I feel like a slacker compared to last year where I finished three books and wrote three others in six months? But that was kind of an outlier and I was in a very weird position with nothing new scheduled after I’d released Yampellec’s Idol and I was kind of in panic mode. That is no longer the case, as I’ve written ahead enough that I’m good into 2024.
But I did finish three books, which is the rough goal I’m going for now (one book to serialize at Patreon and two to schedule for publication). I also started a whack of others that I may or may not come back to.
What I Released
- Dweller on the Threshold and I’m so glad so many people dug my funny little haunted house book and I really hope at least a couple preorder Watcher of the Woods.
- Witch Hunt (paperback), finally the second Elis book is out there, a little behind schedule but for the three people who buy paperbacks, there you go.
- Charon’s Gold, the sixth Livi Talbot book. Um…that’s a thing that happened lol. Hopefully folks’ll read and warm up to it in 2023?
- Soul Spell serialized at Patreon but I wrote it this year, so I’ll talk about it below.
What I Finished
I don’t actually remember what order I wrote the first two books, but…
Alone at Night
- Waverly Jones #3
- release date tba in 2024
- zero draft: 87K
- big ACAB vibes
- Waverly has to babysit and it’s incredibly awkward
I just have so much fun with this series. I’d started this book in December 2021 and wrote a few thousand words, but didn’t want to break myself and finish another book by the end of the year after writing two in November so I took a break and finished it this year.
I’m sure that three years of pandemic isolation and me going feral is why I have the most fun writing Waverly, but just letting her open hostility and misanthropy run wild is my comfort place.
There’s so much noise around, I’ve mostly turned it out by this point—the splashing, the laughter, the squealing, the shouted names—though I’m sure I’ll pick up on Monty calling if he needs me. He’s in my peripheral vision still, building his mound of sand. Laika inches closer to me and whines softly, and that twigs me to focus as I hear a voice call, “Susie!”, getting closer and closer.
A shadow falls over my laptop and I snap it closed as I look up—there’s a woman with kids who are crowding in my fucking space, two boys who reach for my dog.
Laika is about as thrilled as I am; she leans into me, her tail thumping once as she looks at me for reassurance.
I put a hand on her, smoothing over her coarse coat and then latching onto to her halter, as I look at the boys in turn. “Get away from my dog.”
“That’s Susie!” one of the says.
“That’s Laika. Get away from my dog.”
“Oh, that’s Susie!” the mother says from above me. She’s maybe fortysomething, tall and willowy, tanned like she comes here a lot.
“That’s Laika,” I repeat. “Collect your children, please.”
Maybe the sunglasses are why they’re not taking me seriously—I don’t think my Resting Sociopath Face has the same effect with my eyes covered.
“We lost her back in the spring, we’ve been looking for her!”
The fuck they have been. I checked for lost dog posts, though to be honest, with the condition I found her in, I probably wouldn’t have returned her.
Laika keeps looking at me and leaning harder into my side.
A middle-aged white man joins them. He’d probably be considered imposing–tall, broad-shouldered, with big hands–but I literally do not give a fuck so the effect doesn’t work on me. While I wasn’t a fan of the sunlight before, I really don’t appreciate them blocking it—and my view of my brother.
“This is my dog,” I say.
“That’s Susie!” he says.
“Did she steal Susie?” one of the boys says.
Oh for fuck’s sake. This asshole here probably took her hunting, lost her, and made up some bullshit for his ugly kids, like she ran away.
“This is Laika,” I repeat, “for the last time. She has a microchip with my name and address on it. Back off.”
They are not backing off. In fact, I think the big guy is about to argue some more, when steps slosh through the sand behind me and an annoyingly familiar voice says, “Move it along, Wade. She says it’s her dog. Don’t want a problem, do we?”
They want to argue, but I guess they’ve lived here a while because they don’t argue with Lloyd Weems. The mom calls for her boys to follow and they get the fuck out of the way so I can go back to watching my brother.
Unfortunately, Lloyd brought a lawn chair with him, and he unfolds it next to where I’m sitting and makes himself comfortable.
“I didn’t invite you to sit.”
“Gail’s parking the car, thought I’d say hi.”
He peers down at me. “I know your mother didn’t raise you to be this rude.”
“Which mother are you talking about? Because one of them most certainly did.”
He snorts a laugh. “You’ve done a lot of good work, Waverly, I’ll give you that. I don’t think this hostility becomes you, though.”
“Did you just tell me to smile more?”
- Elis O’Connor #3
- serializing at Patreon, finished in January; paperback next summer
- currently draft is 65K
- building a misandrist girl gang
- Elis gets arrested for one murder she DIDN’T commit
I’d expected the next book after Witch Hunt would be Elis dimension hopping to Oblivion in Hell Fire (which you can guess by the end of WH), but I had to get a few pieces in place first and then it became its own book.
One of the promises I made myself with Elis as a misandrist serial killer is that I was not ever going to do a “revenge is bad” thing or have her punished because of what she does. This is a power fantasy for people, full stop. At the same time, she’s young and arrogant and gets herself into trouble with the law, which is loads of fun.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that neckbeards on internet forums lamenting the lack of rape in fantasy novels must be in want of a serial killer witch to murder them.
Lucky for one such neckbeard, I’d easily found where he lived.
MedievalHistoryFan365—and note, despite the username, his understanding of medieval history was centered entirely around Game of Thrones—was a prolific poster at a popular online science fiction and fantasy forum. His greatest frustrations, however, seemed to be more than one or two women in a book, any non-white person in books, and the mere existence of anyone who was not cis gender or heterosexual in books. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, he posited at multiple points, but it’s forced diversity for diversity’s sake and that’s wrong. When you’ve got a black lesbian trans warrior pirate amputee, that’s just stretching credibility.
Now, a) sign me up for the Black lesbian trans warrior pirate amputee book that he claims exists, because that sounds fun, and b) as if one cannot be a Black lesbian trans warrior pirate amputee to begin with? Just one but not the others? How about three features? But a white heterosexual cis gender non-amputee who was both a warrior and a pirate would be totally fine, I assumed.
See, begging to be murdered.
His real anger, however, seemed to be directed at the idea that maybe it wasn’t necessary to constantly rape female characters in fantasy books, and how suggesting writers not be so fucking lazy as to fall back on that cliche was akin to censorship.
I assumed his concept of censorship also came from Game of Thrones, though I’d never watched the show and couldn’t say for sure.
MedievalHistoryFan365 was careful not to reveal a lot about himself. His post history gave an impression of his age and potential job field, and his participation in sub-forums indicated his general location—which happened to be my city. He was a fucking idiot but he wasn’t stupid; though he did not hide his identity the way a marginalized person knew to do, he also didn’t advertise it.
But despite my real “profession” as a serial killer living off the interest of her trust fund, I actually had training as a private investigator. It’s what the name on my office window says, what I have on my business cards, and while I’m not exactly hireable—despite a fake work history I’ve established—I did know what I was doing when it came to tracking someone down.
Which was why I found myself approaching the door of one Wayne James Jennings, also known as MedievalHistoryFan365, just after two in the morning.
It would be easy to assume he was some idiot budding white supremacist who lived in his mom’s basement. But while I was certain he had white supremacist leanings—I mean, I saw his post history—he was the type who liked to pretend he was actual egalitarian and “fair-minded”, and he certainly didn’t live in his mom’s basement. He wasn’t disenfranchised—he was an engineer who made good money. Three months out of a long-term relationship with a woman—who worked really hard to cover her tracks now, and I suspected there was good reason—and now living in a decent apartment in the heart of the city. Also an occasional church-going boy, as the “365” part of the username suggested.
Though he was not a boy. He was thirty-seven. Motherfucker should know better.
Silent All These Years
- Elis O’Connor #4
- release date tba but probably in 2025
- zero draft: 75K
- even bigger ACAB vibes
- Waverly tries to solve some cold cases and does not make any friends in the process
This fucking book.
Okay so it wasn’t supposed to be written, but I was working on what was supposed to be the fourth book and some things weren’t clicking. There’s a Patreon blog post about this, but I was looking at the arc plans and while things worked in my head, it was moving too fast for the characters. The same thing happened with Livi and was why I wrote Emperor’s Tomb, but because of timeline stuff with Waverly, I couldn’t just add one book–I have to add two. So the unfinished book four is becoming book six, and I had to write a new book four and a book five before going back to it.
This one was a huge challenge. Like questioning my life choices and career and whether I could quit and sell artisanal hummus for a living instead. Part was that it hadn’t simmered in my brain long enough, but part was also that logically, storywise, this was the point where there should be forward movement with her trying to solve the two big mysteries from her past, but there are still reveals to come. I can’t give her a mystery and not have her solve it, but I can’t solve that mystery yet. Hence THIS FUCKING BOOK.
But while I doubted the entire thing, the ending is fantastic. Like it’s the kind of ending that hits perfectly and though I’ll gut and rewrite most of the rest of the book, the ending is worth all the frustration to get there.
I take another look at Miles Tipler. He’s older than Sebastian, and sitting on a barstool alone. Hunched over his fries, gaze on the screen watching an Oilers game. He’s finished one beer and another is wordlessly slid in front of him by the bartender.
I’m debating approaching him—and wondering what I might even say—when someone suddenly cuts in my vision.
I look up to see a guy in his thirties, also a cop by my guess though there’s no uniform. He’s white—about seventy-five percent of the bar patrons are—with dark hair and otherwise non-descript. He’s smiling down at me expectantly with two beers—a deep amber one and a red, like I’m drinking.
“The bar’s pretty full,” he says, “and I’m waiting for my friend—I wondered if you’d mind if I sat here in the meantime. Brought you an offering either way.” He holds the red ale out toward me.
He doesn’t look familiar so I don’t think he’s on my list, therefore I do not need anything from him. And I am not taking a drink from a literal stranger unless it’s the fucking bartender, which he is not.
Maybe he’ll give me the lay of the land, though. Or maybe I’ll just be very irritating until he gives up and leaves—my personal best on that is four minutes.
I nod and slide some of my notes back, not to give him room really but to keep him from seeing them.
He sets the beer down next to the glass I’m already drinking from and sips his own as he sits. “My name’s Jeremy. Defalco, to everyone around here.”
Meadow has to squeeze over and she makes a face as she does, this physical person suddenly cramming the figment of my imagination to the corner right against the wall. He takes up a lot of space, and I can’t really blame him because it’s not like he knows my dead sister was sitting there a second ago, but it’s still ballsy for someone who is supposed to just be waiting for a friend.
“Hi, Jeremy Delfaco.” I don’t give him my name, because I don’t want him to know it and I can’t be bothered keeping a bunch of fake ones straight in my head.
“You got a big case you’re working?” He nods at my legal pad, and thankfully wouldn’t be able to read my writing even if it wasn’t upside down.
“A very involved one,” I say. “How did you guess?”
“You seemed really into it.” Then he reaches forward and takes a nacho from my small platter.
What. The fuck.
He pauses there with the chip near his mouth and I must be making Raging Sociopath Face now because he seems to realize what he’s done. “Oh. Oh, sorry. Force of habit.”
It’s force of habit to take someone else’s food? Okay sure, motherfucker.
Then he puts the tortilla chip back on the plate. Oh my god I think my fucking eyes are going to pop right out of my head I’m staring so hard.
“I haven’t seen you in here before,” he says, and I’ve made a mental note not only of the chip’s location but all the surrounding chips so that I do not touch any of them. For fuck’s sake, was he raised in a fucking barn? “Are you new in the area? Let me guess, you work at Simpson and Cole?”
That’s not fair of me, I grew up in a rural area and people who were all but raised in barns have much better manners than this dude. “I guess you see the same people around here all the time,” I say instead of the myriad of things I’m thinking.
“Oh sure, yeah, I’m a regular. For dinners, I mean.” He gestures at the beer. “I don’t drink a lot.”
I am willing to bet he does in fact drink a lot. “You’re on the force?”
He grins sheepishly. “How can you tell?”
You’re an entitled motherfucker invading my space and eating my chips. “A certain vibe.”
So those are the books I finished.
I also started a bunch, some I’ll come back to, some I’m not sure:
- The Only Way Out – Norah Sloane/Macbeth’s book from Watcher of the Woods, which I will finish in the next year or so.
- Stranger in the Halls – final pandemic horror trilogy book, literally only a few lines written at this point.
- The Haven Network – okay yes I said I wasn’t going to write any more UF, but if I finish this, it’ll be standalone.
- Untitled SF horror – I’m not sure I’m smart enough to write this but I’m a little ways into it and I’d like to finish it.
- Sins of the Mother (tentative title) – what’ll become Waverly #6, I’ll probably finish it next year
- Hell Fire – Elis #4, I’ll be working on this January/February
- Untitled Waverly #5 – it actually had a title but it’s not going to work. Hoping to write it next spring. I’ve got the first chapter or so written.
In 2022, I also hit a massive Patreon goal that resulted in my writing a vignette or short every other month, set in one of my existing worlds. I’ve got six of them!
- A House Full of Witches – Set just after Witch Hunt, Elis has come home having killed a bunch of witchhunters with other witches in tow, and Nate confers with some old friends about who this religious cult is–while worrying his daughter is up to something else.
- Future Days – Set during a flashback in Witch Hunt, Zara is facing her mortality and what it’ll mean to leave behind the family she never intended to have.
- Livi’s Choice – Set just before the short story Emaleth’s Cat and well before Solomon’s Seal, Livi decides to terminate her second pregnancy.
- Once Upon a Rainy Day – Set well before The Killing Beach and before the murder of her sister, a teenage Waverly Jones (then Milton) has her entire world knocked off kilter by the arrival of a stranger in her small town.
- She Will Be – Set just after Yampellec’s Idol, Pru watches her best friend’s mental health fray and tries to keep the household together amidst a tragedy.
- Happily Ever After – Set the Christmas after Charon’s Gold, Livi struggles to retain some normalcy with her family despite all the recent losses and changes they’ve been through.
There is also a new West short, Pluto’s Gate, set during Charon’s Gold that I had wanted to make a novella but just ran out of time, and a couple more to write for the next few months.
I’ve got a big year ahead of me.
For now, though, I’m resting. I’m tired. I was going to do a “favourite things I read/saw/played this year” but also…I can’t remember tbh. It’s been a long year. At a glance, here’s what I remember (which is not indicative of quality, it’s just that years blur):
- A Plague Tale: Requiem. Ambitious storytelling not afraid to punch you in the chest, like its predecessor, and putting PTSD front and center.
- House Flipper. I’ve clocked 300 hours. There’s a hashtag. Shut up.
- The Painscreek Killings. An older game but a fun little indie mystery.
- Visage…I think I played that this year? So it does my least favourite thing with the genre, Our Protagonist Is a Dude Who Killed His Family (I blame SH2 for this trend) but it was extremely well crafted.
- Stray. I mean, duh.
- The Mortuary Assistant. Loooooove. I could embalm bodies all day. Also it broke my fear response–I realized playing MADiSON that nothing terrifies me anymore, TMA taught me to come to expect scary things in the corner and to just walk over and say hi.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once. I wish I could’ve seen it in the theatre but I’m sure I would’ve been sobbing. I love Michelle Yeoh. I love the whole cast. We need to talk about how Ke Huy Quan put all his stats into charisma and it took this film to find out.
- The Woman King. My Christmas viewing this week. Masterclass in storytelling and I loved everything about it.
- Prey. I want to scream THIS IS HOW YOU WRITE A TIGHT 100-MIN SCRIPT from the rooftops.
- Glass Onion. I howled.
- Severance (over on AppleTV). I don’t think there was near enough discussion in my circles about how excellent it was?
- A League of Their Own. I will take it as a personal attack if there is no second season.
I’ll have to come back to this because I’m trying to read a bunch of books this week. I also genuinely don’t remember what I read this year vs last year, as I tend to read a lot Dec/Jan, and I didn’t get a holiday in Sept of this year it’s been a while.
That I can remember…
- Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey. I wish I’d written it.
- The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James. Currently reading her book The Broken Girls and should be done by today. Two timelines, paranormal cold case mysteries.
- A Rip in Time by Kelley Armstrong. Time travel is a very hard sell for me, I loathe it, but I love Armstrong’s books and I love murder books, and I’m really glad I started the series.
- Dead Silence by SA Barnes. Also followed it with a reread of The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling, which I love.
- Did a Brianna Labuskes binge and my favourites of the bunch were It Ends with Her and the sociopath books with Gretchen White.
- The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley. Excellent, unsurprisingly.
- I reread The Murderbot Diaries. Again. That’s a yearly reread for me I think.
Hopefully more after this week.
That’s it for me for now, I’m trying to finish a book a day this week to refill my well a little, as well as eat a lot of cheese. Stay warm, rec me your favourite stuff in the comments, thank you so much for your support, and Happy New Year!