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

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