Sunday, December 31, 2023

It's New Year's Eve Somewhere [A New Year's Eve Short Story]

It's that time again — time for my annual New Year's Eve short story and the latest glimpse into the adventures of Carrie, Tamison, and their party. (Of course, as usual, this story should stand fine alone as well as in the context of the full series.) I hope you enjoy it and that you have a very happy New Year!


It's New Year's Eve Somewhere

This was supposed to be his night off.
The patrol alarm went off with an extended beep that echoed off the concrete and metal walls of the office. Tarvin grumbled to himself as he stood, stretched, and picked up the heavy metal stunlight from his desk. With one hand, he slid the weapon into its holster on his belt; with the other, he smacked the alarm to turn it off.
Still grumbling, he headed for the door into the ring of cells. He'd barely had time to sit down since his last patrol! Ordinarily, he'd only have to check on the prisoners once every few hours. Maybe once an hour if he were feeling especially motivated — Karoti would go every hour, but that man did everything by the book, and he was enthusiastic about it, madman that he was. As far as Tarvin and most of his squadmates were concerned, given that the cells' usual occupants were drunks or dust-heads and the occasional political demonstrator, a walk every two or three hours to make sure everyone was still breathing was more than sufficient. Most of the prisoners had enough problems of their own without guards breathing down their necks.
But tonight was different. Tonight required a patrol every thirty minutes, maybe forty-five if he had a good reason to stretch it, and an all-clear report at least once an hour. Tarvin didn't see the point; it wasn't as if the prisoners could go anywhere. Not as if they could escape without walking right past his desk. But the captain had laid out the consequences for him and his team if any of them failed to do things by the book tonight. If he were lucky, he'd spend a year cleaning orbital debris from Mahideri Station's path. If he wasn't lucky . . .
Tarvin unlocked the door with a finger pressed to the scanner. He carefully shut the door again behind him and waited until he heard the click as it relocked itself. Then, for variety's sake, he turned to the right. He'd mostly been walking counterclockwise, starting with the occupied cells and ending with the empty ones, but if he didn't switch things up occasionally, he'd go mad.
He swept through the curved hall of empty cells quickly, glancing into each. By all rights, the whole holding facility should be as empty as these were. The activists and demonstrators all tended to slow down their activities around this time of year; they knew it was an unlucky time, and any change was doomed to failure. Besides that, the university was between semesters, and that meant that everyone but essential personnel, two security units, and a few especially dedicated scholars and student-mages had left, fled either to their homes or to more hospitable locations. There weren't enough people here to make trouble, which meant anyone scheduled for guard duty here should've had that time off. Tarvin should've had tonight off. But then there'd been two arrests of the ordinary kind, and then another two that sent all the higher-ups into a frothing frenzy of panic and finger-pointing, and so here he was.
Tarvin reached the door at the end of the hall. He pressed his hand to the metal plate beside it and winced as tiny needles pricked the skin of his palm, taking the requisite DNA samples and confirming that he was allowed to access the high-security section of the facility. Before tonight, he'd never seen this door locked — what lay beyond had never been necessary, not as long as he'd worked here. But this night was an exception in multiple ways.
A moment later, the door slid open. Beyond, the temperature dropped by nearly ten degrees, maybe even fifteen. Tarvin shivered and set off again at a quick pace as the door shut and locked behind him, almost soundlessly. To either side of him, circular platforms filled with spirals of inscribed code-runes sat dark and empty, their magic inactive. On the ceiling above each platform was a similar circle of code-runes, also unlit and lifeless.
Midway along the hall, however, he reached two active platforms, their runes glowing the same blue as the stasis field projected above them. Here, the temperature seemed even colder. Magic drew in heat, Tarvin knew, though he couldn't remember where he'd learned that. Mostly you'd never notice it, the difference was so small, but with such powerful spellwork as this . . .
Frost glittered on the skin and clothes of the figures contained in the stasis fields, though they'd only been in there a few hours. The stasis effect would protect them from actually getting frostbite, but they'd still be cold as the back end of the galaxy when they were freed — if they were freed. Sure, this facility was only meant for short-term imprisonment — holding people a day or two, maybe four or five at most, until they'd paid off a light crime or could be transferred elsewhere for a longer sentence. But it wasn't like this section was used much, and Tarvin had heard of some prisoners kept in stasis for decades, covered in so many layers of frost that you couldn't even make out their features. The charges for these two were the same as for those prisoners: unauthorized magic use and espionage against the Coriolion Empire.
Tarvin paused long enough to study the pair. The stasis fields and frost obscured them, but he could still make out some details. The one on the right side of the hall was a woman, dark-skinned and curly-haired like Tarvin himself. She wore a strange green dress — more like a robe, really — and held her hands out as if reaching for someone, or perhaps readying a spell. Her eyes were open wide, and behind the frost, her face held mingled anger and . . . fear? No, not quite. Tarvin had seen plenty of people afraid for themselves. This woman's concern was turned entirely outwards.
Towards the other prisoner, maybe? Tarvin turned to study him next. He didn't look like much, just a man of average build, dressed in robes, with dark hair — messy, but in a way that suggested it had been neatly styled until some kind of scuffle forced it out of place. He'd had the sense to close his eyes, at least, and his head was slightly ducked. He held his arms up, forearms crossed, but his hands were open, the fingers spread. Tarvin had seen this casting position too, when a pair of student mages were debating defensive stances in a local bar. They'd said it was good for shields and not much else.
Neither one looked especially dangerous. If they'd been wearing anything but robes, Tarvin would've taken them for upper-level student-mages at the university. For a moment, he almost wished he could thaw one of them, or maybe both of them, out and ask what had happened and what they'd done. They were the reason he was here, walking patrols every half-hour, after all. Didn't he have a right to know why?
Looking at them, Tarvin had a nasty suspicion that they hadn't done anything. That they were from outside the empire and they'd had a teleportation spell go badly wrong. That would explain what he'd heard about them appearing unexpectedly in a restricted area. And he wouldn't put it past the higher-ups to claim malicious intent no matter what their prisoners said.
But even if he really wanted to talk to one of them, he couldn't. It took a mage and a guard together to release a stasis field, and not just any mage, but one of the Highstars, the highest-ranking mages on the station. No one else had the authority to use so much magic at once. There was only one Highstar here tonight, Meridus, and he'd been the one to activate the stasis field in the first place. He'd never release it for so small a reason as confirming potentially misplaced guilt, not when it was easier to just leave it until it became someone else's problem.
Nor would he have much patience for a lowly guard questioning his decisions. Tarvin turned away from the stasis-held prisoners and continued along his patrol. The rest of the platforms were empty, and the far door let him out in exchange for another DNA sample. Now that he was back among normal cells, the temperature rose again, and he no longer shivered. Still, he kept a brisk pace until he reached the sole occupied cell. He'd been told the two women within were political demonstrators who'd chosen a night in lockup over paying the usual fine. The palm-shaped bruises visible on the thin cheeks of one of the women more or less confirmed as much. Most of the security force wouldn't be gentle with someone who chose to make trouble with a sober mind and full control of their faculties. It was a lot easier to be patient with someone who you thought didn't know any better.
He paused by the cell and looked inside. The clear forcefield across the entrance let him see the prisoners clearly. The bruised woman sat closer to the entrance, her eyes shut, though Tarvin didn't think she was actually asleep. She'd swept her long hair into a high bun since the last time he actually looked into the cell; how it was staying in place, he couldn't tell. The other woman sat in a back corner, bending over . . . was that a notebook and pen? Tarvin cleared his throat and knocked against the wall between cells to get her attention. "Who gave you permission to have personal items in there?"
The woman glanced up for only the briefest moment. "I brought it in with me. Your captain didn't tell me to give it up."
Huh. That was unlike him. Still, Tarvin hadn't seen anyone come in, and he knew whoever brought them in would've searched them. The captain must've been feeling unusually merciful. "Well, fine, then. Just behave yourself with it."
The woman didn't respond; she just kept scribbling in the book. The other spoke up, her voice hoarse. "Do you think it's right that we're in here?"
"You broke the law, ma'am." Tarvin shrugged. "I don't know what else you expected."
"We made a few comments about the nature of truth and justice and freedom." The bruised woman opened her eyes and looked sideways at him. "We said magic should be free to all, not just to the elite, as it is in other worlds. Should that be against the law?"
Tarvin shifted uncomfortably. He'd learned long ago not to entertain that line of thought. "I'm just a guard, ma'am. It's not my job to decide what the law should be, just to uphold it."
He started to walk away, but her voice stopped him before he could get far. "Your name is Tarvin Aboti. You've worked as Mahideri Station security for seven years. Before that, you came from Asarvis. You were born after the Coriolion Empire took over, but your parents remember when the land and the magic were free, and they told you stories about those days when no one else was listening."
Tarvin turned on his heel, reaching for his stunlight. "What — Who are you? How do you know all that?" He'd never introduced himself to these two. And he'd never told anyone on the station about his parents' stories . . .
"My name is Willow. My friend is Laelia." The bruised woman met his eyes. "Would you believe me if I said that I'm from another world, that I come from the long past, and that I've visited the future?"
"That's —" Impossible. That would mean time travel, and even the Highstars couldn't do that. Or could they? Was this a setup?
"No one's listening, Mr. Aboti." Willow smiled at him, weary and determined. "You're the only one on duty here, and no one would bother with patrols if there were another way to watch the cells. So, what do you say? Is the way it is the way it should be? I don't think you think it is. If you help us, we can fix that."
He should leave. He should leave and report this. But instead, he stayed where he was, stunlight still firmly in his hand. "Help you how?"
Laelia's pen stilled, and she responded instead of Willow. "According to the history books, tonight, a guard releases five prisoners. When he does, he starts a chain of changes that ends with the fall of the Coriolion Empire, freedom for the people it's conquered, and access to magic for everyone."
"That guard could be your relief," Willow said, her voice soft. "Or it could be you. I think it's you. What do you think, Mr. Aboti?"
"I could release the two of you," Tarvin said, slowly. He shouldn't listen, he knew. But they knew too much for him to ignore them. At least if he kept talking, he could learn something. He was gathering intelligence; that was all. His captain couldn't fault him for that. "But if the two in high security are included in that group, I can't get them out. I'd need a mage for that."
"I am a mage." Willow put a hand against the force field. Rather than burning her, it dimmed where she touched it. A glow appeared around her other hand, dancing blue and green like the auroras on Asarvis. "Our friends, the other prisoners, are under stasis spells, aren't they? I can undo them safely if you just unlock what needs unlocked."
Was she using the energy from the forcefield to power separate magic? If she could do that — if she could undo the stasis fields — did she even need him to let her and her friend out? More importantly, if she were that skilled or that powerful, then she had to be at least on the same level as the Highstars. Under those circumstances, no one could blame him if he chose to help, could they? Still, a thought occurred to him. "You said five prisoners. There's only four here.
Willow's smile brightened, and she leaned closer to the force field. "The last prisoner isn't a person. We're going to release the magic. Make sure anyone on the station can use it, whatever authorizations they have, just like it used to be."
Like it used to be. Like the world his parents had known. Surely anyone who wanted to do that couldn't be so bad? "What do you get out of this? You said you're from another world. What do you care about here?"
"We want to do what's right." Willow shook her head. "We want to make things how they should be."
"And you have a copy of the Xenoth Archives here," Laelia added, her tone matter-of-fact. "It's under guard, but we might be able to get to it in all the confusion."
Willow gave Laelia an exasperated look. Laelia frowned. "It's the truth. That's why we came here in the first place. We were going to get here during the aftermath, but our timeport went wrong. Then Willow and I realized that was because we had to be here for there to be an aftermath."
That settled it. No one would make up such a ridiculous story as a lie, not if they seriously wanted to convince someone. They had to be telling the truth. All the same . . . "It's bad luck to start any big changes mid-year. You have to wait until the new year if you want anything to work."
Willow faced Tarvin again, her smile returning. "It's always the new year somewhere, Mr. Aboti. If not in this world, then another."
"Tonight's New Year's Eve on Earth and Fuila," Laelia added helpfully. "Worlds 1-3 and 1-5. It's also in the middle of the turning of the year for some cultures in Andauthea, world 3-7."
"See, Mr. Aboti? It's a new year." Willow looked hopefully at him. "So, will you help us?"
Tarvin took a deep breath and put his stunlight back in his pocket. "You'll release magic — will you teach me how to use it?"
"We'll show you the basics," Willow replied. "And we'll leave you information on where to go from there. Does that mean you'll help?"
"Well, your histories say someone does." Tarvin reached for his keys. "Do I let you out now, or later? Do your history books say?"
"Get the supplies you confiscated from us first. There's some tools we need in there." Willow stood. "Then let us out, as soon as possible."
"Right." Tarvin nodded. "I'll be back in a minute, then."
He hurried back down the hall, towards the main office and the lockers of prisoners' possessions. The thrill of what he was doing thrummed in his chest. If he were caught, it would mean death or worse.
But if he wasn't caught, it would mean he'd done something meaningful. Something important. Surely that was worth the risk. After all, it was the new year somewhere — and the new year meant it was time for a change.


Friday, December 29, 2023

December 2023 Doings!

Hello, all! I hope everyone had a merry Christmas, both the season and the day. I can definitely say that my Christmas season didn't go quite how I expected it . . . but that seems to have been the theme of 2023, so I can't say I'm entirely surprised either. We'll get to that in a bit, but first, writing! In which I have some good news!


  • I finally finished drafting Bastian Dennel, PI #4! Last month's assessment of being within a chapter or two of finishing wasn't quite correct; I actually had more like three and a half chapters left before I could call the draft done.
  • But those three and a half chapters have been written! And I don't think they turned out half bad. I'm quite pleased with the last two, actually. The others will need some tweaking, but so do large swathes of the rest of the book, all for the same reason. And the point is that the draft is done, so now I can do that tweaking . . .
  • Except not literally now because I have other projects that I need to work on first. And I'm also very likely going to make this book Bastian Dennel, PI #5 instead and write a new (much shorter) book as #4. But that's neither here nor there. The point is, the book is drafted! Huzzah!
  • I actually finished the final chapter on Christmas Eve — I'd intended to write maybe 500 words and then go to bed early while the rest of my family watched A Christmas Carol. But then I realized that another few hundred words would wrap things up, and then I could have a proper, guilt-free break for the rest of my sister's visit . . . so I did not go to bed early, but I think it was worth it.
  • That's all the writing I've done so far this month (I say "all;" it was a very respectable 8,700-odd words), but I will be writing my New Year's Eve short story in the next few days. Or, possibly, I've already drafted it by the time you read this post, depending on how things go and how much of it I feel like writing on my phone.


  • My reading this month can be pretty neatly divided into "Christmas" and "not Christmas."
  • On the not-Christmas side, I finished my reread of the Illuminae Files with Gemina (just as good as I remembered, and I also realized there's kind of a Die Hard reference or two in there — besides the whole situation being very Die Hard-ish) and Obsidio (better than I remembered, though my memory was still very good — it's one of those books that's more enjoyable on the reread, because you know it'll come out all right and you can appreciate all the twists and turns instead of just being stressed). I also read To Destroy an Illusion (not as good as the Austen Fairy Tale, but still a very interesting twist on some obscure fairy tales) for review purposes. Also, it's not pictured because of a Goodreads issue, but I reread DragonSpell as part of a readalong some friends of mine are doing, and that was lovely. I forget how good those books are.
  • The non-Christmas highlight of my month was, of course, Behind the Curtain, the latest — and, arguably, best — in W.R. Gingell's Worlds Behind series. I loved pretty much everything about this book, but the best bits were getting to know more about Camellia's past and seeing Athelas connect more with both her and Harrow. I especially loved the growing bond between Athelas and Harrow, and there's one particular scene — but that's a spoiler, so you'll all have to read it to know what I'm talking about.
  • On the Christmas side, we had several rereads: Christmas in Talesend (which nicely filled the one-night gap between finishing Illusion and the release of Behind the Curtain), Hogfather (one of my favorite Discworld novels, and certainly the book I've read most in the series), and A Christmas Carol (read via the Dickens December Substack). Also in this category is my current read, A Superhero for Christmas . . . which I really should have read before Christmas, but I was busy.
  • Finally, we have two new-to-me reads: Greenglass House and Twelve Days of (Faerie) Christmas. Greenglass House is a middle-grade novel, good but not amazing. I liked the mystery and the setting, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd read it first when I was closer to the target audience's age.
  • Twelve Days of Faerie Christmas, on the other hand, was an absolute delight. It's a sweet, fun Christmas romance involving lots of fae magic and schemes and a very clever take on the gifts of the Twelve Days of Christmas song. Every bit of it is a delight, but the ending most of all. I will absolutely be rereading this one next year, though I may do so after Christmas instead of before so the timing lines up properly. (I could have done that this year . . . but I was really excited and didn't want to wait.)


  • Surprisingly, this month didn't involve watching as many movies and shows as it usually does. Most Decembers, we watch a lot of movies as a family, and I also watch a lot of shows on my own because I'm trying to finish Christmas gifts. This year, I only had one gift I could work on while watching something else, and we also had less opportunity to watch things together until Christmas weekend and the following week.
  • That meant we didn't rewatch as many Christmas movies as usual, but we did get a few in: A Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas, and The Man Who Invented Christmas. I also rewatched 'Twas the Night Before Critmas, the Critical Role Christmas oneshot because . . . well, it's fun, and I haven't watched any Critical Role in a long while.
  • We also watched Holiday Inn, which I hadn't see before this year. I don't think I'm going to rewatch that one — I'd rather just watch White Christmas, where I like all the characters, most of the scheming is funny and benevolent (even if it does have an angle of self-benefit) and someone at least tries to have a civil, mature conversation about what's going on instead of just being possessive and manipulative. No, I don't have strong feelings about this at all; whatever gave you that idea?
  • The one notable non-Christmas movie I watched was Across the Spider-Verse on the day after Christmas. My sister watched it a few months ago, loved it, and told me I needed to watch it . . . but I have a really hard time watching movies by myself (because if I have three straight hours all to myself, then I have other things that I need to be doing with those hours), so we planned to watch it together while she was here for the holiday. I really enjoyed that! Though I think Miguel is a drama queen with bad logic who doesn't deserve half the hype he gets, either in-universe or from the fandom, and I want to know why more people aren't talking about The Spot, because yes, he had a rather cliche motivation, but otherwise he's such a cool villain, with an excellent progression from being played for laughs to being a genuine threat.
  • (I know why he gets the hype both places, for the record. To the fandom, he's an anti-hero with an excellent sense of drama. In-universe, it's because his explanation of things makes all the sadness and tragedy in the spider-peoples' lives make sense and absolves them of any guilt or regret. Of course it happened this way. It had to happen this way. It always happens this way. There was nothing they could've done otherwise, and trying just would have doomed everything. Or so he claims. So, yeah, I get it. I just don't think he deserves the hype.)
  • Seeing all the spider-people was cool, though. And Gwen and Miles both had great character arcs, plus I liked how the movie showed the mingled love and tension in their relationships with their respective families. So, good movie.


  • So, December started off well — quite well, even, as on the very first day of the month, I had the pleasure of attending a former coworker's very lovely wedding. Both the ceremony and the reception were beautiful, and the couple made a point of keeping Christ centered in all of it — it's the only wedding I've ever encountered that involved Communion for the whole congregation because the couple wanted to serve Communion together as their first action as husband and wife.
  • The rest of the weekend, however, signaled the start of a downhill slide, as my dad came down with a very bad cold on Saturday. My mom and I did our best to avoid catching it, but by midweek, around the time he started feeling better, we were both down for the count, and I was home on sick leave. Thankfully, after several days of rest, we were both feeling better in time for me to go to work the following Monday . . . and then my dad caught the same cold again from a coworker. Thankfully, everyone was healthy again (or mostly so) in time for Christmas, but it was still stressful and frustrating, and it also made doing anything Christmas-y difficult.
  • It also made finishing my grad school class difficult (or, you know, more difficult) and solidly shattered my plans of wrapping up my final project early. I ended up doing most of the work on said project on the last two days of the class. Thankfully, a lot of the prep had already been covered by previous assignments, so I was able to get the thing written and turned in on time. And now I am done with grant writing for hopefully a very long time.
  • Still, I am grateful that one of the few gaps in the cycle of colds was the Friday of our Bible Study's Christmas party. We always do a baked potato bar and an ice cream bar, and usually the kids act out the Christmas story in a sort of semi-impromptu play. This year, however, we knew we wouldn't have many kids there, so we decided to switch to a dramatic reading of the Christmas story, interspersed with Christmas carols. I helped with a lot of the planning for that; it was the first time in years that I've been so excited for a Christmas play-adjacent thing. I think everyone enjoyed it, and I was certainly happy about how it worked out.
  • Also that weekend, at least if I recall correctly, was my D&D group's last session of the year, in which we defeated one of our nemesis once and for all — he's a rakshasa, and we killed him once in the mortal plane, but he can come back . . . so we went to his plane and took him down a second time so he can't keep on with his schemes and tricks. I got the killing blow and cut him off mid-monologue, and it was very satisfying. (I did give the DM a chance to talk, for the record! But not a long chance, as it very quickly became clear that this guy had nothing useful to say and would just try to turn us off our purpose if we let him go on.)
  • The fact that everyone spent so much of the month sick meant less attention was given to things like Christmas baking, but we did still make cookies. We just didn't try any new recipes for Christmas itself this year. All the same, my gingersnaps and peppermint pinwheels turned out well, and my mom made macaroons, peanut butter balls, biscotti, and Russian teacakes, so I'm happy. And I did make oatmeal-ginger cookies at the start of the month, which were also very tasty.
  • Probably the best part of Christmas this year was that my sister came down from Ohio for the holiday! She arrived Saturday, just in time for us to go to the Christmas Eve-Eve service at our church — which, by the way, was lovely. It wasn't as much of a spectacular as some past years have been, but I think it was nicer overall, as we had more traditional songs, and I think the pastor's message was better than it has been some years. Then, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both pretty chill, on the whole. I received some lovely gifts (including new planners and the Baking Yesteryear recipe book), and my family liked the gifts I gave them. There wasn't anything really out of the ordinary about either day, but they were still good days.
  • My sister returned to Ohio on Wednesday, and we drove up with her as far as Pittsburgh to visit my grandpa for a little while. Getting to see him again was nice, and I'm happy to report that he's recovering pretty well from all the various medical stuff he's had to deal with over the course of this year. All in all, it was a good visit.
  • There's a few days left yet in December, but I anticipate those being mostly quiet, with the exception of New Year's Eve afternoon and evening. My former roommate and I will do our gift exchange (over video call) that afternoon, and I look forward to that — she's in one of my D&D groups, but that group hasn't really met all month, so I haven't seen her in a while. And then our Bible study always has a party for New Year's Eve that should be lots of fun. It'll be a good way to end the year, that's for certain.

January Plans

  • January means getting back to business as usual, with work, writing, and grad school.
  • On the writing front, I'll be working on Daughters of Atirse #2. This is a prequel to Song of the Selkies focusing on Ceana's older sister, Onora, and it's also a retelling that blends The Goose Girl with Puss in Boots. I'll probably outline it over the next couple days (if I have time) and then start actually writing at the beginning of January. If I have time, I'll probably also try to squeeze in a draft of whatever I do for H.L. Burke's DOSA-verse anthology. (I have about 75% of an idea. I just have to work out some loose ends.)
  • At work, I'm hoping for a fairly quiet month. January usually doesn't have a lot going on, so that hope has a reasonable chance of being fulfilled. That said, we're getting ready to launch some new grief ministries, so we'll see how busy that keeps me.
  • As for grad school . . . confession time: I still need to register for the next set of classes. I should have done that a couple weeks ago, but I was too busy with Christmas stuff, and I also didn't even want to think about classes for a solid week after I finished my most recent one. I think the next thing I'm taking is technical writing, though, which should be pretty chill. Technical writing isn't my favorite type of writing ever, but I also don't dislike it, and I think I'm fairly good at it. So, we'll see how things go.
  • When it comes to reading, I have some exciting ARCs waiting for me on my Kindle — the only reason I haven't read them yet is that I've been distracted by Christmas stories! But I'll fix that pretty soon. Otherwise, well, I'm trying not to plan too much.
  • Lastly, on the crafting front, I have a crochet shawl that I'm hoping to make good progress on. I'm also toying with the idea of giving some new crafts a try . . . but we'll see if that actually goes anywhere or not.
  • And, of course, I'll be setting my New Year's goals in the next couple days, so we'll see what comes of those.

How was your December? How was your Christmas? Any plans for January? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, December 22, 2023

Winter 2023–2024 Reads

Hello, everyone! It's just a few days until Christmas, but today is also the first day of winter, which means it's time for my list of this winter's book releases that I'm most looking forward to! This is a rather short list — only six books — but I also have a suspicion that I'm missing some books, as Goodreads has gotten less and less cooperative about actually sorting things by release date when I ask it to. Still, we do have some releases that I'm quite excited about!

Winter 2023–2024 Reads

1. Behind the Curtain by W.R. Gingell (December 15). This released just last Friday, and I proceeded to devour it over the course of the past weekend. I can say with absolute confidence that it's the best yet in the series (and book five is going to have to be absolutely amazing to beat it). We have so much good stuff here! Most prominent is both backstory and character development for the mysterious-but-delightful Camellia (which I can't say much about because spoilers, but trust me that it's absolutely superb). But my favorite part of the book is probably the interactions between Athelas and Harrow — they have such a good dynamic, and it's lovely how, in helping Harrow heal, Athelas is also healing himself. (Also, their scenes include some of my very favorite tropes, which is always fabulous.)

2. Wishing on a Supervillain by H.L. Burke (January 9). Another of H.L. Burke's supervillain/superhero romances! This one features a superhero and a supervillain who have to cooperate to fulfill the in-world version of a Make-a-Wish kid's wish. I have an ARC of this book, and I'm super excited to read and review it, especially since other ARC readers say this is one of the best SVR-verse books yet.

3. Drake Hall by Christina Baehr (January 14). If you're thinking "wait, I thought I saw a version of this post without this book . . ." no you didn't. Well, actually, yes, you did, because Goodreads and Amazon conspired to be unhelpful, and therefore I somehow misplaced the release date for one of my most-anticipated releases of the season until I got my ARC the morning this post came out. But I have realized my mistake, and I cannot wait for more cozy Gothic dragons and adventures (and more of Edith, who is rapidly taking her place as one of my favorite heroines of the year).

4. Just Stab Me Now by Jill Bearup (February 5). Some of you may be aware of Jill Bearup's series of Fantasy Heroine YouTube shorts, but for those who haven't had the pleasure and delight of experiencing them: what starts up as a loving send-up of assorted fantasy romance tropes develops into a tale of adventure and intrigue (and romance) featuring Lady Rosalind Hawkhurst, a practically-minded thirtysomething widow who is astonishingly trope-resistant and would probably get along splendidly with Isabella of Masque. Just Stab Me Now is based on the series, but it expands the story and adds more plotline from the author's side of things . . . and I cannot wait to actually read it.

5. Pumpkin War by Kendra E. Ardnek (February 28). This is a Cinderella retelling set in the same world as To Destroy an Illusion (which just released last week!). The blurb promises intrigue and a sort of enemies-to-lovers romance (except half of the romance doesn't think they're enemies), so that should be cool. I'm also interested to see more of Kendra's take on the fae. While I wasn't overawed by what I saw in Illusion, there were some very interesting elements, and I want to find out if those are the exception or the rule.

6. Rumpelstiltskin's Bargain by Kendra E. Ardnek (February 29). It feels very fitting that a Rumpelstiltskin story is coming out on February 29. Don't ask me to explain why; it just seems right. This is the next in Kendra's series of hero/villain-swap short story retellings. Some of the past retellings in this series (like The Wolf's Daughter) have been amazing, though others have been just ok, and I'm hoping that this one will fall more on the "wow" end of that spectrum.

What book releases are you excited for this winter? Am I missing any? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, December 1, 2023

December 2023 Doings!

Here we are — December 1, and for me, at least, the Christmas season is in full swing! As I write this, I'm listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (always a delight), and I'm very excited to start both Dickens December (aka, reading The Christmas Carol in day-by-day serial fashion, Dracula Daily-style) and my cheese Advent calendars. But I'm getting ahead of myself — this post is about November, not December. Last month was, unsurprisingly, pretty busy, but it was a good busy . . . mostly. Let's get into the recap and you'll see what I mean.


  • The month started out with another author event. Heather Halverstadt, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and I shared a table at Doxacon, a very small speculative fiction fan convention associated with the Orthodox and Catholic churches. While navigation was frustrating (I lost my way multiple times trying to find my way around the location — and then ended up at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a cartload of books) and I didn't sell nearly as many books as I hoped, I did meet many cool people, both readers and other authors. Additionally, the vendor hall and the main sessions were in the same place, so I got to listen in on some of the talks for free, which was great. All in all, it was a pretty good day. I think I'll try to go as a vendor again next year . . . though I will probably prepare differently next time!
  • As far as actual writing goes: I finished my challenge story (the platonic Beauty and the Beast), and I'm very happy with how it turned out. I took my birthday off for the express purpose of finishing it and working on Bastian Dennel, and that was fun.
  • I did not finish Bastian Dennel, PI #4, due to Thanksgiving and my sister being home. However, I am within a chapter or two of being done, so . . . there's that? I could probably finish this weekend if I have time and focus enough, but I'm not sure if I'll have both of those in sufficient supply.
  • I've also been doing a lot of brainstorming on possible future stories with a friend of mine. This is not very helpful when it comes to writing present stories, but it's fun, and it's sort of adjacent to being productive, so . . . yes. I swear, if I write anywhere near all the ideas I have, I'm going to end up with a backlist that, at least in terms of quantity, puts the likes of Brandon Sanderson and Bryan Davis to shame. Alas that I can't afford to just spend all my time writing . . .
  • I also celebrated five years since Blood in the Snow released and I became an officially published author! And by "celebrated" I mean that I wrote a blog post and an Instagram post about it and mentioned it to my family after a friend reminded me that it was, in fact, kind of a significant anniversary. It still counts as a celebration, right?


  • This month was almost all rereads — out of eighteen books that I read or finished in November, only four were actually new to me.
  • My main rereads were the second half of the  Knight and Rogue series and most of the Delicious in Dungeon manga series. Both were excellent on the reread, I'm happy to say. My Delicious in Dungeon reread culminated in reading the latest two volumes, which were both new to me. I enjoyed both, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the series wraps up when the final volumes release sometime next year. (My favorites are still earlier in the series, but that's not surprising.)
  • Dracula Daily and Re:Dracula both wrapped up in early November, which is why Dracula is on there twice. I very much enjoyed experiencing Dracula a second and third time, and I highly recommend both the Substack and the podcast as ways to experience this story! (Also, I thought I was prepared for a certain element of the climax . . . and I was with regards to Dracula Daily, but I definitely was not properly prepared for Re:Dracula.)
  • My two new reads, aside from the latest Delicious in Dungeon books, were volume 14 of Fullmetal Alchemist and B. Dylan Hollis's cookbook, Baking Yesteryear. Well, I mostly skimmed the cookbook, but I read enough to be satisfied and to know there are recipes in it that I'd like to try. As for Fullmetal Alchemist . . . well, I got worked up enough over the ending to ask a friend for a very minor spoiler, that being whether or not a character's arc pulls away from the tragedy it seems to be headed towards.
  • Also, while it's not listed here, I've been reading Time to Orbit: Unknown, which is a serially posted sci-fi story about a colony ship in which things have gone horribly wrong and one of the colonists gets unexpectedly woken to take on the role of captain . . . and all the other roles as well. I'm about halfway through right now, and while it's not a perfect story (either philosophically, ideologically, or technically), I've been really enjoying it. Delving into some sci-fi is a nice change of pace, there's an excellent mystery element, and the character dynamics are great. I don't remember how it ended up on my radar, but I'm glad it did. (Also, it's making me want to write a space fantasy story, so . . .  we'll see where that goes.)
  • And because reading that seems to have put me on a sci-fi kick, I've started a reread of the Illuminae Files. I read Illuminae in the last few days (and stayed up far too late while doing so, but we're not talking about that), and I just started Gemina, and, look, these books are so good. Sometimes, action/suspense-type books don't hold up well on the reread, but these ones? These ones remain amazing. (Plus, I now have the full trilogy, and I'm so happy about that!)


  • I actually watched a bunch of stuff this month? Somehow? And, surprisingly, only half of it was holiday-related.
  • I squeezed in a couple more episodes of my Fairy Tail rewatch and another No Evil episode (I really need to get back to watching that series; I'm actually really close to caught up). I also joined my parents for a couple of episodes of Benson, which is an older sitcom. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the two episodes I watched, even though I usually don't go in for that genre. Not something I'd go out of my way to watch, but I would not object to watching more if other people happened to have it on and I didn't have anything pressing to do at the time. (This is more of a compliment than it probably sounds like, for the record. My family will confirm that I am not afraid to flee the room if a show comes on that I don't like, even if I don't necessarily have something better to do.)
  • On the holiday movie front, we of course watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (a few days before Thanksgiving), and we also watched The Lemon Drop Kid while my sister was home. On a side note, if you haven't watched The Lemon Drop Kid, do yourself a favor and fix that. It's not a perfect story, but it is so much fun — it's the classic "con man tries a desperate scheme, but accidentally gets Invested" trope, but at Christmas! With lots of humor! I love it.
  • We also watched Miracle on 34th Street, and for once, I decided not to find something more pressing to do. I hated this movie for a long while — when I was small (under ten or so), we'd always watch it on Thanksgiving, but most of it went right over my head, and I always ended up bored and annoyed. Eventually I just stopped watching it. This year I decided to give it another chance, and I will say that, surprise, surprise, it's a much better movie when you actually understand the nuances of the characters and what's going on! It's still not something I'd pick out to watch on my own, but I'd potentially watch it again if other people wanted to see it.
  • Finally, a new-to-me old movie: It Happened in 5th Avenue. I really wanted to love this one, and I did like it . . . but not as well as I'd hoped. The general concept was fun, and I liked that part of the emotional grounding was the restoration of a family in addition to the romance element. However, one of the major characters very much annoyed me after a while, plus there was instalove romance, and while I could deal with either of those two on their own, the combination was just a little too frustrating for this to be a new favorite (or anywhere close). I'd still watch it again, but yeah. Not as good as I hoped.


  • As I said already, November was a busy month. Doxacon obviously dominated the first weekend of the month — but the following weekend was also busy with lots of running around here, there, and everywhere else.
  • Then the weekend after that was my birthday, which was fun! I already mentioned that I took my birthday off from work. When my coworkers asked what I planned to do, I told them that, if it was a good day, I'd spend the whole thing writing, and if it was a very good day, I'd spend half my time writing and the other half either reading or crafting. And as it turns out, it was a very good day! I got in plenty of writing time, and I started working on a short fleece cloak. We also celebrated with homemade chocolate peanut butter tart (basically buckeye filling and chocolate in a graham cracker crust, very tasty) and a trip to my favorite Mexican restaurant on the weekend, so that was a delight.
  • For those who want to know: the cloak is still not quite finished, but it's nearly there. I just need to sew on the fasteners and decide if I'm going to attach the hood or not. (I made the hood, but I had to piece it, and I'm not sure if I like how it turned out. Plus, I do have plenty of hats.) I'm also working on crocheting a Mobius shawl with some lovely black-and-silver yarn; despite a few false starts, it's going well, if much slower than I hoped. (Let's be real; "much slower than I hoped" describes pretty much every crafting project I tackle.)
  • I also used my birthday as an excuse to try a local-ish crepe restaurant — I'd been meaning to check it out for months, but I hadn't gotten around to it until now. I ordered a salmon benedict crepe and was caught very off-guard by the size. It was even larger than the crepes at the Maryland Renaissance Faire, and that's saying something! I could barely finish the whole thing! It was tasty, though, and I definitely plan to go back sometime.
  • Now we come to Thanksgiving! My sister flew in Thanksgiving morning and stayed until Saturday evening, and seeing her again was lovely. We had Thanksgiving dinner with our Bible study, as usual, which was fun. There was an abundance of good food, and my mom and sister spent most of the afternoon working on a puzzle with the friend who was hosting. I contributed to neither food nor puzzle, but ah well.
  • One unusual thing we did this year was that we put up the Christmas tree and lights on Thanksgiving day, then did the actual decorating the day after Thanksgiving as usual. While I'm generally very firm about keeping Christmas after Thanksgiving, I think I liked putting the tree up a day early. Doing that meant we weren't already tired when we started putting up the decorations (or, not as tired), and it was a good way to work up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner!
  • At work, everything's abuzz with Advent and Christmas preparations. I spent a significant amount of the month working on the Advent newsletter and marketing materials for the Lessons & Carols and Christmas Eve services — but those are arguably some of my favorite projects of the year. I know I say this every year, but Advent truly is my favorite season to design for. I'm working primarily with my favorite colors (blue, gold, purple, green), the imagery is all filled with lovely lights and stars and candles, and I have the option to either lean into nostalgia and traditional designs (with fancy serif fonts and scrollwork) or go more modern (with silhouettes and minimalist colors and swishy script), with equal justification for either angle. So, yes, I'm busy, but I'm having fun with it.
  • And, to be frank, it's a good thing that I'm enjoying my work (mostly), as I am not enjoying my grad school grant writing class. The professor isn't as bad as I feared he would be, but I just do not enjoy the subject matter. Heaven help me if I'm ever in a position where I have to write a grant application for real — and I absolutely do not want to ever have this as my main job. I'd rather freelance — storms, I'd rather work retail. The problem isn't even that it's particularly hard. The workload is actually pretty light. But I can't find anything to enjoy about the work itself, and I just want to be done.

December Plans

  • Obviously, all the Christmas stuff will be happening. I'm working on putting together presents and thinking about what cookies I'm going to make  (and what I'm going to request that my mom make). We're trying to figure out which Christmas Eve service to go to — our church has six — and looking forward to my sister coming home again for the holiday (huzzah!), plus hoping that my grandpa will be doing well enough to visit too. I'm debating whether or not to go to the Lessons & Carols service at the church where I work, since I enjoyed it last year. And, of course, I will be listening to all the Christmas music!
  • I also have two weeks left in my grant writing class, so I need to survive those and pray that my work ethic holds out long and strong enough that I finish well. I swear, even in my most-disliked high school and undergrad classes — even in my last months of my senior year — I have never felt such a strong desire to just not.
  • Speaking of finishing things: I still need to finish Bastian Dennel, PI #4! I'm so close, but the last chapters are always one of the hardest parts of drafting . . . That said, I'm aiming to wrap up this draft by the end of next week. We'll see what happens after that. I need to jump into my Song of the Selkies prequel sooner rather than later, but the weeks before Christmas aren't necessarily the best time to start a new project, plus I need to write my New Year's Eve short story. I'd like to get it written well in advance for once, but who knows if that'll work out. In any case, I'll see how BDPI #4 and my grant writing final project go and figure things out from there.
  • Work will continue to be busy, but not unreasonably or unbearably so. At this point, I have a pretty good handle on what needs doing, and a lot is already done. The hardest thing will probably just be making sure everything stays on schedule and cornering people long enough to get the information I need from them. I will be doing three different bulletins the week before Christmas, which will be a lot . . . but honestly, that's not much worse than Holy Week, and I can get bulletins done pretty fast these days as long as people give me the content I need! So as long as I can keep my focus, I should be fine.
  • I'm sure I'll also have plenty to do on the crafting front, what with making some Christmas gift items, though I'm not making as much as I have in some past years. Most of what I have planned is stuff I can do relatively quickly; the tricky bit is that not all of it is as portable as I'd like . . .
  • Finishing up with a housekeeping note: I will not be posting on the blogs next week or the week after. My next post will most likely be my Winter 2023–2024 Reads post on December 22, and then I'll do the usual month- and year-wrap-up posts on the appropriate dates. The next two weeks are critical for finishing both the grant-writing class and BDPI #4, so I don't want to have to worry about getting blog posts up during that time. Of course, the rest of you might be so busy that you don't even notice I'm not posting.

How was your November? What are you looking forward to in December? Do you tend to make many Christmas presents? Do you find it harder to start projects or finish them? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 24, 2023

Black Friday Book Sale!


Hello, friends! I hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving! In case you're looking for a good book to enjoy while you munch on your leftover turkey and pie, I'm here to tell you that all seven of my books are on sale in ebook form for just $0.99 as part of the Perry Kirkpatrick Black Friday book sale!

This sale runs from Black Friday (today, November 24) through Cyber Monday. In it, you'll find literally hundreds of clean and Christian indie reads from authors like Kendra E. Ardnek, Tara Grayce, H.L. Burke, E.J. Kitchens, Abigail Manning, myself, and many others. The sale includes free and $0.99 ebooks, as well as some special deals on print and audiobooks. I've put links below that will take you straight to my sale listings, but you can also click here to browse the whole sale.

Blood in the Snow

Mechanical Heart

Bastian Dennel, PI:
The Midnight Show
Gilded in Ice
Mask of Scarlet

Through a Shattered Glass

Song of the Selkies

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 17, 2023

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 10: November 2023

Hello, all! It is the last month of fall, and that means it's time for another Taleweaver's Desk update. I'm still thinking of switching these to a three-times-per-year schedule in 2024, but we'll see how things go. (It may depend on how much news I have to share come February.) For now, though, let's take a look at what progress I've made on my various projects.

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 10: November 2023

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.

Bastian Dennel, PI #4

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

Status: Thirty-one-ish chapters drafted.

Depending on when you read this, I'm probably working on either Chapter 31 or Chapter 32 of Bastian Dennel, PI #4, which I still need to name properly. It's fine. I'll get to it once the book is finished; that's what I normally do anyway. I planned to be finished with this book by now, but I got sidetracked (again) by a project for another writing challenge that was supposed to be a short story and turned into a novella. (Whoops.) I am close to the end, though — I have maybe three or four more chapters of Actual Plot, plus one or two chapters (probably just one) to wrap things up, and then I'll have a finished draft! Which I will then have to edit. Still, I'm optimistic about having this out sometime in 2024.

Daughters of Atirse #2

What is it? A Goose Girl/Puss in Boots retelling, the second book in the Daughters of Atirse series, and the prequel to Song of the Selkies.

Status: In the active planning stages.

Yes, you read that fairytale combo right! I've been thinking about combining The Goose Girl with Puss in Boots for a while now, and partway through writing Song of the Selkies, I realized that it would fit perfectly in that world. My intention is to submit this to the final Arista Challenge release, which means I need to get writing very soon! (Another reason I want to finish Bastian Dennel, PI #4 as soon as possible!) I'll give y'all more details on this story in a while, but for now, I'll just say that this is a prequel to Song of the Selkies that focuses on Ceana's oldest sister, Onora, and I'm very excited to write it.

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: In between writing adventures.

I haven't touched this since August because I've been so busy with Song of the Selkies, Bastian Dennel, and grad school. I need to fix that soon, as the party is close to finishing the current adventure. (They're doing so well! I'm so proud of them!) I know what the next adventure will be, but setting it up will take time — it's an NPC-heavy adventure, and coming up with NPCs is one of the parts of D&D writing that tends to take the most time. Still, since we're in the holiday season now and we'll be meeting a little less, and since we still have some left in the current adventure, I should have through the end of the year to write the next adventure.

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 2024 at the earliest at this point due to all the Bastian Dennel, PI and Daughters of Atirse 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 (and a useful excuse/motivation for prioritizing those 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. May get bumped further up the priority list depending on certain other factors, but probably not for a while yet.

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 publishers. However, that actually happening in the next couple years is improbable, due to Atirse and Bastian Dennel taking priority.

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: I've been thinking lots of thoughts about the Bastian Dennel Little Mermaid/[secret story] retelling, which is great because I have about 75% of it figured out, but also not great because it's not the next book in the series. It might not even be the second-next book in the series, as I've been rearranging ideas again due to certain stories being seasonally dependent. And yet it's the book I have the most solid ideas for. (Why am I like this?) Anyway, I have lots of ideas, and will probably be writing Bastian Dennel books for quite a while.

Daughters of Atirse books

What is it? Multiple other stories in the same world as and overlapping casts with Song of the Selkies. Specific stories planned include: something in the Beauty and the Beast Family (a sequel), my take on Tam Lin crossed with a couple other fairy tales (another prequel, in addition to the one I mentioned in On the Desktop), and a retelling of part of the story of Pwyll & Rhiannon (another sequel). I also have ideas relating to Diarmad (Ceana's thrice-great uncle who, as you might recall, married a faery for political reasons) and Uaine, but I don't have specific fairy tales assigned to them yet.

Status: Too many ideas, too little time. On the upside, multiple people have said they want more from this world, so having lots of ideas is a good thing. I just need to make the time to write and publish all of them. I do have a rough series order plan, but because my ideas include prequels as well as sequels, I may adjust what order I actually publish things in depending on what I want to write.

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. May end up being set in the same world as Daughters of Atirse, though not in the same series.

Miscellaneous Short Stories

What is it? My annual New Year's Eve story and a potential story for H.L. Burke's DOSA Files anthology.

Status: I'm poking at ideas for both of these currently. One, I need to write, but I don't have a solid concept for. The other I don't have to write, but I think would be fun, and I have about 75% of a concept for it — which is to say, I have the characters and some of the setup, but I still need to figure out some key plot elements. I do have time, though, and I also have a wordcount limit, so I should be fine.

What projects (writing or otherwise) are you working on currently, and how are they going for you? Tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 10, 2023

Five Years Published

Hello, all! So, about two weeks ago, I hit a significant-ish milestone: five years as an actually published author. I published my debut novel, Blood in the Snow, on October 26, 2018. At the time, I was in my junior year of college, balancing writing and editing with classwork and, somehow, an actual social life. Five years on, I have seven published works, one of which has won a Realm Award, plus a story in an anthology. (And, bewilderingly, I am once again having to balance writing with classwork, thanks to my decision to try for a Master's degree — but I replaced the social life with a job and D&D, so . . . progress?) Anyway, given the occasion, a bit of retrospective seemed appropriate, so here are five thoughts from me on the last five years as a published author!

Five Years Published

  1. I'm glad I decided to go the self-publishing route instead of holding out for a traditional publishing contract. Just over five years ago, I posted a Friday 5s post about why I'd decided to self-publish . . . because two years prior to that, I'd written another post about why I planned to still pursue traditional publishing instead of jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon (which, at that point, was getting some real momentum). How well those reasons stood the test of time varies from one to another, but in any case, I'm happy with my choice. After all, had I stuck with my intent to be traditionally published, I'd probably still be querying — and even if I had a contract, I wouldn't be getting nearly as much from the publisher as I'd hoped back in 2016. (Notably, I'd still have to do a lot of marketing.) On the other hand, I've been able to self-publish books that meet my standards for what a good book should be without a publishing house and without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for each new manuscript.
  2. The Arista Challenges were probably the best thing that could've happened to me, writing-wise. All but one of my books have been published with one of the Arista Challenges releases, and that's been such a good experience. Obviously, the first Arista Challenge provided the boost I needed to actually publish Blood in the Snow. Beyond that, though, they provided the structure and deadlines that I needed to make sure I released at least one book every year — and they prompted some of my favorite books I've written to date. Without the Arista Challenge, Bastian Dennel, PIThrough a Shattered Glass, and Song of the Selkies simply wouldn't exist! I've also learned a lot from Kendra about promoting and organizing a book release and about the actual craft of publishing. And, of course, the Arista Challenge led to my friendships with many other authors, particularly Wyn Estelle Owens, and those relationships have been such a blessing.
  3. I'm definitely still learning and growing as an author. When I posted in 2016 about why I didn't plan to self-publish, one of the reasons I gave was that traditional publishing would force me to constantly work to be better and self-publishing, in my inexperienced opinion, wouldn't. That couldn't have been further from the truth! I don't think it's unreasonable to say that my writing skills improve with every book I write and rewrite because every story requires me to either practice new techniques or hone old ones. (Again, I wouldn't have written Bastian Dennel, PI if I hadn't self-published, and that series is how I've learned, and am still learning, to write mysteries.) In addition, I've learned a lot in writing-adjacent fields. I've designed my own covers for five of my books, and I've received frequent compliments on them. I've also done the interior layouts for all of my books (not counting the Wags, Woofs, and Wonders anthology), and I can honestly say that I've improved a little with each one. In fact, one could argue that I've learned more from self-publishing than I ever would have had I pursued traditional publishing.
  4. As is typical, the people have been one of the best parts of the whole experience. I've already mentioned the friendships I've built with other authors. However, y'all — the people who read my books, either before or after they're published — have also been lovely. On the pre-publishing side, I've found a group of absolutely lovely beta readers, without whom I would probably be lost. Their critiques and suggestions do so much to make my books better, whether in small ways like pointing out confusing wording or in big ways like showing me where a particular character arc isn't what it could be. Plus, their commentary keeps me from going insane during the editing process! And once my books are published, I get to hear from people who've loved the characters and the stories, and it's just so awesome. Any time someone tells me that they read my book and liked it, it just makes my day — even moreso when they then tell me particular characters or bits they enjoyed or ask questions about the story. And, yes, part of that is because it's nice to get compliments — but more importantly, those comments mean that other people are finding meaning and connection and joy in what I make, that my stories are doing what I want them to do. A post I saw recently said that art isn't complete until it's experienced, and that's definitely true of writing.
  5. I'm excited for whatever comes next. Do I know what that'll be? Yes and no. If you keep up with my Taleweaver's Desk posts, you know I have a fair number of books lined up to write or rewrite and publish in the future, but the exact details of all that remains to be seen. I also haven't entirely given up on shopping around one particular novel to traditional publishing houses, just so I can say I've done it both ways. (Though I have to find time to actually rewrite that novel first . . .) I'm kind of keeping my plans intentionally a little loose, as every time I think I've set a solid course, something happens to throw everything off. Whatever happens, though, and wherever this path takes me, I'm sure I'll keep learning, and I pray that I'll keep getting to share my stories with all of y'all.

Have you hit any milestones worth celebrating lately? Also, which of my books so far is your favorite? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading — and thank you for making the last five years so great!

Friday, November 3, 2023

October 2023 Doings!

October is over, and only two months remain before the end of 2023. No, I can't believe it any more than you can, but there are two calendars right beside me, and both have only two pages left before they run out of days. (Which means I should probably make or buy some new calendars for 2024, now that I think about it.) And those last two months will go fast, given that we're just about to the holiday season . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we go rushing on ahead, time to recap October's Doings!


  • We'll start with the good news: Eat Local Read Local went very well. The event had an excellent turnout — over 500 people, if I recall the stats I was given correctly — and I sold a very decent number of books, considering that it was my first time actually doing the selling and that I ended up in the YA/Kids tent instead of the YA/Adult tent (where I think I would have done better). Plus, I got to meet several other authors who I didn't know were local, and several friends came out to see and support me. (One person came all the way from Maryland — that would be the lovely Wyn Owens, who surprised me so much I had to sit down. Then she and I got a late lunch/early dinner after the event and had a chance to chat, and that was fun.)
  • On the downside, I didn't accomplish either of my writing goals for this month. Oh, I wrote, certainly! I put down bout 20,000 new words in October, and I had some very good writing days towards the end of the month.
  • Unfortunately, only about 4,000 of those words were on Bastian Dennel #4, as first my characters were fighting me, and then other things got in the way of working on it.
  • That means I got 16,000 words on my short story challenge piece, and if you can't tell, it's kind of not a short story anymore. It is, in fact, threatening to become a novella. I'm trying to finish it, but these things take time. It's also very character-driven, which means everything takes longer. (On the upside, I am really enjoying the story. It's a platonic Beauty and the Beast wherein the Beast gets stuck with a pair of orphans staying in his manor, and I think you can guess where this is going. Accidental adoption arcs are just delightful.)
  • That said, part of the problem is also that there was a week straight where I didn't write because of grad school stuff. But I'll discuss that in the Life! section.
  • Even if I didn't hit my goals, though, I did get more words on pages, so I can be pleased with that.


  • Given that this was October, I had every intention of going all-in on spooky season reads. That . . . did not happen. The closest things I had to spooky reads were my reread of the Miss Sharp's Monsters trilogy (10/10; they were good the first time around, and they're better on the reread) and my foray into the Dresden Files graphic novels, which were surprisingly good. Specifically, I read Welcome to the Jungle and Ghoul Goblin, both of which take place early enough in the series timeline that I'm not going out of order. I wouldn't give them a blanket rec, but they were fast, fun, exciting reads, and they're a bit lighter on the Content that I dislike in the main series.
  • Aside from the Dresden graphic novels, my other new reads were almost all at the beginning of the month. I finished Of Fire and Ash fairly early in the month, and my opinions remain the same as what I said in September: it's a good book with cool worldbuilding, but it's not a new favorite.
  • I did enjoy Fugitive Telemetry, which is the sixth Murderbot Diaries book. Sci-fi murder mysteries are fun, and Murderbot remains a delightfully snarky and uniquely non-human narrator. As for A Little Persuaded, well, I already posted my thoughts on it, but in short, I liked it.
  • As for the rest of my rereads, they were all roughly as good as I expected them to be. I didn't enjoy Magyk quite as much as I did when I first read the series, which was sad, but not a surprise. On the other hand, the first three Knight and Rogue books remain excellent. They're also the series that got me hooked on the fantasy-mystery combo, so revisiting them has been fun.


  • Time for watching stuff is still hard to come by, but I did block out enough ten-minute chunks of time to rewatch Over the Garden Wall. I started in early October and finished on Halloween, which feels appropriate. I still don't get as into it as other people do, but it's a good show, and it's light enough to watch when I'm tired, but also has enough depth to be satisfying.


  • The highlight of the month was my visit to the Maryland Renaissance festival, at which I had a grand time! I love Ren Faires, and Maryland has an especially good one. I got to see several shows this time, including one on various street gambling cons throughout history that I thought was very interesting. Plus, I watched all three jousts, which were fun. They're not fully scripted like some jousts are, but they also do have a storyline running through them. Sir Keegan, in whose section I sat all three times, didn't win, but he was definitely a crowd favorite!
  • Of course, Ren Faires are even better with friends, and getting to see Wyn Estelle Owens at this one was absolutely lovely. She arrived a bit later than intended, but we still had a nice time exploring and chatting.
  • Outside of the Ren Faire, the thing that took up most of my time and energy was grad school. If you read last month's Doings!, you may remember that I mentioned that the assignment I was working on then should have been boring but straightforward, but instead ended up far more difficult than expected. That pretty much consumed all my free time (and some of my not-so-free time) for a week and a half, and it got to the point where the professor had to actually tell me to back away, take a day or two off, and calm down so that I wouldn't go mad. Thankfully, I did finally get it done, and done well at that. It just took rather longer than intended.
  • Then I had a week's break before my current class started up. Said class is on grant writing. I'm currently in the second week of the class and I really, really don't like it. Basically the only thing going for it is that the workload isn't horrible. Otherwise — the topic stresses me out, the professor has yet to impress me (and also has yet to grade my first week's assignment, which I submitted a week ago), and it's just not a good time.
  • On the work front, I've been kept pretty busy with regular weekly stuff, the Advent newsletter (it's almost Advent, y'all; can you believe it?), and all the various October events. At least the livestream issues seem to be staying resolved, and I have some extra tools now to try if they pop back up.
  • I also did some baking this month and tried out two new recipes. One is a pumpkin cake that I made for work; it turned out very moist and tasty. I did substitute a maple glaze for the original frosting, and I think that was a good choice. The other new recipe was King Arthur Baking's Rustic Sourdough, and that was also good. It's not as strong a sourdough flavor as my usual recipe, but it's much faster, and it makes two loaves instead of one, both of which are good things. I don't think it'll replace my usual recipe, but it's a good alternative option.
  • Oh, and I have to mention the D&D campaign I play in. That's been intense lately. The last several sessions have involved multiple attacks on my character's family, which resulted in certain members of that family (notably, my character's dad) temporarily dying, as well as our party sorcerer fighting a young blue dragon almost one-on-one . . . and the almost is because the dragon called in help. Not the sorcerer. (Our guy won, for the record. It was magnificent.)

November Plans

  • I'm starting off the month with another author event. Tomorrow (or November 4, for those not reading this post the day it goes up), I'll be at Doxacon, which is a very small one-day convention for Christian fans of fantasy and sci-fi. I'm sharing a table/booth/something with Heather Halverstadt (who I also shared a table with at Eat Local, Read Local) and L. Jagi Lamplighter, both of whom attended as vendors last year. It should be a good time.
  • As for my actual writing, I had hoped to start my Song of the Selkies prequel this month . . . but alas, I have other manuscripts I need to finish first. My new goal is to wrap up both my challenge story and Bastian Dennel, PI #4 by the end of November so I can start the SotS prequel in December. I know I'm close to the end of both of those stories, so I think that's doable.
  • Work and grad school will probably continue as they have been. Even though November and December are busy months at work, I am looking forward to getting to do Advent and Christmas designs — I've said this before, and I'll say it again: this season has the best colors and imagery. Hopefully it'll be enough to make up for the frustrations of the grant writing class.
  • November is also both my birthday month and Thanksgiving, both of which I'm looking forward to. I'm especially excited for Thanksgiving — we'll have the usual Bible study potluck, but more importantly, my sister should be coming down for a few days. I cannot wait to see her again.
  • As for my reading . . . I should be working to catch up on some of my reading goals, but realistically, I'll probably continue my rereads and otherwise mood-read my way through the month.
  • And . . . yeah. I think that's everything.

How was your October? What are you looking forward to in November? Did you go to any Renaissance Festivals this year? What are some of your favorite seasonal media (aside from Christmas books or movies)? Do you have more of a problem with your books turning out longer or shorter than expected?
Thanks for reading!


Thursday, October 19, 2023

Stolen Songs Release Party: Interview with Enna


Hello, everyone! You thought we were done with the Stolen Songs releases? Well, we have one more book to celebrate: Kendra E. Ardnek's A Little Persuaded, which releases today! This is the final-for-now installment in the Austen Fairy Tale, and it blends The Little Mermaid with Jane Austen's Persuasion. Today, you can meet the main character, Enna, in a short interview — and tomorrow, swing by Light and Shadows to get my thoughts on the book as a whole.

About . . .

A Little Persuaded

Seven years ago, the mermaid Enna loved a human prince, but fate was against them. Now Kelantis is in danger and her journey to save it has brought the prince back into her life.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

Kendra E. Ardnek

Kendra E. Ardnek is the self-proclaimed Arista of Fairy Tales. She lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her dragon babies and massive herd of mini-giraffes, and she is still waiting for one of of her fifty nutcrackers to come to life and marry her. When not writing, you can usually find her sitting in a random box, and she's frequently known to act before she thinks.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || TikTok || Amazon 

Interview with Enna

Welcome to the blog! To start, tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are, what you do, anything that you feel is important for us to know to understand what makes you, you.

Hello, I am Enna, the younger daughter of King Elliot of Kelantis. I ruined my beauty by ... some foolishness when I was younger, and so I spend my time now devoted to the people. Seeing to their needs. Making sure that the city is secure. Going to land if we need to retrieve information from the humans. That sort of thing.

A very noble duty all round. Who would you say has had the biggest influence (for good or ill) on your life thus far? What was the most important thing you learned from them?

Probably Lady Mussle, who is the Guardian of the ocean's magic. I'm her apprentice now, but even before that, she was always like a mother to me, after my own mother's death. Probably the greatest lesson she ever taught me is that even if the people never appreciate my sacrifices, as long as I know I am in obedience to the will of Austere and am serving in their best interests, that is what matters.

An important lesson to learn. Now, at this point, you’ve lived both above and below the waves, with both humans and merrin. What’s something that you think Merrin do well that humans could maybe take lessons from? On the flip side, what’s something that humans do well and Merrin could stand to adopt?

I think that the humans could learn to care less about the passing of time. The difference between the hours of day are ... less noticeable under the sea than they are on land. As for the Merrin, I think they could learn to care less about the physical appearance. My people are vain. 

That seems to be a common trait with mer-folk in many story worlds. What was the hardest part about leaving your home in the sea (even temporarily) to live on land?

The fact that I was doing it in defiance of my father's orders. It was necessary, though I don't know now what we're going to do with the information I gathered, but I know he is unhappy with me. 

I'm sorry; it's always hard to be in conflict with family. To finish up, what is the one thing you hope people most remember about you?

As I said, it doesn't matter how I'm remembered, as long as I know that I made the right choices and the necessary sacrifices. 

That's a very noble attitude . . . one more people could stand to adopt. Thank you for answering my questions! And thanks to all my readers for reading!

Are you excited to read Enna's tale? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!