Pre-Publication Urban Fantasy Web Serials I’m Currently Following

I’m following along with the publication of two web serials by veteran urban fantasy authors, and I thought I’d share while they’re running:

Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong dozens of books across the fantasy and mystery/thriller genres, including a long history of urban fantasy. In Cursed Luck, she introduces us to a new setting, featuring the curse weaver Kennedy–who runs her own antiques shop in Boston, as she tries to ply the family trade on her own.

Kennedy’s minding her own business, until a whole slew of supernaturals turn up hunting an infamous cursed item–and turn to Kennedy’s family to uncurse it. By abducting her sisters. (Obviously, she’d not letting that stand.)

I’ve been enjoying how the protagonist draws lines for what she won’t tolerate. I’m not fully caught up–I tend to like getting a bit of a backlog so I can read several parts of these kinds of series in one go–but what I’ve read so far has been a fun story.

Ryder by Ilona Andrews (I think the title is temporary?)

This story is set in the same universe as the authors’ Kate Daniels series, following one of the side characters after she’d had time to grow up. In a post-apocalyptic Atlanta with alternating waves of magic and tech, Ryder’s returning home after a long absence.

She can’t actually contact most of her family for world-building reasons and she looks completely different, which leads to an interesting dynamic–she’s back in the city where she grew up, she’s meeting a lot of people that she knows already, but all of them think they’re strangers. That’s an intriguing dynamic to watch unfold.

The story has only started kicking off with her getting into her investigations, but it’s promising, and I’m really enjoying it so far. You might have to use the search bar to find all the parts, but they’re clearly labeled.

A Less Static Take on Vampiric Culture in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

[The following video probably NSFW]

 

Since a sequel to the original Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is on the horizon a full 16(!) years later, I figured I should review first game now that I’d completed a full playthrough. A dark vampire RPG game from 2004 that I’ve spoken about before, I really liked this one. Not everything about it worked for me, but overall, there are enough interesting concepts and well-executed ideas to be worthwhile.

One of the fascinating things about this game is that it shows a variety of different vampire cultures and perspectives on those cultures.

You’re first introduced to one kind of vampire society, the more archetypical hierarchical structure of the Camarilla. They have clans, they have rules, they have consequences for breaking those rules.

Then you’re quickly introduced to a group of vampires who just go wild. No restrictions and no hiding. As the Camarilla–and other groups of vampires–are all interested in keeping their existence low-key, this really doesn’t play well with a lot of other vampire cultures. Continue reading “A Less Static Take on Vampiric Culture in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”

Musing About Finishing the Books Whose First Drafts Date Back Years Ago

With the release of Natural Sorcery, I have now officially published all of the long-form stories whose first drafts date, at least partially, from my undergraduate/early graduate lifetime or earlier. This is a huge relief.

It can be hard to realize how your writing changes and evolves until you go back to something that you’d written years before, and then suddenly you can see all the differences. And I’m still going to have the same problem with respect to drafts that I’ve started during my late graduate phase–which will inevitably have to wait their turn for publication until I complete at least one of the series I’m working on right now–but at least then I’ll be working with drafts that came from a time when I was a better writer.

And it’s not just the writing style on its own that makes me relieved to be working with things I wrote when I was older. The ideas I have for how I want to move these stories forward have changed. Terrestrial Magic as a series is always going to have its wild, chaotic world-building that can never be tamed. That’s what I’d seeded into the story when I started writing it forever ago. And I’ve accepted that in order to write that series–which I still think is very much worth writing, despite how hard I made the world-building and plotting on myself–I have to just let go and have fun with it.

But it’ll be nice to start some writing projects with world-building and plots and themes that’ll feel a little bit more like I can control them.

Unless, of course, I move on to my next projects and realize that much of this is wishful thinking. Because for all I know, my writing will always feel at least a bit like it’s gotten away from me.

One of the things I’ve had to accept, in order to start publishing, is that it’s next to impossible to have the perfect book. Projects are always going to be flawed and are probably never going to feel like exactly like what I intended. But finishing them and putting them out in the world still has value. Especially if these books find the readers that connect with them.

So really, I always have to be aware of that line between when the book really isn’t ready yet, and when it’s as ready as it’s going to be. But until then, I’m going to let myself dream just a little bit that maybe the perfect project does exist. Even if I know it doesn’t.

Free Digital Copies of Terrestrial Magic and Natural Sorcery is Released

Natural Sorcery is now out.

I’ve also been thinking about what to make available for free during the current upheaval–unfortunately, I don’t have a huge back catalog to choose from. So I decided to give away digital ebook copies of Terrestrial Magic (first in the series for Natural Sorcery, not including the bonus content in the retail version) alongside the hundred other books available at the Pages and Potions Giveaway. This giveaway will be active until May 6th.

The almost-final draft of Terrestrial Magic is also available as a web series here. Note that the ebook version has been lightly edited from the original web serial.

Natural Sorcery: First Chapter Preview and Pre-Order

cropped-natural-sorcery_paperback-3.jpg

Pre-orders for Natural Sorcery are now up. The book will release on April 23rd as an ebook.

Chapter One

The sun beat down over expansive, even fields that stretched out towards a background of rocky hills. Farmlands were not my thing, so I couldn’t identify the various crops that were laid out in rows before me. Not that I had any business doing so, or even being here. I should have been out in the uncultivated wilds, conducting my research far away from where the food production happened—the legendary animals (called legimals) that I was interested in weren’t exactly a welcome sight here.

Instead, I found myself in the passenger seat of a pick-up as Tony parked it past a gated entrance, in front of a couple of small buildings. The oppressively hot air greeted me when I climbed out of the car, a layer of sweat appearing over my skin almost instantaneously.

Ah, the joys of Mediterranean summers. Continue reading “Natural Sorcery: First Chapter Preview and Pre-Order”

Natural Sorcery is Coming: Blurb Reveal

A woman with water supernaturally rising around her. The text reads "Rome was supposed to be safe...That was before the local legends started using their magic."

Rome was supposed to be safe–or at least safer than 90% of the planet. That was before the local legends started using their magic to destroy the food supply. 

Considered one of Rome’s experts on legends, mostly because she keeps surviving their assassination attempts, Jordan finds herself racing to find the culprits before they strike again. But legends wield powers that aren’t documented, understood, or predictable. And Jordan isn’t even a soldier. She’s just some scientist unlucky enough to stumble over the local political mess. 

The chances of getting murdered by magic beyond her comprehension is disconcertingly high. But if this unknown legend goes unchecked, Rome won’t survive the next few years…and Jordan doesn’t have it in her to walk away from that.

Cover Reveal for Natural Sorcery, Sequel to Terrestrial Magic

A woman surrounded by magically floating water, in front of a stone wall. Text reads "Natural Sorcery, Marina Ermakova."

Natural Sorcery, the next book in the Jordan Sanders series, will be up for pre-order soon, and here’s the first of the promotional materials I’ll be making available. Next will be the blurb. And once the pre-order goes live, I’ll post the first chapter as well.

Please note that publication of the print version will be indefinitely delayed–given current circumstances, I’m just not comfortable using the supply chains for that yet.

The ebook version will likely be out near the end of April. I’m putting it on sale for an undetermined amount of time, also because of current circumstances. The price will go up eventually.

More information to come soon.

Ninth House: An Unforgiving, Gritty Look at Power Dynamics

Words read "Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo". A snake is entwined through the words.

You may have heard some of the discussion about this book, the heavy topics that it deals with. Trigger warnings that people have mentioned. So I will say upfront that, yes, this book tackles some uncomfortable topics. I’d advise anyone interested to look up those trigger warnings beforehand, just so you know what you’re getting into.

That said, I found this to be a powerful story about power dynamics. About how power is used and how it’s abused. And about an angry protagonist who’s been burned by the world reclaiming some of that power. Continue reading “Ninth House: An Unforgiving, Gritty Look at Power Dynamics”

Hey, I Finished Grad School

Okay, so I graduated from my graduate program. I almost officially have a PhD. There are a couple of formalities left to observe, but in practical terms, I did it.

I haven’t done the best job over these years of documenting my journey for anyone who’s interested in knowing how a PhD program in the sciences works, especially for subjects like molecular biology, genetics, etc. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to give an overview of how this kind of journey happens, in the United States in particular.

Classes and rotations. Yay, you got accepted. For the first year or two, you’ll have classes to try to get you to a general background on your topic. You’ll also be doing rotations the first year–meaning that you’ll work for a shorter period of time in a few labs on a few small projects (maybe a semester per lab). After that, you’ll make the decision to commit to one lab for however many years it takes to graduate. Continue reading “Hey, I Finished Grad School”

Writing Updates 2019

The first half of 2019 went well with my fiction writing, while it ended up taking a backseat in the second half due to graduate thesis writing. Still, I’m almost done with the first draft for the sequel to Terrestrial Magic–half a chapter left to go. This is how my 2 current projects stand:

Terrestrial Magic 2: first draft ~98% complete

Chains Carried on Wings 2: first draft ~15% complete

This is slower than my target goals for the year, but I’m not too discouraged by it–writing a thesis is something of an anomaly.

First priority is Terrestrial Magic 2, and after that comes out I’ll switch over to trying to complete the second Chains Carried on Wings book.

I do have other projects in the works (which I started before deciding to do indie publishing), but I’ve committed to completing Chains Carried on Wings (which I’m currently thinking of as a trilogy) before publishing or working on any new series. Two series running at once is a good maximum at this point.

I don’t want to commit to any dates yet, but once I finish grad school, I’ll be trying to finish up Terrestrial Magic 2 as quickly as possible. My first drafts tend to be pretty clean these days, so I don’t expect many complications in the editing phase.

Other than that, I’ve got half a dozen short stories–a few set in the world of Terrestrial Magic–that I still don’t know what to do with, but will eventually make available somehow.