This will be long, but hold on. It’s worth it.
One of my first memories from Kindergarten is of writing a book. The book was about a family of bears stuck out in the rain in the woods. I loved writing it. I remember being completely taken away with this story. I cut out the pages, folded them in half, stapled the middle and then added ribbon so it looked cuter. I illustrated it, and then I proudly gave it to my teacher, who promptly read it, stopped the entire class from whatever we were doing, and then read it out loud to them. I was, maybe five, and I remember thinking, “I want to write books when I’m big.”
Time passes as it does, and dreams come and go, but this one never faded. I was talking to my mom a while ago, and she said, just in passing, “Sarah, I’ve never known a time in your life when you weren’t writing a book. You’ve always, always been writing something.”
When I was in sixth grade, I remember writing a memoir about my family. When I was in high school I wrote a lot of stories about immigrants, outsiders who I related to because I also felt like an outsider. When I was in college I tinkered with fantasy. These usually always ended half written and filed away on some forgotten corner of my computer, but they’ve always been there.
A year and a bit ago, I wrote a book and outlined an entire trilogy. I had a few author friends pass my name on to their agents. I sent off my first three chapters and got a few offers. I ended up accepting one offer for representation that turned into a train wreck and very much put me on the path I’m on now. Suffice it to say, sometimes things happen if you’re not careful, and it seems like the end of the world at the time, but if you keep your eyes open, other doors open for you.
I thought I could move past this book. I’ve written three others since this experience has happened and I figured I could let this one just sit in the back and stew along with all the other books I’ve written and forgotten about over the years, but in those quiet moments where it was just me and my thoughts, it would be this book I’d be thinking about.
The other day, I decided to finally have a heart-to-heart with myself. Some stories just need to be told. Some words can’t be unwritten. Some books can’t be trunked. For whatever reason, this story needed to be told. Now, there were issues that presented themselves. Due to matters that I won’t touch on, the submission to a traditional publisher has largely been ruined for this book, which basically trashes it for the series itself. That relegates me to either changing the name of the book and trying again (I don’t want to do that.), or self-publishing.
Self-publishing is daunting, but I spent the past few weeks researching just about every aspect of it that I can possibly research. I spoke to both industry insiders and self-published success and failure stories. I read everything I could, and I narrowed down my concerns. One, I don’t want to lose control of my books. I felt like I had no control before, and I never want to feel like that again regarding something I’ve created. Two, I don’t want to have a third party (agent, publisher etc) limit my creative process by telling me what I should/shouldn’t be writing. Three, I wanted to be able to pick the people I work with, editors, cover artists, formatters and the like.
The downside is marketing. I know next to nothing about marketing. However, when I talked to people, I was consistently told that the real downside of self-publishing is the amount of work that has to be put into it. That narrowed down the questions I had to ask myself. Am I willing to put in the work required? Does the scale weighing “retaining control” and “workload” balance out in my mind?
The answer, for me, dear reader, is resounding YES.
After doing research, listing out what I’d gain and what I’d lose by self-publishing, I realized that there are far more bullet points in the “pros” than “cons” column. I also remembered that moment in kindergarten, and I realized that I don’t have to wait for someone else to make my dream come true, I can make my own dream come true, and I can do it whenever the hell I want. Really, the only thing holding me back is myself, my own fear, my own trepidation and anxiety. It’s a big leap, to put yourself out there like this.
Enter Seraphina’s Lament, book one in The Bloodlands trilogy.
Tentatively set to drop in January (though, depending on how things move, it could move to February 2019), this book has been my baby for nearly three years now. I’ve been eating, drinking, and sleeping this beast. It’s been in all of my quiet moments, every beat of my heart, and in the low animal throb of my mind. This book is going to be the one that will help me realize that dream I discovered when I was five.
Let me tell you a bit about it.
Seraphina’s Lament has required an absolutely massive amount of research. Set in a secondary world, this series is loosely based on the Russian Revolution and the Holodomor. What is the Holodomor, you may be asking? Well, back in the 1930’s, Stalin decided to implement collective farming in Ukraine. He set about destroying the local cultures by banning Ukrainian-based education, language (Russian was the official language), religions, holidays, and traditions. The collective farming, taxation, ration system, and moving about of grain turned this once fertile breadbasket into a wasteland. Stalin, in an effort to teach these farmers who rebelled against all of these changes a lesson they’d never forget, ended up starving and killing millions in this area. It was an absolutely dark, horrible period of history which was largely unknown until records were released sometime around the 1980’s.
I have exactly 0% of my DNA from this region, so this required a ton of research on my part. I want to get it right and bring some of these events truthfully into the world I’ve created, and I do. Some of the stories I tell in this book are inspired by eyewitness accounts I’ve read in these following books. Some of the books I’ve used for research are:
For what it’s worth, I highly recommend all of them. There’s also an exhaustive list of online resources but I figure no one really cares, so I’ll leave it here.
Now, as you can imagine, Seraphina’s Lament is incredibly dark. You can probably get that gist just from the research I’ve done on the events I’m using as an influence for much of my world building. This isn’t a light or happy book. It’s not fluffy. A lot of people die, and some of it is quite graphic and uncomfortable. That being said, there are other elements at play here, like relationships, love, hope, a drive to succeed in the face of adversary, people who refuse to give up when everything is telling them to do just that.
And chronic pain. One of my characters has my chronic pain and a similar spine/leg injury to mine, which was really intensely awesome for me to add into the book just because. Shoutout to all my chronic pain people out there. We need to see ourselves in the books we read and write.
I pretty much fail at back cover copy, but here’s the one I’ve got going right now:
The world is dying.
Politics is no ally to the Sunset Lands. The switch from monarchy to collectivism hasn’t been easy, and the loss of traditional ways in the name of social progress has made life hard. Now, an unending draught makes it downright impossible. Famine is rampant. Hunger makes no friends and has few allegiances.
In Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a woman of rare talent, escapes from slavery and puts into motion a series of events that will change everything. Meanwhile, the Bone Lord is on the march from the west, with death and skeletons trailing in his wake, and hunger incarnate with a belly full of souls is approaching from the east. Soon, these paths will converge and shake the world.
The Sunset Lands are ripe for revolt, but not every revolution is worth having. Old elements are waking up, and people are changing.
First, you must break before you can become.
I suck at writing these things, so I’m pretty sure it will change before the book drops, but this is the gist of it as of right now.
I’ve hired an incredible artist for my cover art. I’ve got an amazing developmental editor lined up, and a fantastic formatter. I am on the hunt for an excellent copy editor who won’t break the bank, but it’s pretty cool to have all of this lined up, locked in, and ready to go as soon as my revisions are done.
So, there you have it. I’ll drop the cover art somewhere when I get it, which won’t be for a bit, and generally keep you people informed as events progress. I’m neck-deep in revisions right now. If things go as planned, book two, An Elegy for Hope will drop in the autumn/winter of 2019 and book three, A Requiem for Fate will drop in the spring of 2020.
I’m also going to start a newsletter, where I’ll do… something, I’m not exactly sure what, but it’ll be a newsletter and it will have things in it. Thrilling, right? I’ll probably drop it once a month once I figure out its grand purpose for existence. Likewise, I’ll announce when I’ve got that all ironed out.
I’ll probably post things occasionally, either here or on the newsletter. Snippets, and research nuggets and the like. Who knows. I’m still trying to feel my way around this whole “interacting with people” thing.
And, that’s about it. Maybe it’ll fall on its face. Maybe it’ll be a huge dumpster fire, but at least I can say I’ve done it, that I tried, and I put something out there that’s been burning inside of me for years. That matters to me.
I’m publishing a book, folks. Stay tuned for details.