Introducing: The Catalyst Moon Fan Collective! 😁

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Hi there!

So, it has been a while since my last post, naturally. Unlike previous times, there is a reason, but I’m not quite ready to share the details of my personal life to this extent. Suffice it to say that much in my life has changed, but I’m still 100% oriented toward all things Catalyst Moon.

Hey, speaking of CM… We have our very own Facebook group! It’s called the Catalyst Moon Fan Collective (though I’m not sold on the name & will gladly take suggestions) and you totally should join the fun! I thought it’d be cool to have one spot where we can chat, rant, gush, etc. about this labor of love. We’re small in number, now, but are vast in spirit!

So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to join the fun! 😊

Link: Catalyst Moon Fan Collective

Until we meet again,

Lauren

F-BOM!

I’m thrilled to finally announce that Catalyst Moon: Incursion has been selected as the book of the month (well, technically the season) by the fine folks at the Feminist Book of the Month!

More info here | Spoiler-free review

This is a huge, huge honor. I strive to make my work inclusive and feminist; groups like F-BOM prove that my work is paying off. I hope that one day, inclusive, feminist stories are the norm across all genres. 🙂

Stay tuned, folk, as I’ve got a Reddit AMA happening on Wednesday, April 3rd. Until then, check out Book Three: Storm and let me know what you think. 😍

Stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: If you haven’t already, please join my mailing list for free stories and exclusive access to all things Catalyst Moon!

Update – March 2019

The discovery draft (ie: the rough draft) of Catalyst Moon #5 is DONE. It needs a lot of work and love, but holy cats…I made it, y’all. My world has changed dramatically since I started writing back in September of 2018, so it’s been quite a journey for me as well as my long-suffering characters. The last 10k words were probably the hardest; there’s a lot of complex stuff happening and I struggled with portraying it “well.” I was worried that my writing was crap, that the story was terrible, etc. The usual bout of writerly self-loathing. But in the end, I gave myself permission to write garbage, which oddly freed me from my hesitation and made me push on. (I also bribed myself with glittery eyeshadow, which worked marvelously.)

If you’re interested, here’s my word count log for this book:

Behold my chicken scratch! But you can see that some days I busted my ass, while other days, I fought for a single sentence. Writing is often a slow, painful grind, but for me, the challenge is its own reward. Plus, you know, it’s nice to have another book under my belt. 🙂 I’m going to sit on this one for a month or so while I address some other outstanding projects (a couple novellas), then do my first read-through and figure out exactly how much of a mess I’ve gotten myself into, and what in Ea’s realm it’s gonna take to fix it.

In other news… The cover for Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) is also DONE, and it’s fabulous. No – it’s AMAZING!!! Fiona Jayde did a fantastic job, and I cannot wait to share it with y’all! My trusty ARC troopers (@ me if you get the reference) are doing a final check, and I anticipate launching the book around the end of this month.

So that’s it for now! Next post will probably be about the cover, and then expect me to ask/beg y’all to share news of Book 3’s release to your social media buddies. [insert hopeful smile]

Until we meet again, stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: On April 3rd, I’ll be doing an AMA on the reddit Fantasy book forum, so come say hi!

 

Update – seeking readers for ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of Book 3

Hiya!

Short post today. I’m working with a cover artist for Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3), and am busy prepping for this book’s launch. To that end, I’m seeking anyone who’d like an ARC (advanced reader copy) ahead of the launch. In return, I’m asking for

a) a quick note once your done to let me know of any typos/errors/inconsistencies, etc.

b) an honest, unbiased review once the book launches

What you get:

a) a PDF version of Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) before it’s released!

b) any future Catalyst Moon books prior to their release, as I’m trying to start an exclusive ARC club for my lovely readers. 💜

c) my eternal gratitude

That’s it!😊  If you’ re interested, comment here or drop me a line at lalogareads@gmail.com

Thank you, and stay awesome!

Lauren

 

 

on heart v. brain (or, the everlasting struggle)

Nothing is simple.

So, Catalyst Moon #3 is basically ready to go, I just need cover art. I’m trying to get it out to y’all, I really am, but I’ve discovered a divide within myself, namely between what I know is the “smart,” “marketable” path, and what my heart wants.

Conventional wisdom tells me that my best bet to get folks to read my books is to pick a cover that fits genre conventions. The cover needs to convey not so much what the book is about, but what “categories” it falls into, (ie: fantasy, adventure, romance, etc) so the reader knows more or less what they’re getting. It’s why you see so many shirtless dudes on those romance novels, and why there are SO MANY grim-faced fellas with swords on fantasy novels. (Is no one happy in those books? Ever??)

My issue is that I CANNOT stand the standard cover fare for my genre. I’m sorry, but most of them look boring and ugly, and the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on something I find so distasteful… Well, it sucks.

But my brain – my rational side – tells me these ugly covers are the best way to get readers. These are what’s selling now, and if I want to Be Serious about this whole self-publishing gig, then I need to swallow my pride and ignore my desire and go with what objectively works.

But y’all.

I’ve been scouring the interwebs for a cover artist. I’ve talked to a few, but no one’s portfolio has captured my heart. I know how silly and pretentious this all sounds, believe me, (#firstworldproblems), but it’s a truth I can’t ignore. My heart wants a gorgeous “artistic” cover that attempts to convey the story I’m telling, not the categories that Amazon prompts me to select.

This hesitation on my part is for good reason. Waaaaay back when CM 1 came out, my publisher initially took all my crazy notes to heart and commissioned this incredible artwork from Natalya Pushokova:

Stunning. 😍😍😍 I love this so, so, SO much. It’s just…ugh, SO GOOD!!!

But when they tested the cover, no one knew what the book was about. 

So, back to the drawing board. The next version of CM1’s cover is the current one:

Which is fine and seems fairly popular. I’ve gotten a lot of nice comments about it. But it’s a far cry from what the arty gorgeousness my heart wanted. So yeah. Heart v. brain…brain won this round.

Now that I don’t have a publisher to answer to work with, I’m working on finding a way to merge these conflicting desires. The thing is, my “issues” aren’t just about money or art or book sales. They go deeper. Namely: Is what I’m doing worth all this frustration and effort? I consider my writing to be art, but the world is not kind to artists. There are approximately a bajillion other epic fantasy series out there. Is Catalyst Moon really worth all this inner conflict, or would it (and me, by extension) be better served by quietly going along with conventional wisdom in the hope of attracting more readers?

Sorry to be a downer. I’m not looking for a resolution from anyone – that will have to come from within – but if anyone has been in my shoes and can possibly relate, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll try to pull my head out of my own ass and figure this out.

Stay awesome,

Lauren

Many thanks to The Awkward Yeti for perfectly and adorably portraying my inner turmoil.

on discovery drafts (aka: your first draft isn’t “shit,” you just don’t know what your story is about)

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m over this axiom. Not necessarily because of the message it’s trying to get across, but because it does so in a way that’s designed to shock and dishearten. Perhaps for some people this is helpful, but that tactic always rubs me the wrong way. First of all, there’s enough disheartening obstacles in the storyteller’s path, and second, because the first draft ISN’T shit…it’s just not what it could be. It hasn’t reached its full potential. Perspective is key. Sure, a baby bird looks like a piece of used chewing gum stuck with feathers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a “shit” bird. It just hasn’t grown up yet.

Stories are the same.

(Caveat: Everyone’s experience is different, so I am only speaking about my own. Perhaps the process will be different for you.)

No matter how much I daydream, brainstorm, plan, and outline, the first/rough draft of any given story emerges as a somewhat different animal than anticipated. For me, stories are like living things: you can give them the best care and nurturing, and they will grow up to be completely different than all of your careful planning. Perhaps other, better authors don’t experience things this way, but I’d reckon that more than a few folks can relate to the feeling of looking at a completed first draft and going, “Huh. Didn’t see that coming.”

I’m here to tell you that is okay. More than okay; it’s normal. Writing a book is really hard. Writing a great book, with a compelling plot, interesting characters, and everything else that readers want, is damn near impossible. But you can do it. You just need to be patient with yourself and with the process.

I don’t write first/rough drafts, though I will sometimes refer to them as such to avoid confusion when talking to others. I write discovery drafts. This is the magical time when I ignore my inner critic/editor and simply play in the sandbox that is my WIP. Yes, I stick to my outline as much as I can (while often changing things around as I come to them), but I don’t edit as I go (aside from a few little bits here and there), and I don’t read over the entire story until after it’s written. I do this because, for me, it’s impossible to know if something is working until I’ve written “the end.” Elements that may seem out of place when I’m halfway in suddenly make sense at 3/4 way in, and I’m able to bring them all together by the ending.

Beyond that, though, it’s impossible for me to do the high-level editing (relating to themes, character arcs, plot, pacing, etc) before I have a sense of what the story is *about.* Not what I think it’s about, (per my outline), but what it IS about: the truths it reveals; the struggles and the triumphs, how they fit together, and what they mean.

The only way I can discover what my story is about is to write it. Hence, discovery draft.

So in the end, my advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you feel like your first draft is “shit.” Don’t berate your story for not being what you think it should be. Find out what it wants and needs, nurture it, and your words will grow wings.

Take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

 

 

on Heartfire

Hi there!

One of the best parts of storytelling is crafting worlds to suit your narrative. This doesn’t just apply to speculative fiction; every story is, in a way, its own world. It’s a place your reader can settle into like a favorite chair – or an iron throne, depending on what sort of world you’re building. 😉

Today is the Winter Solstice, ie: Heartfire in the world of Catalyst Moon. This is the longest night of the year, when the darkness is at its strongest. After tonight, though, the balance of light and dark will tip again, and the light will return.

What follows is a deleted scene from Catalyst Moon: Breach featuring the myth of Heartfire. I chose to remove this scene from the final novel in favor of weaving the myth into the narrative at various points, thus allowing the reader to find the story in their own time. But there’s something to be said in seeing it all laid out in one go.

Enjoy, and stay awesome.

Lauren


Kali toyed with the hem of her sweater, trying to remember how exactly the tale went, then took a deep breath and began. “They say the world was new. Back then, the gods walked among the trees like mortal men and women, though they were not mortal, of course. But they existed in much the same way as we do now. They quarreled. They laughed. They loved.

“They say Amaranthea, the goddess of all things bright, loved the god Tor. They say Tor loved her as well, deeply, and without reservation.” Of their own accord, Kali’s eyes flickered to Stonewall. He was watching her. She tried not to think about that and continued. “They say all was well for a long time…until the Laughing God saw Amaranthea’s light and wanted to snuff it out. The Laughing God dwells in darkness, you see, and wanted to shape the One’s world similarly.

“One night, while Amaranthea slept, the Laughing God crept to her bower and covered her. They say–”

“Wait,” Beacon broke in. “Sorry to interrupt, but I never understood that part. ‘Covered her?’”

It was Flint who answered. “He raped her.”

“He?” Milo said, frowning. “I thought the Laughing God was neither a man nor a woman, like the One.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Flint said darkly.

“Doesn’t it?” Beacon asked.

Flint shook her head. “The point is, the Laughing God violated Amaranthea. Her light faded. It doesn’t matter how. Now be quiet, frip, and let the mage finish.”

Kali had followed the exchange, but chose not to comment. “As Flint says, Amaranthea’s light faded after the Laughing God had finished with her. She lay alone in her bower for many days, such that the sky remained dark and the world grew cold. At last, Tor, having returned from a task that had sent him far away, came home to his love and found her in deep despair.

“’What has happened?’ he asked, dropping his traveling pack as he knelt beside her.

“Amaranthea, too stricken with grief and shame, did not reply at first, but his presence soothed her heart, and at last he coaxed the tale from her. Upon hearing her account, Tor’s face grew dark with anger and his fists turned hard, like stone. He rose from her side and strode away.

“’Where do you go?’ she called.

“He did not turn as he said, ‘To avenge you.’

“’I have no need for vengeance,’ she replied. ‘Please, stay.’

“But he left. He picked up his pack and journeyed far, all the way to the entrance to the Shadowlands, where they say the Laughing God lives. There, he–”

“Where’s that?” Milo interrupted. “The ‘Shadowlands?’”

“It’s not a real place,” Kali replied. “I think it’s a metaphor. Probably for the ‘darkness within,’ or some such.” Milo stared at her blankly, so she made a dismissive gesture. “It’s just a story. It’s a made-up place.”

“No, it’s real,” he said. “If it has something to do with the gods, it’s real.”

Kali fought the urge to roll her eyes. She had little desire to poke holes in the younger man’s beliefs. Likely, that would happen without any help from her, probably too soon. “Then it’s somewhere very far away from here,” she said. “May I continue?”

He winced. “Aye, of course. Sorry. Here,” he added, holding out the flask. “Your throat must be getting dry.”

She accepted; the whiskey burned her throat, but sent a pleasant warmth through her belly. She took only a small sip, then passed the flask back to him. Milo offered it to Sadira, who refused, though Beacon and Flint each took a drink. Stonewall did, too, after a moment. Rook declined. Milo didn’t drink any, either.

Kali continued the tale. “They say Tor traveled all the way to the Shadowlands alone, on foot, spurred on by the anger in his heart at what had been done to his love. They say he neither ate nor rested, only traveled until he reached the edge of the Laughing God’s home and bellowed a challenge into the black abyss. At first, silence was the only reply, so he called out again, urging the Laughing God to meet him in a fair and honorable fight. At last, a shadow seemed to separate itself from the darkness of the cave, taking the form of a woman with long, dark hair and skin the color of the deepest night.”

“Nox,” Flint whispered. Her blue eyes were very wide and round.

Kali nodded. “Aye. Nox came forth and beckoned Tor with her staff. But he stood his ground and met her eyes and said, ‘Where is your master? Where is the Laughing God?’

“Again, Nox beckoned Tor. Again, Tor demanded to speak with the Laughing God. The goddess beckoned him a third time. Anger had coiled about his heart like a serpent, but he kept his voice from betraying his feelings and instead held Nox’s gaze as he said, ‘I will go no further until I see your master for myself, so that I may avenge what was done to my soul-bonded.’

“He’d supposed that Nox would merely beckon him again, and so prepared to make his way forward without her guidance, but to his surprise, she relented. Nox bowed low and faded into the shadows. They say a voice emerged, then, a voice unlike any he’d ever heard. It filled him from the inside-out, turned his insides into ice and set fire to his blood. It was the Laughing God, whose words are ill luck to repeat and whose language is unknown to us now.

“But Tor heard and understood that the Laughing God had agreed to his challenge. All he had to do was step into the shadows, where the Laughing God promised to meet him in honorable combat. Though Tor had reservations, his conviction was strong as his blade, and he stepped forward until the darkness consumed him, utterly. And he…”

Suddenly it was difficult to speak, for her eyes burned and her throat tightened, and she had to clench her hands into fists to keep them from trembling. Why had this silly story affected her so?

“And he what?” Flint’s voice was soft, her expression rapt. She looked so young. Milo leaned forward intently, gaze fixed on Kali. Beacon watched her, too, as did Sadira. She didn’t look at Stone or Rook.

Instead, she took a deep breath to calm herself. “He was lost.”

Milo sucked in his breath and looked at his sister, who hugged her arms to her armored sides. “What happened, then?” he asked.

“Amaranthea found him, didn’t she?” Flint said, brow furrowing faintly.

Kali nodded. “But not for some time. Tor disappeared for a long while – some say days, others say decades. But eventually, Amaranthea came looking for him. She still grieved, but the thought of losing the one she loved was a worse pain than reliving her own grief in her mind, so she set herself the task of finding Tor. She knew his ways and knew where he had gone, so she journeyed far until she, too, came to the Shadowlands.

“They say she stood at the yawning chasm and looked into the darkness, gathering her courage, before she took a step forward. It was then that Nox appeared, holding her staff across the cave’s entrance as if to block Amaranthea’s passage.

“’Let me pass,’ Amaranthea said.

“Nox only stared at her with eyes like the void, then shook her head, slowly.

“’Please,’ the bright goddess said. ‘I have no quarrel with you. I only seek the man I love – my soul-bonded. Please let me pass.’”

“Again, Nox shook her head.

“Anger bloomed in Amaranthea’s heart. Anger for Tor, at what he’d set out to do so foolishly, so nobly. Anger at Nox, for hindering her path. Anger at herself, for not protesting more when the Laughing God had come to her. But above all of these was anger at the Laughing God, for rending her life so completely. Anger bloomed inside of her heart like the fire before us now, and she felt its power surge through her very bones.

“Amaranthea did not realize the light came from her until Nox reared back in shock, her dark face suddenly illuminated by an unfamiliar glow. Cast in such light, Nox looked older and more frail than Amaranthea had realized, and she felt pity for the other goddess. She glanced down and saw the bright glow burning from her heart – some say the light was gold, others silver, others say pink or red or orange, or all of them together. It matters not. Light poured from Amaranthea, illuminating a path through the Shadowlands. The bright goddess brushed passed Nox and went forward alone and unhindered.

“Time passes differently for the gods than for mortals, so we do not know how long Amaranthea traveled through that shadowed country. But they say it was long enough for her anger to fade; long enough for exhaustion to slow her steps and tug her eyes closed. She found no sign of Tor. She found no one at all–”

“No guards or anything?” Milo broke in. Flint elbowed his side and he winced. “Sorry. Shutting up now.”

Perhaps Kali should have been annoyed, but she could find nothing inside of her but pleasure at the knowledge that the story had captured the audience’s attention so fiercely. It reminded her of playing her viol to an appreciative crowd.

“They say the bright goddess met no others on her travels though the Shadowlands,” Kali went on, giving Milo a warm look to let him know she wasn’t annoyed. “But the longer she traveled, the more tired she became, and her light dimmed. The shadows grew thicker around her. The Laughing God’s desire had come to pass when she’d chosen to descend, for with Amaranthea’s absence from the world, all light faded and the shadows ran rampant.

“They say Amaranthea could feel the despair of Mara, Ea, Llyr, and all of the other gods. She could hear them cry out to her, ‘please return!’ Many times, she made to turn back. But each time, she thought of Tor, her soul-bonded, the love of not just this life, but all lives, and her resolve grew strong again. So she traveled. So her light dimmed and dimmed, and she grew weaker and weaker, until she crawled on hands and knees, groping through the darkness to take her next step.

“They say when her light went out, she collapsed, too heartsick to continue.

“But her hand, which had been extended to feel the way forward, touched something familiar: Tor’s traveling pack. Startled but hopeful, Amaranthea pulled the pack close and began to rummage through, searching for something that she might use. The contents had been crushed, as if under the weight of some heavy stone, so there was nothing but a single candle. It was enough.

“With a final burst of strength, Amaranthea lit the candle. It was a small flame, barely anything at all, but it drove the worst of the shadows back and revealed a trail of blood on the ground, leading further into the darkness. Despair clung to her for a moment, for surely Tor was injured – or worse – but she clutched the candle and began to follow the trail. It led her through the Shadowlands, into they very heart of the Laughing God’s domain. It led her to Tor.

“They say she found him lying at the gates of the Laughing God’s fortress. She thought him dead at first, until she marked the rise and fall of his chest; he was broken, bleeding. But alive. Amaranthea knelt beside Tor and tried to revive him, though she was certain the Laughing God would arrive at any moment and she was not strong enough to fight.

“’Tor,’ she pleaded, touching his face. ‘Please wake up. We must leave.’

“They say after some time, he opened his eyes and regarded her with wonder. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked.

“’I came after you,’ was all she could say before a dark, echoing laughter filled the shadows around them, pressing down upon Amaranthea’s heart with dread. ‘Get up,’ she urged Tor. ‘We have to leave at once.’

“I cannot protect you,’ he said. ‘You should leave this place, alone.’

“But they say the bright goddess grew angry again at these words. ‘Enough of that,’ she said, helping him to his feet. ‘You are mine and I am yours. We leave together, or not at all.’

“He acquiesced and leaned on her shoulder, pressing his weight against her. The warmth of his body comforted her, so when the laughter came again, she was prepared. They say the bright goddess drew strength from herself and from Tor, and her heart blazed like the sun, shining upon the Shadowlands enough to cast them into light. They say she caught a glimpse of the Laughing God, who was not laughing now, in the moments before she and Tor hurried back the way she’d come. They say her candle was still lit, but it was love that showed them the way out of the darkness.”

Silence reigned for some moments until, to Kali’s surprise, Flint sniffed once, then swiped at her eyes, blinking furiously. “Ea’s balls, I love that fucking story.”