3 missed days, 650 words/writing day
  • Week 3- 2,700 words and 3 missed days, 675 words/writing day
  • Week 4- 5,100 words and 0 missed days, 729 words/writing day

So this month has been a mixed bag as you can see from above. I’m not 100% sure what sort of went wrong this month, but I have a few ideas. First is that I hit the second half of act two. In terms of plotting, that is the hardest spot for me because it requires weaving all the threads you’ve created and load them up for act three where they must tie together and make a satisfying, coherent ending. This is where I end up pausing the most while working to make sure I’m staying on track. The second issue was my mom being home several days due to it being her birthday month, which threw me off along with the post-semester change in schedule. That transition period always trips me up. Ultimately, the tragedies toward the latter half of the month have been hard to deal with. I alternate between throwing myself into my work to deal and being so numbed out that I can’t do anything.

Shockingly, I’m very happy with what I’ve written so far this month, which I hope will continue as I move into June. The Reanimator’s Heart should be fully written by the middle of July, fingers crossed. I edit as I go, so the hope is that there will be minimal large scale issues to fix.


Hopes for June

I still haven’t done any crafts or really played any of my video games this month. I’m hoping I can find better balance in June and actually do some things to refill my creative well besides reading. I have a few needle felting kits that are small projects, so I may try doing those to see if I can at least complete one project this quarter. Below are 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
Writing

Fighting the Process

I love writing.

Now, picture me grimacing as I say it. I do love writing, but toward the second half of a book, I find myself fighting the process as it changes.

To me, there’s a big difference in how I write the first half versus the second half of a book. Think about the first half as laying down railroad tracks. I need to set everything up, I’m building, I’m adding. It all has to make sense and get me to a certain destination. Now, the second half is driving the train on those tracks. It’s more dangerous, it requires more focus, and I need to slow down around certain turns or I might run us off the tracks completely.

Every book I resist the slow down in the second half of the book. I know that the second half of act two needs the most careful attention because it’s where everything gets more complicated, but those complications have to rely on things I’ve already laid down in act one and the first half of act two rather than new things. Loose ends must be braided together, they have to make sense, and some mysteries even need to be tied up before the third act. It’s a complicated balancing act, and as someone generally lacking in forethought, it creates a bit of a problem because I need to parse out where I’m going before I start writing.

This leads to the bottleneck problem. I don’t want to just write anything to get my daily word count in, so I get stuck, stop writing for a few days, and fall behind. This leads to me freaking out that I’m falling behind and things are horrible. I start questioning the quality of the book or if I’m smart enough to figure out how to get it to the end. I become a mess. Sadly, this is also part of the second half of act two process. Don’t worry, I’ll think I’m brilliant again in act three when words pour forth with relative ease. But for about 20,000 words I’m very annoyed at myself because bridging the gap between all I’ve built and where I know I need to end up isn’t easy.

I would argue that the second half of act two is the hardest part of writing a book. It runs from midpoint to climax/final battle, and everything you build in the first half of the book needs to come to an emotional and physical head here while still making sense. The third act is probably the easiest for me. It’s all downhill from there. Everything I’ve written is coming to a crescendo, and typically, I know where I want the story to end up fairly early on. It’s the amorphous middle that causes me the most stress.

Something I’ve noticed with my last few books (because I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the process aspect of my writing) is that what works in act one and act two part one does not work in act two part two. At the beginning, I just sort of wing it, then tidy, then wing it, etc., at the halfway point I do a major edit, and while I write, I create some semblance of organization by creating an outline of what I’ve already written (I have a whole blog post on this). This helps me to avoid rereading my book over and over as I move forward. This is a process I’ve been doing since I started writing. It feels natural and works for me. The problem is that none of this works in the second half due to all the loose ends.

I struggled really hard with the second half of The Wolf Witch and Kinship and Kindness, and unfortunately, The Reanimator’s Heart is following in their footsteps. What I’m trying to do now is not fight the process and do what might actually help in the moment. There’s often a disconnect in my mind of what will help and what I think will help. I tend to assume I don’t need to make a small outline or I don’t need to take notes, I’ll remember (famous last words from someone whose brain is like a colander). What I’ve found that is helping is, shockingly, TAKING NOTES on what I need to make sure I incorporate in later chapters or things that I’ve introduced that need to be tied up later. My other go-to is making index cards with scenes on them because I find it difficult to figure out the order of operations with the major moments I need to hit.

I’d like to parse out why I suddenly become resistant to changing tactics in order to move forward. Part of it is I don’t want to admit that I am struggling with a particular part of the book. There’s a lot of internal chanting of “the words will come if I just relax, refill the creative well, and let them flow.” If it’s been more than a day and they haven’t come, they need to be forced out (unless you’re burnt out). The first step to writing more is admitting you are stuck. The other issue, I think, is a little more convoluted. Sometimes I think not changing tactics is almost self-punishment, like I can’t not be trying to write. How dare I take time away from staring at Word to do anything else! I catch myself doing this a lot.

What I’m trying to do now is when I feel myself getting stuck but pulling toward a certain tactic, I lean into it. Subconsciously, I must know I need it or that it might help, but I’m always afraid that I’m just procrastinating by making cards or writing out bulleted notes, etc. I’ve noticed that often when I get stuck, it’s because my subconscious has realized I messed up and my conscious brain needs to catch up. The problem is trusting that inner voice and actually listening to it because the part of my brain focused on productivity just wants to plow through.

This post is really me trying process what I’ve been dealing with these past few weeks as I dive headfirst into the second half of act two.

I must trust the process.

I must be willing to put in the time to create aids that will make writing easier.

I must understand that refilling my creative well and those aids are necessary for my process.

Finally, I must understand that the writing process changes depending on the stage of writing I’m on, and that I must be willing to be flexible and adapt to what is happening me in the moment.

Personal Life · Writing

When a Happy Ending is an Act of Defiance

I’ve been struggling to think of what to say this past week. Or really the past month or so, because most of my thoughts amount to “I have lots of feelings, none of them good.”

Living in the US, I have been constantly surrounded by headlines about overturning reproductive healthcare/abortion, attacks on queer relationships, and transphobic laws that seem to want to stamp out our existence. It’s so much all at once that it’s mind-numbing. I’m a nonbinary person with a uterus, and while my reproductive health is somewhat secure due to steps my partner and I have previously taken, this is all a lot. I think for anyone who gives a shit about other people, this past month has been a lot.

I’m tired, my brain feels pulled in a hundred directions, and I feel the negativity creeping through my veins because a very loud minority has decided I shouldn’t exist and many of my friends shouldn’t exist. Or if they do, it’s only on their terms.

And it has made it very hard to write lately. The weight of hatred and uncertainty looms over me constantly, but it reminds me why I started writing in the first place.

Back in 2014, we were still fighting to have same-sex marriage recognized. States were facing lawsuits after banning it even after it was legalized country-wide. Anti-queer sentiment was overt, loud, and just as painful as it is now. I remember staring at my books with their cast of queer characters and wondering if there was still a place in the world for me. Publishers were still pushing queer characters to the sidelines or cutting queer plotlines all together unless they were not on the page. I’ve written before about why I self-published, so I won’t stay on it too long, but the sidelining of queer characters/relationships was why I decided to self-publish. No publisher or company or anyone but me could make my characters straight.

Writing queer characters who eventually got their happily ever after was an act of defiance. In romance, marriage is the usual happily ever after because that’s what cis het M/F couples do. It’s recognizable, it’s legally binding, it’s overt. I wanted that for my characters even if that wasn’t legally possible in the 1890s. The next best thing was a faux wedding (as seen in Dead Magic‘s binding ceremony), but having queer characters find each other, love each other, live closely, and be recognized as a couple by their friends and family was still defiance.

When you write anything involving historical elements and queer characters, reviewers will toss back in your face that “being gay was illegal” back then. Well, so was prostitution, adultery, theft, and murder, yet all those happened as well and no one complains when they read about those things in historical romance. The double standard is eye-roll inducing, but each of those obnoxious reviews spurred me to write more queer characters and eventually more trans characters.

In the back of Kinship and Kindness, I even included a short further reading section about trans people in the 1800s. So many lived normal lives where they worked regular jobs, socialized, and even married. Often, the weren’t even outed as trans until after death, but people don’t want to take into account that people could blend in or that their communities protected them or at least looked the other way if they knew. We all know of famous supposedly straight historical figures who had a “roommate they were really close to” or “a dear friend” they often holidayed with in the South of France that people still refuse to believe were some flavor of queer.

When we write queer characters during times that feel fraught, it is an act of defiance. Writing their lives is a declaration of our existence, our struggles, our love for each other. The stories don’t have to be happy. Their lives don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) perfect. But writing queer characters into existence as complex, real people is hammering home that we cannot be stamped out. We will not disappear.

I’ve been trying to remind myself of this as I work on my writing. My projects matter even when the world feels like it’s pressing in. There’s always the hope that someone will see themselves in my characters and feel better for a time or lose themselves in whatever drama is playing out. The Reanimator’s Heart has a society of paranormals where people are more likely to be queer than not, and there’s also a lavender marriage where each participant has a partner of their own (one of which is a sapphic trans woman and the other is an autistic gay man). Even if it’s the mid 1890s, everyone manages to live a fulfilling life and eventually find happiness, and that matters.

If you’re writing queer books right now, no matter how bleak it feels, it still matters. Someone out there is clinging to your work in this storm.