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DarciVerse Vision | 2024

Wow... what a year it’s been. First, thank you to all of you. You who read my books, who support me, who encourage me, who are so patient with me. I couldn’t do this without you, and I will forever be grateful. None of any of the happenings I talk about in this post would be possible without you.


 

First, Some Thoughts


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-doubt and self-confidence; about the ways we talk to ourselves about ourselves. My brain does this thing I recently learned a word for: catastrophizing. Kind of self-explanatory, but basically it’s when you exaggerate the difficulties you’re experiencing, or believe the absolute worst of a situation. And not just the realistic worst, but often (for me, at least) an irrational worst. 


For example: when I’m having a poor mental health day--when my defenses against negativity aren’t as strong--it’s really easy for me to think, “well they must hate me,” when someone doesn’t respond to a message immediately. Or, if I’ve worked really hard to get everything right on a project, and then one thing I missed gets pointed out, I’ll suddenly feel like a complete failure, like I can’t do anything right.


None of those things are true, none have basis in fact, and yet the thoughts come anyway. I have to remind myself that this negative voice isn't how I actually feel, but is rather a result of the many outside voices I've been exposed to over the course of my life. It takes a certain amount of energy for me to consciously set that voice aside as incorrect, and some days that’s easier than others. 


On the good days, I try to be extra kind and encouraging to myself. There are days when I fully believe I deserve all the incredible blessings that have come into my life from writing and publishing, and there are days when I wonder how on earth I managed to fool everyone for so long. Part of me knows I’m a good writer; that I’ve worked hard to hone the skills I have, and to apply the knowledge I’ve gained. Another voice sometimes tells me I’ve wasted over a decade for nothing. (But again, I try not to listen to that voice.)


One thing that has always kept me going is the knowledge that these emotions are shared by many in creative fields like mine. When I first started writing, I cherished the moments of emotional honesty from successful writers I admired. It gave me hope that if they already had everything I dreamed of and they still questioned themselves, maybe I had a chance... does that make sense? 


It always seemed like it should be discouraging, hearing that those thoughts don’t go away with an agent or a publishing deal, but for me it had the opposite effect. Knowing these feelings of self-doubt never really go away meant that I could worry about them less. It gave me permission to accept them as somewhat of a constant, and not allow them to take up so much space in my brain. (Again, easier some days than others.) 


These days, I have moments of doubt, sometimes days, but they’re far fewer when I’m taking care of myself. I’m truly blessed to have a family who understand my specific mental soup; who can allow me grace when I mess up, and support me when I need it. I can say I’m genuinely proud of the work I’ve put into the world, and I can’t wait to share more. I hope with all my heart that I’ll be able to continue telling stories for the rest of my days, because it brings me so much joy and fulfillment. 


If you’re struggling, I hope you can look forward to brighter days. Whether you’re a writer, an artist, a dancer, an engineer, or anything else, please know that there is light to be found, we just have to keep searching for it. A big part of why I like to review my year like this and look forward is to help me remember to do just that: look for the good, look for the light, look for things to be excited about. It helps me, I hope maybe these thoughts might help some of you too <3


 

Vision


April 2nd was the day I began writing my very first manuscript in the hopes of being published. And so, every year in April I like to review the previous twelve months to see what I’ve accomplished, and set goals for the next twelve to see what I have ahead. 


Looking Back; May 2023-April 2024


2023 was a whirlwind. The first half of the year was busier than I wanted it to be, but the second half was less so. Luckily, I managed to get a lot of writing done in the later half of 2023. Those months also provided a lot of clarity on personal issues I’d been struggling with, as well as bringing some unforeseen challenges.


May-July: These months I spent super-focused on being present as Mom. Summer can be rough in Arizona if you don’t stay busy, so we try to get out of the house and not stay cooped-up too much. A lot of pool time, library time, and camping trips were had, and it was great fun. 


Aug.-Sept.: With my kids back in school, and all full-day, I managed to get some decent writing progress made here. However, I was still struggling with some personal traumas and pain, processing that, and working toward healing. So while I had time to write, progress was slow.


October: This month we had fall break and I spent it with extended family on a trip to Northern Arizona. It was really nice to get out of the heat for a while, and be in nature for a bit. However, October was also when  my original cover artist finally got back to me refusing to do the art for my third book, and backing out of our agreement. I was heartbroken, but determined to move forward.


November: November was my birthday, and Dragonsteel, and overall a turning point in my mental and emotional healing. During this month I received some news that shifted my perspective of my work and my journey in a way I never could’ve seen coming. It’s quite personal, so I won’t go into detail, but it was one of those defining moments that shapes you, and I’m so grateful it happened and for those involved in bringing it about. 


December: Normally I don’t get a lot of writing done in December, but this year I did! Thanks to a couple of tiktok friends (Ashlee of @StormlightMemes and Malinda of @That.Cosmere.Chick) we had a number of live writing sessions and I made significant progress. Then, of course, the holidays hit, and things slowed.


January: For timing reasons, I knew I had to focus on getting my Kickstarter set up as quickly as possible. So that’s where all my time went as soon as my kids were back in school. January was focused on that and getting started with Anna McEwan on the cover for TARGET, as well as working with my friend Jerah Moss on graphics and designs for the Kickstarter. 


On that note I just want to say that Anna has done an incredible job on the TARGET cover. Seeing Lex and Robyn all done up like this brings me so much joy! I was so impressed that she managed this as quickly as she did, too, it was a huge feat and the Kickstarter would not have been what it was without her art. 



Feb.-Mar.: These months were dedicated to the Kickstarter! I got some writing in here and there, and even went on a retreat to try to help that progress, but I was mostly focused on running the campaign. Shockingly, (read: not shocking at all) it takes quite a bit of time and energy to make a Kickstarter run smoothly! (Side note: the BackerKit "PreOrder" store is still up for anyone who wants to pop in last minute to support and get some of the Kickstarter books or swag! Check it out if you haven't yet!)


However, luckily in the last week and a half of March I was able to buckle down and get the last words of CLEVER down. Now that the draft is done, I’m going to have critique partners go over it, then beta readers soon, and get it ready for the world. 


April: And so, here we are.


Looking Forward; April 2024-March 2025


April: This month will be dedicated to finalizing designs for Kickstarter merch as well as writing the bonus stories and making decisions on art and graphics. There’s a lot to keep track of, and I’m doing my best! I’ll get as much of it done while CLEVER is with readers as I can, but as soon as I get that back, it’s into revisions I go. (Also I have two signings at the end of this month! Check the Upcoming Events section below for more detail.)


May: This month will be all about revisions, and will see the production of the paper goods such as bookmarks, art prints, and such. I really want to make sure we’ve got these done soon, so that we won’t have to worry about them later. 


June-July: These are the months I’ll have my kids home for summer break. I want to try to have as much writing/editing done before we get here so that I can focus on spending time and making memories with them. That said, these months should (fingers crossed) be focused on delegated tasks like finalizing interior art, formatting, maps, page edge work, and the like. 


August: With luck, everything should be ready by the end of this month, and books will be ordered. I’m certain I’ll be stressed about everything, but if I can find the time and energy, this month is when I’ll begin outlining and drafting book four. Wish me luck. 


Sept.-Oct.: Fulfillment! As soon as everything is in, all of my work time will be dedicated to packing and shipping orders. I’m not sure how our little home will handle it, but we’ll do our best! Also in September, I’ll be teaching at the ANWA Writers Conference in Mesa, Arizona. Come check it out, it’s a fantastic conference! 


November: Nov. 5th is the goal for public release of CLEVER! That may shift, but because it’s my birthday I wanted to shoot for it. Hopefully all things Kickstarter will be completed, and I’ll be able to rest a bit and focus on drafting book four for NaNo! 


December: The first week of this month is Dragonsteel in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is always a whirlwind of fun and amazingness. Following that, the goal for this month will be rest. After a year of business, I hope I’ll have fully earned it!


January-March: At the moment, my only goal for these months is finishing book four and getting it ready for a Fall 2025 release. Perhaps I’ll be able to refocus some energy into the production of the audiobooks as well, which I’ve wanted to do for a while and haven’t had time yet. 


 

Upcoming Events


April 27th I have two different signings. One will be at the Dana Park Barnes & Noble from 10am to 1pm, and the other will be at the Tempe Marketplace Barnes & Noble from 4pm to 8pm. I’ll have copies of TARGET and SUMMON for sale, and I’d be happy to sign any you bring in!


September 20-21 I’ll be teaching at the ANWA Writers Conference in Mesa, Arizona, and I should have copies of my books in the bookstore there as well. I’ll be teaching a class, so come see me!


November 5th is not only my birthday, but this year will be the public release date for CLEVER, book three! (This date may change, but it’s what I’m shooting for!)


December 5-7 I’ll be in Utah for Dragonsteel, at the Salt Palace. It’s a Stormlight year, and I cannot wait to see the turnout. It’s going to be incredible. I’ll have copies of my books there with the brand new covers including book three, and any extra merch from the Kickstarter will be sold at my booth. 


 

Where to Follow


I am, as usual, not great at keeping consistent with updates, but I think I’m doing better this year than I have in the past thanks to the Kickstarter sort of necessitating that. For the sake of clarity, I’ll break down what each place will do for you: Patreon is where you can subscribe to access bonus content and interaction with me. My newsletter (sign up below) is where I send out updates about big news and things happening (book releases, cover reveals, etc.). My social media (linked above) has more frequent, more casual updates. My Discord is a place where readers can interact with each other and me, and we sometimes play games and have giveaways on release days. And this website--particularly the blog--is only used a few times a year, as a home base when I want to post a longer form thing publicly that won’t fit on socials. 


Feel free to sign up to whatever you prefer! I try to keep information consistent across platforms, but also I have ADHD and very little time, so sometimes my wires get crossed. Apologies in advance. 


 

Teaser


As a thank you for your time and support, I’d like to share with you the current first chapter of CLEVER. Keep in mind it’s likely to change since it hasn't been through revisions yet, but I hope you enjoy it even in it's rough state. And, as always, thank you so much for being here. I hope I can continue to tell stories for a long time, and I know that’s only possible with the help of people like you coming to read them. 


 

1

Ahnri


***


The game of Sticks was simple enough: throw five flat sticks—each marked on one side—onto the ground, and pick up as many as you wanted of the ones that landed mark-up. Earn a point for each mark. Take turns throwing, stopping when you choose. But if you threw no marks, you’d lose any points you’d built up that turn. Wager your luck at the end of each turn. First to twenty, unless the opponent could pass, was the winner.


Ahnri pulled one of the mark-up sticks from his toss, leaving two others, and tossed two more gold coins onto the wager. His opponent frowned, clutching tighter to his own set of sticks.


They’d gathered quite an audience so far, with the pile of gold and silver growing beside them. With each throw, the other seemed near to failure, and ended up squeaking out a success.


“You play dirty,” the other man said.


Ahnri smiled, looking up at him. “How do you mean?”


“No one leaves marks on the table,” the man said.


“I do,” Ahnri said.


A memory floated to the forefront of his mind, of Damond—his adopted father—being accused of the exact same tactic as cheating. There was a reason Ahnri was good at this game, and it was thanks to Damond.


“Your go,” Ahnri said, leaving three of his five sticks on the ground.


His opponent grunted, glaring as he tossed all five of his sticks to the ground between them.

Four out of five face-up.


Impressive luck.


That put him at twenty points, the number to end the game unless Ahnri matched or beat it. Which meant that if Ahnri got nothing on his next toss, he’d lose. But if he got these last three face up, he could keep going.


Sticks—Damond always called it Bones—was mostly luck. The key was to strategize the luck in your favor. Most players didn’t bother.


The man smirked, picking up all five to end his turn, and nodded to Ahnri.


He thinks he’s won, Ahnri thought. Good.


With steady motions, Ahnri picked up his final three bones. They weren’t actually made of bones, though he’d seen some sets that were. Ahnri’s we’re just wood, simple and smoothed by years of use. And on one side of each, a burned triangle with a diagonal line through it.


He ran a thumb over the mark of one—a symbol of Damond’s that held meaning for Ahnri. He had a good chance, with three left. He was about to throw them when a quiet mewl sounded from behind the other man. A cat, short-haired and green-eyed with stripes in shades of grey, wound its way around the man’s legs where he was crouched.


Ahnri met the cat’s eyes and smiled. He’d always loved animals, from the birds he’d fed as a child to the horses he rode in his travels. Most small cats were too skittish for him to get close to, but this one seemed curious, eager.


“Stupid scavenger,” the other player grunted, shoving the cat away roughly.


Ahnri gritted his teeth.


“Are you gonna throw or fold?”


The cat had rolled, popping up seemingly unscathed as cats do. Ahnri took a breath, then tossed his sticks to the ground.


The small crowd around them leaned in. Two of the three. Ahnri swore to himself. That put him at eighteen. Unfortunately, with the other man at twenty, Ahnri had no choice but to gather both face-up sticks, and pray the gods had pity on him.


Four in one hand and his final stick in the other, he let it fall. Time seemed to slow as it hit the cobbled stone on one end, then the other, rolling a little, before it stopped.


Face-up.


“No!” The big man shouted.


Ahnri grinned, picking it up, and tossing all five at once. Three face-up, which put him at twenty-two total—over twenty, and past the other man by two. He’d won.


“Great playing, friend,” Ahnri said, hurriedly tucking the pile of coins into his money pouch before tying it tight and shoving it into his pack. “It’s been a long time since I came so close to los—”


A fist collided with his jaw, sending him flat onto his back as the crowd scattered.


“You cheated,” the man said, rising to his full height. “No one cheats me.”


Ahnri only laughed, moving to get up. “I didn’t cheat, you idiot, I—”


A punch to his stomach this time. It knocked the breath from his lungs. He struggled, trying to pull in enough air, when he was grabbed by the front of his cloak and yanked to his feet, the bearded face of his opponent before him.


“I’m gonna make you wish you’d never met me, you puny little—AAARRGGH!”


The cat was on his face, clawing and hissing as the man tried to bat it away.


Ahnri didn’t hesitate. He ducked past the man, scooped up his sticks, and ran.


The city of Isille, Capital of Fugera, was a sight to behold. A huge outcropping of stone, hundreds of feet high, into which their ancestors had carved rooms, tunnels, bridges, until the entire structure made up the main portion of the city.


Ahnri now ran through the smaller outskirts, ducking through passerby and between structures. He could hear shouting behind him, knew he was being followed, and kept running.


Finally he reached where he wanted to go: an alley where two buildings stood only about six feet apart. Ahnri ran toward the back of the alley where a wall stood ten feet high.


Without a pause, he ran at the wall, taking two steps up the vertical surface. A grunt, and he pushed off, aiming for the building, then pushing off again toward the other.


A few feet at a time, Ahnri made his way up the sides of the buildings, finally managing to grab the ledge of the roof and pull himself up, a moment before his pursuers turned into the alley.


“Where did he go?” one man shouted. “He came this way, I saw him!”


“He was fast,” another said. “Maybe he hopped that wall?”


They continued arguing, even going so far as to boost one of them up to look over the ten-foot wall. But Ahnri knew there was only a small storage space there for the blacksmith who worked on the other side. It was full of scrap metal and tools, and there was no way he’d have gotten through it all without making a racket.

He waited, listening, letting the sun beat down on his exposed skin.


Mrrow?”


Ahnri turned. The cat had hopped up onto the roof from another side.


“Shoo,” he said, waving the cat off. “You’ll lead them right to me.”


In a rather un-cat-like motion, the animal rolled its eyes.


Ahnri blinked. That was…not normal. Ahnri spoke to animals often, he never expected them to communicate back.


He shook off his surprise, refocusing. Below, the men had given up. There were no ladders, no ropes or clothesline, no handholds... surely he must have turned somewhere else, they said. Before long, they left the alley empty save for a few crates and pieces of trash.


Mrrrowww.” The cat’s sound was low and almost growl-like. Stalking, it made its way to the street-side edge of the roof, and it’s gaze followed the men back the way they’d come.


Ahnri sat up. The stone city loomed far above him, but he doubted anyone cared to notice one street kid resting on a random rooftop. And if they did, they needed to find something more useful to do with their time.


The cat came back to him, its eyes narrowed somewhat.


Ahnri returned the stare. “You’re an odd one.”


The cat raised a brow—or, what would be a brow for a cat. Ahnri understood the expression, but seeing it on a small feline was rather confusing.


“Thank you for your help back there.”


The cat sat, tilting its head.


“What? Do you want food or something?”


The cat leaned forward, lying down fully and looking up at him.


“Right.” He stood. “Listen, I’ve got somewhere I need to go, so you can be on your way.”


The cat stood.


Ahnri watched it.


The cat watched back.


“You want to come?” Ahnri shrugged “Let’s see how well you keep up, then.”


Taking a running start, he leaped from the rooftop to the one across the alley he’d just escaped. He didn’t pause to see where the cat was, he simply ran. From that roof, he crossed to another, and another, until he was right up against the stone of the main city.


The outer wall here was rough, natural stone, not the polished smooth surfaces he usually saw inside the structure. So here, he could find hand- and footholds. And he began to make his way up.


One hand after the other, leaping from one thin edge to the next, he made a distance in a few minutes that would take an hour on the roads that wound up and around the city. When he reached the outer road on level three, he had to pause at the railing there and wait for carts and horses to pass before he made his way in the nearest doorway, into the structure itself.


He walked into a market, as busy and bustling as any he’d ever been in, except that it filled a wide, low-ceilinged cavern. The space was lit by small cuts in the stone above, and the occasional lantern hung on a merchant’s stand. Ahnri pulled his hood up, moving slower now, and made his way behind the closest stand—sugared fruit and nuts—before moving on to the next, and the next. He kept his head down, kept moving. He hardly caught a glance from the merchants as he passed, they were far too busy trying to sell to actual buyers on the street to notice someone moving behind them, except to make sure he wasn’t going to steal.


At the far end of the cavern was a huge archway that intersected another street, this one lined with many bright lanterns. This one circled a central column of the city, winding up and up to the higher levels. But up was not where Ahnri wanted to go. Not yet.


He stepped off to one side of the archway, his eyes searching the column in the center.


The queen’s balcony drew the eye on this section of the palace column, but it wasn’t the only opening. Ahnri didn’t care to see the queen, anyway. The thought of the woman made his blood heat in his veins. The queen had killed Damond, then nearly killed Ahnri, and then sent Ahnri on a pity mission that had—again—nearly killed him. Luckily, thanks to magic and some actual decent people, Ahnri had begun to hope again.


But the prince…


There.


A window. Just to the right and above the main balcony. Draped with red velvet curtains and framed with a gilding of gold. Prince Remi’s window.


It didn’t go to his rooms, exactly, Ahnri knew that much. It was an office of sorts that connected to the prince’s suite. But Ahnri knew that room, and he knew that with a careful check of where the guards stood and when they changed, it wasn’t too difficult to get to.


Not now, of course. Even in the dim caverns he wouldn’t risk daytime hours. But maybe after sundown…


Something warm pressed against his leg, and Ahnri looked down to see the cat beside him once more. It mewed at him, and he couldn’t help a smile.


“I’m impressed,” he said. Then a thought struck him. He knelt, meeting the cat’s eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”


Mrrow.”


“Worth a shot.” Opening his pack, he pulled out a bit of paper and a charcoal pencil, and wrote:


Wait for me.


Words he hadn’t written in months, yet they sent a rush of joy through his body.


He folded the paper, and held it out to the cat. “See that window?”


The cat looked.


“That’s Prince Remi’s office. I need you to take this to him. Think you can do that?”


The cat tilted its head, but this time it was less curious and more exasperated. Ahnri had to press his lips together to keep from laughing.


The cat took the note in its mouth, and bounded directly across the street, winding between every set of legs and wheels, and Ahnri watched in amazement as it seemed to find footholds he hadn’t even seen in the column. In less than a minute, the grey striped tail had disappeared between the blue curtains.


Ahnri waited. Tucked into the corner of the archway, out of the way of everyone and hidden in shadows. But his eyes were on the window.


The curtains parted, and a young man looked out. Light brown skin, pale hair that was cut shorter than before but still wavy and falling across his brow, and—Ahnri knew without being close enough to see them—eyes a deeper blue than sapphires.


He wouldn’t see Ahnri from where he stood, but that was all right. The message had gotten there. The cat slipped past the prince, making its way back down. And Remi’s eyes followed it, until it made its way back to Ahnri.


For the first time in five months, Ahnri felt that gaze rest on him. And, for the first time in five months, Ahnri finally felt like he’d come home.



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