New additional am’r stories update. And asking for your advice!

Bet you weren’t expecting to hear from me anytime soon ? But I have indeed turned over that new leaf that I keep saying I’ll turn over, so now you’re getting an extra wee newsletter a week early ?

First off, welcome new readers! As you can see from the previous paragraph, you arrive in exciting new times, in which this newsletter will actually be gotten out regularly. The Old Heads around here can tell harrowing tales of when whole months went by and I neglected their fabulous selves. But you whippersnappers won’t have to suffer as they did… ?

Secondly, I have some advice I need to ask of you. As the advertising campaign finally kicks into high gear, I need seven other authors I can compare myself to, or compare the Blood & Ancient Scrolls series to their works. It is preferred that they be popular authors now, so even though I feel like my work best compares to the AMAZING Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, it seems no one is reading her wonderful Saint-Germain series anymore—their loss, seriously, and if you like the history, sensual aspects of vampirism, and horror of my series, go dive into hers!

One of the books in the Saint-Germain series by Yarbro

But that really doesn’t help me with effective advertising. I have been compared to Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris in reviews. That’s two. But I need five more, and honestly, I don’t have time to read current vampire stuff. I barely have time to read any fiction, because most of my reading focus is on whatever part of history I am researching for the next story about the am’r. So lots of nonfiction in my life, these days, and very little fiction. I do it for you, my dear readers! ?‍♀️ (But I’m also not complaining. I’ve always wanted the excuse to do more deep dives in history.)

So would you please hit reply to this email, and suggest as many similar authors as you can think of? You’d help this author out immensely!

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.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

Thirdly, I have some fun news. My Marketing Gal Friday has basically demanded that I write two short stories in the world of the am’r, for various promotional uses. I, wanting to get stuck into the next novel, whinged and moaned about this, although her explanation of why those stories were needed was unarguable. My final whinge was, “Well, those stories can’t be set in any place/time I have to do research for! I don’t have time to research these damn stories!” And she calmly pointed out to me that I’ve done a metric fuckton of research for the upcoming novel, so why not write up some stories about some of the am’r pirate minor characters that we all know I will sprinkle into the novel.

“Oh.” I said, utterly defeated. I immediately had one character in mind who is going to be a minor character but who deserves so much more…

So look out for news of short stories (I promise I will keep them short! No novellas! Real short stories!) coming up, basically as hors d’oeuvres to the next novel ???

Also, it’s very good to work with people who know how to manage you ?

Anyway, that’s all the news that’s fit to print, for now. I’ll be back with an update next week. Really!

This is a new ad. What do you think? Does it make you want to buy?

Oh, and before I sign off, don’t forget my 3-Book-Special going on right now on my website! Treat yourself, or get your holiday shopping further along with less stress! (And yes, I really will wrap your books and send them directly to your loved ones, if you request that service. This is probably the last year I will be able to offer the wrapping service for free, if at all, so get it while the gettin’s good!)

UPDATE: Blood Ex Libris now available in PAPERBACK

Buy Blood Ex Libris

Exciting news! Blood Ex Libris is now available in ***paperback***If you don’t do e-book formats, and have been wanting to hold this novel in your hot little hands, go over to Amazon right now and find out what all the fuss has been about!

“I haven’t done this in years… stayed up all night reading a book, that is. While I do love a good read, I simply can’t keep my eyes open all night anymore. Except for this book. I could not put it down, could not stop reading, and also could not fall asleep.”

“I have to say, Blood Ex Libris is a real page turner! I usually pass out pretty early In the evening, but have been staying up late each night to read more about Noosh and her adventures, always reading a few chapters more than I set out to…It’s got all the elements: supernatural fantasy, horror, humor, action, and oh yes, it’s steamy!”

“This story is entirely original. I have read so many vampire stories and the way this one evolved was brand new. The characters are so lovable and the plot so twisty I am sure you’ll love it.”

“I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but it sounded fun and I liked the cover art. Three days later, I’m very happy I took the gamble, because I really enjoyed this book! The main characters have fantastic chemistry, and the smutty bits of their adventures are as sweet as they are kinky (yes, I flipped back to the naughty parts a few times)… The prose is lush and descriptive, and Noosh and Sandu’s world provided a welcome escape from reality, which you probably need as much as I do.”

Are you ready for the ride of your life?

Buy Blood Ex Libris

UPDATE: On World Book Day, my first novel went on sale!

Buy Blood Ex Libris

I’m so excited! And what an auspicious day to launch a writing career!

Here’s the first person version of the blurb:

Blood, sex and swords. And don’t forget flamethrowers. And one librarian, in over her head.

How did I get here: covered in blood and holding a sword I can’t use?

It all started when the dark and mysterious stranger showed up at my children’s reading hour. Of course I noticed him. I’d been single (and bored) for longer than I care to admit. Me, I’m Anushka (Noosh) Rosetti, head librarian.

He turned out to be a vampire. And not just any vampire: Vlad Dracula. Although he goes by another name these days, and he says he’s changed his violent ways. He definitely seemed more of a lover than a fighter. At first.

In a whirlwind of sex and blood-drinking, I made a crucial but impulsive decision: share blood with him a third time, and give up normal human society forever, making my life among the “am’r”—that’s what the vampires call themselves.

The whirlwind just keeps spinning faster. Before I know it, I’m at an am’r summit meeting—and then, abducted by Vlad’s oldest enemy. He’s hoping to use me to undo all of my lover and my new family’s plans to save am’r society from tearing itself apart.

I thought I was just going to archive some ancient books, but somehow I have to keep myself from being used as a pawn by the craziest bad guy ever, escape back to the good guys (and I’m not sure how “good” they really are) across a desert (I don’t even know what country I’m in!) and not be killed in the process. I don’t know how I will survive the next five minutes, never mind save my beloved’s life, too….

Blood Ex Libris is the first book in a brand new, dark urban fantasy series mixing horror, history, and blood-soaked romance featuring a snarky librarian heroine, a sensual but complex hero in the story of a life that unfolds in unexpected ways from humdrum to death-defying thrills, from Middle America to the middle of an unknown desert, surrounded by sword-fighting, explosions, and the ultimate drama of immortals meeting death.

Buy Blood Ex Libris

UPDATE: April 03 2020

Much excitement here! After me sticking my fingers probably too much in the pie and annoying everyone, the cover will soon be finished and I am so excited about the artist who is doing my cover — I can’t wait for the cover reveal!

The MS will all too soon be back from its final edit, and to say I’m nervous is to not tell a lie. I started this journey so long ago. This manuscript has been through so many versions and so many edits. But this is the one that counts — after this, words get printed onto paper, and it’s all REAL. So it’s a bit scary! What have I missed? What have I gotten wrong? Argggh!

I can only hope there will be enough fanatic readers of the series that they will catch my mistakes and keep me on my toes. I’ve been a fangirl, and will always be a fangirl. I’m counting on fangirl and fanboys, and if you all don’t show up, it will break my heart….

Yay, Raven finally got this newsletter out! Some heartbreak. Updates on the next to be published books.

Yes, I know how belated this newsletter is… ?

I wrote 90% of a newsletter weeks ago, on my phone, and the document got lost and I didn’t have the heart or energy to redo it until now.

However, this is a very different newsletter than that one. Most of you know that my books are dedicated to my coauthor, my beloved dog Cairngorm McWomble the Terrible.

Cairngorm co-authoring like a champ on my writing retreat in March of this year

On November 19th he crossed the rainbow bridge.

His seizures started in early October. After that first terrible day, I spent most of October either in the emergency veterinary hospital, or holding Cairngorm through long nights of seizures which were happening every fifteen minutes. After ultrasounds and an MRI and a thousand other tests, they still had no idea what was actually causing the “neurologic events” but put him on an anti-seizure medication. The dosage had to be upped after a week, but for a couple weeks, it seemed like everything was stable. Then it wasn’t, and the meds needed to be upped again.

But by this time my poor little five pound boy was on just a massive amount of medications, including the anti-seizure ones, and what probably happened at this point was that his liver (which had been dodgy all his life) couldn’t cope with all of it. He stopped wanting to go for walks, which had been his absolute favorite thing all his life. About a week later, he told me he was ready to be done with the six-times-a-day medication schedule and leave his failing little body behind.

A wonderful vet who specializes in at-home euthanasia came to us, and his passing was less a death and more a floating away in a painless ocean of love and adoration.

I, the one remaining, am not OK. You could charitably call me a “complete and total wreck.”

Anyway, I’m supposed to be continuing on with life, and that involves heading into the season in which most indie writers sell most of their books and make the most profit for the year. Indie writers count on Black Friday and the rest of the holiday season to ensure their businesses make a profit, or at least break even.

And I can barely focus on marketing or promotional plans. So that’s all very optimal.

To that end, if you have friends or family who would enjoy the Blood & Ancient Scrolls series, I have a deal going on the website, where you can get all three of the freshly re-released books for a handsome discount, with free shipping and all! If you leave a note requesting it, I will also wrap all the books for you by hand! So you could just order the books to be delivered directly to your loved one, and be done and dusted with that item on your do-to list!

This is an old cover, obvs, but I would be delighted to wrap up your order for you just like this ? 

This is basically the best offer for anything you’ll see, this holiday season. So let me help you get your holiday shopping list crossed off! (And you won’t just be helping my lil indie business in return, but I actually really enjoy wrapping gifts, so you’ll be giving me healthy grief-displacement activities, as well.)

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.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

Right. Well, I had to try and do some promotional stuff, so that’s done, and I hope the offer is useful to you. But I know you’re also here for updates on upcoming books, and happily I have news for you ?

My little co-author took his job very seriously, and I had one novella unfinished. So on his penultimate day, he lay beside me and helped me hit “The End” on that story. He basically let me know I had to get it done on his schedule.

Our last time writing together ?

So that means the third story is done for the collection of three novellas that will be published in … drumroll please… Blood Triad in May 2024. It’s a simple name, but I’m pretty pleased with how perfect it is. ? It still needs to get out to the editor, of course, but I love this part of the process, editing the story up to a high gloss. I’ll be trying out a new cover artist for this book, and am waiting with much anticipation to see the rough draft for that.

A reminder, Blood Triad will be comprised of the story about Astryiah (Abyssinia), Zoraida (Teeth Are Bones), and the glorious bromance of Dubhghall and Wulfhram (the just-completed Blood Brothers). I’m pretty happy about the spread of characters through time and the world: Astryiah is from Roman-era Judea and the story is set in the 1930s in Philadelphia, Zoraida is from Haiti in the early 1900s, telling the story of how she became am’r to Noosh in current times, and Dubhghall & Wulfhram became am’r in the 900s and are also telling their origin stories (which include ending up in the Khazar Khaganate, like you do) to our favorite archivist for the am’r. (Both of those stories set after the end of Blood Ad Infinitum.) Having diverse am’r is really important to me, and I think this collection demonstrates that my am’r will never be a boringly homogenous buncha bloodsuckers.

Once that gets into production, that will leave me free to finally get back to writing Book IV in the series, the vampire pirates, which is what everyone wants most of all, I know! I never thought it would take so long to get to this place, but I’m so glad that I can get back to being a writer-who-writes, and not a writer-who-is-just-trying-to-build-a-small-business.

I think that’s enough from me, today. I will try to actually hit the “every two weeks” mark from now on. I never wrote about the new covers, and I really want to talk about those in the next newsletter, because they are amazing.

I hope your holiday season goes smoothly and unstressfully!

The good news keeps on coming! ?

OK, so when I last wrote to you lot, I was fighting to make my pre-sales of the paperback books go live on my website, and all I could give you was the ebook pre-sales link.

Since then has been one of those time periods where I really regret knowing enough web design that I just can’t hire someone else to do it, because I’ve already invested so much time in learning all that stuff, that I’m bloody well NOT going to pay someone else to make me a website. If I just honestly didn’t know, I could pay for it to be someone else’s headache. But nooooooo. I must keep this headache all for myself ?

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.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

I use Square for direct sales of the books. So I wanted to find a way to connect Square with my site (a WordPress site) so that the sales could be directly through my site. Square does not directly integrate with WP, so I needed a plugin. I dully found one that was well-rated, paid for the pro version, installed it … and thus began two weeks of increasing frustration. Finally, I gave up on the plugin, and made a separate webstore, as Square offers that service for free. At the end of a day of setting that up, Square offered me a button-builder for each product … and I realized that if I had known about the button-builder from the start, I wouldn’t have needed to go through ANY of the above kabuki ?‍♀️

But, anyways, it is done, and has been tested, and you can now go pre-order a signed paperback of Blood Ex Libris from me HERE.

Here’s a cozy still life of the book, to make you both hungry and book-hungry ?

Why order the signed paperback, you ask? Well, it’s a win-win. If you buy through Amazon or another webshop, they take 40% of the money. And it’s not lovingly dedicated to you. If you buy through my website, I get 100% of the profit (minus what I pay dear old USPS to ship it to you, but yay media mail for keeping it affordable!) and then, as I’m packing it up, I take the time to dedicate the book to you, and maybe even slip in a surprise swag item… ?‍?

So that’s that, and we are here. And this goes out on the 15th , so pre-ordering from me is practically the same as regular old ordering from me, but let’s all cheer ? for me resolving the problem before launch day! (Special shout-out here to a fellow fan of yours, who is a web-person, and who helped me both with technical stuff and in keeping me from imploding—you know who you are, and you are so appreciated! ?)

Also, huge thanks to the two fans of the series who jumped up to test the sales button on the website, and helped me find an issue that it was really good to get resolved before orders started pouring in ?

At this point, the amount of help I’ve had from friends is just bonkers. This is really a joint effort, here, and you lot are what’s making this thing happen. The learning curve on this has been sooooo steep, that I cannot express how much that has kept me moving forward in hope. I’m not a person who gives up easily, but the process of getting my books back from the publisher through relaunching them into the world would honest daunt pretty much anyone. I’m a much more knowledgeable person, these days, but almost none of that learning has been taking notes in a nice comfy classroom; it’s been done in the self-publishing trenches, which are as muddy and bloody as wartime trenches can be expected to be (in a metaphorical sense of course, but I still may need therapy…)

Tonight I Upload Final Things to Amazon, and then they have a Good Think About It, and then hopefully Amazon sales go live on the 19th , and then This Shit Gets Real ?

If you have extra good vibes to send, spiritually cross your fingers for me for in this coming time. You’d be amazed how many things that look easy in the description turn out to be much more complicated and/or have unforeseen issues as one tries to actually accomplish them ?

Meanwhile, things progress in the background for Books II and III, and I will hopefully be getting you pub dates in the next email. The both still need final proofing, but I have the actual printed proofs in hand, and that is how I will be keeping myself out of trouble once BXL is out in the world again.

Apparently, when people see my partner out at events now, with me nowhere to be seen, they ask, “Is Raven still working too hard on her books to be here today?” And, yeah, I’m back home dealing with one thing or another. So I do look forward to a day when I have enough “spoons” to do this AND to have a social life. (Of course that social life will probably immediately get subsumed by going to an endless round of conventions to sell the books in person, and being on panels talking about vampires and worldbuilding in fantasy, but hey, that’s still better than just being at home on the computer, learning everything I don’t know about indie publishing. At least I’ll get to wear my bat and dragon and hedgehog kigurumis and be nerdy with people!)

Raven in her bat kigurumi at FOGcon

OK, I need to go off and do things, and you are to be commended for reading my always too-long newsletters. I’ll drop a quick newsletter — promise! — once BXL is finally fully out there in the world!

?Relaunch of the Blood & Ancient Scrolls series!?

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.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

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. ?

Big! Exciting! Thrilling! News!

So I know that I said that these newsletters would A.) be bimonthly and B.) generally go out on Wednesday, but the fact that I couldn’t talk about so much stuff was making it hard for me to do the newsletter in the past month since the last one went out … but this reason this one goes out on a Friday is because TODAY IS THE BIG DAY for one of my BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS!

So, AT LONG LAST, here goes Announcement The First!

In early September 2001, the news I was hearing about the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade was freaking me out. (With good reason, we’ve since all discovered ?) I wanted to send lots of money to help the various causes and institutions that were trying to help women directly impacted, and protect the rights of all women. But I did not have the kind of money I wanted to donate.

But I did have some skills. And passion to spare. So, in the coming years, I reached out to authors asking for them to donate stories to an anthology. As that moved along, I reached out to publishers, to help me make this vision into reality. After landing with the  highly-respected Aqueduct Press, I could breathe a little easier, but there was still so much to do to ensure this project would make it to Actually Being A Thing In The World. (Which would be tedious to list, so I won’t, but let’s just say I truly stretched my previously assumed limits along the way.) Today we sent out the Press Release so I can FINALLY TALK ABOUT IT.

Here’s the blurb, which sums it up best:

Here’s the list of amazing authors who came in on this project with me: Kathleen Alcalá, Elizabeth Bear, Raven Belasco, Tara Campbell, Anya De Niro, Jaymee Goh, Cynthia Gralla, K Ibura, Ellen Klages, Annalee Newitz, Nisi Shawl, Cecilia Tan, Sonya Taaffe, Helena María Viramontes, and an introduction by international social justice activist Maggie Mayhem.

(See, I told you it was an amazing list ?)

And here’s the equally amazing cover, by brilliant artist Jenifer Prince

And here’s the Instagram, so you can keep up with all the news: https://www.instagram.com/adventuresinautonomy/

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.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

Of course, that’s not the only thing I’ve been doing with my time. I can’t actually talk directly about the other project YET, but I can talk about how it’s impacting my life, so it needs a codename. Because codenames are cool. Let’s call it Project Phoenix. You’ll see why that’s so meaningful as soon as I can move things along to the Announcement Day….

But at least today we get one Announcement Day. And it’s a pretty good one. I’m so proud of this baby, this absolute labor of love. Of course, now that it’s announced in the world, we hit a new stage of things, which is me marketing and promoting the hell out of this thing, so that we can raise as much money as possible for NARAL.

So. If you would like to review the book, please let me know. Even just on Amazon, you’d be amazed how much those little reviews matter. And, if you know someone who reviews books on a more professional level and might like to review this anthology, please get in touch. The most important thing right now is Getting The Word Out There, and I’ll take all the help I can get.

Of course, as soon as the pre-order link goes up, you, my adored newsletter readers, will be the first to know!

Shooting Things

If you follow my author Instagram you’ll know I’ve finally been granted good enough health to take up archery. I’m getting out to the “butt” (teehee?) set up at the end of the back garden. It’s very much swampland back there, so I do my practicing in wellies. And when I went out on Monday, the mosquitoes let me know it was now Their Time, so I will be trialing a lot of different bug sprays, this spring-summer-fall. But I am absolutely aware how lucky I am to have space to practice in, and I do not take it for granted.

Getting out there for practice always makes me feel so good. Well, emotionally. Physically, I am definitely dealing with building up muscle I lost during the periods where my spine was so bad I was basically bed-bound for a while. So that feels like you’d expect. But it’s totally worth it, because archery is totally a joy to me.

Yes, of course, bows and arrows will show up in future am’r stories. It obviously won’t stop an angry am’r altogether, but if your aim is good, you might slow them down in a beneficial way…. ?

In the meantime, when life hits me with frustrations, I can go out back and take aim at whatever the problem is with some arrows. Imaginary targets are reasonably satisfying, when you get a good grouping. ?

I’ll try to get the next newsletter out to you in two weeks, but until the next newsletter hits your inbox, stay well, and be good … or be good at it! ?

 

Excuses, excuses, Creole cooking, & Instagram Says I’m a Naughty Girl ??

Well. So it’s been a month since I sent the first newsletter out, and I intended to be doing this at least twice a month! But I assure you that I have an excellent excuse ?

I was hoping that the next newsletter would be The Big Announcement. But every time I get to an item on the to-do list, that item turns out to be comprised of 5-20 subitems, some of which are either quite complex, or just complicated because it’s my first time doing these things, and everything has to be set up or just figured out.

So I’m going crazy wanting to get this Big Announcement done, but I am committed to doing it at The Right Time, which means after I finish all the items on that list. So, I’m afraid that we shall all have to be content with a newsletter which does not yet have Big! Exciting! Thrilling! News!

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.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

In the interim, let me babble about Creole and Cajun food. As you know from the last newsletter, I spent ten wonderful days in New Orleans last month. I had planned to eat my way through all the classic dishes down there … but most of the places who made gumbo and other dishes guaranteed gluten free (which I need if I don’t want to experience debilitating migraines) were generally to be found in the French Quarter, and the whole place was so crawling with tourists, that after one adventure there to get Calas (rice fritters like beignets) I decided I basically wanted to go to any part of the city that wasn’t the French Quarter. Which I did, and had some amazing meals. But they were not those classic N’awlins dishes.

(Here’s a really cool article on how Calas helped some slaves to become free )

So the minute I got home, I started menu planning. The first dish I planned on was Jambalaya. And then I found out how different the Creole and Cajun versions were, so I had to make first one and then the other. Results are on my Instagram 

This week it was Gumbo. Which I had made before, but without quite as much research into the filé/okra/roux debate. My partner doesn’t like okra, so I settled on doing filé gumbo, and making oven-fried okra on the side, so I didn’t feel like I was missing an opportunity to put okra in my mouth ?

It was perfect—the spot was hit. AND, I learned about “seasoning ham

Instagram Shenanigans

So, some of you may have noticed that I created a new Instagram account in the past month. There is a story behind it.

When I set up my author Instagram account it was very early in my getting published, and I was calling my vampire series, “Sex & Blood & Ancient Scrolls”, which was a pun on the seminal Ian Dury song, “Sex & Drugs and Rock & Roll” and I was very proud of myself for how perfect the pun was ?

But as I went to do my very first post about the first book in the series, I careful wrote up my text, and put the title of the series—of which I was so proud—in that text.

I went to post it, and Insta came up with a warning, that I was using an unacceptable word in my post.

That word was “sex.” Yes, really. It may be a perfectly acceptable word in the English language—in the dictionary and all!—but I couldn’t use it in a post, even though it was simply in the name of my book series.

I couldn’t believe it. And I certainly didn’t accept that one could discuss the film “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” or the song I was referencing, but I couldn’t post the amusing name of my book series. “This is ridiculous,” I thought, and I posted it because I figured if I had any trouble I could just explain the situation to someone and get it sorted out.

So, yes, I brought it on myself. It was, honestly, because I couldn’t believe they were serious; that I was going to be censored like that. I wasn’t swearing, or using violent language, or using derogatory terms. I was being told I couldn’t use a word that has a whole section of your science class devoted to it when you’re in fifth grade.

When I went ahead and used it, I was told I could not do any advertising on Instagram. “Whatever,” I thought, “I will just do normal posts, I don’t even want to pay Instagram money, I’m just trying to build a natural following.”

However, no matter how I used the right keywords and hashtags and followed the latest advice, I mostly got about 60 likes on my posts, when similar accounts were getting over 200, even 1000 likes every day. Following best practices, my account never grew.

That penalty was not just disallowing advertising, my account was being treated differently.

So I tried to get a review. I explained the situation, and further explained that I had very much learned my lesson, and I would be the most well-behaved Meta user henceforth, with every post since that first one as an example of my reformed character. I had even removed the “Sex &” from the title of the series, and it’s been just “Blood & Ancient Scrolls” ever since.

For years, Instagram just let my requests sit in a queue, unread. Finally, a few weeks ago, I submitted my request again … and in their infinite wisdom, they decided that I was indeed a nasty character, accused me of having repeated offensive posts (Huh? I always followed the rules perfectly after that first mistake!) and they pronounced the “decision is final.” Judge, jury, and executioner.

I made one beginner’s mistake, followed by four years of following the rules perfectly. But regardless of that, my Insta account was now tarred with this crazy brush, and I cannot use it to market my perfectly reasonable vampire series, which has a lot less objectionable material than many books I’ve read. (There was one paranormal romance I checked out from the library in all innocence, which had a threesome between a vampire, witch, and a werewolf … and let’s just say that the wolf didn’t stay “were” the whole time…! I can’t say I was shocked, but I was quite surprised! ?)

I had to build a new account from scratch, which is a super great use of time for a chronically ill person who is already desperately trying to keep up with everything that an author needs to do to try an succeed in a very difficult industry.

Everything seemed to be going really well with the new account, so I checked my Facebook account, and there was no penalty associated to that account; Facebook was perfect content to take my money for advertising. So I linked the new Instagram account to the Facebook account (to make posting to both easier) … and BOOM, the new account now had all the penalties of the old Insta account immediately applied to it, even though I have not done anything wrong in the few weeks I’ve had that account open.

So now I have to do all sorts of complicated gymnastics to try and get this sorted out. I have spoken to some people who have more experience with such things, and there is a plan on what to try next, although it’s not certain how things will work out. I may have to create a whole ‘nother Instagram account in the future. I wish I could just tell the whole platform to fuck off, but sadly, “Bookstagram” can really build an author’s audience, so for now it’s actually a problem I have to solve. I will keep you updated with my woes (or, possibly, with a success story…but don’t hold your breath!)

I’ll try to get the next newsletter out to you in two weeks, but until the next newsletter hits your inbox, stay well, and be good … or be good at it! ?