Friday, February 24, 2023

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 7: February 2023

Hello, all! First off, a housekeeping note: going forward, I'm officially doing my Taleweaver's Desk updates in the last month of each season instead of the second — so, February, May, August, and November. I think this'll work out better in the long term; it'll conflict with fewer events and busy life bits, and I think these are months in which I'm more likely to have news to share.

Also, a reminder in case you've missed the last half-dozen of these (or just forgotten, which is valid): On the Taleweaver's Desk is my quarterly broad-view update on my writing projects. It's meant both to keep y'all up to date on what's going on in my writing and to help me periodically assess my project list. 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.

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 7:
February 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: Twenty-five chapters drafted and probably within ten chapters of a complete first draft.

This book was not supposed to take over half a year to write. And yet, here we are. Still drafting. I reworked my outline a second time, though this time I just focused on the climax and the chapters immediately leading up to that, and I'm pleased with the results of that in general — it gives Kona a bit more to do, and I think it'll generally up the suspense and tension. Timeline-wise, I was averaging about a chapter or two per week on this project in January. Then I had to redirect my energy to a different project, but oh well. I suspect this one is going to take a lot of rewriting, but I still have hopes of a 2023 release.

Semi-Secret Selkie Story

What is it? The Little Mermaid, but make it selkies, swap the human and mermaid roles, and throw in a princess who genuinely wants to do all the things a princess is supposed to do.

Status: Eight chapters drafted!

I came up with this idea when I realized that I wouldn't even be able to start the other Little Mermaid retelling I was planning before I needed it to be finished. I'd recently read a post from someone who wanted more female fantasy leads who didn't disdain feminine activities and responsibilities, and I liked the idea of a roles-reversed Little Mermaid. Why selkies? That's the wrong question — the correct question is why not selkies? And the answer is: yes selkies. (This one may turn into the first in a series, because I have a bunch of connected ideas . . . but we're taking it one book at a time.)

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: Nearly done with the Middle Earth adventure! And looking forward to getting back to some other adventures I've had planned.

I said in my last Taleweaver's Desk post that I doubted we'd end the Middle Earth adventure before the new year, and I was absolutely correct. We're just about to hit Pelennor Fields, which means we're about to a bit that could have some of the biggest changes from canon, so that should be interesting. I have hopes of finishing the writing of the adventure by the end of March. That's reliant on my setting aside enough time to do more session prep each week than just what I need for that week's session, though. But if I can, I'd love to get this done enough in advance that I can get the next adventure (which will be much shorter) laid out before we even start it.

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 or 2024 at this point due to all the Bastian Dennel, PI books I have planned. I did reread Blood in the Snow recently, though, and that made me miss this storyworld, so who knows what'll happen?

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 publishers. However, that actually happening this year is improbable, due to selkies 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: Books 5 (Jack and the Beanstalk) and 6 (Little Mermaid + a surprise non-fairytale) are still locked in, and I've done some additional ideating and plotting towards Book 6, which I am still quite excited for. I'm figuring out how some new magical beings work in the BDPI world, and that's a lot of fun. Beyond that, I continue to have lots of ideas for new mysteries but not a lot of clarity about the order those mysteries happen in. In any case, I expect to be writing BDPI cases for quite a while yet.

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 are your primary projects right now, and how are they going for you? Also, now that my semi-secret selkie story is slightly less of a secret . . . any thoughts? Tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 17, 2023

Thoughts About On Earth As It Is in Hell

Hey'a, all! If you've been following Bryan Davis's Oculus Gate series, you may already be aware that the final book, On Earth As It Is in Hell, released this month. This series has been such a wild ride, and I'm sure plenty of people were eagerly waiting to see how it would all wrap up. I'm here to provide my thoughts on the story and its ending — and, if anyone is on the fence about picking it up, to hopefully nudge you one way or the other. Of course, if you've already made up your mind, you can go order it on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads shelves.

Thoughts About On Earth As It Is in Hell

  1. This is a story with family at its core. That's the case with most of Davis's books, which I think is a big reason why I enjoy them. It's especially true of this one, where father-daughter relationships (or, more loosely, parent-child ones) really form the heart of the story and drive the narrative. We have Leo and Ben both putting everything on the line to protect and guide Iona, as they have many times before, and we have Iona grappling with her relationship with the man who raised her and some revelations about the kind of person he was. It all comes together into a really excellent theme.
  2. This one definitely feels darker than the others in the series. I think it's because, rather than dealing with a single villain or even single group of villains, a lot of this book is confronting the sin and darkness present in the world as a whole, including human trafficking, abortion, and various forms of abuse, both overt and more subtle. As usual, Davis handles the topics well, but he also doesn't shy away from showing these tragedies or their effects, which means this may be a hard book to read at times — though it's certainly worth reading if you can handle it.
  3. I really want to go back and reread/finish reading the Reapers trilogy. I never actually finished reading the Reapers trilogy due to it coming out while I was at Cedarville and was therefore falling behind on 90% of new releases (plus the fact that I didn't love the first book as much as some Davis books, and therefore had lower motivation to read the rest of the trilogy instead of reading other new books that I was more excited about). But reading the Oculus Gate series, especially this one and Heaven Came Down, make me want to fix that — not because I'm confused for lack of knowledge, but because the stuff being drawn from that series strikes me as cool and means I'm more interested in going back to it. (The series also makes me want to reread Time Echoes, but that's pretty much normal regardless of what I've been reading lately.)
  4. As with Heaven Came Down, this is probably best enjoyed if you reread the rest of the Oculus Gate books before you read this one. Had I been a bit smarter, I would have remembered that and refreshed my memory just so I didn't end up scrambling in some cases to remember the significance of particular things that happen or are referenced. These books are so packed with twists, turns, and everything happening all at once that sometimes things get lost. It's still enjoyable even if you don't have time to go back and revisit the rest of the series, though, so don't let that stop you from picking it up.
  5. I do think that the denouement could have used a little more breathing room so that certain things didn't feel quite so convenient. This may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, and there were definitely some elements of the story's end that I very much appreciated. However, there were also a few developments that felt a bit like Davis was just trying to wrap up plot threads as quickly as possible so he didn't accidentally end up needing to write another book. It's not a huge issue, and it does work, but it is something I think could have been done better.

Have you been keeping up with the Oculus Gate series? Are you excited for the series conclusion? Do you tend to prefer long or short wrap-ups? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 3, 2023

January 2023 Doings!

Hello hello hello! We're one month into 2023, and it's time for the first Doings! post of the year. This has been another busy month, especially on the writing front. It was decidedly not chill except in the sense of being far colder than it had any right to be, despite my best hopes, but that was what I kind of expected. So, let's get on with the post and see what actually happened.


  • My January writing has been a lot more varied than many months have been of late. Whether or not that's a good thing is . . . debatable.
  • Most of the month was spent continuing Bastian Dennel, PI #4. I made some changes to the storyline that I think will produce good results and give one of my POV characters more to do and a stronger climax to her particular character arc. Of course, that meant re-outlining the remaining chapters in the book, especially since I knew I was going to have to pause work on the story for a bit to focus on projects with a closer deadline. I think my new plan is going to work, but the whole book is going to take a good bit of editing.
  • My second project was outlining, drafting, and editing a short story submission for the Fellowship of Fantasy Magical Dogs anthology. I'm reasonably pleased with how it turned out, though I'm not quite sure whether or not the anthology editors will go for it. We'll find out.
  • My final major project, which was spread out throughout most of the month, was planning, outlining, and starting the first draft of a new, currently unnamed, semi-secret project involving selkies. If you remember what my last few "secret projects" were, you probably have a good guess about what this one is going to end up being . . . but I should be able to tell you for sure in next month's Taleweaver's Desk update. I hoped to have it at least half drafted by the end of the month, but the magical dogs story took longer than I expected.
  • And, of course, my D&D campaign is still going. At the moment, though, prep for that is pretty chill, so I'm able to just take an hour or two either on session days or the day before the session to write what I need.


  • . . . I made a choice this month. More specifically, I made a choice at midnight on New Year's Day (as in, first hour of the new year), which was that I was going to reread Between Jobs, and things progressed from there, and so I have read nothing except City Between and beta-reading projects all month — literally. I started, as I said, in the first hours of January, and I finished the series in the last hours of the month. I have no regrets. Well, one regret, which is that I kinda got behind on ARCs and last year's releases that I was supposed to catch up on, but it's fine.
  • And, honestly, I think that City Between is the kind of series that you have to read more than once. You read it the first time to fall in love with the characters and be astounded by every twist and turn of the story. And then you read it a second time because you miss the characters and the world and so that you can gasp and say "Wendee, you didn't" every so often because some line or comment or detail has taken on an entirely new meaning now that you know what you should have been looking for.
  • So, yes. 10/10 experience, would 100% recommend. And if you start now, you might still finish before A Whisker Behind comes out in February!


  • It will surprise absolutely no one that I haven't really had a lot of time to watch stuff this month.
  • I did finally finish season one of Leverage, though, and I started season two. I very much enjoyed both episodes and the element of this group just being unable to (A) leave an unfinished job alone, (B) leave each other alone, or (C) go back to their old lives now that Nate's shown them something better. It's a delight, and I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the season . . . sometime.
  • I also rewatched a little more Fairy Tail because, you know, they're short episodes (and therefore easier to squeeze in) and I already know what happens, so it's pretty relaxing. I'm currently on the arc that introduces Gajeel, and it's interesting to go back to when he was still an antagonist.


  • January is a weird month. You're coming off December, which is all holidays and odd schedules and, at least in my case, a good bit of time off. And then you're trying to get back to normal, but you have random Mondays that are actually either Saturdays or Sundays (depending on your perspective) that are nice but also not conducive to reestablishing a standard schedule, and it's grey and cold and you're tired half the time . . . yeah. If you can't tell, this is not my favorite month. Still better than February, though.
  • The first week or so of the month was pretty decent, in that my sister was still home and I got to spend time with her a little bit more before she went back to college. That's always nice.
  • Work, at least, has been fairly quiet. January usually is, since everyone is recovering from Advent and Christmas, and this year we didn't even have staff changes or an organ donation campaign to throw things off. Actually, I think this January may have been even quieter than it normally would be, as at least one or two staff members were out of the office — traveling or sick or on a mission trip — pretty much at all times. Mostly, I was just cycling through the usual weekly tasks on a slightly shortened schedule until Lenten newsletter time rolled around.
  • Outside of work, I spent a good bit of time figuring out stuff with the Thing I'm Not Talking About Yet, which I discovered could start in February instead of January and decided to put off until then so that I would have more writing time. We'll see if that backfires on me or not. I also got to deal with car stuff, so . . . yay? (Nothing as serious as what happened back in summer, just regular maintenance, but it was frustrating due to various reasons.)
  • On the upside, I'm officially registered for Realm Makers in July, and I am HYPED. Last year was such a good experience that I decided that the stress and expense of having to fly to this year's conference would be worth it. I'm very excited for several of the speakers — though I'm a bit disappointed that the Donald Maass breakout sessions are currently scheduled for the same time as the two most interesting one-off sessions. Alas. I'll have to be more proactive about watching the session recordings after the conference, I suppose. (Also, am I already brainstorming costume ideas for the Awards Banquet? You BET I am.)
  • I also acquired some very shiny new dice via a program where you can request products for review — this is my first set of metal dice, and I'm very pleased with them. They're very weighty and fancy, and they've got this lovely dragon theming and copper-blue color scheme going on.
  • Oh, and I finished the hat that I started after Christmas! This is a pattern that I made once before and messed up — the result was still very much a hat and very wearable, but I wanted to to try doing it right. I'm pleased with how it turned out, and it was nice to do such a quick, straightforward project after a lot of lengthy or complicated ones. I think I may switch back to an embroidery project next, but we'll see.

February Plans

  • February is, surprise, surprise, looking like mostly spillover from January.
  • As I already mentioned, the Thing I'm Not Talking About Yet has been pushed back to start about midway through this month. I haven't decided whether I'm excited or nervous or too tired to be either.
  • Writing-wise, I'll probably be focusing mainly on my semi-secret selkie story and my D&D campaign this month. The semi-secret selkie story has a deadline that's coming up pretty quick (a lot quicker than I'd like), so that needs to take priority. And my D&D campaign is in a place where I can probably draft out the rest of this adventure without setting myself up to have wasted a bunch of time and energy on a path people aren't going to pursue. That'll also give me the ability to start working on the next adventures, both of which I've been excited about for quite a while and really want to do stuff with.
  • On the work front, February is the start of Lent, so that'll dominate a fair bit of my time and attention. Not quite as much as last year, but still a good bit. I'm also hoping that I'll be able to wrap up some of the projects that keep getting delayed, but at this point, I'm not holding my breath.
  • In terms of reading, I expect to be playing catch-up on all the things I meant to read in January but didn't because I was too busy adventuring Between. That'll mean some Sanderson, a little Megan Whalen Turner, and Bryan Davis's new book, along with — hopefully — more Fullmetal Alchemist.
  • I want to try to get hold of a desk attachment for the treadmill so I can hopefully start walking while I'm doing stuff on the computer. Ideally, I'd like to be able to write and walk (slowly) at the same time, which may take some practice, but I know other people manage it. And even if I can't do actual novel-writing on the treadmill because it's too much at once, I may be able to do blog and social stuff (which takes less brainpower).
  • I think that about covers it! I'm sure I'll remember something later that I should have included in these plans, but oh well. Mostly I just want to keep from falling further into the winter blahs.

How was your January? Any exciting plans for February? What's your best method for fighting back the winter blahs? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!