Yes, it is official! In the Deluge is on the way. While not 100% done, it's close enough for me to be confident in a release date. My poetry collection will come out by August or September 2023. I hope to begin pre-orders in May or June. Two months to finish a poetry book? Let's do this!
Poetry and Imagery
One of the biggest setbacks for me (aside from writing/editing enough poetry to fill the volume) was that I wanted Deluge to have illustrations. Some of my favorite poetry collections of all time have illustrations in them. Also, I am a poet that leans towards short, punchy poetry. To avoid dead, empty space, illustrations are a must.
But alas, I was struggling to find an illustrator. I searched in my local network, but couldn't find anyone with a style I wanted. I even searched Fiverr and 99Designs without finding the right vibe. And then, the biggest crux of all: when my new car engine bill came due, any excess funds that I had for funding In the Deluge suddenly evaporated. Now we're on a budget. Something had to give. So, I polished up my rusty art skills and went to work. It was worth a try.
"Beneath the Surface" - (C) Grigori Press
Artist v. Writer
Up until then, my passion for art and my passion for writing were on equal ground. However, due to writing being much more accessible on the go - at work, at home, on my phone, on my tablet, on my laptop, on a flash drive, in the cloud – it soon became my main means of expressing my creativity.
Long story short, I stopped being an active artist and became a professional writer. Art had always been a hobby for me, anyway. I never had a desire to sell anything I made because it was unique and special to me. Besides, being a writer made more sense for both my career and my primary hobby. Having good writing skill is generally a better resume booster than having an eye for color.
I brushed off my rusty art skills to make an Azula armor cosplay for Archon 2022. It sure helped to have a background in doing art to get it done, but it was still a challenge since I had never worked with foam or tailoring before. My friend, who is much better at sewing than me, helped me make the tunic!
Graphic Designing to Digital Art
I've dabbled in graphic design for several years now, primarily with GIMP 2, Photoshop, and Canva. I was editor-in-chief of my school yearbook, did newspaper design and web design in college, and in my spare time I dabble with promos, memes, mock book covers, and photograph manipulation/enhancement. But it's always been what I would call collaging – taking pieces and putting them together. But for In the Deluge, I wanted to try something different. A new medium. Instead of drawing by hand and then trying to turn the drawing into a crisp digital image, I wanted to draw straight into an art program on my tablet. I ordered a fancy chargeable stylus to make precise lines, and away I went!
I started with Sketchbook, a rather basic but modestly loaded program with more than enough brushes and features to accommodate my needs. It was familiar territory. I've messed with a lot of different settings in photo editing software over the years, so I was able to adjust to digital drawing pretty quick. I have to say, it's so nice to just click the undo button to delete a line you don't like instead of carefully trying to erase it. Oh, and using a line predictor to smooth out a line that had been wavy? Absolutely genius. Digital art is the bomb!
While what I'm doing isn't exactly the style I had wanted, either, it comes closer than anything else I had looked at. And it's unapologetically me, like my poetry is. This undertaking has revitalized my hope that maybe not all of my art skill has been lost. There's perhaps still a little old-fashioned artist in me yet.
"Monstrum Humanum" (C) Grigori Press
*Spoiler warning for plot and themes of The Un-Life of William Moore and Dancing with an Alien*
When I wrote The Un-Life of William Moore, I wrote it with the intention of it not being just another mortal-and-vampire-falling-in-love story. With the surge of Twilight in 2008, there seemed to come an overwhelming flood of copy-cats looking to join in on the monster romance genre, and it's been here to stay. The tantalizing promise of living forever balancing with the curse of having to live a life in the shadows. What young female protagonist (or avid romance reader) can resist the call of eternity with a supernaturally hot guy?
At the end of the day, however, these stories, while fun and romantic on the surface, are really just stories of emotional abuse and toxic behaviors. Many of these paranormal "romance" novels follow the same beats as Twilight, so for ease of explaining, we'll just keep with the Twilight theme here. Edward is an obsessive stalker, technically a pedophile (he's over 100 years old and dating a teenager, guys), violent, and emotionally manipulative. In being with Edward, Bella chose to abandon her friends and family, turning Edward into her whole world, so that when he abruptly left her in book two, she literally had nothing. By the end of the series, Edward and Bella, like so many other mortal-vampire couples in paranormal romance, ultimately failed to resist the toxic call of spending eternity as literal monsters. It's that tried and true concept of "misery loves company."
I can only think of one paranormal romance story that I have read that didn't fall into this trope. It's called Dancing with an Alien, a story about an alien man who comes from a planet where all of the women mysteriously died. Humans happen to be compatible enough with them to be able to reproduce. I'm sure you can see where this is going if you've read any sort of alien romance story. Alien man abducts himself a hot young earthling woman to have alien hybrid babies with in order to repopulate the planet. Stockholm syndrome, blue and/or green abs, romanced by technology, toxic and addicting love, and maybe even a strange but pleasurable alien p*nis (or two). The abduction/alien babies thing a common trope in alien romance books.
However, Dancing with an Alien doesn't do that, even though the starting premise is the same. Sure, the alien man's mission is to bring home a female to save his species from extinction. And if those stakes weren't high enough, he'll also face ridicule and dishonor if he fails to bring a mate back home with him. However, he didn't expect to actually fall in love, and for the earthling to fall in love with him, too.
In the end, the earthling finds out what he is and what his mission is, and she knowingly consents to leave Earth to be with him, even though it is a one-way trip. But he knows that she would end up being unhappy with her choice, as so many earth women are when they come to his home world, doomed to be tired baby-makers for the rest of their days, far away from everyone they love and care about on earth. The alien man decides that he loves her too much to make her unhappy, so he leaves and goes home without her. He is the only one who failed to bring home a bride. It's a bittersweet end to the story. We, as people, know that it was the right decision to make, but as readers, we so badly wanted it to be a happily ever after. But real life isn't quite as poetic as the romance genre makes it out to be.
I sought to break tropes as well with The Un-Life. Maybe it wouldn't sweep people off their feet like the rest of the paranormal romance genre, but it wouldn't hold back in telling truths that needed to be said: that being a monster isn't glamorous, that feeding off people isn't intimate, that a man and woman in the same place and time don't have to engage in romance, that sometimes life is unfair and bad things happen to good people, and that we always have a choice.
It was hard not to fall into the romance trope, however. I still wanted to have a light will-they-won't-they aspect to Billy and Kaylah's relationship. By the time I finished my first fleshed out draft, there was much more romance than I had intended. It wasn't quite the story I was trying to tell. So, I removed some of the romance, and upped some of the toxicity to compensate for it. I didn't want it to be a surprise when the characters went their separate ways at the end. Billy and Kaylah were different people from different worlds who wanted different things - but that didn't mean their story was meaningless. That didn't make the relationship they had not worth sharing. Maybe they did love each other, in their own way, but not in a way that would have brought them both happiness.
And let's not forget about the love triangle – I didn't even want to make romance enticing in any direction. William had major issues that would have brought Kaylah down, but then there was Adam. Adam suffers from a hero complex, and his actions are also being manipulated by ignorance and fear. He's no less toxic than the monsters he's trying to fight (the irony here is intentional). But rather than to shrug her shoulders and try and pick the less or two evils, Kaylah chooses neither. She chooses her own happiness over a relationship.
I'm sure someone, somewhere, might call her decision selfish, or call her picky, but there's nothing wrong with a woman – or anyone – deciding that their happiness is worth more than making other people happy, especially when it comes to a relationship. Sacrificing your happiness to make others happy, or to sacrifice someone else's happiness to bring yourself happiness – that's the sort of toxic I've been talking about here. The sort of toxic where a 100-year-old stalker turns a teenager into a monster just so he isn't lonely anymore. Where a young girl gives up her life for the promise of something greater than the happiness she already had.
There's plenty to enjoy and love about romance novels, and a lot to learn as well - and that can include learning when not to choose romance.
-- Long Time No See? --
Oh, hi. It's been a while, hasn't it?
Truth be told I've been trying to write this blog post for two weeks, but trying to find a way to express what I wanted to say - and nailing down what it actually is I wanted to say - proved difficult. Trying to fit over a year of silence into one blog post, and trying to piece together a dream of the future... Oof. So maybe we'll get back to that someday. It's a lot to unpack.
For now, I just really want to get out some official news on my lately projects, what they're about, when you can expect them, and all that fun stuff. There's three major announcements, so it's going to get long. I apologize.
-- Project #1: In the Deluge, a book of poetry --
I have wanted to publish a collection of poetry for some time now, but never felt like I had enough in both quantity and quality. However, I have had a big bout of inspiration to write poetry lately, so there's a lot more to work with. There's enough here, at least, for me to announce the intentions of releasing a collection in the near future. I will release it as an e-book and paperback, and maybe an Amazon hardback (a poetry collection doesn't seem fancy enough to go to Ingram Spark to do a special dust jacket hardback).
I chose the name In the Deluge because 1) I've always been fascinated by the word "deluge" itself, as well as what it means both literally and in ancient history and 2) the collection is going to be broken down into sections whose titles will be named after bodies of water. This isn't to say that this is a poetry collection about water, or even nature. This collection is primarily based around emotion, and strong emotions at that, in part because being overwhelmed with powerful emotions is often when I write poetry. My first working title was "Drowning in the Deluge," or "Lost in the Flood," but all that sounded a little too dark (even for me), so In the Deluge it is! It still implies being over-your-head, but doesn't convey the sense of panic or hopelessness the other titles do. In the Deluge won't be all doom and gloom. There will be some hope and love, too. Think of it as a "flood of emotion."
Above is a mock book cover I whipped up. As a reminder, a mock cover is just a visual representation of the intended project, and the official release cover may end up looking differently (I'm not a graphic artist, but I do like dabbling by making mocks). I like having mock covers for projects because it makes them more real and tangible, and therefore makes it feel more attainable. Title may also change, who knows!
-- Project #2: An Angel Falls, a sci-fi alien survival --
This is a strange project for me. I wouldn't call myself a sci-fi writer, since I often get tripped up in the science and technicalities. Unlike fantasy where you can just use the excuse "well, it's magic, that's why," sci-fi can get a little more nit-picky. It has to sound real, and ideally be grounded in (or at least based) on real science.
So why am I writing a sci-fi story? While it will be classified as science fiction, technically, this idea of mine is grounded more in wilderness survival than epic space battles, and the theme fits well with what I primarily write about: what does it mean to be human, or in this case, to be real?
An Angel Falls is about an alien robot with advanced artificial intelligence that crash lands his ship on a feral jungle planet. Alone and limited on supplies, he has to survive in this hostile world, fix his ship, and return home. With this story I hope to pose the question of why does this AI want to survive; because he has a programmed directive to complete, or because does he not want to die?
Also, the idea of a highly advanced robot crafting a primitive spear to protect itself from a giant alien jungle cat gave me a good chuckle. It's going to be a great "fish out of water" story. A sophisticated robot has no business being in dense, untamed nature. I think it's going to be a fun experiment, too, on making a very non-human character feel alive, even more so than my normal choice of monster characters. In fact, the entire story is going to be entirely alien – the robot, the planet, all of it, has never made contact with humankind. There will be no humans or human influences at all. Imagine that.
Why the title An Angel Falls? Right now it's mostly a placeholder title. To keep my inspiration focused, I defaulted to theming anything that needed to be named with my vast knowledge of angel mythology. I actually started out with Greek theming, but since I intend to have no human influence in the story, all these naming themes may change. But for now, the idea of an alien AI robot race being called Angels sounds amusing to me (note this is not implying Biblical angels are alien robots, however, that is a fantastic theory).
An Angel Falls is planned to be a Kindle Vella creation, released in parts, and perhaps potentially also as a podcast. I've always wanted to write/produce a fiction podcast, and the way this story will be segmented into episodes seems like it would be a great candidate. I will release An Angel Falls as a physical book (probably as a "season" or "volume" of sorts) once I have enough content, and assuming I will have the right to. I still need to do some research on Kindle Vella and what exclusive rights they may have, if any. I assume they would have exclusive ebook rights, but print and audio would stay with me. But I'll check!
As with the poetry collection, here is a quick mock-up cover. This one is very basic general "oh look it's a sci-fi book" because the real cover I have in mind would feature a depiction of the robot himself (probably fighting that giant alien cat mentioned above), which I'll likely have to have commissioned (also didn't I mention I'm not a real graphic artist?).
-- Project #3: The Un-Life of William Moore, Hardback Edition --
Lastly, I want all of you to know I'll likely be releasing a hardback version of The Un-Life soon! As you may or may not know, Amazon has recently rolled out their first ever print-on-demand hardback covers. Their options are limited to only a hard art cover; so no fancy dust jackets. So here's the game plan:
I will continue to search for an illustrator and work on extra content (a bonus chapter, perhaps?) for a Special Edition dust jacket hardback of The Un-Life, (published through Ingram Spark), for those who want a collectable version of the book. Ingram Spark hardbacks are much more costly, but have more fancy options like dust jackets (and you don't understand, I NEED to have my books in dust jackets to know I made it as an author, okay? Trust me).
This is the best of both worlds. An option for both kinds of readers.
I don't know for sure when that Amazon hardback will be released, but let's just count on soon! I will try to push for a Christmastime release. If not then, then early Spring.
In other Un-Life news, I have a free Amazon ebook giveaway scheduled from October 29 to November 2, 2021. Get you a free copy! Spread the word! In July we managed to give away over 800 free copies and placed #1 in two categories. We almost got in the Top 100 Free in the entire Kindle Store (that's amongst millions of books!). Let's do even better this time, shall we?
-- Conclusion: Are You Still Here? --
That was a lot of news. I'll keep the send-off brief.
Aside from the projects announced above, I am still working on the second Blood Knights book. I'm also working with the Hannibal Writers Guild to achieve non-profit status so we can publish anthologies, which I'll be included in. Short stories, poems, you name it.
And that's literally it. No more news from me. Hopefully I'll be back to blogging soon.
Thanks for sticking with me.
Am I a "Vampire" Author?
It has been said, albeit in jest
At my very first book signing, my table-neighbor, Jessica Mathews was wrapped up in a blanket because of the colder-than-a-witch's-you-know air conditioning. Most everyone else in the room had on long sleeves or jackets of some kind. Meanwhile, I was as comfortable as could be in a short-sleeve, knee-high dress.
I've always loved the cold. I'm one of those freaks that say winter is my favorite season. There's something so pure and clean about crisp, cold air. There's simple beauty in the world asleep, appearing dead in the depths of winter yet still being so alive. Some people may prefer the bright colors of springtime or the warm colors of autumn, but for me the silent, white world after a blizzard is the most beautiful scene of all.
That day, Jessica (jokingly) accused me of being a real vampire on account of how much I liked the cold. Of course, she was probably poking a little harmless fun at my book, which incidentally has a couple vampires in it. Sure, I think I look best in red and black, prefer not to get tanned if I can help it, and love the cold, but I'm not a vampire (that you know of, winkwink). But am I a vampire author?
First Billy, and now Archer
It's true; my first book, The Un-Life of William Moore, centers around the un-life of one William Moore, who is, in fact, a vampire. The book I am currently querying, The Blood Knight, focuses on the adventures of Archer, a vampire hunter who gets turned into a vampire. Coincidence? The answer is yes!
At a glance, having 2 out of 2 of my published/announced projects being vampire books, one could probably make the assumption that that the pale undead is all I write about. Far from it!
I write urban fantasy, sometimes called magical realism or low fantasy, which I tell people basically means I write about fantasy occurring in the modern world. Vampires surviving in the 21st century is one way to do urban fantasy, and a very popular one at that, but that's not all. Other popular urban fantasy books may feature werewolves, faries or fae, or witches. Sometimes all of the above!
I'd even go so far as to say I write dark urban fantasy. You won't find many happily-ever-afters in my stories, and they'll often have dark themes. No fairy godmothers are going to save the day, heroes are flawed and complicated, and the villains can be exceptionally wicked. I write the bitter, real struggles of the lives of those cursed or blessed (but mostly cursed) with supernatural power.
The darker side of urban fantasy
It's sort of an accident that my next book after The Un-Life was another vampire book. My next project was planned to be this little thing with the working title Inner Demons, which has, you guessed it, demons as main characters. However, I've been a little stuck on this book for a while. I am about 25k words in, and have a general middle and end planned out, but filling in the gaps between those events has proven difficult.
So when I hit a road bump in the demon story, I took up The Blood Knight again to be working on something. Incidentally, I was blessed by the Muses with idea after idea after idea for BK. The story that was only meant to be a backstory for Archer (a rather minor character in the grand scheme of things at the time) turned into Archer being the main character for the entire trilogy. The hero! The title character, even. But it didn't stop there. By the time I was done with first draft of book one, I was dreaming up spin-offs of Blood Knights, which will all feature a different type of monster and their culture.
Unfortunately my preferred title, "Moon Knight," is taken (thanks, Marvel/Disney), but I have intentions of writing a spin-off about a werewolf hunter that turns into a werewolf! It will be similar to its predecessor, but also vastly different, possibly even taking place in a different country.
I also have a pretty good grasp on a spin-off centered around demons (unrelated to Inner Demons). About a...wait for it...someone who gets possessed by a demon (you thought I want going to say "a demon hunter that gets turned into a demon," didntja?). All of these "Knight" stories will take place in the same universe. These numerous knights may end up meeting each other some day... (Epic crossover, anyone?)
Answering the original question...
Long story short, no, I'm not just a vampire author. Maybe a monster author, but that's not even a perfect title. I don't strictly only write urban fantasy. I have an emotional realistic fiction on the back burner, a sci-fi concept struggling to come to fruition, and a couple plain-ol' high fantasy novels cookin' (one of them is romance, ooooh). Speaking of romance, I've also been debating putting all these romantic thoughts in my head that I can't somehow vomit out to my crush into a book instead. Vanilla romance with no monsters involved. So weird, but I want to give it a try!
When the fiction Muses aren't with me, I dabble in poetry, and hope to have enough poetry to publish in a book someday. In fact, it's on my to-do list (which you might be noticing by now is a rather long list!).
So put away your pitchforks and wooden stakes. I'm just a beautifully flawed human being, just like you.
Stay tuned for an update on my upcoming audiobook release of The Un-Life of William Moore!
We're all a little mad here,
Welcome home! Thank you for following me to yet another platform. Wordpress wasn't doing it for me, and then Blogger just didn't feel like enough, but now I feel like I've made a good home on Weebly. Everything looks so nice and professional. What do you think?
I'm a big kid now...
I've been unhappy with my website for a while now. When I was younger, I thought blog-websites were so cool, so I formatted my author website as a blog. After all, I planned on doing lots of blogging and making the blog the centerpiece of the website. However, as time went on, I realized that most serious authors don't make their blog the first page you see. It's usually only a tab on the home row. I felt like my website looked unprofessional and childish, but didn't know what I could do - until now.
The grand opening of my online store
With COVID-19 making book signings impossible (where most authors make the most money), I knew I had to adapt or stagnate. The logical solution was to create some way for me to sell my books online. I also, preferably, wanted to have my own online store. I didn't want to just sell on Amazon or Ebay, but wanted to have my own exclusive website that only sold my content.
Then, Square emailed me the solution, advertising their free online store. I already use Square readers for credit card sales in person, so having another outlet to sell using Square seemed like a logical choice. It also turned out to be the right choice!
I made my online store through Weebly, and fell in love with the ease and beauty of it's design. The drag-and-drop feature made designing a breeze, and within two days I had a fully fledged online store.
So I took it a step further, and decided to make an entirely new website using Weebly. This time, it wasn't quite as easy, as I had to call upon my old web design knowledge from college to change the color of unchangeable elements, but it was all worth it. I'm ridiculously happy with the end result. I now feel like I have a professional-grade website I can be truly proud of. I may still yet make some font changes in the future, but she's more or less done.
So what else is new...
I haven't been blogging all that much because there's honestly not much to report. I'm still querying my baby, The Blood Knight, but haven't heard anything from agents or publishers yet. I have gotten back all my beta-reader feedback, though, and so far so good!
However, with the announced release of Midnight Sun, an entry in the Twilight Saga, I'm not sure what the future holds for BK right now. It's either going to be really good if the market wants to publish vampire stories again, or it's going to be really bad if no one wants to publish a competing book. Time will tell if this is the perfect time for BK to be picked up, or the worst time.
In other news, things are personally looking up for me financially. My beautiful PC Divinity has been down for months, but I'm going to be able to buy a brand new beast of a machine within a few weeks. That means I'll have the power to do more live streams, only this time in ultra high quality!
In the meantime...
I'll wrack my brain for more blog topics other than essential-updates in the near future. I'm going to be figuring out what I want to talk about, and what I need to talk about. They say you should blog about things related to the books you write, but I don't want to just prattle on about the undead all the time. I like sharing my knowledge and experience in writing, but the audience for my books are more likely to be readers than writers.
It's something I'll have to work out before I start blogging regularly again. Let me know what you want me to blog about in the comments! I'm open to suggestions.
I will be making my previous website available to view so you can check out my old blog posts, but I'm fighting with Google to make that happen because it's currently bugged out. If all else fails, I'll just re-post my most popular blog posts here, eventually.
Until next time..
Author - Dana Lockhart
Lockhart is an urban fantasy author and writing community leader.