Bones and Bourbon – 1 Year Celebration!

It’s hard to believe, but Bones and Bourbon has been out in the book world officially for a year! And what a year it’s been; there have been conventions, a slew of reviews (mostly good ones!), e-pirates, Rainbow Awards, and most importantly, the reviews and support of readers and fans like you!

As thanks, I wanted to do something special for the 1 Year Anniversary of my first full-length novel. So I asked on Facebook and Twitter both what I should do to celebrate, which seemed like a good idea until Facebook votes for special artwork, and Twitter voted on a new short story. What was I to do?

Both, of course.

First off, feast your eyes on some celebratory artwork!

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From left: Isamu, Aimi, Retz (holding a Nalem skull), Jarrod, and Farris

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From left: Lady Delight, the Harvester, Vairi, and Alexander (w/ a Unicorn head)

While I originally planned on illustrating a scene from the book, I wanted something that would appeal to both new readers and those who’ve already enjoyed Bones and Bourbon. Hence why I created two celebration scenes; one with our protagonists, and one with the more…complicated characters. I also included the colors of a pride flag fitting each character in their artwork! Can YOU figure out each flag?

Now, I’m also all for writing new content for our favorite drunk and deadly brothers, and since “Corpses and Cognac” doesn’t have a release date yet, I ended up writing a new tale to get everyone excited. You can read On the Rocks here on this website, but here’s a small excerpt below:

I had expected Jarrod to reveal some taped-together contraption, like the scanners on all the late-night ghost hunting shows I loved to laugh at. Maybe some alchemical concoction to smear over our eyes to see things with. A pair of binoculars, at the very least.

Instead, as we stepped onto a beach more clay than sand, strewn with driftwood with a rickety canoe tied to an even dingier pier, Jarrod pulled a collapsible fishing pole out of his coat. Keep in mind that my brother was short to begin with, and his stupid leather coat reached down to his ankles and was weighed down with about five-billion pounds of supplies, including two pistols and a shotgun he’d left in the car.

“Are you hiding an entire tackle box in there too?” I asked as I eyed the canoe. It was red, relatively clean despite its surroundings, and even had two oars slotted in and ready to go. It totally had to be a kelpie in disguise. They loved disguising themselves as vehicles for people to ride.

“Don’t need one.” This time, Jarrod fished out a lure made from a wine cork and some old bottle caps. “Works great for bass.”

“We’re not here to catch bass, bro.” I side-eyed the canoe before leaning in and whispering, “…We’re not, right? Tell me this wasn’t some huge ploy to trick me into going fishing.”

Taking place right after Bones and Bourbon but requiring no prior knowledge of it, On the Rocks follows Retz and Jarrod (and Nalem, whether he wants to or not) as they investigate some mysterious disappearances along the Columbia river. Par for the course, mishaps and complicated feelings about family ensue. It’s a more lighthearted romp, because hey, I think we all figure the boys could use a break.

I hope you all enjoy the new content! And once again, thank you for all your support. After years of working on this story, with these characters so near and dear to my heart, it’s amazing to be able to share these adventures with others. Your support means the world to me, and I’ll strive to do right by it by giving you all the best book series of brothers fighting monsters (and sometimes each other) that the world has ever seen.

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Here’s to our first year, and many more to come.

~Dorian

PS: If you happen to be around Cottage Grove, OR this Friday (April 26th) evening, find me at the Cottage Grove Art Walk to celebrate in-person! I’ll have books to sign, stories to tell, and perhaps can be convinced to do a reading…you can find me outside of Delight on Main St.

Preparations…

Hello, dear readers! Let me pop in for a quick update…

Things have been busy over in Graves’ world. New projects, upcoming events, and perhaps most importantly…

In two weeks, Bones and Bourbon will be a year old!

I’m working on some special new content to celebrate, both for fans of the book and new readers alike. I can’t say much more, but keep your eyes peeled on this website!

Until then, keep creating!
~Dorian

What Is and What May Be

After all this time, 2018 is almost over.

I don’t need to tell you all how much of a roller coaster this year has been. But as 2018 comes to a close and 2019 looms on the horizon, it’s a good point to pause, reflect on the journey so far, and look ahead at where to go next.

Too typical, you say? Well, my options are either reflect, or face this hoard of leftover holiday confections. Do you know how much baking my family does around the holidays?!

For 2018, I want to focus on the highlights. The biggest highlight of all: Bones and Bourbon, my debut novel, was finally released into the world! And so far, dear readers like you seem to enjoy it! Violent but touching, complicated but exciting, and full of stranger things than Netflix could make a show out of; that’s what I wanted to share, and more. So from the bottom of my heart to yours: thank you so much for helping make Bones and Bourbon such a success so far.

The release of my first book took me on many other adventures as well. From exciting adventures to conventions and other states to the more mundane (but still kinda’ cool?) steps into becoming a small business owner, I’ve faced a lot of firsts this year that I’m excited to continue in the coming years. To all of you I’ve met this year, it was great, and I hope we cross paths again soon!

And in non-author related news: I finally escaped retail, and now have a day job with a local growing business, where I get to help folks find jobs, chase fascinating data trails, and occasionally draw unicorns for professional work projects. I met and befriended so many people. I even joined a LARP group, where I play a slam-poet vampire detective! I even found time to enjoy some great books, comics, and games; I plan to write a top 10 post about those again this year, so expect that soon.

Now, what does 2019 have in store…and what do I hope to find in it?

First off, the publishing news: as I’ve mentioned, my space fantasy novella “Warp Gate Concerto” will be released in May. Hard to believe that I was still writing the first draft this time last year, and now, my polyamorous alien space pirates are almost here! It’s a bizarre mish-mash of pulp adventure, fanfiction tropes, and my penchant for bizarre beings, with a sprinkle of body horror and comedic timing. I hope you all love reading it as much as I did writing it.

Also, “Corpses and Cognac” is almost complete; I finished the first draft almost two years ago to the day, and now the completely-rewritten draft 2 is almost at The End. Of course, it keeps throwing a few surprises my way, but when the Gallows brothers and their madcap adventures are involved, does anything ever go as planned? I don’t want to reveal the focus of “Corpses and Cognac” just yet, but it does delve further into the mysteries of our daring heroes and villains…and there’s a minotaur gang of motorcylces involved, who sometimes hang out at an underground bar built out of a leviathan’s skeleton.

Since “Corpses and Cognac” doesn’t have a set release date yet, and “Warp Gate Concerto” is too small to have a planned print run, I’m not yet certain about what conventions I’ll be visiting this year. I’d love to return to BayCon or SpoCon again if I can meet those deadlines, and I may try to fit in an event in November—between EuCon, OryCon, and the Portland Book Fest all in my home state, I’m sure I can make it out to something this year. (Especially now that I’m out of retail!)

Along with working on the Deadly Drinks series, I’m going to take some time between finishing “Corpses and Cognac” and getting back to work on book 3 to start on a new project or two. I have two goals: one, to finish a stand-alone novel that I can send out to agents, and the other, to use my new RPG Maker program to start making video games, a dream of mine since I was a kid. I don’t know if I’ll be able to work on both at the same time or will end up focusing on one (or a completely different project!), but right now, that’s my creative plan.

Plus, I’m judging again for the Rainbow Awards again this year, and already have 5 books slated for review. I can’t reveal which ones I’m reading until November, but I’m already excited for my selection.

Oh, and Bones and Bourbon has already been entered in for the awards, as will “Warp Gate Concerto” and “Corpses and Cognac” once they’re released. Fingers crossed that they do well!

I have a couple other goals this year, and we’ll see how they turn out as the year progresses. I want to work on more artwork this year; drawing more, learning how to paint digitally, and learning pixel art for RPG Maker. I also want to get more into nonfiction subjects, both to learn and to find new ideas for my stories; my plan is to find some podcasts I can listen to while working on art, so if you have any recommendations, please send them my way! (Or I can just keep listening to The Dollop, can’t go wrong there…)

There are also a few mundane goals, such as finding a house to rent instead of an apartment, and maybe finally fixing my bike so I can practice for Operation: Motorcycle Reborn. As in, I’ve got a ‘59 Harley to get out of California, repair, learn to ride, and become strong enough to kickstart. That’s…more of a long term goal, but I can at least start part of it now.

In a couple days, the earth will start its next trek around the sun. Feel free to take your own time to reflect and prepare, dear readers—and if you feel like sharing in the comments so we may celebrate and/or commiserate with you, feel free.

See you next year, dear readers~

~Dorian

Look Upon My Works and Despair

It’s been a busy month here in the Gravelands. Finishing “Corpses and Cognac,” planning what I’m going to write afterwards, starting a new job, preparing for the holidays, and somehow finding time to be social all in there. It’s a lot to juggle, but it comes with a feeling of progress, the knowledge that this is the way things are supposed to be going. The outline of life falls into place.

The outline for “Corpses and Cognac,” on the other hand…well, let’s just say we’ve reached that stage of the draft where you question everything. I’m doing my best to set those doubts aside, get the book done, and leave all major edits for Draft 3. Doing a complete rewrite for Draft 2 has fixed most of the problems I was having with the book, but a complete rewrite does come with the price of introducing its own problems. Especially when the first draft took 2-3 years to write, and Draft 2 is almost complete at about 6 months or work—about the time it took me to write the space-fantasy novella. That’s pretty good time for me, even if it doesn’t feel that way!

What I want to talk about today is something I’ve been struggling with in this draft—and every draft of every story I ever write. It’s figuring out how much of the logic and mechanics of the world I explain to the readers.

Yes, it’s important to create the rules of one’s universe. To know how things are supposed to work, and the fallout of what happens when a wrench is thrown into those inner workings; as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, consistent internal logic is key to keeping the plotholes away. I also talk a lot about building the details for one’s world, and that falls in here too. I’ve got documents and charts detailing how Arcadia functions and its connection to our world and “Moonworld” in the Deadly Drinks series, faux-scientific notes on magic and culture overviews for other series. I can even say I’m proud of these ideas. They’re unique, and once some of the facets are realized, the implications it casts on some of the characters are…well, in typical me fashion, rather wicked. Mwahaha.

That’s where the balance comes in. What I may think of as evil genius, a reader may find dull or confusing. What I would cast as a revelation in the plot may actually distance others with all the talk of theories. And even if I find a fascinating, exciting way to pull back the curtain and reveal the inner machinations of my work…what do I sacrifice by removing that sense of mystery?

We’ve all seen it in stories, where we suddenly break from the plot for a lecture on the rules of magic or how a strange monster can be entirely explained by science, or even just a whole chapter on the history of Special Noble Family we’re never going to see again. Heck, it’s the trap many prequels fall into, trying to explain how the world-state of the original came to be instead of letting the viewers’ minds wander. (Solo, you were fun, but why? Fantastic Beasts…just, why?!?) People like to poke holes at mysteries. It’s the fuel for numerous head-canons and fanfics, and it allows everyone to cast their own lens on a story. Not that everything should be done for sake of fandom, but sometimes, it’s the mystery more than the reveal that leaves people thinking afterwards, like those twist endings that imply a fate but never confirm it.

I’m sitting at my laptop, staring at one scene in particular. It’s a big reveal conversation at a diner, metaphorical action placed in the food and movements of cutlery like all those literary short stories that get paraded around in English classes. There are fun metaphors involving barracudas too, because I can’t let things get too drab and droll. It reveals a key facet about the universe, one that changes how the protagonists interact with a certain group they’ll continue to encounter throughout the series.

I’m torn between throwing it at my beta-reader and sobbing “How do I make this work?!” and just taking a blowtorch to the entire conversation. It’s a big reveal. It changes a lot of dynamics. There are also a lot of nitty-gritty particulars. But is it right?

If worse comes to worse, we’ll see where Draft 2 leaves me once I’m finished. Then I can look back and determine if the reveal strengthens the story, or leaves it weak under the pressure of me heaping my ideas onto it and shouting “But isn’t this COOL?!” into the wind. Maybe it’s the doubt talking.

Or maybe, dear readers, I’m longing to hold onto mysteries too.

~Dorian

The (Late) SpoCon Report!

Hello again, dear readers! Can you believe it’s almost October? “Corpses and Cognac” nears completion, this blog is now a year old, and…I’ve been so busy that I forgot to post for two months. Woops.

So, with the adage of better late than never, time to finally talk about SpoCon! Which was…all the way back in August, wow. Not only is SpoCon the primary fantasy/scifi convention for Spokane and the surrounding area, but most of its proceeds go toward supporting local libraries and schools. I was already heading up to Washington that month anyway to visit family, so I figured I’d swing by!

SpoCon took place from August 10th through 12th, at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. The art show and dealer’s room was on the first floor, while the panels were split between the first and third floor. My table was located in a hallway right outside of the dealer’s room, which brought us some nice traffic (and later, a great view of all the cosplayers heading to the costume contest). I brought my romantic partner with me this time, who helped run the table whenever I had to speak on a panel. A chainmail jewelry artist was on one side of our table, and the other was for Oneshi Press, a small group of wonderfully creative comic artists and authors.

I’ll be brief with discussing numbers, because I’d rather talk about the panels. I sold 19 books at the convention itself, each with 8.8% sales tax included. While me and my partner’s admission was free thanks to being a panelist, I did have to pay $100 to get my own table to sell books at. Otherwise, I could’ve left some books at the “Marmot Market” and let them sell it at a 20% commission. My personal sales did end up covering the table fee, but since I was a little late getting my hotel room, it didn’t quite offset that cost.

However, even if I didn’t make as much sales-wise, I did get to speak on seven different panels! I got to cover a wide variety of topics, so let me discuss each of them in detail…

  1. The Magical Menagerie

If there’s one thing I love to write about, it’s weird creatures, so it was a great topic to kick the convention off with! We discussed everything from researching monsters from different cultures, helping people figure out how to utilize certain creatures in their plots, and what the most useless creature we’d ever heard of was—which, if anyone was wondering, mine is the Squonk.
Also, kudos to the Thor and Loki cosplayers who interacted with the panel in-character almost the entire time. You two were hilarious.

  1. Ideas: Where Do They Come From?
    This was a fun panel about the different ways authors plot their books. Half the panelists were pantsers, the others were plotters, and I seemed to be the halfway point (I try to plot, and then meander a bit from there). We also discussed our inspirations, how we get ourselves unstuck, and so on.

  2. Terribly Funny
    This panel was specifically about the use of humor in horror fiction. Unfortunately, one of the panelists wasn’t able to make it, so we just had two new-to-panel authors with no direction. It became a discussion on different kinds of humor and theories on plot pacing in general, plus forays into improv theater.

  3. Creating Memorable NPCs
    One of my two panels on tabletop RPGs. While the point of this was about what makes NPCs stand out, it also became about different styles of running a game, which became a pantsers/plotters debate like in the (outlining) panel earlier. Our general consensus was that there are a number of factors that can make a character stand out, but sometimes, the strangest things—like a random radio DJ or a nut-throwing squirrel—will stand out to the players.

  4. Building a Campaign
    This was one of the two panels I suggested for the convention, and I was joined by two members of the RPG Research team. We discussed different techniques to keep players interested in a tabletop RPG campaign, from the planning stages to in-between sessions.
    This panel has actually been recorded for the RPG Research’s talk show; it should be available for the general public soon, or now for those who want to support them on Patreon.

  5. See You, Space Cowboy
    Here’s the other panel I suggested for the convention, which was about colonization in science fiction. My original idea had been to discuss how often colonization is forced into scifi narratives, from shows like Star Trek to games like Mass Effect Andromeda. However, the panel instead became a discussion on the viability of actually colonizing planets in our near future, with me focusing on the moral and societal aspects and my fellow panelist covering what we’d need for supplies and staffing. We also covered how corporations may come to lead the space race, different ways to get people to survive the trip to new planets, and so on.

  6. The Writing Habit
    This one was specifically about staying dedicated to writing. This was a bit of an odd panel for me, seeing as I haven’t worked with deadlines until this year, and I had far less time as an author compared to the other authors. Perhaps the only panel where I didn’t talk that much, but it was interesting hearing everyone’s different routes to authorhood.

There was also some miscommunication involving a writing workshop, but that was the only hiccup I experienced the entire convention. Everything else was run rather smoothly, and both staff and con-goers alike were all in friendly spirits.

All in all, while SpoCon wasn’t the most lucrative convention, I garnered a lot of interest by participating in panels—and learned quite a bit myself. I was also able to finally meet Dawn Vogel and Jeremy Zimmerman, the masterminds behind Defcon One Publishing (who’ve published a few of my short stories over the years) in the flesh. I actually learned about SpoCon from one of their blog posts, so thanks for inspiring this adventure in the first place!

Now that I’ve confirmed that I survived the convention, I’m going to burrow back into my writing again (as well as preparing the upcoming writing comic, slowly but surely). “Corpses and Cognac” is coming together nicely, and seeing all the support for Bones and Bourbon helps inspire me to make this the best sequel I can.

Also, since it turns out today is the one year anniversary of this website…here’s to a great start, and to even better (and maybe more consistent) blog posts next year. Thank you all for your support so far~!

~Dorian

A Handful of Announcements

Life is rife with novel deadlines and other projects, but today, I have some exciting announcements to share with you readers!

First off, an upcoming publication! “Warp Gate Concerto,” that space fantasy novella I wrote for NineStar Press’s LOST collection, has officially been accepted! That’s right: the polyamorous, alien space pirates will soon be here for everyone to read about. I hope you all have as much fun reading it as I did writing it~

Second: In a week and a half, I shall be in Spokane, Washington for SpoCon! Not only will I have copies of Bones and Bourbon with me to sell and sign, but I’ll also be speaking on panels, ranging on every topic from weird creatures to running tabletop RPGs. Check out the full itinerary here!

Finally, there are some upcoming changes in regards to this blog. I’ve been thinking about restructuring it for some time, so after some thought (and a twitter poll), I have plans to turn this blog into a new project: a webcomic about writing!

Worry not: there will still be announcements on new projects, rambles about worldbuilding, and even some more advice on writing in general. There will just also be an artistic component, in the style of a newspaper strip where I, my various fictional characters, and even a few non-fictional people and cats, explore the trials of tribulations of writing.

Having attempted webcomics before, I know better than to start posting comics as soon as I finish drawing them, however. I’m going to build up a backlog first, which should also give me time to settle on a format and style. (And maybe even some actual punchlines.) Between that and trying to hit the tentative deadline for the current draft of “Corpses and Cognac,” the sequel to Bones and Bourbon, this blog may be sparsely updated for awhile. But when it begins again, it shall be stronger! Artsier! Maybe even updated multiple times a week with new comics! We’ll see how it all turns out.

In the meantime, keep busy and creative, dear readers.

~Dorian

From the Ashes of Old Tales: on Recycling Characters

Sometimes, a story doesn’t work out. Not enough time, plot doesn’t make sense, the list goes on for reasons why a book idea might get scrapped. But does that mean all that plotting need to go waste? Not at all, which is why this post, I’m going to talk about about recycling…recycling old characters, that is.

I’ve been creating new worlds and stories for years, from fanfiction in my youth to college tabletop campaigns and my published original works nowadays. It’s no surprise that I’ve built up a steady stock of characters over this time…as in, enough to populate at least a small town. Some are newer; most of the characters in my short stories, for example, are made specifically for that story. But others, I’ve been writing and re-writing for years. In Bones and Bourbon alone, I’ve had Retz around since Christmas of 2009, Jarrod was created a few months later, and Nalem was created before either of them in 2007.

(Meaning Nalem’s been around as long as a pre-teen, which explains a lot about what it’s like writing him, now that I think about it.)

Of course, these long-time characters have changed quite a lot since their inception. Retz is ace instead of a cowardly womanizer, Nalem is no longer a benevolent demi-god of darkness (much as he may claim to be), and Jarrod…is still a monster-fighting alcoholic, but now with a boatload of identity issues and a steady boyfriend. Heck, said boyfriend Farris was meant to be a one-time character in my first-ever tabletop campaign, but the players attached to him so much that I kept him around and snuck him into a book, where the readers then attached to him, and now he’s one of the main characters.

So, how does one recycle and reinvent characters? If their details and storylines get changed so much, are they even the same person—and if the answer is no, does that matter?

To explain how this process works, I’m going to explain one of my more extreme examples. I’m going to talk about Nalem.

For those who haven’t read Bones and Bourbon yet—first, please do so if dark fantasy action with bad puns is your thing. Second, Nalem is the main antagonist of the story, an ancient spirit who controls bones and experiences the world through a vessel whose body he steals, that currently being protagonist Retz Gallows. Yet as I mentioned above, I first made him as a benevolent deity, despite him being a demi-god of darkness. What changed, and how much of the old Nalem has stuck around over the past eleven years?

We begin with college, when I’m first working on the Deadly Drinks series and trying to figure out how Retz’s powers work. He’d had the bizarre bone-controlling powers since the moment I made him, but I’d decided I wanted there to be a drawback. (I was super invested in magic having equivalently powerful drawbacks in those days; probably from watching too much Full Metal Alchemist.) I had just finished the first draft of Bones and Bourbon, a draft so early it holds no similarity to the finished product, and Retz spent it all alone in his head…save for a key moment in the climax when he was rescued from possession by a sinister voice in his head whispering “Mine” as the spell was broken.

I wanted to know who that voice belonged to. I tried to make a new antagonist, but all I found were stereotypical creepy necromancers. I wanted someone new. I turned to my roster of characters with no stories of their own, which held an already sizable lineup by the time I turned eighteen.

It didn’t take long to stumble upon Nalem. He already had the design in place; back when he was a character with a body, his trademarks were flowing pale hair, thick sunglasses, and a visible spine that descended into a tail with spiked vertebrae. Even without his body, Nalem was a smooth talking immortal who thought he was better at hiding his temper than he was, insisted he was a hero even when others called him a villain, and already had a history of meddling in the lives of other characters for reasons he believed benevolent.

I still had a lot of work to do in turning him from benevolent demi-god to a wicked body-snatching spirit. The toughest thing about recycling characters is deciding what elements to keep and what to throw away; it’s far too easy to force details in just because it’s supposedly integral to the character. I scrapped a tragic love for a goddess of light, deciding there’d be no true deities appearing in the Deadly Drinks books, and set aside his right-hand soldier for a more high fantasy venture (though somehow, this character ended up in the scifi novella instead…) Nalem always had a musical focus for his powers, but his original castanets didn’t seem quite as fitting for Retz, hence the switch to a far more menacing viola. He lost his family, his backstory, and even his body—but that core identity remained.

Could this Nalem still be called the same character as the original demi-god? In terms of design and backstory, there’s almost no similarity past the skeletal theme. But personality wise? New Nalem was a twist on the old, a musing on what would’ve happened if a kind deity was accused of wickedness too many times, even by his own followers. To quote a certain Blue Öyster Cult song, “If he really thinks we’re the devil, then let’s send him to Hell.”

Thus, we had an antagonist, a counterpoint to Retz who stands in his way from within his own head. And from this twist in his original concept, I found a theme for the Deadly Drinks series in exploring what happens when one’s noble purpose becomes corrupted, plus some commentaries on the pitfalls of immortality. Readers loved to hate him so much that instead of making a one-word debut in the climax, he’s right there in Chapter 1 and keeps up his arrogant sarcasm for the whole book. Not bad for a character born from doodling edgy designs in my notebook during class.

And sometimes, characters are like notebooks. They acquire notes and scribbles and odd extra tidbits in the margins. Sometimes, all that paper gets recycled into a brand new notebook. It’s usually not 100% recycled material, says right there on the sticker; some bits are old, some are new, but all the paper’s still blank and waiting for you to spill ink upon.

~Dorian