Friday, August 25, 2023

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 9: August 2023

Hello, all! The summer months are almost at an end (assuming you consider September fall, which . . . let's be real, it really isn't), and that means many things. It means the Silmaril Awards are coming up in just a few weeks. It means that Song of the Selkies is less than a month away from release. And it means that it's time for another Taleweaver's Desk update. Once again, there aren't a lot of changes since my previous update, but I have made progress on most of my active projects. So, let's see what's new! As always, 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 9: August 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.

Song of the Selkies (Daughters of Atirse #1)

What is it? A roleswap Little Mermaid retelling featuring selkies and a princess who genuinely wants to do all the things a princess is supposed to do.

Status: Fully drafted; a little less than halfway through the first edit. Available for preorder now!

Everything about this book has taken longer than anticipated, but we are pressing onward. I give thanks every day that I write pretty clean first drafts so I can focus most of my editing energy on making the actual story better without having to wade through lots of spelling and grammar mistakes. (I also give thanks that I found such a great team of beta readers, all of whom gave excellent feedback on a rather tight turnaround.) The part of the book I've been editing this week involves a lot of rearranging scenes and trying to make sure the timeline works, so that's held me up, but I think once I get past this section, I'll speed back up.

Bastian Dennel, PI #4

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

Status: Twenty-six and a bit chapters drafted.

Having to spend extra time on Song of the Selkies met I didn't finish this in July like I hoped, nor will I finish it in August. I expect that this will be my main writing project in October, once Song of the Selkies is released and the Silmaril Awards are over. Once I finish drafting it, I'll decide whether I want to switch the order of Books 4 and 5 like I mentioned back in May, though at the moment I'm leaning away from that plan. The only real advantage of that plan is that it might mean getting a book out a little sooner, but either way, there probably won't be a new BDPI book until 2024. Sorry!

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 finally finished writing and running the Middle Earth adventure — huzzah! — and wrote another, much shorter, adventure that we're in the middle of now. I'm currently taking a break from D&D writing to focus my energy on other projects (namely, Song of the Selkies and grad school) and hoping that what I have written lasts long enough to when I can work on the next adventure. I thought it would, but my group has cleverly bypassed about half the encounters I planned, so we'll see. For the record, I'm quite proud of their cleverness — I gave them an open-ended riddle, and the solution they came up with was much better than either of the answers I had in mind. And the encounters they bypassed, I'll save for another time, so we're fine on every count except maybe time.

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.

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. 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 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: I am having lots of thoughts about Book Probably-5 (Jack and the Beanstalk) and have figured out 90% of the setup and 60% of the plot. I don't outline books before I'm ready to write them, but I may have to start making exceptions for BDPI books because I'm genuinely getting really excited for this one and have no outlet for it. I'm also excited for Book 6 (Little Mermaid + a non-fairytale classic novel), and I may have to outline that one too so I can properly organize all the ideas I have for it.That said, outlining is part of how I usually work up to starting a story, so . . . we'll see how that goes, if I decide to do it.

Daughters of Atirse stories

What is it? At least three other stories in the same series as Song of the Selkies. Specific stories planned: The Goose Girl crossed with Puss in Boots (a prequel), something in the Beauty and the Beast Family (a sequel), and my take on Tam Lin crossed with a couple other fairy tales (another prequel).

Status: I want to write all of these so much and I haven't even published Book 1 yet, y'all. It's a struggle.

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.

What projects are on your desk right now, and how are they going for you? How far in advance of writing a book do you outline it? (And have you had any success with outlining far in advance?) Tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, August 18, 2023

Reasons to Enjoy Editing (Or to at Least Not Hate It)

Hello, all! I am currently in the midst of editing Song of the Selkies so it'll be ready for release next month. I confess that this is not my favorite stage of the writing process — which is part of the reason why I try to write very clean first drafts, so I don't have to spend more time than necessary here. Still, every stage of storycraft has its merits, so in an effort to keep my spirits up (especially as I'm ending a rather stressful week even outside of writing stuff), I've decided to find five reasons why I can enjoy editing, even if I don't love it.

Reasons to Enjoy Editing

  1. I get to rediscover all the good bits and go "Hey! This is great! And I wrote that!" I don't think it's arrogant to say that I do genuinely like what I write much of the time. (If I didn't like it more than I disliked it, I'd probably stop writing.) Even in first-draft form, I'm often proud of particular scenes or bits of description or dialogue or narration, and I enjoy rereading these bits almost as much as I enjoy reading other peoples' writing. Editing gives me an excuse to do that, and of course it's an opportunity to take the good bits and make them better (difficult as that might be at times).
  2. I can fix the parts I don't like without worrying about losing my momentum. I'm a very linear writer — while some writers can craft scenes and then go back and add in all the bits necessary to connect those scenes together, I start at the beginning and work straight through until I reach the end, no jumping around. (There are exceptions when I realize that I need to change details in a past scene to make the rest of the book work, but that's rare.) That means that, on days when the words are fighting me or in scenes that just won't work right, I typically have to push through anyway to get to the point where I know what I'm doing again. I rarely like what I've written during these periods, but editing means I can take (almost) all the time I need to turn these sections into something I'm happy with, without worrying about momentum.
  3. I can find the places where I accidentally foreshadowed things and do it better on purpose. The other thing about writing linearly, specifically about writing linearly as an author who's more plantser than planner, is that I don't know all the details of the ending when I'm writing the early chapters of a book. And, depending on how long that book took me, by the time I reach the climax, I might not consciously remember those early chapters very well. Editing is an opportunity to go back and find the places where I accidentally foreshadowed something or created some parallel — quite possibly without knowing that I was doing so — and then purposefully polish those elements to bring out their full potential. It's also a chance to find the sections where I set up the potential for foreshadowing and then taking advantage of it.
  4. I get to laugh at the cluelessness of the characters in their start-of-book state. I recognize that this sounds terrible, but it's not! I swear! But when I go back to the start of a novel and revisit characters at the start of their storylines and arcs, and I remember how much they don't know . . . it's funny, ok? That's especially true with the main character of Song of the Selkies — unlike Alys in Through a Shattered Glass or the Dennels in my Bastian Dennel series, Ceana is both highly idealistic and (though no fault of her own) lacking some very significant knowledge about her world, country, and neighbors. (That's not a spoiler; it's in the book blurb.) As a result, returning to the start of the book prompts a lot of "Oh you sweet summer child, you have a big storm coming" from me. It's genuinely delightful.
  5. I get to read beta readers' comments! This is the absolute best part of the editing process: the fact that I get to see readers' reactions to specific parts of the story in context. I get to see which parts they especially liked, which bits made them laugh or cry or scream. I get to laugh as they snark at characters or make meme references. I get to "watch" them make predictions and piece together what's really going on. And, yes, I also get constructive feedback, but the fact that this is the one opportunity I have to see what it's like to read my stories for the first time, to come along on the reader's journey with them . . . that's something really special.

Do you love editing? Hate it? Feel meh about it? In any case, what do you especially like about it? Or, at least, what makes it bearable for you? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 4, 2023

July 2023 Doings!

Hello everyone! Questionably fun fact: I completely forgot that I was supposed to write a Doings! post this week until about 6:20 yesterday morning. In my defense, it's been a weird month and a weird week, and I am tired. July was a good month, but it was far from a restful one. And if you want to know what I mean, well, that's what this post is for, so let's get on with the Doings!


  • Well, this has definitely been an exciting month on the writing front! We started out with the release of the Fellowship of Fantasy Wags, Woofs, and Wonders anthology on July 6. I didn't end up doing as much as I wanted with that release, but thankfully the other authors were much more with it. It's currently available in both ebook and paperback formats, so if you'd like to enjoy some feel-good short stories featuring magical doggos and guaranteed happy endings, go ahead and pick that up.
  • The week after the anthology release was, of course, the Realm Makers writing conference. I had a great time at the conference, and I'll talk more about that in the Life! section, but there is one element of the conference that I want to mention here . . . which is, of course, the fact that Through a Shattered Glass won the novella category of the Realm Awards! I've said this a few times now, but I was thrilled and honored just to be on the finalist list, and actually winning is amazing. (I am also very proud of myself for managing to not embarrass myself when I went up to receive the award, as I sometimes get nervous around large crowds, and I definitely did not prepare as much as I intended.)
  • The last bit of exciting news: shortly after returning from Realm Makers, I announced my next book release: Song of the Selkies, a roleswap Little Mermaid retelling that will release September 19 as part of the Stolen Songs Arista Challenge group. If you want to learn more, click here and check out my cover reveal post! I also finished drafting this novel in July, the day after the cover reveal — yes, I'm cutting it closer than I normally do, but we'll be fine. Even the first draft of this book turned out really well and has gotten great feedback from betas so far, so I'm excited to get to release it into the world.
  • Even aside from all the exciting stuff, July has been a really good writing month for me. I ended up writing almost 43K words this month, spread out across three different projects. Finishing Song of the Selkies took most of those words — just over 32K — and involved a lot of 1K+ days. And my last two days of work on it both had a wordcount of around 5K, which is a lot for me! Additionally, I wrote another 4.6K words on the fourth Bastian Dennel, PI book, which isn't a ton but is respectable for the fact that I was only actively working on it for about a week. Finally, I wrote about 6K words in my D&D Feygate adventure, which has been so much fun to put together. The Middle Earth adventure was nice in that I had the storyline laid out, and I just had to translate it into D&D, but I've missed getting to do my own thing. I'm currently having a grand time coming up with potential scenarios, NPCs, and so forth, and I very much look forward to actually running them. We've already played two sessions of the adventure, and people seem to like it so far, so I'd call that a good sign.


  • July was also an excellent reading month, as you can probably see. Most of what I read continued my Ranger's Apprentice reread, which has been a lot of fun. As I said last month, rediscovering this series has been a lot of fun, and the books hold up impressively well. At this point, I'm done with the reread portion of it, and I'm in between the two Early Years books, which are new-to-me reads. Well, technically, Goodreads claims I read The Tournament at Gorlan back in 2015, but I have no memory of doing so, and that was before I did Doings! posts, so . . . who knows? I certainly don't.
  • We only have four new reads for the month. A Storm Grows is a book of poetry by Janeen Ippolito, which I primary read for purposes of a reading challenge. Power Through was my Realm Makers read — I like to read something by a Realmie author while I'm at the conference, and so far, that author has been H.L. Burke both years. Power Through is the third book in Burke's young adult superhero series, and I quite enjoyed it. Of course, it had Wildfyre in it, as well as peak dad!Fade, Voidling, and Jake and Marco both doing some growing, so the odds were very much in its favor. Finally, we have volumes 11 and 12 of Fullmetal Alchemist, both of which I really liked. I don't know why I enjoyed them more than I have previous installments? But they were both very good, especially Volume 12. (Speaking of things I can't explain: I somehow, in the space of approximately three books, got attached to Lanfan, who is very much a secondary character at this point, and I do not know how or why, other than I seriously respect both her courage and dedication.)
  • So, yes. The other few books I read are all rereads, and I have nothing much to say about any of them other than that Gothel and the Maiden Prince, like most of W.R. Gingell's work, stands up very well the second time around, as does the Ticket to Write anthology.


  • Not a lot to report here, since lots of writing, plus travel, means I don't have much time to watch things in the evenings. That said, I did watch How to Steal a Million and North by Northwest towards the start of the month. I very much enjoyed How to Steal a Million — I love a good heist story, and the setup for this one was so fun. Plus, the lead actors played off each other very well.
  • North by Northwest, I was a bit less of a fan of — conceptually, it was cool, with the whole "ordinary man gets mistaken for a spy and then has to go on the run" thing, and the action and adventure was great, but the romance elements weren't really my thing. Ah well.


Left to right: Wyn Estelle Owens as Breen from Mechanical Heart, me as a steampunk cowgirl (feat. my Realm Award!), and Kendra E. Ardnek as the Gardener from her Austen Fairy Tale (which is very good and you should read it).

  • July was, as already stated, a busy month, but it was still a very good month for many reasons. And reason number one, above and beyond anything else that happened, was that it was the first (and only) month this summer in which all my immediate family members were in the same place for the majority of the time. My mom came back from my grandpa's the first weekend of July, and it was so nice to have her home again.
  • We didn't end up doing anything much for Independence Day, even though we were all home. Usually, our Bible Study would get together, but so many people were out of town that it just didn't happen. That said, I'm not really complaining . . .
  • But now we come to the highlight of the month, which was, of course, REALM MAKERS! Though this was my second year attending, it still had a lot of firsts for me: first time flying solo, first time at the St. Louis location (which I'd heard so many good things about from friends), first formal book signing thing . . .
    • After the craziness of last year (amid which I almost missed the start of the conference), I opted to fly out on Wednesday before the conference. That was definitely the right choice, even though plane schedules meant I ended up arriving super early that day — 9am St. Louis Time. Thankfully, navigating the airport on both sides was much easier than I expected, especially since my dad ended up leaving on the same day and at roughly the same time for a business trip, so I wasn't trying to do everything myself on the way out. And the early arrival time gave me some good writing hours and plenty of time to catch up with friends (namely, Kendra E. Ardnek and Wyn Owens) before the conference proper.
    • It also gave me time to run the Realm Makers-themed one-page RPG one-shot I'd prepared, which was super fun. What happens when three wizards' creature companions — an octopus (who would like you to know that he's a totally normal human man, not an octopus, why would you think he's an octopus), a hyperactive weasel, and a prim and self-absorbed cat — have to defeat the mad inventor and his machines that have put their wizards to sleep? Much chaos, that's what — including, but not limited to, the weasel overdosing on coffee, the octopus using the weasel as a projectile weapon, and the cat deciding that she was, in fact, a god. They did successfully wake their wizards, though, so that's good.
    • Thursday, I helped out with the registration desk in the morning (which was nice because I got to meet some people and also felt like I could recognize people later), and then the conference officially opened in the afternoon. The keynote address with Steven Laube was excellent, focusing mostly on the idea and value of wonder. Also excellent was going to dinner with Wyn and Katie Hanna and chatting about our various books and ideas and tropes and whatnot. (Katie Hanna, by the way, is writing a Western fantasy series that sounds fabulous). Additionally, Thursday was when I finished writing the climax of Song of the Selkies, which was most exciting. 
    • Friday and Saturday were both very busy days, with lots of great sessions. For my continuing sessions, I attended Charlie Holmberg's "Speculative Worldbuilding" series, which was interesting. Some of it I felt like I already knew, but it was cool to see her process and hear her advice and thoughts. She tends to do map-first worldbuilding, which is not my usual approach, but I do see how effective it can be. I also attended a two-part elective by Donald Maass on writing series characters, which gave me some principles I think will be super helpful as I continue to write my Bastian Dennel books. My one complaint about that elective was that the two parts were scheduled right after lunch on Friday and Saturday, so I kept having to rush out of lunch to make it to the talks on time.
    • Friday was also the Awards Banquet, which was exciting for a multitude of reasons. There's the obvious one, of course — the fact that I was one of the people who received an award. I also had fun dressing up; I decided to go as a steampunk cowgirl at the last minute, and I had a grand time talking in an accent that would have done Quincy Morris proud. (As a bonus, I discovered that I actually look rather good in a cowboy hat, if I do say so myself!) Also, Wyn decided to dress up as my character Breen from Mechanical Heart, and I think I might have gotten just as excited about that as I did about the award. I'm not even joking. Additionally, we got to sit with a couple who we'd met at the 2022 Realm Makers, and it was nice to catch up with them. (I should probably go find and friend them on Facebook, but I . . . have not managed to do that yet.) And we ended the night with several rounds of Bring Your Own Book, which is always a delight.
    • The conference ended on Saturday with the book fair. The book fair includes an opportunity to get your books signed by Realm Makers faculty and Realm Awards winners, so that was kind of my first official author signing event! I will admit that I kind of missed being able to wander around the vendor hall like I did last year . . . but it was also nice to get to sit in a comparatively quiet area and meet people and actually have conversations without struggling to hear. And, let's be real, I spent way less money than I would have if I had nothing to do but walk around the vendors.
  • So, yes. All in all, Realm Makers 2023 was just as great as it was in 2022 — better, in some ways. The hotel was more comfortable, for one thing, and I didn't feel quite so perpetually overwhelmed. I will say that, contrary to what one might expect, the best and most exciting part wasn't the awards ceremony or the book fair or getting to meet authors I look up to or anything like that. Rather, it was the opportunity to see people like Kendra, Wyn, and Katie in person and the fact that I got to spend four days in the company of people who love the same things I love. That's the biggest reason I went back in 2023, and it's the biggest reason I hope to return again next year (Lord and finances willing).
  • The last big event of July was both sad and happy, as my little sister officially moved to another state for her first job out of college at the end of the month. I'm happy for her; I know she's going to be doing something that she enjoys and can get excited about the way I can get excited about my work. Plus, she'll be close to many of her friends, and she has a great church community up there. At the same time, though, having to say goodbye in the knowledge that she won't be back next summer was sad, and I miss having her around and being able to talk to her about stuff. I mean, we've done several video calls since she left, but it's not the same. (Plus, my mom went back to Pennsylvania for a few weeks at the same time, so . . . yeah.)
  • I think that about covers it. Work is work, crafting and baking have barely happened . . . My D&D group did get in a few sessions, which were intense. We're trying to take down one of our nemeses, and he's the literal worst, and two of the party members have lost NPCs who they were super close to. One of the party members actually retired over it, so that was doubly sad. The player is still in the group and made a new character, but still . . . sadness. Oh, and the DM said that we're probably only a couple levels away from the end of the campaign, which is . . . terrifying. Exciting! But terrifying! The group will continue with new adventures, though, so we can look forward to that.

August Plans

  • My number one plan for August is to do LOTS of edits on Song of the Selkies, plus formatting, tour prep, and all that good stuff. The fact that the book turned out way longer than I planned means I'm on a tight schedule now. I'm committed to making sure everything is done on time, but I do not expect it to be easy. 
  • And it will only be made more difficult by the fact that my next semester of grad school starts at the end of the month. I thought about delaying and having overlapping classes again like I did last year, or even about only doing one class this semester, but I know that if I delay grad school stuff every time I have a busy writing season, it'll take me ten years to finish this degree, and the goal is not to do that, thank you.
  • In between edits and class work, I'll continue working on Bastian Dennel, PI #4 and my D&D Feygate adventure. I'd like to finish the Feygate adventure this month, and I think that's a pretty reasonable goal, especially since I'm well over half done already.
  • I have no idea what will happen on the blogs. I have some regularly-scheduled posts that will need to go up, and I would prefer not to take too long of a hiatus (especially as I know I may take another semi-hiatus sometime in the fall), so hopefully we'll be back to the regularly-scheduled weekly stuff? Assumed I don't get slapped in the face by the need to do three million things?
  • Work will probably be busy, but I don't expect it to be notably busier than usual. I do have both the newsletter and Stewardship campaign materials this month, but those are usually pretty enjoyable projects, so I'm not super worried. I'm a little more worried about our directory project, but it'll probably be fine.
  • I also want to do some more bread-baking with my fresh herbs while I have fresh herbs to bake with, but we'll see how that works out.
  • I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but whatever. My basic goal for August is to survive, edit all the words, and not miss any deadlines. That should be doable, right?

How was your July? What are you looking forward to in August? Did you go to Realm Makers, or have you gone in the past? If so, what was YOUR most exciting part? Have you been doing more new-reading or rereading lately? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!