Friday, November 25, 2022

Black Friday Book Sale Alert!


Hey'a, everyone! I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving yesterday — or, if you're outside the US of A, an excellent Thursday. I'm just popping in to remind y'all that all five of my published books — Blood in the SnowMechanical HeartThe Midnight ShowGilded in Ice, and Mask of Scarlet — are on sale for $0.99 each as part of the Perry Kirkpatrick Black Friday book sale! This sale runs from Black Friday (today, November 25) through Cyber Monday and includes literal hundreds of clean and Christian indie reads from authors like Kendra E. Ardnek, Jaye L. Knight, Tara Grayce, Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, H.L. Burke, and myself. There's free and $0.99 ebooks, plus some special deals on print and audiobooks. You can click the images below to go straight to my sale listings, or you can browse the whole sale.





Through a Shattered Glass is not included in the sale . . . but ARC requests are still open if you're a reviewer eager to give it a read, and we're still looking for people to join in the Broken Mirrors release tour. So if either of those sound appealing, make sure you sign up!

Have you checked out the Black Friday sale yet? Which books in it are you eyeing up? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 18, 2022

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 6: Novmeber 2022


Hello, everyone! Once again, my Taleweaver's Desk update is coming out a month after I originally intended it to; if this happens a third time, I'm going to have to think about permanently adjusting the schedule. In any case, the post is here now, and that's the important thing. As a reminder, On the Taleweaver's Desk is my quarterly broad-view update on my writing projects. If you want to know more about any project in this post, you can ask me in comments or take a look at my Works in Progress page. Also, you may notice that a couple projects have been removed from the list. This doesn't mean I've abandoned them entirely; it just means that they're not currently a significant enough consideration to include.

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 6: November 2022

On the Desktop

These are the projects you might find open on my laptop or desk if you took a peek at it during a normal day. They're currently in progress and at the top of the priority chart.

Through a Shattered Glass

What is it? A dark-ish portal fantasy remix of Lewis Carroll's Alice books combined with The Snow Queen.

Status: Almost fully edited and in the process of being formatted! Anyone want to sign up for the release tour?

I'm really pleased with how Through a Shattered Glass came out after my beta feedback, and I can hardly believe that there's only a month left before it releases into the world! I'm currently working on getting it formatted so I can send out ARCs and upload it to Amazon well in advance of the release date. Speaking of which, don't forget to preorder it on Amazon so you can get it as soon as it comes out — or, if you want it even sooner and you have a place to review it, request an ARC! And, of course, we're currently taking signups for the release tour; if you have any form of social media, blog, or newsletter, you can help — there are options for any level of commitment. 

Bastian Dennel, PI #4

What is it? Book 4 in my Bastian Dennel, PI series and my first murder mystery.

Status: Seventeen chapters drafted and counting.

My work on this story hit a few hiccups at the start, but it's been coming along at a slow-but-steady pace since I restarted. There's lots of interesting character dynamics to work with, so that's nice. The most stressful bits have been keeping my timeline in order, balancing POVs, and making sure characters find the right information at the right time. I'm hoping I'll be able to pick up the pace on this soon, as I'd like to have it drafted by the end of the year.

D&D Campaign: Defenders of Serys

What is it? Defenders of Serys is the homebrew D&D campaign that I run for my D&D group.

Status: Still slowly writing the Middle Earth adventure, currently a session or two ahead.

My aim lately has been to write a little bit of D&D stuff each week, and that's worked out so far. I don't think that the Middle Earth adventure will be done by the end of the year unless the group decides to go home early, but that's ok. The fact that we're playing through an established story makes it easier for me to figure out things that need to happen, if nothing else. And we've been trying some new things, including some optional rules, to help keep things moving smoothly, and they've gone over well for the most part.

Stacked on the Side

These are the stories that I'm not actively working on (at least not officially), but I'm keeping close at hand because I plan to get back to them soon (or I just work on them sporadically as the urge takes me).

There are no significant changes to any of these projects since my last update, but I'll leave the list here for anyone who hasn't seen it before!

Blood in the Earth

What is it? Blood in the Earth is the sequel to Blood in the Snow and a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with the myth of Hades and Persephone.

Status: First draft finished; awaiting rewrites. I probably won't get back to it until late 2023 at this point due to all the Bastian Dennel, PI books I have planned.

Once Upon a Dream

What is it? A light steampunk (or gaslamp fantasy?) Sleeping Beauty retelling; the predecessor to The Midnight Show

Status: Edited several times over. Awaiting another round of rewrites/expansion/edits.

Shelved for Now

These are stories that are also on hold, but which I don't have specific plans to work on very soon. They're still within easy reach should I decide to return to them, but they aren't a top priority.

There are no significant changes to any of these projects since my last update, but I'll leave the list here for anyone who hasn't seen it before!

Dust of Silver

What is it? Classic-ish fantasy retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with Rapunzel, the first book in what has the potential to be a rather long series. Also, a rewrite of a book I wrote years ago that won't let go of me because CHARACTERS.

Status: Several chapters into the rewrite, though those several chapters haven't been touched in a few years.

Between Two Worlds

What is it? A portal fantasy adventure about what happens when you come home from the adventure, only to discover that the adventure isn't quite as done with you as you thought.

Status: Awaiting another round of edits/rewrites while I write other things and daydream about its sequels.

The Way of the Pen

What is it? Self-aware fantasy adventure about a girl and her author.

Status: The first draft is sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting for its turn back in the spotlight, as it has been for some time. Of everything in this section, this is the most likely book to move up to Stacked on the Side or On the Desktop, as I occasionally have wild thoughts of editing it and shopping it 'round to traditional publisher

Berstru Tales series

What is it? A classic epic fantasy series and the longest-running series I've worked on (either in the number of books written or in how long I've worked on it.

Status: Needs to be rewritten from the ground up, but the bones are good. There's a particular character who's getting a whole new arc, and I'm really excited to write it . . . when I have time.

Awaiting Delivery

These are the stories that are on their way, but haven't quite arrived yet to the point where I can write them: ideas I'm toying with but haven't even started to draft because they're still too nebulous.

Additional Bastian Dennel, PI novels

What is it? Exactly what the heading said.

Status: Books 5 and 6 have been locked in as far as plots and source stories go — barring calamity, Book 5 will be Jack and the Beanstalk, and Book 6 will be The Little Mermaid (plus a surprise non-fairytale that will be revealed at a later date). I'm hoping Book 5 will be short to make up for the fact that Book 6 will almost certainly not be. I am very excited for both stories, especially Book 6 — I've been doing a lot of planning for it via brainstorming chats with one of my author friends (hi, Wyn), and it's just going to be so good. Another reason I want to hurry up and finish Book 4, ha! Past those two, I have another three ideas that are reasonably solid in terms of what fairy tale I want to retell (The Goose Girl, The Nutcracker, and part of the story of Pwyll, Prince of Dyved) and how they'll fit into Bastian's world, though I don't know exactly what order they'll land in.

Novellas from the world of Blood in the Snow

What are they? Currently, three ideas for spinoffs, most of which are also fairy tale retellings: one Puss in Boots (no, really), one Orpheus and Eurydice (probably crossed with a similar Japanese myth, Izanagi and Izanami), and one that's not currently a fairy tale retelling but would be about Gan and Azuma before they were animal-keepers at the emperor's palace (inspired the summer I spent watching a lot of Hogan's Heroes).

Status: Won't be written until after I edit Blood in the Earth.

Unnamed Fantasy Murder Mystery

What is it? Exactly what the headline says. A prominent noble is murdered; his adoptive daughter is poised to inherit his lands and position — but some are saying her hand was behind his death.

Status: Still just an idea, but it's an idea with a really good soundtrack. Still not going to be tackled until after Blood in the Earth.

What projects (writing or otherwise) are you currently working on? Any guesses what non-fairytale I'm planning to mix with The Little Mermaid? Have you signed up for the Broken Mirrors Release Tour yet? Tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Why I Love the Schlock Mercenary Webcomic

Hello all! Over the last couple weeks, I have been rereading Schlock Mercenary, a completed sci-fi adventure webcomic chronicling the escapades of a group of space mercenaries as they get into and out of trouble in their repeated efforts to stay alive, make payroll, and repeatedly save the galaxy. Some of you — possibly a fair number of you — may have heard of it already; it ran consistently for twenty years, and it was nominated for a few awards in that time (and I'm not sure which of those is the bigger accomplishment). However, knowing my audience, I wouldn't be surprised if a good number of y'all either haven't heard of it or heard of it and wrote it off. So, given that it has occupied a lot of my brainspace lately — and also given that there's currently a Kickstarter running to get Book 17 in print — I figured I'd share my thoughts on it.

(Side note — you absolutely should go check out the Kickstarter, especially if you already love the webcomic but haven't been keeping up with news since it ended. There's lots of shiny stuff. Also, stretch goals! Most have already been reached, but there are some recently-added ones still to go!)

Why I Love the Schlock Mercenary Webcomic

  1. It's a huge, weird, colorful universe, alien in the best possible way. Reading Schlock Mercenary, you get the impression that a major part of Howard Tayler's worldbuilding method is asking "What would be the weirdest, most fun option?" and then following that up with, "How can I make that work in a way that's believable?" And let me tell you, he does a magnificent job of answering both questions, creating a galaxy that's vibrant and strange and full of weird, wonderful life with equally weird (but sometimes less wonderful) cultures — where you can have a superintelligent AI puppetmaster whose avatar happens to look like a cuddly koala, a sweet-natured, terrifyingly efficient mech-bug medic (for whom internal organs are semi-optional), amorphs like the title character, and more. Everything feels believable, lived-in, down to specific idioms used by particular alien races.
  2. Even the most alien characters and cultures are very human in the important ways. Very few, if any, of the Schlock Mercenary characters are perfect heroes. Tagon and his Toughs don't have a problem with saving the day, but once it's been saved, they'd like to end it with a heavy paycheck (and if they can get paid twice, even better). Petey and the Fleetmind want to protect the galaxy, but they'll cross lines and manipulate both friends and enemies as necessary in order to achieve their goals. Morally grey is possibly the term I would apply, if it didn't conjure up associations of angsty, goth-adjacent anti-heroes. But the humanness, the fact that these characters' natural inclination is so obviously not always towards doing good, is what makes their character growth and the many, many times when they choose to act heroically despite everything truly sing.
  3. It's harder sci-fi without being intimidating. TV Tropes categorizes it as being in the "Physics Plus" category, which means it's almost entirely scientifically plausible. And it's impossible to miss the fact that Tayler has put an immense amount of thought into How Stuff Works on pretty much every level, which is a good thing, given that many of the overarching plotlines stem from technology and its effects on culture and the world. However, you don't have to be an engineer to keep up — Tayler works the important explanation into the story in a way that's natural and easy to read, and bonus information goes in footnotes for those who want it. And as I've already touched on, this doesn't have the grim, cynical, and angsty vibe that I, at least, tend to associate with a lot of other hard sci-fi. In fact . . .
  4. It's just the perfect balance of humor and seriousness. Yes, it's a joke-a-day webcomic. Yes, every strip ends with a punchline. Yes, as I already said, there's a lot of worldbuilding and character elements that probably had their start in "You know what would be really funny?" And yes, most of the humor is very good, especially once you get past the first few storylines (which do contain a higher percentage of "haha, gender-based stereotype"/"haha, innuendo"/"haha, you know what the main character resembles?" than the rest of the comic). But this is also a story about courage and sacrifice and friendship. It's a story about being a leader and making the tough choices that come with that. It's a story about free will and what it means to have it. It is a story that, to paraphrase my favorite Sanderson quote, doesn't tell you what to think, but certainly asks you to think and gives you questions to think upon. Like all great stories, it rewards whatever amount of thought and effort you put into it — but even if you only put in a little, you can get a lot out. (And, if you ask me, it takes an astonishing amount to do as much as this story does while still delivering on the humor side of things.)
  5. I am forever astonished at how Howard Tayler can turn a throwaway detail (or joke) into a magnificent plot twist. This is, obviously, hard to discuss without giving away spoilers, which is why you should read the comic if you haven't already (and also why you shouldn't skip the early strips if you can avoid doing so). Suffice it to say that just because something is silly does not mean it's not important and that, when it comes to storytelling cleverness, Tayler is in the same class with Brandon Sanderson (appropriate, since they have a podcast together) and Megan Whalen Turner.

Have you read Schlock Mercenary? What did you think of it — and if you're a fan, what makes you love the series? On the other hand, if you haven't read it yet, have I successfully tempted you to give it a try? It's long (twenty years of daily comics!), but extremely bingeable. If that much comic sounds kind of intimidating (or if you're giving the early art a sceptical side-eye), you can pick up with the Longshoreman of the Apocalypse storyline, which is about halfway through and will give you a good feel for the characters and storytelling style. (That said, if you find you enjoy it, I do recommend going back and reading from the beginning! There's a lot of good stuff, and it's fun to watch the art evolve.) Whatever you think, please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 4, 2022

A Superhero for Christmas Release Tour: Interview with H.L. Burke


Hello hello! This week, I'm hopping on the release festivity train for H.L. Burke's newest release, A Superhero for Christmas, which comes out tomorrow, November 5. This Supervillain Rehabilitation Project spinoff is a crossover between two genres: superhero action and Hallmark holiday-esque rom-com. I've really enjoyed Heidi's SVR books, and this was no exception. You can head over to Light and Shadows to find out what I liked, but before you do that, I have an interview with Heidi here in which we chat about story inspiration, the challenges of long series, and the best SVR character to make cookies with. Oh, and there's also a giveaway you can check out, wherein you can win a Superhero for Christmas gift basket and a Supervillain Rehabilitation Project ebook library. First, however, let's get the scoop on the book and author.

About . . .

A Superhero for Christmas

When superhero, Glint's, aka Henry Nichols's, powers go on the fritz after a supervillain attack, he finds himself rethinking his priorities. Years of devotion to public service have left him with little for himself, and with forty swiftly approaching, he finds himself longing for his youth on his grandfather's farm. An incognito vacation is just what he needs.

Former reporter Lara Landis lost her career and her only long-term relationship all in one humiliating blow. Broke and rudderless, she retreats to her parents' small town grocery store to try and make one last career rally, but how is she going to get a big scoop living in the middle of nowhere? When a poorly disguised superhero lands in her neighborhood, insisting that he's just a normal guy, she can't help but smell a story.

As their chance encounters turn into a begrudging friendship, Lara is surprised to find a caring, sincere human beneath Henry's press-conference-ready exterior. When the truth comes out, though, her big story could turn into his worst nightmare.

Order on Amazon || Add on Goodreads || Discover the SVR series


H.L. Burke

H. L. Burke has written more books than she can count—because she's written a lot of books, not just because she can't count very high. Easily distracted by shinies, she has published in many subgenres including fantasy romance, Steampunk, and superhero, and always creates story worlds with snark, feels, and wonder.

Married to her high school crush, she spends her time writing, spoiling her cat, and supervising her two supervillains in training (aka her precocious daughters).

An Oregon native, she wilts without trees and doesn't mind the rain. She is a fan of delicious flavor, a follower of the Light, and a believer in happily ever after.

Find Heidi online at: Author Website || Facebook || Instagram || Twitter


Interview with H.L. Burke

Welcome to the blog, Heidi! To start out, please tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, what are your favorite hobbies (aside from writing) or favorite books (outside your own), and do you prefer coffee or tea?

Hobbies: I’m a bit of a gamer. Currently most Lord of the Rings Online and Stardew Valley but I’ll dabble in other games from time to time. I do crochet a bit. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for a little while now, and I think I’m starting to finally get the hang of it. I’ve got a level 10 Wizard who gets into trouble and some alts for smaller campaigns, and I’ve even DM’d a couple of one-off sessions.

Favorite books: Lord of the Rings, Coraline, Brother’s Dostoevsky, Cancer Ward, The Little Prince … those are my top five.

Coffee or Tea: insert “why not both” meme? Generally, it’s coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

I've seen some of your posts about your D&D adventures, and it sounds like y'all have a lot of fun. Where did you get the initial idea for A Superhero for Christmas, and did you come upon any other sources of inspiration while you were writing it?

So, Glint, the main character (or at least half of the main couple, romances kind of split the MC focus between the male and female) is a long-time character in my superhero universe, and he started out as kind of a joke character. The idea was that he was a cheesy Superman stand-in that was so into the role that it kind of became his whole personality … but apparently I can’t write joke characters because even in his first appearance he has some moments of really distinct humanity, and as he continued to show up and kind of mature, I realized that he was really lonely.

He’s the son of a politician who pushed him to always be the best but who valued appearance over sincerity, but Glint’s main quality is that he is super sincere. He doesn’t appear that way but it’s because he’s bought into the idea of being the perfect hero. It’s not just a mask for him. It’s what he identifies as, what he thinks he has to be in order to be “enough,” but when that’s your whole focus, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for vulnerability and making connections. When he let his “cape slip” in Power Up (the fourth book in my young adult series in this world) to come to a friend out of uniform to warn her that something was going down off the record, I kind of stared at this scene and realized that this is a guy who deep down really just wants someone to accept him for who he is but doesn’t see his own value outside of the spectacle and his ability to do his job well.

So … what would happen if you took that job away from him? What if he HAD to interact as a normal human for a while?

The fact that he was originally envisioned as kind of a Superman parody made me think of having his love interest be a reporter, and after that the story kind of wrote itself. I realized the plot I had in mind was super Hallmark, so I just nudged it into Christmas for the final cherry on top.

Makes sense. I really enjoyed getting into Glint's head when I was reading this book. Now, A Superhero for Christmas is the twelfth book in your superhero universe — that’s a pretty long time to spend in one set of series, especially for an indie author. What are some things you love about this story and storyworld that have kept you writing in it so long?

It’s the possibilities. I generally speaking design a world around what a story needs when I’m world-building. I’m practical that way. If I’m not going to use the city’s financial system or its history back thousands of generations or what sort of trees grow in the woods, I do not bother to incorporate it into my world-building. So most of my worlds are designed tightly around what the story needs and once I’ve used that up, there’s not a ton more to explore. Maybe little elements but they rarely catch my attention.

Similarly, I prefer a smaller cast of characters generally, so there aren’t a lot of side characters who are demanding spin-offs.

By its very nature, superheroes have a huge expansive world because it’s OUR world. Like I normally wouldn’t envision much outside the city the story takes place in, but because my world has Oceanside and San Diego, it is assumed that it also has New York, Chicago, DC, and if I say there’s a superhero team in most major cities, then we HAVE to believe there are heroes in all those places. A lot of times I’ll end up populating a team just for a one-off scene and I’ll end up with new characters who tend to have their own stories.

Glint is a perfect example of this. He originally existed as the team leader a city over from my lead characters who would show up when they needed support. Now he’s got his own book… maybe two?

It’s also become multi-generational as characters have families. It’s a lot more like real life than the tightly controlled systems I’ve written for single books or even a single series.

I guess that's an advantage of writing in a variation of the real world! And I have to say, I really like that you include that multi-generational element. On the flip side, what challenges have you run up against in writing such a long set of connected stories, even split up across multiple series, and how have you worked through those difficulties?

Timelines. I don’t usually keep track of these that closely. I might scribble down a few dates here and there on the notepad I keep next to my computer to keep a timeline straight for a book, but with this one, multiple books, sometimes overlapping, I’ve had to start a spreadsheet and mark down where each story takes place on it and how old the characters are.

The second is just names. I try not to reuse names, but when you’re dealing with so many minor characters sometimes it’s hard to keep track. I keep intending to go through the books and make a character list (something I’ve never had the need to do because I can easily keep a couple dozen names straight in my head) but trying to remember the characters who had one scene in book three of series two … it gets hard.

I should be easier on myself and repeat a name here and there. After all, how many people do you know with the same first or last name in real life? The Marvel universe gets away with multiple Peters and both a Stephen and a Steve. I probably could too.

Ugh, yes, timelines are stressful. Moving on, at this point, you’re a pretty well-established and well-loved author, with thirty-some published works under your belt. What advice would you give a new author just starting out on a similar journey?

You have to know what you’re doing it. There are a million different ways to be an author and if you are going indie your options are expansive. Knowing the “why” of your writing is going to influence a lot of your decisions.

If you need this to be your full-time job and be able to support yourself or potentially a family on it, you’re going to have to make different choices from someone who is comfortable doing it as a side-hustle or as an outreach or just for the love of the art.

An author who really wants to write for the love of writing and write the stories they want to write (which to an extent is me. I’ve never chosen to write super marketable or profitable subgenres. I’ve skipped from genre to genre a lot. I don’t go super hard on the business side of things because I make enough from my day job that I don’t need to push that hard on book sales.) gets advice from a super, “write to market, make a living, this is a business” type writer, they’re going to get frustrated and burned out.

That's excellent advice — arguably, good advice for life in general, not just writing. Now, time for a fun question! Which of your characters (either in A Superhero for Christmas specifically or in the SVR-verse in general) would you most want to have on your team in a Christmas-cookie-making competition?

From a personality standpoint, Lara is competitive and precise and would come into things with a plan and get things done. She’s a normie, though. No powers.

From a powers standpoint, Fleet–who is a fairly minor character from the main SVR series–is a speed sable and would probably be able to get everything done in a flash.

Both sound like good choices! To wrap up the interview, can you tell us a little about what you’re currently working on and what we can look forward to next from you?

I am in the editing stage for Captured by a Supervillain, the third book in my Supervillain Romance Project series (the romcom wing of the wider SVR universe), and was planning to write Engaged to a Supervillain (book four in that same series) next, but I’ve only written a couple of scenes and I got an idea last night for a sequel to A Superhero for Christmas, tentatively titled “A Supervillain to Have and to Hold” or “My Superhero Wedding” or something like that.

This was not planned, and I don’t like to work on multiple projects at once, so I’m now trying to choose between them.

Either way, you’re getting at least three more superhero books from me and this universe. Probably more, but we’ll see how it goes.

I am so excited for all of these! They sound great, and I'm glad that we have plenty more stories to enjoy in the SVR world. Thanks for stopping by the blog for this interview!

And that's it from me! So, are you excited for A Superhero for Christmas? If so, remember that you have one more day to preorder it on Amazon (and don't forget to add it on Goodreads too). Also, make sure you enter the giveaway! And before you go, tell me in the comments: what character from either the SVR-verse (if you know it), your own writing, or your favorite other media would you want in a cookie-making contest?
Thanks for reading!