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Dreaming of a Dark Christmas

Dreaming of a Dark Christmas

I’ve finally finished all four stories in my “secret” project, a collection of dark Christmas stories which will be published under each of my writing names, Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, Celia Roman, and C.D. Watson, one story per name.

I conceived of this idea after stumbling across information on chapbooks, and had thought to produce four super short stories and have them published either individually or collectively as a chapbook. Now traditionally, chapbooks are rather small in size and length, so I planned to tell four complete dark holiday stories in under 1500 words each.

Ha, yes. It’s ok to laugh. Those of you who know me know very well that I write until the story is done, and sometimes that’s a lot longer word-count wise than I expected. Case in point: While developing A Mutual Feeling, I thought it would be no more than 7500 words long. The finished story weighs in at a respectable 19,117 words, a far cry from my original estimate.

So here I had this lovely idea, a short story collection featuring a tale told by each of my separate writing personas, and it was rapidly growing too cumbersome for its original medium. I do love my pivots, y’all. The easiest (and savviest) thing to do was continue with the project and simply publish it as I normally would. The result is my first holiday collection, Dreaming of a Dark Christmas.

Dreaming of a Dark Christmas

The entire project is mine from start to finish, with two lovely exceptions. I did the cover, wrote the introduction and the stories, formatted the digital and print editions, and am slowly creating pages for the book on each of my pertinent websites. The first exception is, of course, Richard, my editor, who so far loves each of the stories. He’s about to read through the fourth and final one, and hopefully will love it just as much as the other three.

The second exception is Rebecca Winder, narrator of the Sunshine Walkingstick Series and, when I get it proofed, Intersections. I just handed the three finished stories over to her to narrate in between her other projects. She has a great voice and is awesome to work with, so I’m very much looking forward to her finished product.

As to the stories themselves, I developed each one around a particular day of the holiday season. That’s how the stories got their names, and it’s why they’re ordered the way they are, by the date of the holiday rather than the year in which the story takes place. There’s quite a range here, too, from the American Civil War (“Christmas Eve Gift”) all the way up to the modern day (“On the 7th Day of Christmas”).

Here’s a quick peek at each of the stories, given here in the order in which they’ll appear within the collection.

“Christmas Eve Gift” by C.D. Watson

The story I published under my own name was originally going to be an historic Krampus tale co-written with my son. Alas, his free time is so rare, we simply couldn’t coordinate enough collaboration time to finish that story.

Instead, I took a tradition from my own family, moved it back in time a century and a half, fictionalized a local character by the name of Old Bill (a woman, by the way), and twisted the story a little to suit the collection’s mood.

The result is the only story in the collection to meet my original word count criteria of being less than 1500 words in length. Fitting then that it should go first.

In “Christmas Eve Gift,” Old Bill is on her way to her niece Sally’s house to play a traditional Christmas Eve prank on Sally and her family when she encounters an unexpected darkness. I had a lot of fun writing Old Bill, and hope to share her with you again in future stories.

“A Dark Christmas” by V.R. Cumming

One of the hardest things about writing a series is not being able to share all the really interesting back stories of secondary characters. Readers of The Vampyr Series should be familiar with Alice, Eric’s creche mate and a full-fledged vampire, and Gregory, Jason’s teammate and friend.

The New Vampire contains some fairly heavy hints that Alice is uneasy about Eric throwing her together with Gregory because of something that happened in Gregory’s past. I’ve wanted to tell that story for so long, it’s been difficult not to blurt out what really happened.

Guess what? Now I don’t have to. “A Dark Christmas” is the beginning of Alice and Gregory’s story, but it’s not what you think. In fact, this one may surprise the heck out of you. For those unfamiliar with the story world, don’t worry. “A Dark Christmas” is easily understood without having read a single word in The Vampyr Series.

“On the 7th Day of Christmas” by Celia Roman

If you’ve been following along in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, then you’ve probably been waiting for Sunny and David to have their party. It finally happens on a very special night, New Year’s Eve.

That’s the seventh day of Christmas, if you were wondering. Yes, I had to look it up, too, but research is the fun part of being a writer. That and the chocolate. Oh, the lovely, dreamy, melt in your mouth chocolate. Yum.

Ahem.

Anyway, on the seventh day of Christmas Sunny encounters a monster that she doesn’t have to kill, but the whys of that are clues to the next story in the series. As with Alice’s story, “On the 7th Day of Christmas” was designed for every reader whether familiar with Sunny’s world or not.

“Twelfth Night” by Lucy Varna

Finally, a short story from the Daughters of the People Series. “Twelfth Night” jumps back in time to the night Lukas Alexiou turns thirteen. This is also the beginning of his relationship with the Woman with No Face, which is no coincidence at all.

As with “A Dark Christmas,” I’ve been wanting to recount this particular encounter for a long time. When I first conceived of the idea for a dark holiday collection, it seemed like a no-brainer to include the night when Lukas must decide where his destiny lies, under his father’s heel, or in the future promised to him by a mysterious, ageless assassin.

Again, this one can be understood without having read the Daughters of the People Series. If you’re a fan of the series, definitely don’t skip “Twelfth Night” as it is a nice companion to some of the events in the final three books of the series.

Dreaming of a Dark Christmas

I had a lot of fun with the four stories in Dreaming of a Dark Christmas, from brainstorming to writing to preparing them for publication, and on 15 December 2017, you can have some fun with them, too, as that’s when the collection will be released. You can preorder it now at Amazon, or wait until I announce it through one of my newsletters. Either way, you won’t want to miss these dark tales of Christmases past and present.

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

Not too much to report this month, but some interesting stuff nonetheless.

The Contests, Giveaways, and Sales page has a new format. I'm going to try to keep this updated a little better, but here's where you'll find information on upcoming and ongoing events, other than new releases, which have been added to the right-hand side of the page. 

Cemetery Hill, the third Sunshine Walkingstick novel, was released on 13 October. I'm happy to have this one out at long last. I love Sunny and her world, but it's difficult to write in. No idea if or when any other full-length novels will be released in this series, but keep reading for news on a possible anthology containing a short story.

I haven't set a specific release date for The Gathering Storm yet. It's still being released in January 2018, probably after the middle of the month, which is generally when I release titles. I'll have a more specific date as soon as I finish the first draft. That should be soon. I'm in the middle of some of the more climactic scenes near the end of the book, and expect to have no more than 10-15 scenes left, most of which have been planned out.

I wrote a brief blog post containing cover reveals for the final two books in the series, plus the final book in the Pruxnae Series, about a month ago on the Lucy Varna blog. Here are the covers, because wow, are they good. I'm so excited to finally be able to share them!

That blog post also contained possible release dates for Redemption (Daughters of the People, Book 6.5) and War's Last Refuge (Daughters of the People, Book 7). I'm fairly certain, but not entirely positive, that Redemption will be released in March rather than February, and War's Last Refuge in April or May, depending on how long it takes me to write it. I expect the final book of the series to be longer than the rest, so it could take much longer to write. There's just a lot going on in that story, as it wraps up not just the series, but also the story of the People.

After I finish writing the Daughters of the People Series, my current plan is to work on The Master Vampire, the final novel in the Vampyr Series (V.R. Cumming), and then tackle Sweet Surrender. I know readers are chomping at the bit for Eric's story. I had planned on releasing it and Sweet Surrender this year, but couldn't due to some personal issues. 

A reader asked if there will be more Sons of the People novels. My tentative answer is yes. The series was supposed to span four novels interspersed among other novels of the People (explained in the linked blog post). I would very much like to tackle Ruby and Jordan's story as the next Sons of the People novel, and have begun developing it. (Yes, we will see more of Lali, and probably Petey, too.) 

That said, I've been considering a shift in what I write for a couple of years now, from romantic fiction to "straight" (non-romantic) fiction, particularly in the Speculative Fiction genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Weird Fiction). When I set my schedule for the next couple of years, always a tentative process that's continually being revised, I completely forgot to include stories for that new direction. Hey, I was super excited to finally jot down all the stories I've been dying to write beyond the ones already promised!

I'll be revising my schedule again soon, and will include the new stories there. I had planned to publish those stories, along with short stories, under the name Isobel Fletcher, but after much consideration, I said screw it and am publishing them under my own name instead. Publishing under pen names is tiring, and feels less than honest to me, even though it's not. In fact, it's a time honored tradition. 

Still, I'm oddly happy for the change. I took a couple of days to rearrange the websites to reflect the change, and hope to have the Romancing the Weird anthology published in the first quarter of 2018.

Speaking of anthologies, I've been working on a secret project for a few months now, a Christmas anthology containing a short story written under each of my names, Lucy Varna, Celia Roman, V.R. Cumming, and (of course) C.D. Watson. Two of the stories are finished. "Twelfth Night" by Lucy Varna is written from the perspective of a young Lukas Alexiou, and details his first encounter with the Woman with No Face. "On the 7th Day of Christmas" by Celia Roman takes place on New Year's Eve at the party David and Sunny cooked up. Yes, they're finally having it! 

I'm in the middle of writing a V.R. Cumming (non-sexual) short story told from the perspective of Eric's creche-mate, Alice, tentatively titled "Dreaming of a Dark Christmas." The final story will be written under my own name and will possibly involve Krampus, but don't get too excited. That one's only tentative at this point.

If I can get all the stories written, then the anthology will go out in December. I'll have more news on it soon, including a cover reveal. Hopefully fans of the series will enjoy the stories.

That's it for now. Happy fall, y'all!

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

Lots of news this month, particularly concerning the Sunshine Walkingstick Series published under Celia Roman, one of my pen names.

First up, the free stuff. I have three GoodReads giveaways going on right now, each ending on 30 August 2017. Three paperback copies of each title are up for grabs to US residents, so hop on over and enter: Greenwood Cove (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 1) by Celia Roman; Alien Mine (The Pruxnae Series, Book 3) by Lucy Varna; and The Vampire's Favorite (The Vampyr Series, Book 2) by V.R. Cumming. Good luck!

Cemetery Hill, the third novel in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, is almost here. I'm so excited to finish this one, as it's a doozy in a lot of ways. The official release date is 13 October 2017, a perfect date considering the creep factor. In fact, I moved the release date for that very reason.

Cemetery Hill is available for preorder now, or if you'd rather wait, just keep an eye out here, on Facebook, or in the Celia Roman newsletter and I'll let you know when it's available for sale. 

I've already contracted out the audio edition, and yes, the lovely Rebecca Winder will be narrating it.

Speaking of audiobooks, the audio edition of The Deep Wood (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 2) is finally here. It's available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes

I've also released the audio edition of Death Omen (A Sunshine Walkingstick Short Story), which Rebecca kindly narrated for me. Since I couldn't ever get my mailing list provider to cooperate so I could make it available for newsletter subscribers, I finally put it up for sale. It's available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. While the digital edition of Death Omen is still free to newsletter subscribers, other readers can now purchase either the ebook or paperback editions at their leisure.

After Cemetery Hill is released in October (with the audiobook following probably in November), I likely will not have news on the Sunshine Walkingstick Series for a good, long while. For one, I want to catch up with my other series, but for another, Sunny has worn me out. (I talked about that a little in my last news update.) It's possible that I may never write in the series world again outside of short stories, but saying so for certain would be unwise. I have been known to get a wild hair every once in a while and write something unplanned. That's how we got Sunny in the first place!

Speaking of wild hairs and unplanned stories, I'm (very tentatively) working on a surprise for all my readers, regardless of which pen name one prefers. Keep your fingers crossed, as it should be an interesting surprise, if I can squeeze in the time to work on it.

Remember "Intersections," the first story for the Romancing the Weird anthology? Well, I finally finished it and did indeed release it to newsletter subscribers this past July. I'm working on the next two stories for the anthology, one of which is already mentioned on the book's page. It's a tossup as to which story I'll finish first, but one of them should be released soon.

So far, I have about eight stories I hope to include in Romancing the Weird. Whether all of them make the cut or not is another thing!

Now that Sunny's first three books are mostly out of the way (we still have some editing to do before the official release date), I've turned my attention to the next story on my list, The Gathering Storm, which is officially Book 6 in the Daughters of the People Series, but is in reality the seventh book. 

The series was originally supposed to have seven books, a symbolic reflection of the Seven Sisters. When Tempered came along, I slid it in between Books 3 and 4 (The Enemy Within and In All Things, Balance) as Book 3.5, which has confused the dickens out of readers. Yes, you should read Tempered between those two! Then I had such a blast writing from India's point of view, I added another .5, bringing the entire number of novels in the series to nine. Unplanned stories seem to be a thing for me, but that usually works out to everyone's benefit, so I'm not complaining.

Anyway, as part of my preparation for diving back into writing in this series, I've been re-reading the books, beginning with The Prophecy. If you haven't already, you can read some of my thoughts on revisiting the series here.

Yes, this is my first series, but even if it weren't, it would be my favorite. The story world is so deep, and it draws from areas in which I have personal experience, including genealogy, history, and archaeology. Plus, I really enjoy the variety of characters and situations. Every story is fresh and new, and allows me to bring in different aspects of life every single time. I had no idea, for instance, how much of my personal beliefs slipped into the stories until the current re-read.

Since I'm slowly re-immersing myself in the world of the People, I may go ahead and write the final two books in the series after completing the first draft for The Gathering Storm, if my momentum holds. Redemption, officially Book 6.5, will jump back a little in time and pick up not long after Bobby Upton's kidnapping. Those who enjoyed seeing peeks of India Furia and her budding romance with Hiro Okada, one of Bobby's BFFs, will absolutely love Redemption, as it will feature the contrarian Daughter and the former Delta Force Operator.

The couple featured in the final book, War's Last Refuge, is a surprise I've been holding onto from the beginning. Alas, all good things must end. The big reveal happens in The Gathering Storm; by the end of Sigrid and Will's tale, readers should have a good idea of which characters will take the lead in the series finale. 

I know my slower writing schedule is frustrating to some readers, but I am working steadily on the first draft for The Gathering Storm. No promises on a release date yet, but I'm well aware that it's been two years since Sanctuary's release. I absolutely, positively, beyond any doubt did not mean to leave readers hanging that long. Hopefully, I can make it up to you by providing a solid finish to the series in the last three books. If I have my way (and since I'm the writer, there's a pretty good chance of that), I'll be writing and releasing many more books in this story world over the coming decades. 

Speaking of extra stories, Say Yes, the first Sons of the People novel, was one of those unplanned surprises. I just finished re-reading it, and have to say, Petey's epilogue had me a little teary eyed.

I hardly ever do sales on Say Yes, since it's sort of hanging out there on its own until I get more stories in the series done, but it's been a while since its release, so it's time. Right now, you can pick up Say Yes for free at Kobo, or for $.99 or the equivalent at Amazon. Those prices are good for a very short, very limited time. Since the regular retail price is $4.99, go get your copy now and enjoy it while beach reading season is still upon us here in the northern hemisphere.

I wrote a blog post for authors called "How Much Is Your Writing Really Worth?" that somewhat briefly discusses placing a real dollar value on your work, if only so you'll have a goal to shoot for. I haven't written much for that blog over the past few months because the posts generally take a lot of work. Right now, I'd rather focus on writing fiction, which is where I make my livelihood.

That said, I'm slowly beginning work on a pet project, Alternate Realms Magazine, which will eventually feature original short stories in a quarterly format, supplemented by articles and reviews on the website. The focus there will be on short fiction created by indie and hybrid authors, as well as unpublished writers and freelancers. Getting the magazine started (and it will be a magazine) will likely take a lot of elbow grease, but I believe in the project and hope to attract readers and writers to it in a slow and incremental fashion.

That's all my news for now. Don't forget to enter the GoodReads giveaways and pick up Say Yes while it's on sale.