Making Monsters, and Other Pandemic Activities

Long time no see, dear readers! At least, that’s how it feels, given that time has lost all meaning this year. Worry not, for I’ve been busy these past few…let me check the calendar…months, with all manners of projects.

First off, I have a guest post over at the Creator’s Roulette, which you can check out here! If you’ve ever wondered how to go about creating monsters, either completely new ones or adaptations of pre-existing myths, this post shows my process for how I make monsters for my stories. It even has examples from my own work, resources for inspiration, and some art by yours truly! I had a lot of fun writing it up, so I hope you’ll give it a read.

A recent illustration of a dragon-man I played in a Changeling the Lost campaign.

Connected to the art in that post; I’ve recently acquired a new art tablet, and have practiced digital illustrations in my free time. Not only will it be easier to add concept art and such to my books, but I hope to eventually provide more illustrations for you all, be it through Patreon or other avenues. My goal is to eventually branch into creating my own comics or games (along with writing more books, of course!), so keep your eyes peeled. I may also stream some more art on Twitch in the future, but that’ll wait until after edits.

Now for the update on “Corpses and Cognac”, second book in the Deadly Drinks series. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed it: I’m still hard at work editing the book. Having realized that my own editing standards are stricter than my previous press, I’m in the middle of extensive edits and rewrites to make sure “Corpses and Cognac” is a sequel that’ll knock everyone’s socks off. This means it likely won’t release this Summer as I’d planned, but come Autumn, we should have a spooky sequel full of leviathan ghosts, haunted carnivals, and motorcycling minotaurs ready for our bookshelves.

Once those edits are done, I’ll be bouncing between the third Deadly Drinks book and a couple of other new projects. One’s a high fantasy, DnD-esque tale I’ve mentioned here before, while the other is a cyberpunk/cosmic horror mashup. All of these are still in the first-draft stage, so it will take some time before they see the light of day, but I’m excited for all three of them. (And now that I’ve got this new tablet, expect to see more concept illustrations like this one below for the cyberpunk story.)

Concept art for one of the cyberpunk characters, a trans witch cyborg.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention one other new feature for this site: a Contact Form! If you ever wanted to send me a message, but don’t want to hassle with comments or social media messaging channels, use the contact form to send me a message, and it’ll show up straightaway in my inbox. It sometimes takes me a couple days to respond if I’m busy (as I’m not only deep in edits, but also have a full time day job), but I’ll get to you as soon as I can. I have a couple other exciting updates planned for the site too, but with everything else going on right now, we’ll see when I get around to those.

Hope you’re all staying safe and sane as you can, dear readers! Every day is another victory against all the obstacles that spite you, so keep your chin up. As for me, it’s back to edits I go!


It’s Here: Bones and Bourbon is (re)Released!

It’s the day you’ve all been waiting for (or, at least, that I’ve been preparing for this whole month): Bones and Bourbon is back in the world once more!

You can add it on Goodreads, or purchase it anywhere books are sold, including AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo, and more. As the book is print-on-demand from IngramSpark, you can also request it at your local bookstore and library. I also plan to eventually allow orders of signed books directly from this website, but…that will take time, money, and possibly an end to this pandemic.

It’s been a wild past two months to get here. Not only did we edit the book again to bring it to a polished shine, and not only did we create an amazing new cover AND add concept art to the book interior, but there was a lot more to learn! Formatting books, acquiring ISBNs and barcodes, and more. And there’s still plenty more to learn, like upping my marketing game! A lot to learn since March, but with these skills, I’ll be ready for when Corpses and Cognac releases later this year. I may also make a blog or Patreon post later to go over the whole process, but right now? I’m just happy the book is done and out in the world again.


So…what’s next?

For Bones and Bourbon, it’s a time of opportunity. Even if this isn’t its initial release, this re-introduction gives it the chance to find the spotlight it missed the first go-round. I’ll be working hard to show this weird, queer little book to the world. Online conventions and panels, submitting it to book awards, interviews and readings; there’s a lot of ground to cover, and I’ve got a lot to learn during these already strange times. Thankfully, I’ve got a lot of support, and a whole writing community to query if I get stuck.

At the same time, Corpses and Cognac will also release this year. I’m still going through comprehensive edits on my part before I pass it off to my editor, and once edits and formatting are done, we’ll get to work on cover art while I set up some ARCs. For those who review books via NetGalley, or who host book reviews on their own site and would like an early copy in exchange for a review, watch this space and keep in touch.

And after that?

I’ll have two main writing projects to work on, so I can bounce between the two and avoid burning myself out. One will be the third Deadly Drinks book, which…is still in its first draft, as I keep rehashing its plot (just as I did with Corpses and Cognac). The other will be “For Those Who Burn,” my original fantasy project. As I’ve discussed before, while Deadly Drinks will be a self-published series from here on out, “For Those Who Burn” will be queried to agents and hopefully reach the traditional publishing scene.

And in the background, of course, I’ll be plotting many more books. Maybe even some comics, as I brush up on my art skills. In fact, I started a Twitch channel where I’ll stream art, including concept art and future cover reveals, once Corpses and Cognac approaches release (and one day, I’ll even remember to save videos onto it). The future is uncertain and full of potential; scary as that can be, it’s also hella exciting.

I hope you’ll be here to watch and see what unfolds.


Rolling Right Along: What to Expect from the Bones and Bourbon Re-Release

Hello there, dear readers! I hope you’ve survived this past month alright, and if surviving is all you’ve done, that’s still something to be proud of. It hasn’t been easy for anyone. But even with all the turmoil going on, we’ve still got stories, and that’s what has kept me going!

It’s been a busy month of work for Deadly Drinks. Today, I’d like to tell you about what you can look forward to for the Bones and Bourbon re-release!


For the new Bones and Bourbon, I knew it’d need something special to help make it pop in the sea of indie fantasy fiction. As fate would have it, once I decided to go for an illustrated cover, the wonderful M.Brackett (also known as Quel) tweeted about wanting to work on book covers again. With art that’s fantastical, animated, and a dash of whimsy, I knew it’d be a perfect match.

Not only am I teaming up with Quel for the Deadly Drinks series covers, but there will also be streams where you can watch the cover as it’s being created! Quel tends to post on Twitter when a stream’s about to happen, so keep an eye out! We’re still in the thumbnails stage for Bones and Bourbon, and it already looks amazing.


Sure, Bones and Bourbon already released once before, but I wanted the book to be in tip-top shape for its self-published debut. I reached out to Bill Tracy, author of the Dissolution series, for editing and advice on self-publishing. Bill has been a font of useful advice, and has also made an already-good book even better.

Worry not: the plot is not changing with these edits. Most of the edits were to clean up sentence structure, remove extraneous words, and make the book easier to read and comprehend. With that said, the book is slightly longer than originally. A couple details have been clarified with better explanations (like how Retz’s body works and how Nalem relates to it), and there is one tiny extra scene with Jarrod and Farris in San Francisco that I will likely release here for those who already bought the original book. I’ve also removed all references to Jarrod’s deadname from the book, as that information wasn’t integral to the story and was otherwise rude to include.

Along with edits, the book will have a new template! I’m not much of a font nerd, but I gotta’ say…I picked up a template to use for the whole Deadly Drinks series for consistency and whatnot, and it looks pretty damn spiffy.


That’s right; we’ve got bonus features for the book!

Mainly, there will be a preview for “Corpses and Cognac,” so you’ll be ready for its release in a few months (more on that below)! In addition, I asked in a twitter poll what other feature you’d like to see, and the clear winner…was CONCEPT ART! So look forward to some original Grave artwork depicting the cast of the book. Note that it’ll be in black and white, because colored pages…are expensive.


Now, the questions on everyone’s mind…when, and how, will this new version of Bones and Bourbon release, and how close behind is Corpses and Cognac?

For Bones and Bourbon, I’m looking to release it in early May. This way, I have time to polish up the formatting and perfect that concept art, while Quel works magic on that new cover. When it releases, the book will be published through IngramSpark in both physical and ebook formats, and should be available wherever you prefer to acquire books. Publishing through Ingram also means the book will be easy for bookstores to order, so you can still support your favorite local bookstore by ordering your physical copies from them (or request that your library carry it, if that’s what you prefer)!

Corpses and Cognac is still a few months out from that. While I’m hoping for a release in June or July, I’ll be honest and admit that it may take longer than that. As it didn’t receive any edits from NineStar, it’s still fairly fresh, and will likely need a lot more work. I’m also being respectful of Quel and Bill’s time, as they have their own projects they also need to work around.

Right now, I’m going through Corpses and Cognac again myself, fixing any obvious plot holes or editing mistakes I missed when I finished the draft last year. Once I’m done, I’ll send it on to Bill, and once he’s done with his Kickstarter for the next Dissolution books, we’ll kick edits into high gear. And then, once we have the edits finalized and formatted so we know the page count, we can get the cover template set up and over to Quel for another beautiful cover.

As Corpses and Cognac will be new, I’m also planning to release ARCs of it through NetGalley! I’ll give more details once it’s ready to release, but if you’re a NetGalley reviewer, keep your eyes peeled.

After all that’s said and done? All this work has me super inspired for book 3 of the Deadly Drinks series, and believe you me…it’s going to be a whirlwind of an adventure.

In the meantime, I’m still updating my Patreon with new content. This includes short stories for Deadly Drinks (including one that explains how they acquire a car for Corpses and Cognac), previews of new novels, and behind the scenes posts on my writing methods—and whatever else you’d like to see!

That’s it for now, dear readers. Watch this space for more updates, and in the meantime, stay as safe and sane as you can in these trying times.


New Adventures and Deadlier Drinks

Hello dear readers~ Time for another update on “Corpses and Cognac” and the rest of the Deadly Drinks series! It’s not the update anyone expected, but it’s exciting nevertheless.

As of today, I have regained my rights to both books in the Deadly Drinks series! The series is now going to be self-published, with new cover art and some extra features for Bones and Bourbon when it re-releases.

While I still love NineStar and their mission, it’s become apparent that some of our business practices aren’t compatible. I look forward to their new releases, and I’m also leaving Warp Gate Concerto in their hands for the duration of its contract.

Since the books are no longer with NineStar Press, the current edition will be disappearing from most online retailers; the print version will stay on until their stock has sold out. The Goodreads page will also stay up for posterity, and will be the only place you can look at Natasha Snow’s original cover.

This is a big and sudden change, but the Deadly Drinks series will now kick into high gear! I’ll keep you all posted on new release dates as they settle into place, as well as the snazzy new covers and bonus content that’ll come with them.

In the meantime, you can keep up with the adventures of the Gallows brothers and their friends over at my Patreon! I also release behind the scenes content such as writing tips, or this month’s post describing my process of writing and adapting mythical creatures in my books. You get sweet new content, I retain some writing-related income while polishing these books to a shine, and everyone wins!

I can’t wait for this next stage of my publishing journey, and for all you dear readers to come along for the ride.

To new adventures with old friends!


What A Year – It’s Only February?!

Hello, dear readers!

My, this year has hit like a hammer! Thank goodness it’s almost over–wait, hold on, my calendar reads February. Is that right? Stars above, preserve me.

I’ve hit this new year and decade running in just about every aspect of my life. My day job has transitioned from an HR/Recruiting role to a more Computer Science oriented role, so I’m cramming as many SQL demos into my eyeballs as I possibly can. And while I don’t talk about my personal life much here, I have made steps to be truer to myself with a new name and preparing for a big life change finally on the horizon.

Of course, we can’t have a Dorian Graves update without discussing writing! Especially since this isn’t a release announcement about Corpses and Cognac. So, what’s going on?

2019 was a hard year for many people, including for my editor and myself, and it hasn’t let up yet. Corpses and Cognac is a big and bold book that still needs a lot of work to be the best damn sequel Bones and Bourbon could ask for, so we’re polishing every aspect until this book shines. At this time, I don’t have a new estimated time of release. But it will be this year, and I thank all of you for your patience.

Now for the good news: I’m now releasing new content every month over on Patreon! launched January 1st with two kinds of content. First off, I’m releasing a new short story every month, each piece a couple thousand words long. Right now, they’re centered in the Deadly Drinks universe with stories that are only hinted at in the books, such as the first meeting of Jarrod and Farris, or how the Gallows brothers acquire a car for Corpses and Cognac. The second kind of content is behind the scenes work, showing various aspects of how my books are made. Some will focus on technique, others on the nuts and bolts of aspects like how huldras work or the particulars of magic in the Deadly Drinks series. I’m also open to questions to cover in these posts!

In addition to the Patreon, I’ve been hard at work on “For Those Who Burn,” my standalone fantasy novel. I’ve passed the 20k wordcount mark already, which is pretty exciting (even if it’s scratching the surface for a fantasy novel). I’m currently talking about it for #LGBTWIP this month on Twitter, where I have more frequent updates and commentary on writing progress (and artwork, plus the occasional cat picture).

2020 may be a big and busy year already, but let’s make the most of it. Keep reading and creating, and fill this year with enough stories to make it something wonderful.

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.


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~


New Release: Warp Gate Concerto

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


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.



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!


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?


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.


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)!