April Goals and Patreon Launch!

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Happy April, everyone!

Let me preface this with a quick note that this is NOT an April Fool’s Joke. I don’t do those and you’ll only get sincere queerness with a chance of explosions from me, so there’s that.

Anyway, a few things to start off this month, which happens to be my Birthday Month (my birthday is April 5), so double yay for that!

First off, I want to make sure to regularly check in with you all in from of monthly goal posts again. This is something I used to do, mainly to keep myself accountable, but also because I feel like it helps making these things public, both for my own accountability and to share more about the writing process and its accompanying struggles. So gear up for monthly goals and recaps on the first of each month.

That said, March has been terribly unproductive for me. I blame putting my all into releasing EMPIRE OF LIGHT in late February, so a lot of my time and energy (both physical and emotional) went into that for the past few months. Which for me basically meant three months of constant Deadline Panic and “Go, go, GO!”, followed by the inevitable crash. March was that crash, which resulted in pretty much zero writing. And yes, figuring out ways to maintain consistent and healthy productivity is definitely one of my priority goals fo the next quarter of 2019. (I’ll talk more about my quarter goals and how I set those up in a post later this week. Be prepared for all the calendaring and BuJo spreads, because this is how I roll.)

Anyway, for APRIL, here are my GOALS:

#1: Draft and edit Weaver of Ink and Stars, my Nonbinary Fullmetal Alchemist in Space story for BEHIND THE SUN, ABOVE THE MOON (early 2020) — Goal: 10,000 words by April 10

This is my priority this month, because I need this story to be on my editor’s desk by June 1st and have spent the past months extensively outlining and researching things, so it’s time to whip this into readable shape. April, and by extension, CampNaNoWriMo, is for that. My goal is to have a first draft done between April 10 and 15 and to have the first round of content edits done by April 30.

#2: Start drafting REPUBLIC OF SHADOWS, Book 2 in the Voyance series — Goal: 30,000 - 40,000 words by April 30

Yes, this is the sequel to EMPIRE OF LIGHT, and yes, this story has been living in my brain for YEARS and I’m beyond stoked to get it all out, so April is when it starts. My goal is to start officially writing this by April 15 or as soon as I finish rough drafting Weaver of Ink and Stars because I want to be in a space where I can draft one project while editing the other. Prepare for 4 a.m. mornings and lots of writing sprints on my part. Connect with me on Twitter or Google Hangouts if you need a sprint or accountability buddy!

#3: Write more flash and short fiction in the EMPIRE OF LIGHT universe and LAUNCH A PATREON to better support my writing habits by April 1

Okay, maybe this is cheating, but the first step in this goal JUST happened last night: you can now support me and my writing via Patreon here. I am going to use this platform to release monthly short stories and flash fiction in the Empire of Light universe, but also to share more targeted and in-depth essays on craft, gender, and all things queer speculative fiction. I’ve been planning to do this for a while now and my birthday month seemed as good as any to finally get that off the ground, so if you want more queerness with a chance of explosions, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Bonus: all new patrons who sign up during the month of April will get a swag packet with a signed bookmark, postcard, and a character art sticker of either Damian, Raeyn, or Aris (your choice).

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I’ve already posted the first part of an all-new prequel short story featuring your favorite crotchety space pirate, Iltis, called “All In.” Check out a snippet here and head over to Patreon to read the rest!

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Also, if you financially can’t support me right now, please still consider voting on what flash fiction prompt you want me to write for April. This is usually for patrons only, but because I’m just starting out, this post is available to vote for everyone, so get your vote in now.

Okay, one month, thirty days, three goals. LET’S DO THIS. I’m ready for April. Are you? What are your goals and projects you have in the works? Tell me about them in the comments!

Cheers and happy reading!

Alex

EMPIRE OF LIGHT Release Day!

It’s finally here! It’s my “Gay Firefly with Magic” adult science fiction debut, Empire of Light’s official book birthday and part of me still can’t believe that this day is actually here and that there are real, actual copies of this thing I wrote out in the world, and people are sending me pictures of it in the wild, along with live-reading updates, and awesome reviews. This is a thing, you all! And it feels pretty fucking fantastic.


But I also wanted to talk a little bit about some of the things that happened on the way to getting this book into everyone’s hands, because so often we celebrate the successes without mentioning all the other shit that happened along the way of publication. So, here are some of the ingredients that helped make this book:

Writing out of spite:

I started writing this book when I honestly didn’t see a lot of queer books written by queer folk with queer protagonists (and antagonists, and supporting characters…basically queer EVERYONE) out there. I started writing Empire of Light at a time when I got The Look whenever I mentioned I wrote a book with queer main characters, felt distinctly unsafe as a queer person at conventions, and can’t count the times that I was flatly told I shouldn’t write what I write or that it would never sell. I’m really, really glad this has changed and that as I kept going, I not only found SO MANY more queer books (and fantastic authors to support!) but an amazing community that has my undying love because of how magically badass they all are.

Writing through extended breaks:

Part of the reason it took this many years for this book to finally see the light of day is because I absolutely had to take breaks. I first started writing seriously after I had immigrated to the U.S. and survived one of the most toxic and dangerous times of my life and in many ways finding writing and the community with it, finding a purpose and something that drove me, absolutely saved me—while also bringing snarky, sweary, and twisty af characters to life. My writing journey definitely took a few hard stops, like when I took extended breaks to let a manuscript sit, or when I had to take nearly two years off because I was finishing my teaching degree, studied full-time, worked as a student teacher, and held a full-time job because there was just me and somehow I had to eat and keep a roof over my and my cats’ head. And yes, extended breaks suck. This one certainly did and I honestly thought I had broken myself and my writing with it for a while. But I got back into it, not the least because people kept pushing me, cheering me on, and demanding I keep doing this thing. So, to those of you who never gave up on me, thank you can’t adequately describe the words I have for what you did for me.

The Emo-Coaster that is Publishing:

When I first started to write serious and learn about the publishing process, I thought that all I had to do was get an agent, who would sell my book, and I’d be set. Yeah, I was a naive baby writer, but hey, we all start somewhere. The truth is that a) publishing moves at a rather glacial pace (until it does not), b) there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all model (when is there ever?), and c) sometimes you can do everything right and things still go to hell. Empire of Light took me years to write into a readable version, more years to edit and finally scrape together the courage to query, and then, after nearly a year in the query-trenches, when I finally was in that magical place where I had to choose between three agents who wanted to represent me, things still didn’t quite pan out. My agent was lovely and I loved working with her. I got a handful of very complimentary rejections, and yes, if anything is harder than querying, it’s being on submission, but ultimately my agent couldn’t continue working due to health reasons and we parted ways. That was a bit of a rock bottom moment for me that honestly stalled my writing something fierce and I thought this book was pretty much dead, since big publishers had seen it. But then I went out and submitted it to smaller presses who didn’t require an agent and negotiated my own deal with NineStar Press, who have been absolutely lovely to work with.

So, yeah, this book took one hell of a winding road to get to where it is now and looking back, there are certainly things I could have done better. But, you know what? There are so many things I learned while writing, editing, querying, and working with my publisher, that I wouldn’t want to trade in for the world, because every little bit that went into this book is learned experience, is treasured memories, is a hoard of armaments and things I’ll know to do better, or differently, or to continue learning about for the next one. Because there will always be a next one.

But today, it’s the book birthday of my very first. And damn if that isn’t something.

Happy reading!

—Alex



Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As Aris slips away from Damian and his control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on. Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one minute and kiss him the next.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

On Spite and other Things that Empower Me

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

I’ve spent a lot of my life doing things out of spite.

Spite is what made four-year-old me very much complicit in my then twelve-year-old aunt’s ploy to steal our neighbor’s rabbit, determined to save him from becoming stew. (Our neighbor totally caught on, but apparently our rabbit-stealing caper impressed him enough to let us keep the rabbit--we named him Peter. And no, Peter wasn’t the first, nor was he the last animal Tiny Me would steal--or bring to Kindergarten show and tell. My Kindergarten teachers were NOT impressed.)

Spite is what motivated fourteen-year-old me to become highly politicized and march against Neo Nazis in my German hometown. Spite also prompted an at the time probably questionably impulsive move to the U.S. but spite also helped me push through the mess that is immigration, paired with probably some of the hardest and most toxic times of my life.

It makes sense then, that spite is what prompted me to keep writing sweary queer science fiction, even after all the uncomfortable looks I got whenever people asked me what I wrote when I first started on this journey more than ten years ago. Spite kept my spine straight and my head high when I walked out of the intro session of an advanced fiction writing class in college when my professor told me to “consider what will offend your audience and don’t write that.” My professor followed that up with how she specifically didn’t want to see any “homosexuality, violence, or other vulgarity like that.” I still remember what it like to stand up after that and leave a crowded classroom, fully aware that everyone’s eyes where on me, when I stood up and said, “In that case, I suppose my very existence isn’t something you want to see in this class, so I hereby withdraw.”

I don’t remember what my professor said in response, because I was too busy getting the hell out of that room so I could fall apart and have a panic attack in the privacy of my car instead of in front of a packed classroom. At this point I very much like my sexuality, my identity, my writing, were an affront to everyone around me. Frankly, it was a shitty feeling and a personal low point that to this day motivates me as a writer, a teacher, and a person to do better.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Fortunately things changed. I kept going. I kept writing. I found supportive professors, friends, and a writing community who all get just how important representation of all kinds is not just to marginalized folk, but to everyone whose perspectives are expanded by unapologetic representation that transcends the pages it is printed on. Spite is what kept me moving forward when it was all I had to lean on.

But finding myself represented on the pages of queer books, finding people who not only felt similarly about representation and inclusion as I did, but also challenged and expanded my perspectives was a game changer. It truly made me realize how important being unapologetic about what we write, what we are, is. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us, because this shit has a ripple effect and you never know who might be having an existential panic attack in their car and needs your voice, your words, right the hell now.

So, whenever someone asks me why representation and inclusivity is important in writing, as well as all areas of being alive, my answer is simple: because no one should ever tell you you don’t belong. Because everyone does. And everyone can do better if they’re just willing to push on. If spite is what it takes, fine.

But it’s when spite turns into empowerment and community that magic happens. So, let’s all be a little magically spiteful today, whether it’s by saving rabbits from the stew pot, standing up to bigoted professors, or simply writing your resistance. Do the thing. And tell us all about it.

Oh, and yes, after what my professor told me, I resolved to write one hella gay, vulgar, and violent book. That book is Empire of Light and it comes out one week from now.

I think I win.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT Pre-Order Campaign!

Are you #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn?

Empire of Light releases 10 days (!!) from today and you can preorder it now from your favorite retailer in eBook and Print format.

To get exclusive #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn swag, save your receipts (or take a screenshot of your request confirmation at your local library) and fill out the Empire of Light Pre-Order Giveaway Form here to receive the following:

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#TeamDamian:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamDamian Sticker

  • #TeamDamian pin

  • #TeamDamian gin-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

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#TeamAris:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamAris Sticker

  • #TeamAris button

  • #TeamAris vanilla-cinnamon-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

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#TeamRaeyn:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamRaeyn Sticker

  • #TeamRaeyn button

  • #TeamRaeyn lavender-mint-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

Also, if you are pre-ordering Empire of Light, please consider reviewing it on Amazon and/or Goodreads!

Questions? Email me at alex[at]alexharrow[dot]com or use the contact form on this site.

Thank you all for helping me make this launch awesome! I can’t believe it’s only 10 days away!

Cheers and happy reading!

—Alex

This week’s news roundup!

  1. Missed my first newsletter? Check it out below!

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I know, I know, this has been WAY too long in the making, but I finally sent out my first newsletter today. If you missed it, you can check it out here and sign up for upcoming updates here and get news, current projects, and queer book recs directly to your inbox!


2. Check out my interview on Carrie Pack’s Bi Sci Fi Podcast!

Okay, so I already mentioned that being a guest on podcasts is my new favorite thing ever, so I’m super excited to share my very first podcast interview with the lovely Carrie Pack on her Bi Sci Fi podcast here. I had a ton of fun chatting about Empire of Light, labels, and finding community both among writers and queer peeps in general. We also talk about #QueerSpec and book recs!

Also, check out the rest of the episode to hear Lex Chase talk about mental health and better mental health representation. Thanks so much, Carrie, for having me and making my first ever podcast interview awesome (even though Luna Cat totally started screaming in the background at some point. Because she is a cat and demands to be heard.)


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3. EMPIRE OF LIGHT ARCS ARE HERE and you can snag one and become part of The Harrowing, my awesome review and street team!

There’s just a special kind of elation mixed with panic to have your book’s advanced reader’s copies (ARCs) out in the world. So, if you want to contribute both my excitement and my terror, you can snag an early copy of Empire of Light on Netgalley or sign up for my review team, The Harrowing here. I’d love to have you on board to make this launch awesome!

Warnings: graphic violence (including shootings, beatings, tasing, mild gore, depictions of a hanging, and an execution by burning), explicit sexual content (including mentions of sex work, a sexual relationship that begins in a negotiated contract for sexual services, and on- and off-page descriptions of explicit sexual situations involving bondage, control, mild pain play, and Dominant/submissive dynamics), trauma (including allusion to past physical and sexual abuse, and a depiction of a panic attack), deaths of supporting characters (including a young teen, mentions and depiction of assisted suicide, and one queer character who is a person of color), as well as substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, and a mention of an overdose)


4. Come to my launch party and signing with fellow debut fantasy author Sarah Chorn on March 1st!

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If you’re on Facebook, you can RSVP to the public event here! There will be readings, a Q&A and awesome swag!


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5. Want the eBook of EMPIRE OF LIGHT three days early? Preorder it directly from NineStar Press!

In case you missed it, you can pre-order the digital version of Empire of Light directly from NineStar Press and get it three days before publication. Links to preorders on other retailers and print copies coming soon!

Wait, Wait, This is a THING?! -- WROTE Podcast Interview

I had a ton of fun being a guest on Vance Bastian and S.A. “Baz” Collins’s WROTE Podcast this past week. Check out my interview in which I chat about Empire of Light, #ownvoices, labels, and writing in a language that isn’t your first here.

Got any follow-up questions for me? Drop me a comment!

Happy listening!

Also, have a shiny animated version of my gorgeous cover for Empire of Light by the amazing Natasha Snow!

Alex

PUBLISHING NEWS!!!

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When I first took the leap from writing fanfic to writing my own characters and worlds, this weird little thing with the working title Light started sprouting weeds in my brain. Since then, this little book I started because I wanted to see queer characters in more than just the role of the Sassy Gay Friend has undergone complete rewrites until it wasn't even recognizable anymore. It taught me a ton about characters, about voice, about writing, about writing QUEER CHARACTERS where being queer wasn't an issue. It taught me about writing the books I always wanted to read.

I am beyond thrilled to announce that my Gay Firefly with magic debut science fiction novel EMPIRE OF LIGHT will be published by NineStar Press.

I couldn't be more excited to be working with their team to get Damian, Aris, Raeyn, and the rest of the crew out into the world.

I can't wait for you all to meet these characters! It's going to be a BOOK, everyone! Thank you to all who have been along on this wild ride and thank you for supporting queer books everywhere!

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Cheers and rainbow explosions. Watch this space for updates, tales from the editing trenches, previews, giveaways and release info!

Alex

A Few Points of Interest... And Pictures!

Once again, it's painfully obvious how I've let myself completely slack off as far as posting to the blog is concerned. Here's an attempt and a promise to remedy that with a quick catch-up on some personally noteworthy bits that may or may not present a short recap of 2012 so far. So, what did I do with life other than studying and angsting quite obsessively about things like future careers and eeking out time to write along with the craziness that comes with being a full-time student and full time employee/night-owl?

Well, first the really cool thing happened and somehow my university seems to have recognized my brilliance and showered me with some monies. Well, enough monies to pay for my last year of studying to join the ranks of the army in the War Against Stupid, otherwise known as teachers. So, yay!

Also, the other really, really cool thing was that I got to go back to Europe and travel for a bit. It involved less writing than I had hoped, but I got some words in while I was home in Germany. Writing outside and in front of some really cool scenery -- and churches and castles, must not forget the castles!

From there I hopped the Channel to London to meet up with the lovely Parametric and we embarked on a fabulous writing retreat with Helen Corcoran, which took us from rainy London:

 
To green Ireland, where Dublin definitely became one of my favorite places.
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And the three of us drove out to quiet Galway, where we rented a cozy cottage to do all the writings:
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 Yes, writings:

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 Stared down cliffs...
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Stormed castles...
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 And enjoyed sunny weather at rocky beaches.
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Back in London, we also met up with the lovely S. A. Meade:
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And I proceeded to get ridiculously sick, which sadly clogged up my writer brain, but I got to write and read here, while Parmetric mocked me my excessive consumption of tea in the parlor.

Anyway, I recovered and what do you know, a month later I actually finally, finally finished my epic, never-ending rewrite of EMPIRE OF LIGHT, which then promptly got the beta treatment. Well, okay, first, I properly indulged in some well-deserved victory ice cream.

And pancakes (because there just had to be pancakes for this book).

And now? Well, now that my wonderfully talented betas have gotten back to me with ALL the feedback, I'm plunging into tweaks and edits, which not only sparked a sequel for EMPIRE OF LIGHT, along with a *gasp!* short story prequel, I'm also idly tinkering with something new entirely, a novel that I can only summarize as "steampunk Firefly with vampires" under the working title LEVITICUS.

Here's hoping that I will actually get to dive into some new stuff soon. In the meantime, my screen is back to crazy, flailing editing mode and Nazca cat is prowling for post-it notes.