When I started writing about Serengard six years ago, I would have laughed if you told me it would lead here: to a four-book series, the last of which is 430 pages long, and the launch of an audiobook.
It started as a dare. At 22, I’d been writing for most of my life, but kept every one of those writings under lock and key. Friends and family would glimpse an abstract chapter here or there, but read a whole draft? Nope.
I blurted out Coldness of Marek during NaNoWriMo 2011 with the intention of finally letting people read something I had written. I wasn’t sure if I’d be posting it on WattPad, a blog, or letting a dog-eared printout circulate at Thanksgiving, but I decided I would be emotionally uninvested in the outcome enough to not care who on the planet got their hands on it.
What could possibly go wrong, if I didn’t care? Well…a local press-for-hire told me it was one of the most well-written manuscripts they’d ever had submitted, and it went to my head a bit. Cool, I can churn out good writing in my sleep? Okie dokie. Self-publish that thing, make it a paperback, I don’t care. Let everyone in the fam have a copy, I don’t care. Good reviews and bad didn’t dent me much, because I’d seen the whole investment as merely a fun jaunt.
But something happened. I was asked about the sequel. There definitely was a sequel just screaming to be written. Hey, I had fun with NaNoWriMo last year, let’s do it again!
Problem: I got invested. Almost as invested as I had been in my lock and key stories. Dammit. Now I owed myself something. Now I owed my readers something. Now I had to let the whole world in on the little secret that, yes, I can write passionately…I just like to hide it. Knights of Rilch wasn’t a story that I could relate to, or that anyone else could likely relate to, but it came from deep in my soul and carried themes dear to me. Loyalty. The friendship between a brother and sister. Tough love. Mentors. Things I couldn’t just shrug a shoulder at.
Then came the weird and awkward task of revising Coldness of Marek to actually work within a series — a series I cared about, with a debut that I didn’t? Fun fun. The only thing to be done was to pepper in bits of story that I did care about. Deepen the villains. Hint at the many layers of the washed-up, bitter characters. Weave the two books together so they shared a bit of a bond. Saving Coldness was tricky, and it felt like making a patchwork quilt, but this was also the point in the game where I had several amazing critique partners and beta readers giving me invaluable feedback. I also found an awesome editor who helped it flow and make a bit of sense. Its second release in 2013 garnered a positive response that rather shocked me (is still shocking me!), and eventually led to the creation of the audiobook, narrated by the incredible Darci Cole.
The release of Knights of Rilch was one of the most exhilarating events of my writer life. The year it came out, 2014, I had two kids, and two books. I was doing the two things I loved the most: hugging my babies and writing. (I was also knee-deep in the online book world, which was already felt like it was changing too fast for me to keep up.)
The trouble with Knights of Rilch was that it was too long. I had to split it in two, into another book. (That other book became Rise of Orion and took on a life of its own.) I poured so much effort into getting Rise out there the same year so that Knights wouldn’t be left dangling, I burned right out. I’m not sure why I pushed so hard. It wasn’t smart. I didn’t even have the morale to properly promote it.
What floored me, though, was that Rise sold even better than Knights did. (And Knights did well, for the modest expectations of the amateur self-publisher I was.) I mean, I didn’t even email my friends to tell them I had a book coming out. I forgot to inform my local bookstores that Knights had a buddy. (The day I found Rise of Orion chilling on the shelf of Bull Moose anyway made me cry. I mean…they had my author name on auto-order?) I still run into people who say, “Wait, there’s a third one?” Yeah. And…the other trouble was…I had ended the third one on a cliffhanger. There wasn’t enough space in that book, either.
At this point, I realized I’d finally dug in and created a story with characters that had long, slow arcs. I’d put a fast pace on the plot and a slow burn on the timeline. I liked it that way…maybe even loved it that way. Rise of Orion certainly didn’t contain any neat little bows. The story must go on.
(Aside: who likes neat little bows, though?)
Blood of Ashlin was gnawing gently at my consciousness for all of 2014, while I was releasing two books and chasing two toddlers and wondering if I’d ever go to the beach again. I drafted it, revised it for a couple of years, and really, really took my time. The amount of frustration that went into it is hard to even quantify. It’s a story that’s a little too complex for me to summarize. (It’s supposed to be a summary in and of itself, actually.) It doesn’t explain everything — I don’t know that there is a way to explain what Serengard is or has become — but there’s a lot more paint on that canvas than I’ve flung at my past canvas’. And there might even be a neat little bow or two. I mean, this series is done, done. There’s an actual epilogue in that freaking book.
That brings me to today. A completed project. A series under my belt. Blood of Ashlin on the shelf next to the other three, where it belongs. Coldness of Marek beginning a new life on Audible and iTunes. I don’t know what this means for my writing career going forward, but I know I loved making this art, and I enjoyed sharing it way more than that lock-and-key-writer in me would have ever imagined.
After the death of notorious Seren king Altrun, Izannah Orion ascends the throne in Serengard under less than traditional circumstances. Ten years younger than she should be, and with questionable parentage, she is merely a stand-in for an heir that murdered his siblings and threatened to eclipse the kingdom in dark chaos. Against bad odds, Izannah quells unrest, forges treaties, and engenders trust where it is least expected…even in the thick-skinned, deeply scarred Captain of the Guard. more
Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries – centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that its people no longer believe in. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is dedicated to turning the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion. more