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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

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. 

Rediscovering the Joy

Rediscovering the Joy

A few weeks ago, when it became clear that I was on the verge of (finally) finishing the first draft of Cemetery Hill (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 3, by Celia Roman), I decided to re-read the Daughters of the People Series (Lucy Varna) in preparation for continuing work in that story world. The last series release was in August 2015 (Sanctuary, Book 5), and while I've been fiddling with developing the final three books in the series over the past two years, I wanted to refresh my memory on the story world before diving into it again.

The evolution of the cover for The Prophecy, with the original cover on the left and the latest one on the right. All covers were designed by L.J. Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations.

I've written elsewhere about the way the Daughters of the People Series came about, from the initial concepts to writing The Prophecy, my first novel. The magic of discovery, that first moment when I realized I could actually write fiction, changed my life. Finishing The Prophecy was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and the start of my career as a writer.

My first year of writing was so steeped in that magic, I couldn't stop writing. The dam, built over forty plus years of dreaming and trying and, often, failing, had broken. Words gushed out faster than I could capture them, and the ideas flowed with them. My editor jokes that if I never had another idea, I could write at a steady pace for years without running out of the ones already found.

Somewhere along the way, under the stress of family tragedy, a surprisingly well-selling novel, and a reader-oriented publishing schedule, I lost that magic. Writing became a chore, one I began to dread, and over the past two years, I struggled to write. It wasn't just that the joy I'd discovered in writing had disappeared; my entire process collapsed. Anyone who's followed my career can easily tell this simply by looking at the number of titles published in 2016 and 2017, compared to my first two years. The difference is staggering.

My mother used to tell me, "Thursday's child has far to go." I always took that to mean I had a lot of work to do before I'd get anywhere, that I had a long, long road ahead of me. When I told Mom this, she looked startled and said, "No, it means you're going to do great things."

Whenever I doubt myself, I try to remember that conversation, and her implicit faith.

 

The original cover for Light's Bane (left) and the current one (right).

For the past nine months or so, I've been concentrating on writing and publishing the Sunshine Walkingstick Series. It was an experiment, to see if I could write non-romantic fiction and to try to determine in which genre my writing style will fit best. Although I love each and every story world I write in, I've grown tired of Romance. My (writer's) voice and the style of stories I write don't fit well with what Romance readers enjoy reading.

Some, yes. Of course, yes, as I have a dedicated audience for each of my romantic series. 

But I kept asking myself if I'd be better off writing in a genre that tolerates, for example, deeper world building, a slower build, and stories that make the reader think. The umbrella of Speculative Fiction seemed like a good fit. I've always wanted to write short stories, I love all things Weird and Wondrous, and I had ideas by the bucket load. 

So I started a new pen name (Isobel Fletcher) under which I planned to write short stories of all genres fantastical, as well as novel length SciFi Horror. I'm still heading in that direction.

My plan (and I did craft a plan) entailed writing under two pen names, neither one of which would produce strict romances.

Eh. I should know better than to plan. 

From left to right, the first cover for The Enemy Within, the concept cover I created one afternoon, and the cover L.J. created based on that concept. It was at this point that she redesigned the covers for the first two novels in the Daughters of the People Series, and the concept off of which the covers for later novels were designed.

I promised myself that before I went too far down a new path, and especially before I added any new novels to my schedule, I would finish all the series I already had going so I could start with a relatively clear slate. Getting through the Sunshine Walkingstick Series was like slogging through cold molasses. That constant pressure to hurry up and publish killed 95% of the joy of writing in Sunny's world. For the first time since finishing The Prophecy, I found myself unable to juggle stories, a process that had been incredibly successful for me during my first two years writing fiction. Yes, I snuck in a few short stories here and there, but that was later, after I began to realize that I was doing everything all wrong.

When it feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

But this is the advice that nearly everyone gives to other writers: Write in series. Write in genres that sell. Create a publication schedule and stick to it.

That doesn't work for me. It took me entirely too long to realize that, and now that I have, I wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea in the first place, when what I'd been doing (writing what moved me, publishing as I finished) had worked so well. Organic planning works for me, and yes, I do have a plan. Rigid schedules? Not so much. 

Here's another piece of advice some writers tout as absolute truth: Never read your finished stories. Never look back. Always look forward.

That one doesn't work for me either. For one, some of my story worlds are so intricate, there's no way I can store all that information in a series bible. I mean, for pete's sake. The Daughters of the People Series is a nine book series, plus half a dozen or so short stories (several already published), a spin-off series (beginning with Say Yes), and more to come. It's just easier to read the stories.

For another, I actually like the stories I've written. Imagine that, a writer enjoying her own story worlds. 

It's been so long since I've written in the Daughters of the People world, there's no way I could finish the final three books in the series without refreshing my memory. But let me tell you, I dreaded the thought of picking up The Prophecy and reading it again. I knew my writing style had changed. Shoot, it changed so much in the first year alone that I ended up revising my first two novels and issuing second editions of each one.

I knew going into this re-read that I couldn't revise those books again, no matter how flawed they were. I just don't have the time. There are going to be problems, I thought, and tacked on a well-meant, Just cut off your internal editor and get through the story so you can move on.

The middle three books in the series: Tempered; In All Things, Balance; and Sanctuary. Tempered was not an original part of my seven-book-series plan. The main female character, Hawthorne, appeared in the first book, and grew on me so much, I decided to give her her own story. It was a finalist in the 2015 Maggie Award for Excellence (Georgia Romance Writers) in its category. 

And you know what? I found problems. The opening was slow, the writing was stilted, those damn misused participle phrases I hate so much kept popping up.

Know what else? About a third of the way through The Prophecy, I forgot all that and started enjoying the story. I rediscovered the magic I'd created nearly four years ago during the seven weeks it took me to write it.

By the end of the story, I was hooked. As soon as I finished The Prophecy, I picked up Light's Bane and sped through it, went on to The Enemy Within and ditto, and am now halfway through Tempered. These books are my bedtime reading. At times, I literally have to force myself to put them down so I can get enough sleep to function the next day. I don't always succeed, but now I know why some readers call the series addictive. 

Before my process breakdown roughly two years ago, I had planned on expanding the Daughters of the People world with two spin-off series, one being the aptly named Sons of the People Series and the other a seven book series that would take place after the final book in the Daughters of the People Series. Additionally, I had planned two short story collections, one of which I decided to go ahead with regardless (I already have a cover, too), and a three-part story starring the Woman with No Face.

The funny thing is, before all the craziness that started in the summer of 2015, I knew I could write in the world of the People for a very long time and be happy for it. Now that I've rediscovered the joy of this story world, I have also rediscovered that certainty. 

No Good Deed by Lucy Varna
The Christmas Surprise by Lucy Varna
Trick or Treat by Lucy Varna

The covers I created for three Daughters of the People short stories, which I wrote for newsletter subscribers. Two of the stories will be included in the first short story collection. The third will serve as the opening scenes of a Sons of the People novel. 

I was able to resist the temptation to fix the flaws in The Prophecy, including the typos. They weren't so numerous that they detract from the story.

Light's Bane, on the other hand, needs another pass. When I revised it (early 2015), I remember carrying a really heavy workload and hurrying to get the revision finished so I could move on. I wish now that I'd taken the time to read it again, or send it to a proofreader, this after my editor and I had already done numerous passes searching for problems.

Not enough, apparently. Halfway through reading my personal paperback copy, I had found so many typos, missing words, and extra words, I finally gave in and printed the entire manuscript off, after which I red-inked errors as I read. As soon as I can work it into my schedule, I'll go back and proofread the first half, but that won't be until I finish re-reading the series to date.

By comparison, I found one typo in The Enemy Within. Yes, I have a rigorous process. Errors will slip in, no matter what steps an author and her team take to prevent them. Nothing is perfect.

That said, when I published second editions of the first two novels, I standardized a format for the print editions that I then used in subsequent books. For some reason, I never reformatted The Enemy Within and Tempered so that the series would have a uniform interior look. I'll also be making time to do that, but again, probably not until I finish re-reading the entire series.

I could leave everything as it is, but writing is my business and it behooves me to do everything I can to create a professional product. When readers open my books, I want them to have the best reading experience possible. There should never be any question that I'm a reputable writer and publisher; where quality is concerned, my books should be indistinguishable from those released by corporate publishers. 

From left to right, The Gathering Storm (the next book in the Daughters of the People Series), the cover for the first short story collection, and Say Yes, the first Sons of the People novel. 

After handing off that last Sunshine Walkingstick novel to my editor a couple of weeks ago, I started working on The Gathering Storm, the next Daughters of the People novel. To be honest, it took me a while to get into it. I'd lived in Sunny's perspective for so long, it was difficult for me to adjust to the more subtle and detailed style I used for the stories written of the People. Writing the first couple of new scenes felt like I was pulling my own teeth.

Last night was different, though. After sitting down and studying my plot cards, I began a scene from Sigrid Glyvynsdatter's point of view. (The lead female character, who is a geneticist with the Institute for Early Cultural Studies, the People's primary research branch.) Her assistant, a non-member of the People named George Howe, with whom readers of earlier books should be familiar, walked in with some very interesting information. Big clue revealed in that scene, although I may tone it down in subsequent revisions, but that's not the point here. The point is that for the first time in a very, very long time, I was so excited about what I was writing, I forgot that I was working.

Yeah, that's been a problem.

People have a lot of funny notions about writing. Richard Parry, a fellow writer, shared a post with me a few days ago in which he outlined what non-writers believe a writer's schedule looks like. It involved a lot of drinking and angst. I laughed so hard, I cried. (And then I went and bought another one of his books, because dang, is he good.)

Folks, writing is a lot of hard work. If you haven't read the post in which I described how I wrote my first novel, I urge you to do so now. Take note of how long it took, in particular the number of hours. If you don't want to go look, that's ok. It was seventy-seven. Yup, seventy-seven hours just to write the first draft of a novel. Those seventy-seven hours were spread over thirty-three days, and those thirty-three days were spread over seven weeks. And that was just the first draft. It doesn't count the time my editor put into reading that draft as I wrote it, nor the time I put into the second draft, nor his time editing that second draft, nor any time I put into polishing the story and, finally, revising it.

Writing is not easy.

But it should be fun. It's taken a lot for me to rediscover the fun in writing. I hope I never lose it again.

In case you're interested, here's the current suggested reading order for stories written in the world of the People, including the final three as-yet-unpublished novels in the Daughters of the People Series:

The Prophecy
"No Good Deed"
"Trick or Treat"
Light's Bane
Original Prologue, Light's Bane
"The Christmas Surprise"
The Enemy Within
Tempered
Say Yes
Bonus Scene, Say Yes
In All Things, Balance
Bonus Scene, In All Things, Balance
"Tomorrow's Promise"
Sanctuary
The Gathering Storm
Redemption
War's Last Refuge

More information on the series is available at a dedicated website for all things People, including the official translation of the Legend of Beginnings and some commentary on it and the Prophecy of Light.

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

It's been a crazy hectic month here. Lots going on, which translates to lots of book news, starting with brand new audiobooks.

As promised, Rebecca Winder finished narrating "Death Omen" (the Sunshine Walkingstick short story available exclusively to newsletter subscribers) and it is absolutely awesome. Rebecca has a smooth, pleasant speaking voice and does an incredible job rendering Sunny's deep woods accent. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the audio version to upload to my mailing list host. Until I decide what to do with it, anyone subscribed to the Celia Roman newsletter who wants a copy can email me (celia@celiaroman.com) with a request.

The Deep Wood by Celia Roman, available in audiobook format.

Rebecca should also soon be turning in the audio files for The Deep Wood, the second Sunshine Walkingstick novel. It will take me about ten to fourteen days to review them, plus another ten to fourteen days for ACX to do a quality control check, so look for the finalized audiobook to be available to listeners around the end of July or possibly the first of August.

If you haven't listened to Greenwood Cove yet and would like to try it, simply email me and I'll send you a download code. I only have a few left, so if you're interested, email me as soon as you can. So far, most of the people who've heard it have enjoyed it. It's hard not to with a narrator as great as Rebecca!

Work is progressing slowly but steadily on the third (and possibly final) novel in the Sunshine Walkingstick series, Cemetery Hill. I hit a point where the story felt unwieldy. When I laid out my plot cards and gave them a good "look see," as Sunny would say, I realized why: There was too much going on in the story; I had too much planned.

So I cut a few things, moved a few others to the (potential) next book, and rearranged the timeline for what was left. I'm now about 35,000 words into what should be a 55,000 to 60,000 word story. I sincerely hope to have the first draft finished in the next couple of weeks, after which I will do a light edit myself, then send it off to my editor. I'm aiming for an August release, but it may be September by the time Cemetery Hill makes it through the editorial process and is ready for readers.

As to other novels in the series, if a fourth book is published, then there will also be a fifth (and possibly a sixth) as a major turning point happens in the fourth book that will need to be resolved in a subsequent one.

Cemetery Hill by Celia Roman

I'm not sure yet if I want to write two to three more novels in this series. Sunny is incredibly difficult to write. While some critics call her a stereotype, I assure you she's not; I grew up around many, many people like her, including members of my own family. Even still, writing the local dialect is time consuming in a way that writing more standard English, even when slang is included, is not. If you're interested in seeing the series continue, shoot me an email and let me know. Sometimes, knowing that readers really love a series helps me decide which direction I want to take. 

The Gathering Storm by Lucy Varna

Regardless of what I decide to do with the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, the next book on my list to write is The Gathering Storm, officially book six of the Daughters of the People Series. It's been almost two years since the release of Sanctuary, the last installment, and readers are chomping at the bit for more. 

I am, too, to be honest. The Prophecy, the series' starter, was my first novel and a culmination of a lifelong dream to write fiction, and so, the story world is very dear to me. 

To prepare for working on The Gathering Storm, I'm reading The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes. If that isn't a big clue as to part of what's going to happen in The Gathering Storm, I don't know what is!

On the short story front, I turned "Intersections," the first story in the Romancing the Weird anthology (written under the name Isobel Fletcher), in to my editor last week. What I thought was going to be a 3000 to 5000 word story ended up being a whopping 10,000 words. Normally, Richard reads each story as it's written, but with this one, I waited until the first draft was finished before turning it in. He contacted me a couple of days later and told me parts of it confused him.

Back to the drawing board. Hey, folks. This is why writers have editors.

He's going over "Intersections" a second time before he turns it back over to me. There may be a little more back and forth, but I'm looking to release this one to newsletter subscribers in July. 

In the meantime, I finished a second short story titled "Such a Good Wife" that I have started sending out to short story magazines. Selling to a magazine is a much slower process than releasing self-published titles. It's also something of an experiment for me. I've never tried to publish fiction through more traditional routes, so we'll see how this goes. 

While brainstorming what to include in this post, I realized it had been a good, long while since I'd done anything with the Cullowhee Heritage Series, released under my first pen name, Lucy Varna. A Higher Purpose, the first entry in the series, was my first novella. 

It was also my first fail as a writer. I completely missed the mark with readers on this one, and fully intended to rectify that by revising it and releasing a second edition. After completing second editions of my first two novels, however, I simply had no energy left for the kind of intensive revisions A Higher Purpose needed, so I put it on the back burner, fully intending to come back to it as soon as I could.

A Higher Purpose by Lucy Varna

As soon as I could turned out to be longer than I expected by about eighteen months. I've added revisions for A Higher Purpose to my schedule and will try to slowly work on it over the next few months. Until then, I'm gearing up for a big sale on its successor, A Wicked Love, which can be read as a stand alone. Not sure if I'll announce the sale here or not, but if you're a newsletter subscriber or follow me on Facebook, you'll get a notice. 

The Cullowhee Heritage Series was supposed to be four stories long, one focusing on a different descendant of the same witch. After the poor reception the series received from readers, I decided to drop it, simply because I had other stories readers enjoyed more. I may revive the series at a later date, but don't hold your breath (that includes you, Aunt Liz) as I haven't set my writing schedule beyond the stories I've already committed to finishing, which are: Cemetery Hill; The Gathering Storm, Redemption, and War's Last Refuge (the final novels in the Daughters of the People Series); The Master Vampire (the final novel in the Vampyr Series); Sweet Surrender (the final novel in the Pruxnae Series); and the stories for the Romancing the Weird anthology.

Notice a pattern? Yup, I'm finishing a lot of series up before I commit to anything else. Ideally, I'd like to finish all those stories by the end of 2017, but I'm not counting on it as I have a lot of other items on my plate at the moment.

For example, I'm getting the house ready for an influx of visitors for August's solar eclipse. As it happens, my house sits within the band of the full shadow, so we'll have a front row seat to the event of the year. It should be an interesting show!

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

I'm very close to releasing my first story under Isobel Fletcher, a new pen name which will focus on stories falling under the Speculative Fiction umbrella.

Romancing the Weird by Isobel Fletcher

The first story will be part of an anthology called Romancing the Weird, which will be available exclusively to newsletter subscribers. I've planned five stories for the collection, although there will probably be more. Each story will be released as it becomes available, but again, only to newsletter subscribers.

Romancing the Weird is part of my long-term plan to ease out of writing romantic fiction into fiction in which a love story is not the central plot. Some of the stories in RtW end with a Happy Ever After, but some may not. Each, however, will have a strong romantic subplot.

I'm kicking the Isobel Fletcher pen name off in a very gradual manner, since I'm working around phasing out my other pen names. One of the things I'm trying to do for Izzy is get back into blogging, which I have dearly missed over the past eighteen months or so as I rearranged my priorities and focus.

As part of that, I'm planning a roundup sort of post that I'll do every one to four weeks, depending on what kind of material I can find to include within it. My first post of that sort ended with a discussion of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and women's rights in the US. 

I'm really excited about writing under the Isobel Fletcher name and hope to have a growing number of news items about that work over the next couple of years as I slowly morph from a Romance writer into a SpecFic writer.

Speaking of short stories, I just completed one for readers of the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, written under the name Celia Roman. "Death Omen" predates Greenwood Cove by a year or so, and takes place on a MARTA train traveling through the Greater Atlanta area, making it a true Urban Fantasy. 

Like the stories written for Romancing the Weird, "Death Omen" is currently exclusive to newsletter subscribers. I've already released it to existing subscribers, and the feedback has been quite positive.

Work on the third book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series was interrupted by the RT Booklovers Convention, which I attended earlier this month, but it is coming soon. In the meantime, readers of the series will be pleased to hear that the audio edition of Greenwood Cove is almost in stores. The narrator, Rebecca Winder, is doing such a fantastic job with the series that before I'd even finished reviewing Greenwood Cove, I asked her to narrate The Deep Wood. She agreed and is already hard at work on the latter.

Additionally, I asked her to do an audio version of "Death Omen" for newsletter subscribers. It should be available soon. I cannot wait until y'all hear her rendition of Sunny!

In other news, L.J. Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations has finished crafting the final two covers for the Daughters of the People Series, Redemption and War's Last Refuge. The next book out (technically Book 6, but, in reality, the seventh book) is The Gathering Storm. I have lots of surprises planned for these final three books. Some of them will completely turn readers' notions of the series upside down, so stay tuned.

I will likely post a deeper discussion of my time at the RT Booklovers Convention at a later date. It was such a hectic week, I lost track of all the people and events. But, it was a great time, I made a lot of connections, and I walked away with a ton of ideas on everything from story creation to marketing to connecting with readers. Keep an eye on my Facebook page, where I hope to at least do an occasional shout out to some of the authors I met. 

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

I know everyone's anxious to learn the names of the winners of the "Three Years Published" giveaway I ran last month for readers of books published under all my current pen names, Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, and Celia Roman. For the sake of fairness, I divided the giveaway into two sections, one for US residents and the other for International readers. The US prize consisted of a Kindle Paperwhite and an ebook of the winner's choosing. The International prize consisted of a $25 Amazon.com gift card and an ebook of the winner's choosing. 

And now, here are the winners: Tashia J. (US) and Bruce O. (UK).

Many thanks to everyone who entered! I really appreciate the show of support and the chance to get these prizes into the hands of my readers.

The Deep Wood, the second book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series (written under the name Celia Roman), is now available as an ebook at Amazon and as a paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. The retail prices are, respectively, $2.99 and $11.99. It's also available through Kindle Unlimited.

I've teamed up with a wonderful narrator to produce audiobooks for this series. She just finished the first fifteen minutes of Greenwood Cove, the first book, and got it to me a few days ago, and I approved it right away. Look for the finished audiobook to be available in stores around late April 2017.

I'm hard at work on Cemetery Hill, the third book in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, which I hope to get out next month as well. While the cover for a fourth book is already finished, I haven't decided yet whether or not I'll continue the series beyond the first three books. Greenwood Cove is taking some heat because it's written in Sunny's native dialect; apparently some folks are intolerant of the way mountain folk talk. Oddly enough, when it was in the early stages of being developed, I ran the first few chapters by some Australian friends and they had no problems understanding the slang or the story.

At any rate, I'm working on a blog post discussing why I wrote Sunny the way I did (short answer: she came to me that way) and the value of the local speech, in part to spread a little tolerance and in part because readers always seem to be curious about the decisions authors make.

Here's the (tentative) order of stories I'll be working on this year, barring any additions to the Celia Roman pen name:

Of course, I usually work on several manuscripts at once so the order isn't exact. For example, right now I'm working on several short stories (including one set in Sunny's world), Cemetery Hill, and The Gathering Storm. While I'm not actively working on The Master Vampire on a regular basis, I do bring it out and fiddle with it once a month or so, and I'm starting to do some serious development on Sweet Surrender and Redemption as well as future stories.

Hey, it's a weird process, but it works for me.

The audio edition of Alien Mine (The Pruxnae, Book 3), written under the name Lucy Varna, is now available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. This series is now all caught up on all the formats I intend to publish through the fourth book, except for any bundling (e.g. an omnibus edition). Sweet Surrender will be the final book in the series. I currently have no plans to continue the story world beyond that, although I do have plenty of ideas should readers wish for more stories.

Book and Author News

Book and Author News

Lots going on across my various pen names. First up, two GoodReads giveaways, one for A Warrior's Touch (The Pruxnae Series, Book 4, written under the name Lucy Varna) and a second for The New Vampire (The Vampyr Series, Book 3, written under the name V.R. Cumming). Both begin on January 10 and end on January 20. Three copies are up for grabs to US residents. Click below to enter. Good luck to each of you!

A Warrior’s Touch giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Warrior's Touch by Lucy Varna

A Warrior's Touch

by Lucy Varna

Giveaway ends January 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The New Vampire giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The New Vampire by V.R. Cumming

The New Vampire

by V.R. Cumming

Giveaway ends January 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The print edition of Greenwood Cove, a brand new Urban (Contemporary) Fantasy released under the name Celia Roman, is now available for $11.99 through CreateSpace. It will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers within the next week or so. 

The digital edition has been set for a tentative release date in early February, pending completion of the first draft for the third book in the series. I'm planning four books total for the initial release period. Scheduled titles are: Greenwood Cove, The Deep Wood, Cemetery Hill, and Witch Hollow.

The audiobook edition of A Warrior's Touch is finally here and available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Like previous audiobooks in the Pruxnae Series, A Warrior's Touch was narrated by Angel Clark and Matthew Josdal.

Angel is now hard at work on the audiobook edition of Alien Mine, which will feature her and a brand new male narrator. I'll have more details on production at a later date.

A Warrior's Touch (The Pruxnae, Book 4) by Lucy Varna