Rainbow Connections: OryCon and Rainbow Awards

Greetings, dear readers!

A lot has happened in the past month! First was OryCon up in Portland, and then came the Rainbow Awards last week. My head is still spinning from all of it, so it’s high time I sort everything out with a blog post.

First up, OryCon and my thoughts on it. I hadn’t actually planned on attending OryCon this year; I thought I’d missed my window to affordably sign up earlier in the year, so I planned to stay home and focus on writing. But a couple weeks before the event, I received a message from J.S. Fields: one of their tablemates had withdrawn, and they needed someone to take the place as the fourth table member. I crunched numbers and found I could squeeze it in. Two weeks later, with a fresh box of books and bookmarks in my car, I drove up to Portland after work and prepared for a new convention.

OryCon took place from November 8th through 10th, at the Red Lion Hotel on Jantzen Beach right at the border between Oregon and Washington. I was at the Queer Science Fiction table with three other authors: J.S. Fields, wood scientist and author of the Ardulum series; L.M. Pierce, author of the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade; and Ziggy, writer of the Crossing Wires podcast and various short stories. We were fairly close to the opening of the Dealer’s Room, with a jeweler on one side, another author on the other, and a table for selling Filk music across from us. There were quite a few authors at the convention, including friend of the table Ross Winkler, author of A Warrior’s Sacrifice a couple tables down, and multiple tables for groups of authors, like NIWA.

So, how was it all?

First off, when I was still agreeing to the convention, I was informed that OryCon a far slower convention than others in terms of sales, but high in other sorts of connections. I found this to be pretty accurate. For sales, I only sold about 11 books; it was apparently an even slower sales year than usual, and I also witnessed a lot of sales sniping from other vendors. However, those who did buy our books often came back to tell us that they’d started reading and loved what they’d read so far, and those who’d attended before received a lot of interest for the newest books in the other authors’ series.

I wasn’t on any panels myself due to my late addition, but the rest of the authors at my table got to join some, and I did attend the live podcast episode of The Overcast. Panels seemed to run smooth and have strong attendance, and they were spaced apart well enough that those attending multiple panels had ample downtime between them. There were a couple hiccups with programming (a couple panels were incredibly similar, or had descriptions altered to be different than what those who pitched the panels intended), but the actual panels themselves went off well. I also heard that the convention took a lot of feedback between last year and this one, which was good to hear.

As mentioned above, the only panel I made it to was a live recording of The Overcast podcast, run by J.S. Arquin. This was a treat to attend, not only because it was fun to be part of a live show, but because The Overcast produced one of my short stories, Hell is for Children, way back in episode 3. It was amazing to hear how far the show had come, and to get a chance to thank Arquin for taking a chance on me when we were both first starting out.

What made OryCon stand out, however, was the camaraderie. I’d never tabled with other authors before, and it was so inspiring to work with other authors, all of us in small press (with stories published by NineStar Press) but in different places of our journeys. We learned from each other, swapped publishing tips and elevator pitches, and just had a good time chatting in the moments between. Plus, there were plenty of other authors to connect with at other tables, such as talking DnD over at the NIWA table, or even hearing about the WIPs of other con attendees and volunteers.

I returned home from OryCon invigorated in a way I haven’t been from an event before. I’ve reworked parts of my overarching publishing plan, brewed new outlines and plot hooks, and even have some exciting new projects coming down the pipeline. I’ve been writing like mad and scribbling notes in a way that I haven’t been able to for months. I’m inspired. I’m excited. I feel like myself again, bubbling with ideas and ready to roll.

And yet, doubt still creeps in. It always does for authors, no matter where we are in our publishing journeys. So many plans, so much inspiration, and yet I found myself stuck working long hours at the day job (itself busy with the holiday rush), trying to balance family time during the Thanksgiving holiday with completing chores, and where was there time to write? When would I get time to make all these wonderful stories I had planned, if the dishes couldn’t just do themselves?

Then the Rainbow Awards results hit. I’d submitted Bones and Bourbon a whole year ago, but had heard dead silence on the honorable mentions front, so I assumed that it hadn’t quite hit home with the judges. I was ready to take a couple mediocre reviews with grace and congratulate the winners. Then, just before the awards started to roll out late Saturday night on the 7th, two honorable mentions arrived. Sweet, I thought! A couple good reviews, that I could be happy with.

The awards started proper. Fellow author friends hit high notes in their categories. I made a note of books to read. Then I saw the “LGBTA – Contemporary General Fiction, Fantasy & Sci-Fi / Futuristic” category. What was that in second place? Was it somehow….Bones and Bourbon?

It was. And then when the awards resumed rolling out in the morning, it also hit second in the overall “Transgender Book,” and first in the “LGBTA Debut Book” category. For once in my life, I found myself speechless.

All my ideas weren’t for nothing. All the snatched moments of writing between work shifts, all the convention rushes, all the plotting and rewriting…all of it paid off. And it’s all thanks to you, dear readers and judges.

Thank you for taking a chance on my weird and queer debut, full of monsters and broken families all trying to hold themselves together. Thank you to those who found kinship in Jarrod’s struggle to be his true self, in Retz discovering how to be his own person, and all the other journeys within. Thank you to all who laughed at the idea of carnivorous unicorns, who oohed and aahed at the cover, and let it all draw them in. And for every review posted, every time you suggested it to a friend or asked for it in your bookstores and libraries, every time you gave Bones and Bourbon a chance…

I can never thank you enough. But I can release more books I hope you’ll love, shake your hand and dedicate a signed book to you when we meet at a convention (perchance at OryCon next year?), and maybe I can start to show you a fraction of this gratitude that’s filling up my heart.

Dear readers, you’re the best.

~Dorian

OryCon and Other Updates

Greetings, dear readers. It’s been some time since my last update, but things have been quiet over in Graves land. I’ve been hard at work on projects old and new (more on that below), but today, I have some news for you!

Next week, I will be at OryCon in Portland, November 8th through 10th! I’m joining fellow authors J.S. Fields and Ziggy Schutz at the Queer Science Fiction table, and perhaps you can find me in the audience of a few panels after the dealer’s room closes.

For this con, I’ll only have Bones and Bourbon on hand, as well as some bookmarks for Warp Gate Concerto (which is too small for a print release on its own). “Corpses and Cognac” won’t be through with edits in time for this convention, but should all go well (aka as long as the book doesn’t require *another* full rewrite), it should be ready for any convention I stumble into next year. And believe me, there are plans for conventions next year.

In the meantime, I’m juggling two primary writing projects. The main one, of course, is the third Deadly Drinks book. It was actually the second book I wrote, but as mentioned in other drafts, the series needed “Corpses and Cognac” in between in order to build up to the events of this book. It’s a big one, taking familiar faces and flipping their worlds upside down. I’m taking a looser approach in the first draft stage of this book than I have with the others, avoiding a full outline since I know the general beats of this book by heart after so many years plotting it. We’ll see how it all turns out, but I’m already so excited for you all to read it.

The second project I’m working on is tentatively titled “For Those Who Burn.” This is going to be a big ol’ high fantasy novel, a love letter to the JRPGs I grew up on and the tabletop games I play now, but also chock full of the usual Dorian Graves amount of queer, horror, and “well, that’s WEIRD.” My plan is for this to be the book I pitch to agents while I continue publishing Deadly Drinks with NineStar, and if I ever have time to work on it, I also have a video game tie-in of FTWB in progress using RPG Maker. Starting a completely new project is always daunting at first, but the thrill of exploration as I create the world and its colorful cast of characters is always too exciting to ignore.

Otherwise…day job goes well, partner and I have taken some fun trips close to home this year, and I’ve played arguably too much Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Not much else to update on that front.

I hope to see some of you dear readers at OryCon. Until next time~

~Dorian

New Release: Warp Gate Concerto

It’s that time at last: My newest novel, Warp Gate Concerto, is finally here!

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Cover of Warp Gate Concerto, designed by Natasha Snow

This book is full of a lot of firsts for me: First novella, first time writing science fiction (though it’s soft enough I call it a space fantasy instead), first piece working with editor extraordinaire Stacey Jo, first time writing a full story from start to finish in only 6 months…and, hopefully, first in a new series!

On a related note: Due to its size, Warp Gate Concerto is not currently getting a print release. Clocking it at only ~35k words, it’s a tad too small for an indie press like NineStar to give it a whole print run.

However, if it does well, I can get away with writing more stories in this setting full of space pirates, musical soulmates, intergalactic intrigue, and enough weird aliens to make George Lucas blush. And if there are more stories, who’s to stop us from banding them into a print collection later on down the line?

So check it out, tell any friends you know who love weird science fiction, and maybe even drop a review if you’re feeling generous! The stars await us, dear readers.

~Dorian

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Nulani, a protagonist from Warp Gate Concerto, painted by yours truly.

Upcoming Release: Warp Gate Concerto

Great news, readers! My new novella Warp Gate Concerto is almost here! First things first, check out the cover, made as always by the wonderful Natasha Snow:

Cover for Warp Gate Concerto by Dorian Graves; art by Natasha Snow.

Beautiful, isn’t it? But…what’s it about? Here’s the official description:

Nulani, Ashua, and Silna are alien soulmates on the run from their oppressive homeworld. When their past catches up to them, they find themselves lost and separated on a deadly jungle planet. To survive, they’ll have to face everything—from floral reptiles to pain-eating scientists—with only their wits and mind-altering music on their sides.

But they soon learn they aren’t the only ones in need of rescue. An underground laboratory houses genetically altered superweapon Kozrin, who is not only a reminder of the war they left behind…but is also their soulmate!

Can this ragtag group of polyamorous space pirates reunite, rescue their new love, and escape this deadly planet alive?

This fun piece of science-fiction comes out July 22nd. However, preordering through the NineStar Press website not only lets you grab the novella 3 days early, but you can also use the code “Preorder” for 30% off! That’s quite a steal for the misadventures of polyamorous space pirates.

More importantly: If this novella goes well, I’ll be able to write more stories in this weird, queer galaxy I’ve written up. I have so many more adventures to show you with the Psyrens and their crew, so help show some love for weird aliens. Preorders, reviews, every little bit helps.

Here’s looking forward to July 22nd!

~Dorian

PS: For those wondering, Warp Gate Concerto is not currently receiving a print release due to its small size. It’ll be ebook only, in whichever format you prefer. However, if I’m able to write more novellas in this universe, there may be a print collection out in the future…

A Journey Through “Corpses and Cognac”

It still doesn’t feel real.

I recently announced on social media that “Corpses and Cognac,” the second book in the Deadly Drinks series, has been accepted for publication and is slated to release by the end of 2019. That’s exciting enough on its own, not to mention that Bones and Bourbon had its one year anniversary and (completely separate) novella “Warp Gate Concerto” is coming out in a month or two.

For me, the excitement over “Corpses and Cognac” being accepted for release isn’t just exciting: it feels like a gods-be-damned miracle. And that’s because I restarted this book so many times, it took almost 5 years to actually finish a full draft…and then completely rewrote the book over the course of 8 months.

Let’s showcase a bit of writing process and talk about how this book came about, shall we?

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A moodboard created for “Corpses and Cognac” during June’s #LGBTWIP event

Back in 2013, I’d finished writing two books. At least, that’s what I’d thought. There was a book called “Bones and Bourbon” that, aside from its protagonists, bears no resemblance to the now-published book of the same name. It also had a sequel, where the Gallows brothers met two other characters; Farris, Jarrod’s boyfriend, and Nalem, the ghost possessing Retz.

That’s right; Nalem and Farris weren’t originally in the first book at all. That’s one of many reasons why I don’t often mention those proto-books, which were only about 60k words a pop…but they were stepping stones to building what the Deadly Drinks series has become. Perhaps their most important role was helping me realize how much the series needed Nalem’s twisted darkness and Farris’s drive and humor. In fact, I needed to include them in the series from the start. I started rewriting that first book to include them, but it wasn’t enough. The two books were so vastly different, they needed a transition between them. What I thought was a direct sequel was actually book 3 of a series, and I needed a new book 2.

In theory, writing a story with a set point A and B is easy. In practice, when a new author keeps rewriting point A and moving where point B needs to go, and the path in between also needs to hint at later points C and D…

I started outlining late at night in a tiny notebook, huddled in the corner of an Unwoman concert at Convolution 2013 (where I first donned the Dorian Graves moniker). This story involving a secret supernatural society hiding in old warehouses and factories around the Bay Area, but didn’t quite click. I turned to my tried-and-true literary inspiration of “listen to Blue Oyster Cult nonstop until you get an idea,” which led to combining secret supernatural societies with possessed motorcycles. There was a fun intro that involved facing ghosts at a racetrack, which then warped into being attacked by spectral motorcycles on a winding highway.

(What’s that? Sounds like all those unicorn chases in Bones and Bourbon? Bingo; a lot of those fight scenes were lifted from the scraps of these early book 2 drafts!)

I made an outline and gave it a go while still rewriting my first book to fit my new ideas. The weird side effect on creating both books simultaneously was that book 2 was outdated from the start, because it was in a fresh state while Bones and Bourbon became more refined. I had a full book breaking past 100k with complicated plotlines and a cast of unique characters, but the second book couldn’t make it past the 40k mark without feeling like it was hurtling into endgame territory, with Retz and Jarrod trying to shoulder the plot as their cohorts struggled in a half-formed state, lurching towards the third book that was already being revamped because of how book 1 was turning out.

If you take nothing else from this process, just take this bit of advice: if you’re just starting out, don’t try to write multiple books in a series simultaneously. You’ll learn a lot if you do, but also end up spinning your wheels trying to drive in five different directions. (Or maybe you won’t. All advice is relative when it comes to writing.)

In my case, I had to finish Bones and Bourbon entirely, to the point where it was refined and in the querying stage, before I could get back to the book and make a full draft. I started it anew. Took a trip to its new setting of Arcata, CA for research. Started again for more accurate details. Made it halfway through the book and reworked it all over again. And again. I scrapped outlines and overhauled whole swathes of the draft roughly every 2-3 chapters, until I hit my stride in January 2017 and wrote the final chapters in the haze of a couple of days. At this point, I’d graduated college and had a full time job in retail.

Draft 1 of “Corpses and Cognac” was finished. I finished workshopping it with my ever-patient beta-reading buddy, and then chucked it into a dark corner to collect fungus until my rage and frustrations at this difficult book had died down. I knew that if I looked at it too soon, I’d scrap it all again.

Cue a year and a half later, right after Bones and Bourbon released, and my editor at the time asked about the sequel. I said I had the first draft of one down, but I wanted to polish it up before sending it in. I had a list of concepts I wanted to refine or edit, but the list only had about four bullet points, so I deluded myself about how little work needed to be done. I agreed to finish the book by the end of summer.

Turns out? Writing styles evolve a lot in a year and a half. And as soon as I looked at this draft, I wasn’t just correcting word choice and minor details. The book was too dark and lacked the humor of its predecessor, the ghost motorcycles split into a ghost leviathan and a gang of minotaur bikers, and my villain was too similar to Lady Delight in the first book. It was a mess. But there were scraps of scenes that were still good, if reworded with proper language and details…

Readers, I scrapped the entire book and rewrote it from scratch. Three months turned into eight months (and an entirely new editor, who was all too patient with me as I wrestled this beast of a book once more). I finished it, gave myself a week to polish before sending it in, and that became “rewrite the final chapters completely” and 8k words over the course of a couple days. I never got the full draft workshopped; for once, my beta reader doesn’t know the ending.

Not only that, but the book became a personal one. It became far more than an in-between story for Retz, Jarrod, Farris and Nalem to grow in. It’s about fraying bonds of trust and how to cope (or at least, how not to cope). It’s a rumination on self-perception, and who’s allowed to make decisions about body and identity. It asks about the worth of memories and what we should let go of. Questions I asked myself all the time while writing, and the answers I searched for bled into the page. I worried it was too much, but it was too late to rewrite it again.

I waited. I celebrated the success of Bones and Bourbon. In the back of my mind, I fretted for this second book. Would it stick the landing of the first book, familiar enough for fans to enjoy but fresh enough to still be exciting? Were the pieces I’d cobbled together good? Would I find a rejection in my inbox…or perhaps a request for another rewrite?

May began. The offer letter came in. My editor loved it.

I signed.

It still doesn’t feel real that after all this time, “Corpses and Cognac” has stopped being a pile of half-written scenes and is now one coherent book. And in a few short months, it will be ready for the world, the full story it was always meant to be.

I hope when the time comes, you all love it…and read it as many times as I rewrote it.

~Dorian

PS: Want to learn more about “Corpses and Cognac” before it releases? This June, check out my #LGBTWIP posts on Twitter, where I’ll reveal a little more about what waits in store for the Gallows brothers in book 2.

PPS: Not only am I editing my upcoming releases and working on the next Deadly Drinks adventure, but I have a new story in the works as well (in both novel and video game format)! Between that and my day job, my time is pretty tight; I’m going to post blogs more sporadically for a time, mostly to announce book news and appearances. But fret not, for it means more original content with the characters you love (and have yet to meet)!

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