• publishing,  writing

    Self-publishing – 2020 to 2022 in review

    Table of Contents

    So it’s important to reflect and ponder, at least for the first few days of the new year!

    In 2022, I became a self-published author, with one book. I started back in 2020, so this is like a two year recap/reflection.

    The Dramatic Origin Story

    It was 2020. I was re-writing the Epic Fantasy Novel (about five years in development) and got frustrated when I’d finished it and the structure was pudding. It was a bunch of novellas bolted together. COVID was everywhere, and I was trapped in my house. So I joined a year long writing, online course. It was in the UK, I’m in Australia, so lots of getting up at 4am to talk to people or waiting for the replays of courses rather than joining in them.

    Anyway, one thing the course guys said was to focus on the bestselling subgenre in your genre. For me, this was urban fantasy rather than epic fantasy. Also, because the genre draws a lot from detective stories, I could do a complete story in one book! And the main character could have another adventure in the next book!

    I also attended WorldCon 2020 in my bedroom. At the urban fantasy panel, a cool idea for a setting struck me—what if it was a world similar to ours with cars and technology but not our Earth? And what if the past was an epic fantasy setting? And in the modern age, what if people thought that their past was folklore? But magic was still there, if you knew where to look.


    In 2020, I wrote the first novel in the setting. And got it finished, thanks to the online writing course. I had a draft, but it wasn’t ready for release. Lots of getting stuck in the middle, and figuring out to make the main relationship ‘work’ between the two characters. It’s not a romance–it’s more of a thriller, but that relationship needed to click or the main character’s motivations wouldn’t make sense.

    So, as a side project, I wrote a novella featuring a side character from the novel, which became ‘Final Night’. I also wrote a short story per month for my mailing list and wrote all of my world building for the setting as a tabletop roleplaying game.


    • The novel took longer to develop than expected! In fact, I took it through two more writing courses (I think I got addicted to courses during COVID) and I still think it needs another draft.
    • Because of the above, I launched the finished novella as an ongoing series, which meant dropping the novel and completing the new series based around Lukie, the undead teen detective from the novella. This was a bit of rework and rescheduling things.
    • My best short stories (current reader magnet) don’t link into the current series I’m working on.
    • I’m still working out what comparison authors to use for marketing the series.

    Notes for next series

    • Finish at least the second book in the series, and have an idea for the overall size of the series.
    • Have the reader magnet that links into the main series ready when the first book is launched.

    Business Approach

    I realised I’d be a ‘slow’ author, and wouldn’t be able to keep up the book-a-month or rapid release schedule that the 20Books250k group focuses on. That’s all based around the KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited platform on Amazon. So I’d release wide instead. I went direct with Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and did the rest via Draft2Digital. I’ve only made about $10 from the release so far from vendors (more from hand selling to people at conventions and my book launch). I’m not too fussed, as my plan is to build a backlist and market that when I’ve got the box set ready.

    Uploading to all sites was relatively painless. However, because I kept tweaking my backmatter, I’d have to login and reload my book multiple times. Next time, my final upload will be final.


    I started a mailing list, and wrote a short story a month to entertain people while I worked through things. I decide to have a character host the newsletter, as it makes it more fun for me to write, so I’m still working out a balance between microfiction/and real-life author updates.

    Final Feedback

    Final Night had a lot of work on it – lots of beta reading, developmental editing by the amazing Angela Slatter, more editing by Nef House Publishing…. And I thought it sparkled and gleamed like a fresh-cut gem!

    I entered Final Night in the StoryGraph beta giveaway program. I got lots of reviews! Amazing! However, they were mixed. A few two stars, lots of threes and a few fours. After brooding for long hours on top of a skyscraper like Batman, I read the critical reviews. I thought people would have issues with the world building (It’s a modern world with an epic fantasy past!) but no one’s actually complained about that. Instead, the main takeaways were that readers thought the pace was too fast, and wanted more character development or digging into the side characters. I’ve made notes for Book 2—and I’m juggling the character development with the thriller pacing.


    Long-term goal – build my author backlist. So write more books, and worry about ads and things later.

    • For 2023 – Finish the next two books in the Revenant Records series.
    • Complete twelve issues of the monthly newsletter.
    • When I finish my current series/short fiction backlog for the newsletter, submit at least three stories to magazines.
    • Write a proper Lukie-focused short as a reader magnet for the current series, and a second short for readers who’ve gone through Book 1.
    • Streamline my automation sequence for the newsletter.
    • Social media – Write a blog post at least once a month, besides the newsletter. Crosspost to Dreamwidth and Tumblr for audience reach. Try to find a social media that I can engage with that is fun and not tedious. (Currently enjoying Mastodon.) Write a blog post reviewing social media later on.
    • Read and review books and log them on Goodreads and/or Storygraph. Do one book review per month.
    • Engage an artist for some character/concept sketches, starting with the Librarian host of my newsletter.
    • Learn to draw so I can do my own character/concept sketches. Try to do one sketch every two days.
  • Newsletter

    December 2022 Update

    Table of Contents

    The December 2022 newsletter has gone out to subscribers! I’m going to try cross-posting it here on the blog for a bit. Note that some links won’t work unless you’re subscribed to the mailing list (e.g. to the serial story below) Still trying to figure out the exact balance of in-character shenanigans, microfiction, out of character bits and promos… Let me know if you’ve got any suggestions!

    The Labyrinthine Library

    Being the Ongoing Adventures of a Librarian Attempting to Tame a Feral Magical Library

    Hello! Ivarlis the Librarian here. No exciting adventures from me this month—I’ve spent all my time getting the Library ready for our upcoming Summerlight Festival. Fireworks, putting up cut-glass decorations (or cellophane for the children), and booking travel tickets to visit the mountain shrines. In your world, the holiday festival appears to involve getting snowed on and venerating old men wearing red. I am tempted to try one of those striped candy canes if I can figure out the right dimensional portal…

    Anyway, let’s go through the papers on my desk. There’s a blood-stained bundle of papers that must be the next chapter of Vex’s serial, a beautifully packaged box of promotions, another of Mr Skycastle’s articles and—what’s this deranged, tea-stained postcard? Is it an…

    Author Note

    Hello! Kell here. I’m deep in work on the next Lukie book, which will be out next year. 

    This newsletter has lore about revenants from the Vestiges of Magic setting, who are people trapped between life and death because of unfulfilled ambitions.

    What would I regret? I’ve never finished playing Final Fantasy XV, and XVI is out next year.(I am the world’s slowest video game player, and have a huge backlog to tackle.) This year, I completed a few detective adventure games; my favourite being Somnium Files 2. It’s set in near-future Tokyo, where the detective has to solve the mystery of the ‘New Cyclops’ serial killings. It involves trips to dream worlds and convoluted puzzles. (I’d recommend starting with the first game in the series if this sounds interesting to you at all…)

    And reading wise, currently binge-reading Craig Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series. It’s off to a good start so far.

    Anything you’d recommend in the fantasy/mystery genre?

    Reflections on the Anniversary of My Descent: Part Six

    Requires newsletter subscription!

    Cover image showing girl, slumped forward, thinking, in the rain.
    Cover image showing girl, slumped forward, thinking, in the rain.

    Vex is after revenge on the gang that murdered her boyfriend. To do that, she’s made a pact with a demon to become a supernatural agent of vengeance.

    Two killers are down, and there’s one to go.

    But before she can find the cult behind everything, she has to defeat a monster hunter and escape the Netherworld…

    Episode #6

    Grab your back issues here: Previously on….

    Lore Corner: Revenants

    Revenants are mortals who have died and fallen into the gloomy Underworld. Tenebra is a chill realm of memories and regrets, and one way to escape it is for a fallen shade to make a pact with a powerful ghost lord for their undead vestige…

    Becoming a Revenant

    First, you die.

    Maybe you expired violently, someone beating you across the head with a steel pipe until your skull cracked. Perhaps you passed suddenly because of a heart attack, or a foolish accident.

    You’re burdened with regret. There’s something you had to do, and failed. You need to go back, to take care of things. Only you’re trapped in the Underworld, hunted by hungry shades.

    You’ll never escape on your own. Tenebra is too vast. You’re prey for too many.

    The only option is patronage.

    The rulers of Tenebra are the ghost lords; spirits so powerful they build entire cityscapes from their memories and regrets, and wall out the ravening terrors of the Underworld.

    You arrive before a ghost lord’s palace, wounded and chased by shadows.

    If you are fortunate, you’ll strike a bargain and return to the living world as an undead revenant…

    What Revenants Do

    Revenants serve the shadows. They are the intermediaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. Their patrons hunger for the things they could not have in life, and the revenants serve that urge. Some seek out sensualist delights, while others look for lost secrets.

    Revenants need to consume the souls of mortals to sustain their existence. A revenant can choose to either drink a person’s soul entirely, leaving an empty husk, or only remove certain memories.

    The Shelves

    Want more revenants? Get Final Night! Now available in hard, ethereal and phonographic, er, audio versions! Send me on to my Final Night (vendors)


    Paranormal in the City

    Expires end-December 2022!

    (Free! No need to subscribe to my newsletter, but most of these will require you sign up to another author’s list)

    Take me down to Paranormal City

  • flash fiction,  How to Survive the Vestige World,  in character,  urban fantasy,  vestige

    Go Deeper

    By Vadren Skycastle

    So, you’ve learned that the supernatural world exists. And that you’re stuck. You can go back to your ordinary life, but it won’t be the same. Now you’ll glimpse doors in walls where they shouldn’t be, see masked changelings striding through the streets on mist-grey stallions, and notice towering, horned figures in crowds.

    And you are the only one to see them.

    Then, there are the predators. Perhaps, as you walk along the street, there’ll be a man in front. In the next heartbeat, he vanishes. And then there’s a glimpse of something big and hulking dragging him into a nearby alleyway, and if you rush forward to investigate, you’ll only see trash blowing in the breeze.

    And no one will believe you when you tell them these things. 

    That’s why many leave the borders and go deeper into the world.

    To stay safe, you’ll either need to join a faction, acquire a vestige, or both.

    Factions are political blocs. Their goal is to keep the supernatural community stable, and the borders between the worlds intact. You may have heard of a few—the Undying Queen and her Court who maintain order in the city, the Amaranthine Lodge which investigates secrets and even the Lucky Twelves, a coalition of criminal and gangsters that are very good at policing themselves.

    And a vestige? That word gets thrown around a lot—in fact the supernatural layer of reality is also called the ‘Vestige World’ as well as the Indigo World or the Twilight Realm.

    A vestige is how you get magic. It’s a difficult process. So many things can go wrong.

    You’ll need to make a pact with a being from another dimension. Someone who once roamed freely during the Age of Magic, and who’s now trapped. These beings want to conduct schemes and intrigues in the mortal world, and for that they need agents. Once you meet such a being, and you agree to a pact, you’ll receive a vestige—part of the other entity’s soul attached to yours, and through this, you can wield arcane power.

    Patron and agent relationships are complex. You might be treated like an honorary employee, a knightly champion, or a son or daughter. Or worse, chattel or a meagre pet. 

    You get one shot at making a pact. Like at a job interview, you’ll need to as the right questions and make sure that you’ve met the right patron.

    Unlike a regular job, there’s no resigning… Or not that I’ve heard.

    Next, we’ll talk about the type of patrons you might meet. And what you can become.

  • flash fiction,  in character,  Newsletter,  writing

    The Labyrinthine Library – November 2022

    man standing in a mysterious library, digital art style, illustration painting

    Being the Ongoing Adventures of a Librarian Attempting to Tame a Feral Magical Library

    The Word Mines

    Have you ever wondered where stories come from?

    No, writers don’t make them up. That would be silly.

    Instead, ideas are mined.

    Underneath the strange multi-dimensional space through which the Labyrinthine Library runs, are the Caverns of Possibility.

    I was trying to find books on dragon slaying to get rid of that pesky beast in the Smoking Room, took a wrong turn, and found myself here.

    Around me stretches the glittering gray stone, studded with glinting shards of crystal. Lit by the glow of my pipe, tiny scenes dance and burn within the visible veins of glowing ore. I glimpse castles and clouded skies, angry forests writhing in the wind, angular ruins piercing the air and rain stabbing down over cities, whose towers writhe like spider legs.

    I wander through a maze of tunnels and switchbacks, watching princesses lean across castle parapets looking out to sea, and frenetic machines with a thousand parts whirling between the stars. My stomach rumbles.

    I don’t know how to return to the Library, and my pot of lemongrass tea.

    My librarian powers aren’t working. Is the Library being temperamental? Or am I in a space beyond its influence?

    Ahead, something rings and clinks. Rushing forward, I stop at the edge of a cavern.

    Miners work the glittering stone, teasing out the crystals and carefully placing them in floating ore carts. The workers aren’t human, elf or ogre—not even a dwarrow, as you might expect. Instead, they’re beings shaped from rock and metal itself—roughly formed figures of granite, basalt, marble and pyrite. Also, they’re wearing yellow hardhats, hi-vis vests and bulging leather shoes; the gear at odds with their rocky exteriors.

    While humanoid, they lack discernable faces, so it’s likely they haven’t seen me as they drill and tap at the crystals—

    “There!” A rough, gray figure points at me. “An intruder! You! Stop at once!”

    I gather my librarian robes and tear off into the tunnel.

    Perhaps this is the way out here!

    I recognize this t-junction.

    Maybe I can—

    A roughly hewn sandstone shape squeezes out of the wall in front of me. “Halt!” they intone in a rumbling voice. A stomping sound rings behind me, and a granite form with a head that’s river-stone smooth cuts me off. Their yellow hardhat offsets their blank, menacing expression.

    “Wait,” I raise my hands, apologetic. “I didn’t mean to stumble upon your mines, good, uh, person. I’m a librarian for the Labyrinthine Library and I got lost and—“

    “It is not a criminal act to watch us mine,” the figure rumbles in a gravelly voice. “However, you are incorrectly attired for the area. You are not wearing correct PPE for conceptual space. You could be sucked into a idea void, or be infected by dangerous memes.”

    “Oh. Well, if you could escort me away from the mines—”

    “No, we must follow the operating procedures. You are to remain on site until you read, and comply with all safety protocols for the Caverns of Possibility.”

    “Certainly!” After all, I’m a librarian and I love books. It won’t take long for me to get through a few technical manuals.

    They march me to the cavern where the rest of the miners work.

    “I’m Ivarlis. What’s your name?”

    “We do not have individual names,” the sandstone humanoid behind me says as we walk through the narrow tunnels. A nearby crystal depicts a desert griffin descending on a silver-horned antelope.

    “What do you call yourselves then?”

    The shape sighs. “We are… gnomes. Stone elementals. I am not fond of our depictions in the modern world. We do not have beards, red caps and jolly expressions. Such things are inefficient for mining operations.”

    “Uh, I see.” I smooth my wispy hair and regard the bright fluorescent pink vest of the gnome in front of me. “Do elementals working in a mine, even one such as this, need PPE?”

    “It is a question of correct process,” the granite gnome says. “We strive to comply with standards of excellence.”

    They lead me through a breakroom—where a sign on the wall says ‘1,000 years since the last OH&S incident’ and where off-duty gnomes sit at metal tables, consuming plates of gravel and talking about regulation tool sizes—to an enormous cavern crammed with stone tablets. There must be thousands here! I pick up heavy tablet and read: “Section 20034B. Ensure that safety shoes are worn at all times. These ensure that idea crystals are not damaged upon your approach. Allow for a gap of five centimeters at the end of the shoe—”

    “Look,” I tell my guides. “There’s an awful to get through here. Could I return to my Library and have some tea?”

    “No,” the sandstone gnome says. “You will stay until you have read all the documentation, and you agree to comply with the standards.” He blocks the entrance with a menacing air.

    Bother. I’m trapped! At least I’ll be very safe…

    Hopefully, I’ll escape in time for next month’s update. Until then, be careful around the safety gnomes…

    Reflections on the Anniversary of My Descent: Part Five

    Oh yes, while reading about the best way to polish and care for one’s mining pick, I’ve taken a break to read the latest chapter of our ongoing serial!

    Vex made a pact with a demon to avenge her boyfriend! Only to find that her supposed true love may have lied to her about everything. To find out the truth, Vex returns home to the Diamond Ward to dig up uncomfortable secrets…

    Episode #5 [requires newsletter membership; may not work at some point when Vex decides to re-write the manuscript for publication]

    Grab your back issues here:

    Previously on….[requires newsletter membership; may not work at some point when Vex decides to re-write the manuscript for publication]

    How to Survive in the Vestige World

    And what’s this? Mr Skycastle has written another blog article about surviving in the supernatural world. You can join a faction, or make a pact. (He doesn’t mention staying in bed, that’s always worked for me…)

    How to Survive, Some More

  • flash fiction,  in character,  Newsletter,  urban fantasy,  writing

    October 2022 Newsletter

    The Labyrinthine Library – October 2022

    Being the Ongoing Adventures of a Librarian Attempting to Tame a Feral Magical Library

    man standing in a mysterious library, digital art style, illustration painting

    Greetings, Ethereal Entities! ‘Tis I, Ivarlis the Librarian, with another missive.  

    Of late, the Library has been eating technology. (I wish it would devour that dratted dragon, but alas, the brute is still there on its hoard of purloined books.) I haven’t seen my phone for some time after I mistakenly left it at the front desk. The coffee machine is gone, replaced by an ashen scar in the kitchen. And a miniature goldfish in a bowl replaced the advanced microfiche machine (at least the Library has a sense of humor).

    I have tried to remonstrate with it. “Listen, please stop eating devices. Perhaps you’re upset that people embraced technology after the Age of Magic ended, but they really had no choice! If we are to get new members, they will want to use their advanced PDAs and radios!”

    At that, the Library sent a tremor through the Main Hall, and I’ve spent the entire morning re-shelving toppled books.

    Curious at what has been causing the Library’s ill-humor, I explore, as new rooms have a habit of appearing. Sure enough, I locate a new room near the Aspen Corridor, with a sign that says ‘Computer Room’.

    How did it get here? Strange things always happen in these multi-dimensional spaces. I open the door. Inside, is a dark, dusty room crammed with junk. A male dwarrow in a flannel shirt sits at a computer, tapping a keyboard. Cups of cold coffee rest within his reach.

    “Excuse me?” I asked, one hand on the door. Another tremor rocks my feet. “Who are you, and how did you attach your room to my Library? It’s not thrilled.”

    “Vadren Skycastle.” The dwarrow wears cutting edge, mirrored sunglasses. “I’m a reality hacker.” 

    I sniff the air. He smells of rigid lines, and straight angles, like a cataloguing system. Ah, he’s a nephilim. He’s made a pact with the angels to put the world in order. Unfortunately, what a bunch of abstract entities consider ‘order’ is rather different within the meat and grit of the physical world.

    “For what purpose?”

    Mr. Skycastle drinks his coffee. “I’m also a reporter. Writing a series of articles on how to survive your first encounters with the supernatural world. Your Library offers unique distribution and promotional opportunities for my internet journal.”

    “You hacked into my magical Library to promote your blog?” I’ve heard of how desperate writers can get, but this is really something.

    Mr. Skycastle adjusts his mirrorshades. “It’s a necessary service. The Vestige World is mad and broken. People fall into it by mistake. Look at what happened to Lukie and Vex. I’m going to make it easier for people to cross over by giving them information.”

    I notice my phone on a nearby desk. Perhaps it’s not that the Library has been eating devices, only that Mr. Skycastle’s illicit reality hacks have caused everything to congeal in the Computer Room (still, no sign of the coffee machine or microfiche device in here). Feeling peevish, I call Lukie’s number on my phone.

    The sound of rock music nearly drowns out my voice.

    “Hello, Lukie?”

    “It’s me, Ivarlis! The Librarian!”

    “Hi!” She must be at a night club.

    “Apologies if you’re in the middle of solving a mystery! Listen, do you think reading an introductory blog article about the supernatural would have helped during your adventures?”

    “Where would I have had time in Final Night to read a blog? I didn’t even know about the internet!”

    I make my farewells and hang up. “See? Our fine protagonist did not need your help. Peddle your articles elsewhere.”

    “I’m sure someone will find them useful.” Mr. Skycastle taps frantically at his keyboard at hacker speed.

    Sigh. Mr. Skycastle’s entry is on the Blog. Invoke it by clicking on this link. I fear he may write more…

    Reflections on the Anniversary of My Descent: Part Four

    A stack of scribbled papers arrived in the mail. It is the next chapter of Miss Vex’s ongoing serial. Time to brew a pot of lemongrass tea and see how Miss Vex continues on her quest for vengeance! (I penned a missive to see if she would like to visit us in the Library, but as at the time of writing, have not had a response.)

    Vex, trainee vengeance (half) demon, must pass her final exam or die.

    Her assignment? Hunt her boyfriend’s surviving murderers.

    The problem? Finding them first.

    Her quest takes her from the glamor of the Diamond Ward to the city’s dark underbelly. But the truth she uncovers may be more than she can handle…

    Download this exciting story today!

    Episode #4 [requires newsletter membership; may not work at some point when Vex decides to re-write the manuscript for publication]

    Grab your back issues here:

    Previously on…. [requires newsletter membership; may not work at some point when Vex decides to re-write the manuscript for publication]

  • flash fiction,  How to Survive the Vestige World,  in character,  urban fantasy,  vestige

    How to Survive in the Vestige World

    by Vadren Skycastle

    Welcome to the first article in this series, designed to introduce newcomers to the supernatural world. If you’re confused, or have questions, these entries should help you out.

    Let’s start slow. You must have so many questions.

    Last year, I lived in the ordinary world. I took all of it for granted: cars and skyscrapers, burger restaurants, airships, smartphones and watches. I grew up surrounded by stories of an age of magic, but it was all folklore and hearsay.

    This is what I thought:

    It was reasonable that there had been a tyrant called the ‘Dark Emperor’ who had reigned two thousand years ago, head of an advanced civilisation. I can see his castle from my studio window, and can make out the tour buses heading up the mountain for the top. There’s ruins and towers everywhere. You can’t dig up a piece of land in Storm City without uncovering some ancient brick or arrowhead or historical temple.

    And it’s also reasonable to assume that there had been an epic war to stop the Emperor, and the famous General Hawkbow had killed him, or at least had the credit for it. This what history tells us.

    But it was unreasonable to think that there had once been an age of magic. Where was the evidence for it? Where were the dragons and unicorns? Where was the crystal city of Reladon, and the wizards that had guided the world from the Crystalspire? What happened to the magic swords? Every archeological dig only returns bricks, quartz fragments and old coins. No weird skeletons. Lab tests don’t return artefacts that have strange or unique properties. Everything can be explained neatly and precisely.

    No, it was very reasonable to believe that the ‘Age of Magic’ was a story, and the real history was a brutal struggle that people had embellished.

    When I was a journalist, I thought that way. Until I went too far, chasing the story of a lifetime. There’s a thin barrier that separates the ‘Golden’ world of the mundanes, and the ‘Indigo’ world of the supernaturals. And once you cross that barrier you can’t cross back.

    The Indigo World isn’t like a separate dimension. It’s a different layer. Like a filter on a camera, or having a superuser password that unlocks more features. For a start, you can see things. Monsters that weren’t there before. People using magic.

    And it’s not a nice world. People are out for themselves, or are driven to serve extra-dimensional masters in exchange for magic powers. Magic is trapped in old crystals and relics, and these are fought and squabbled over by ‘occultists’, a crazy group of people who consider themselves the heirs to the wizards of the Crystalspire. There are factions, gangs, shifting alliances and deals.

    As a person who’s crossed over with no powers—they call us ‘borderers’—you’re not protected any more. People in the Golden World have ancient enchantments keeping them (mostly) safe from the supernatural. We don’t. We’re the lowest rung on the supernatural ladder, ‘meat’ for the rest.

    You only survive if you make contacts, or play your cards right.

    Next post I’ll explain how you can do this as soon as possible.

  • flash fiction,  in character,  Newsletter,  urban fantasy,  writing

    September 2022 Newsletter

    The Labyrinthine Library

    A man standing in a mysterious library, digital art style, illustration painting

    I’m Ivarlis the Librarian. Perhaps we’ve met before. I hope your visit to the Reading Room is going well. Sorry, I can’t stay and chat about new releases. I’m in a spot of bother at the moment.

    There’s a dragon in the Smoking Room.

    My dream is to return the Labyrinthine Library from a feral place that occasionally devours readers and rooms, to something civilised. And what could be finer than a Smoking Room, where you visitors in your dinner jackets and fine gowns may puff away on your cigars, cigarettes and pipes of choice?

    Vintage 1900 fashion man with beard. Smoking tobacco pipe. Standing in old wooden room. Wearing a black dickens hat.

    Only after having entered the Smoking Room to clean it, I’ve been distracted. Right over there is a giant, red-scaled beast filling this interdimensional space only the way a magical creature can. And it’s coiled up on a pile of books, scrolls and illuminated manuscripts. Aside from this purloined ‘hoard’ of literature, the room is full of trash. Old television sets, a gramophone and a newish coffee machine.

    The dragon cracks a yellow eye open. A puff of smoke trickles from one nostril.

    If it breathes fire in here, all of those books are in danger.

    Being the Librarian, I have access to certain powers. And what I need is a dragon slayer: a knight to rid me of the dread beast so I can return the books to the shelves. I reach for pen and ink, and fill out a card to call forth for my champion.

    There’s a thump. A new figure appears next to me, holding a phonographic record. It’s a young, blonde woman in a red leather jacket, with dark sunglasses covering her eyes. She’s half-elven, like myself (although human on her other side rather than ogre). The smell of ice and darkness drifts off her–a sign that she’s empowered by Tenebra, the dour Underworld. She’s a revenant: those who return from the grave to fulfil their unfinished business.

    The last revenant I met stole a book; I hope this young woman is more refined. She looks around, curiously, holding the record to her chest. My problem is she doesn’t look like a dragon slayer, although one must never judge by appearances in the Indigo World.

    “Sorry!” I raise my hands to show I mean no harm. “I’m the librarian here. I summoned you. Are you a dragon slayer, by chance?”

    “No.” She studies me, then the beast and the room. Luckily, she’s taking this all in her stride. “A musician. I was at the record store, and now I’m here.”

    A musician? Is that what I need? The dragon watches me, like a cat studying a mouse. The tip of its tail twitches.

    “Ah, do you know songs that would make a dragon sleep?” (I’m rather dubious at this; her voice is a little husky for someone I need to have the tones of a nightingale.)

    “Lots of 70s and 80s rock. If you think music will work, I’ll need a guitar, or—” She looks down at what she’s holding. “A record player.”

    “Quickly! There’s a modern gramophone over there!” I say. “I’m sure the LIbrary summoned you for a reason.”

    As we talk, the dragon rumbles a warning. The room shakes.

    Hurrying, the young woman places the record on the turntable. A terrible blare of wailing guitar, synthesiser, and modern drums emerge from the speaker.

    “No!” I reach to stop the cacophony.

    “Wait!” the revenant says. “I think he likes Outside Sky.”

    Sure enough, the dragon is tapping one claw in time to the horrendous beat. Definitely distracted.

    “I have to rescue those books.” I reach forward to rescue the tomes the dragon is sitting on, but the beast rumbles and puffs smoke again. A lick of fire kisses the air.

    “How about we leave?” the revenant whispers.

    “This isn’t over,” I tell the dragon as we escape to the Foxglove Reading Room.

    The young woman introduces herself. “I’m Lukie.”

    We shake hands. “A pleasure to meet you.”

    “How do I get out of here?” Lukie asked. “I was going through the old records at Final Vinyl, and there were a few boxes to go through before closing time.”

    I clear my throat. “I’m afraid the Library is temperamental. It enjoys collecting stories from people. I’m sure if you tell it something interesting, it will grant you membership, and you can leave.”

    Lukie leans back in her chair. “A story, hey? How about this one? It’s about death, love, murder, high school and revenge. I’m sure the Library will dig it.”

    “That looks exciting. I hope the ethereal spirits enjoy it.”

    Sure enough, after Lukie finishes her tale, the Library grants her membership. She puts the card in a pocket. “I’ll be seeing you, Ivarlis. You owe me a record.”

    Final Night now available in hard, ethereal and phonographic, er, audio versions! Review it on your favourite store, Goodreads or Storygraph if you enjoy it (or in your electrical journal of interest).

    Review copies available upon request.  Just don’t disturb the dragon..

  • publishing,  vestige

    Final Night pre-order

    As everyone knows, the best way to manage your anxiety is to launch a book. I usually rely on lists and CBT to keep things in check, but this is madness! If this was a serial killer investigation, there would be corkboards and string connecting pictures to blood coffee, stains and incomprehensible scribbles! Wide publishing! Paperbacks! Do I use an aggregator or go direct to all the different vendors? Do I need affiliate accounts? How much should I do?

    I’ve also changed my email service provider at the same time—it was like moving e-house. Anyway, it’s done now even if I want to hit the block editor in the head with a rusted crowbar.

    Final Night was the book I didn’t intend to write. As my ‘survive COVID project’ I wrote a novel first, and then a short novel featuring one of the side characters. Well, a year later, the novel is still cooking, but Final Night is ready to face the world. And I’ve changed my publishing plans—to write a few more novels in the Revenant Records sequence before continuing with the novel sequence. That’s the good thing about self-publishing—you can change your tactics as you go.

    (You can tell I’ve had too much coffee this week.)

    Pre-Orders are Go!


    So the book! The first thing I’m launching commercially! It’s going live in less than a week! Currently on pre-order most sites and should be available for everyone on September 14th. (I’ll tell you about hardcopies later…)

    What’s it about? A teenager comes back from the dead to investigate her murder. A homage to the 80s, and a twist on the usual slasher film tropes. Set in the unique ‘Vestige World’ urban fantasy setting: a modern world with a magical past.

    Recently risen from the grave, Lukie has until dawn to avenge her death. If only she could remember who murdered her. And only if someone else doesn’t kill her again.

    High school’s out for the class of 1983. Forever.

    The last thing Lukie remembers is the farewell party in her hometown of Breakwater Bay. A final blowout before she leaves for university.

    But when she wakes up as a living corpse, confused, and weirdly hungry, she finds the sleepy coastal village is now full of strange cars and loud tourists. Her family home is a block of flats, and she can’t find her father. Her best friend has aged twenty years in a single night.

    Her memories are in tatters. She knows that someone hurt her. Someone betrayed her. Someone killed her. And that in some dark lonely place, she made a pact with something, and now she’s only got until dawn to find her murderer, or when the sun rises, she’ll be dead again. Forever.

    Also the audiobook, narrated by professional actor and performance poet Kyla Lee Ward, is available from my store now, or will eventually be on your favourite audiobook provider once it trickles through the Findaway Voices ecosystem.

    Let me know if you want an advance copy in exchange for an honest review! Unfortunately, the book isn’t set up on Goodreads yet–there’s a huge queue! Anyone know a friendly librarian?

    I have things set up on Storygraph, although it requires a login.

  • rpgs,  vestige

    Convention Daze

    In pre-COVID times, we used to have role-playing game conventions. A time of meat pies, and pizza (before I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant, alas) and crowded halls. Of buying too many dice sets and books from the stores. Of playing weird boardgames found in the library library and trying to figure out the rules late at night. But they were a long time ago.

    But Melbourne announced a convention—the first in what seemed like centuries. So I dug up my in-progress Vestige World roleplaying system and ran four convention games. The idea I had when developing this world for my fiction was that I could use roleplaying games as a creative test lab. Develop cool stuff, and see what people responded to the in the game, and what didn’t.

    So what did I learn? I thought it would be hard to pitch the setting to people, but it’s been fine. (So far, I’ve pitched it as:

    • Lord of the Rings meets World of Darkness.
    • Onward Meets Final Fantasy VII.
    • …urban fantasy, in another world that’s not earth, but still has telephones and skyscrapers.

    And if I use tropes and twist the,m it’s okay! Like–the world was ruled by the Dark Emperor ruled the world two thousand years ago… but now he’s been defeated and his castle is the city’s most popular tourist attraction.

    But if I wander too far away from a trope, people will point it out. Like vampires. I had vampires in initially as one of the critters, but people who played the first incarnation of the game (and those who read the first draft of Final Night) commented that the vampires weren’t anything like what they thought of as ‘vampires’ so I changed them to ‘revenants’. (They drank blood in the first version, but the sticking point was that they had to make a pact with a ghost lord to return from the dead, which was not a thing that the platonic idea of vampires in people’s minds did.)

    Anyway, so it’s good to get out there using one of my favorite hobbies to share my ideas that might work its way back into my stories. I think the direct transcription of roleplaying games into written stories doesn’t work (at least for me) but it’s a great idea furnace to model and design how the world works.

    Have you found that one creative pursuit helps another? Let me know.

  • market research,  publishing,  quiz

    Survey about book formats

    I’m gearing up for publishing, which means I’d love to know about what formats you like to read your books in. Take the quiz and let me know.