THIS is the announcement I’ve been waiting to make to the world. It goes out to you FIRST, loyal and (mostly) uncomplaining newsletter readers.

All three of the books in the Blood & Ancient Scrolls series are being republished, with AMAZING new covers by Kwasi Amankwah (Kwasi81). Here’s the shiny new cover for Blood Ex Libris

And, since I know people will be demanding it, HERE IS THE PRESALE EBOOK LINK. Next week I’ll be getting out the presale link for print books! Publication date is SEPTEMBER 19th!

I will be talking unceasingly in newsletters to come about the challenges of starting up your own company to self-publish your books (and if people want to know why I decided on that direction, it’s a long story but I can share that as well), but first I wanted to talk about the final stage I’ve been in before I could make this announcement. (Which, SQUEEE, I’m finally making!)

This time, I can do things right.

My name’s Raven Belasco, and I’m a dark fantasy writer. These newsletters are about my work and that #authorlife. Updates out bimonthly to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to my Beehiiv, where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe.

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I had caught Covid coming home from vacation, but my first thing I had to do upon returning home was the task of reading the proof of BXL with a very hard edit. Scheduling-wise, it couldn’t wait. So with both the virus and the Paxlovid buzzing through my system, I jumped in, a feverish experience in every way.

At first, I was just so focused on catching typos and ignoring symptoms that I didn’t really take in the profoundly meaningful moment I was in. But, reading some lines I first wrote about a decade ago, now, suddenly it all hit me.

These words came out of me pretty much the way you see them now. Lots of the book has been reworked, cut and rewritten, and some sentences have had the same punctuation moved around so many times as to redefine either “obsessive-compulsive” or “tragic-comic” or both. But I remember the first time I wrote those lines, sitting on the sofa in my apartment in San Francisco, my marriage falling apart but me being years from being able to admit or do anything about it, and my now elderly dog still a high-energy, disruptive puppy. I remember those words just flowing out of me, and that moments like those gave me hope that this crazy idea I was having that I could finish a novel and then perhaps get it published was not actually delusional.

(I had no concept about the fact that writing a good novel was very different from getting an agent or publisher to recognize it as such. All those lessons were to come after typing “the end.”)

After that moment of place (“Oh! That’s where I have been. Here is where I am now. Time is so very surreal.”) the rest of the editing had more profound moments for me. I had seen this as “just an edit that needs to be done,” but this final edit became so much more than that.

I had really wanted to get a good proofread before printing up the Advance Review Copies/proof. That didn’t work out, and I was pretty horrified (being my perfectionistic self) at how much stuff that needed work still existed in the document, in a book which had already been in print. (Albeit always with more typos than I was comfortable with.)

The reason for the amount of “unfinishedness” was because, after I got the rights back from the first publisher, I finally got a Turkish/Arabic sensitivity edit which should have been done before the book saw print. Before I got published, though, I always said to myself, “Oh, there is plenty of time, and you need to focus on just getting published.” And finding potential agents and publishers, jumping through the flaming hoops of their submission requirements, and then rinsing and repeating for years certainly was exhausting and completely burnt through focus and energy. When I finally did find the publisher, though, suddenly things were moving fast, and it was too late for me to get that sensitivity edit, and then BOOM the book was out in the world, which is what I had been fighting for, for so long.

And always in the back of my mind was the regret that I hadn’t managed to get the sensitivity edit done. I hadn’t realized there were services for such things (all the other expert reviews of my book, the biologist and the archivist, the Romanian reader for language and history, those had all been friends willing to share their time and expertise with me) and honestly, it would have been very hard to afford it, at that time.

But when I got my rights back, I was finally all set up for such things (my writing now being an actual business), and I was more than ready for this to finally happen. I found a perfect editor (specializing in the Turkish and Arabic languages and history and religious philosophies!) through a service, and sent over the manuscript, fingers crossed I hadn’t fucked up too egregiously, all this time.

She found … more than I’d hoped. For example, one section of the story had Noosh spending time in the hammam with the female “jinn,” getting to know the world of her enemies through a very female lens. I had written it with the intent to be supportive of women who cover, giving Noosh a more nuanced and complex and conflicting view, so that the “bad guys” were more than just “bad guys.”

But. But. It never occurred to me that putting Noosh into the hammam (which I did because the am’r are all very fastidious about regular bathing) and also having her see that the women were wearing colorful lingerie under their outer modest garments (I’d seen a special on how Arabic women are very individualistic and chose to express themselves in the clothing choices most people never see, and I wanted to work that into the story) could be perceived as me embracing the stereotype that Middle Eastern women are “exotic,” and all the Orientalist male fantasies that go along with that ?

That one hit like a kick to the stomach. I’d thought I’d done such a great job showing how multilayered and complex these characters were … and in the end I’d accidentally turned it into the most stereotyped trope.

Once I’d overcome the hit to my self-esteem, it actually took very little rewriting to sort it out, but it was a very important lesson, which I hope has made me a better writer, in that regard.

In other regards, I am already a vastly better writer. Going through BXL line by line made that clear. There were so many sentences that it was so easy to tighten up, to tweak to a much better way of expressing the thought. It was a profound relief to get the opportunity to take what I’ve learned writing all the am’r stories since and lavish it upon the first book. I love BXL. But after writing Blood Ad Infinitum, I was painfully aware how I’ve grown as a writer. Being able to go back and take what I’ve learned and give a kind of “spa day” to my first novel, the one that went through the fire with me, was a true gift.

I hope Blood Ex Libris, Version X with Upgrades, is as improved as I think it is. I hope you all love it even more than the first. (And that you think it’s worth paying for the second version, if you already own the first!) I hope it makes it even easier for you to slip into Noosh’s journey from bored, underchallenged small-town librarian toward the am’r-ass-kickin’, globe-trottin’, take-no-shit archivist she will become. I hope the flow of my writing now just floats you along, or crashes you through rapids, or otherwise utterly subsumes you until you come out the other end of the story.

Thank you all for coming along with me on MY journey, as well. As a perfectionist, I would really rather no one see my art until it is in a shiny, glorious final state. It’s kinda possible to do that with my photography—I can just work and rework images in Photoshop until I decide they are DONE. But, I have learned, I simply do not get to have that with writing. Various layers of editors and reviewers need to catch my errors. Fans want to see works in progress. Advance Review Copies must be sent out. Writing demands I not just share my soul (that’s OK, I’m an artist, I gotta do that anyway), but also my imperfections (still NOT OK. This will always be a painful challenge for me.) So thank you all for making it clear that you like my writing even when it has not be polished to its most perfect high-gloss, that I can get things a bit wrong and still have space to evolve them and myself. It is deeply valued and appreciated.

If you are still reading at this point, here is the link again for pre-ordering Blood Ex Libris in ebook format. The print link comes next week. The rest of the series will be rolled out over the next couple months. ?

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