Plans for 2018

I have high hopes for 2018. At least, I do for my personal life. Some hope is creeping in for life in the US but it’s a cautious hope. There are still some major issues. Nici is transitioning to a new antidepressant and dealing with their thyroid issues. My car is still dead and I’ll be junking it soon (if you’d like to help with the car situation, click here or become a Patreon patron). There’s still a few other lingering healthcare needs we can’t afford to take care of. But things are looking up. As such, I decided I wanted 2018 to be a year of reclaiming things I’ve lost. On top of continuing to move forward with Grimluk, I’m planning on getting back into drawing and guitar.

Drawing and writing are my oldest creative endeavors and drawing was the oldest. As a little Ashe, you could give me paper and pencils and I would keep myself busy with doodles. I got pretty good, too, though at the age of 14, what I needed to get better was an actual, for real art teacher who could lead me in figure drawing and help me refine my skill. Unfortunately, 14 is also when Life started punching hard and by 17, I had given up drawing. By 18, I had thrown away my art supplies. Depression, and a lack of proper instruction, had utterly robbed me of the will to continue on. I tried again at 19, taking an art class in college but it was no better than my art class in high school and I once again gave up.

Guitar helped me weather depression some but there were still some issues and then I got my shoulder fucked up working a temp job. I got a repetitive stress injury that even pushed my collarbone out of alignment. The pain is way less these days unless I use my shoulder too much or in the wrong way. This meant that my endurance at playing disappeared and my desire to play started to evaporate too. I also had an amp that I hated and that contributed to my waning desire. The amp changed in 2012 when I found a used Carvin V3 2×12 combo for $500 at the Tulsa Guitar Center, an amp I had lusted after since it’s inception. I’ve never really gotten to give it a proper play. (A note for gearheads: I still lust after an original Peavey Triple XXX)

So a big part of reclaiming those things will also be reclaiming some of my lost physical health. As Nici’s health improves, I’m hoping that we can attempt to start doing DDP Yoga together. That will be contingent on the fatigue issues going away, but I’m hopeful.

So that’s what I’m after in my personal life. What about professionally?

Well, Grimluk is gonna keep moving forward. The Demons Within will drop in October and I’ll probably get back to work on Grimluk 4 later in the year. I’m hoping to find avenues of promotion, to get the word out in greater numbers. I’m sure I’ll come up with some other things as well. I’m also gonna take some time at some point and do up some plot skeletons for Grimluk 5 and some other ideas I’ve had churning away. I won’t start anything new until after Grimluk 5 though. Once that comes out, I’ll take a bit of a break, introduce a new project or two, and then start on Grimluk 6.

And in case it hasn’t been made clear yet, Grimluk is gonna go a long time. We’re going Dresden levels at the very least, if not Vampire Hunter D.

Orctober for 2018 will also probably be focused on the release of The Demons Within, with some extra guest stuff again as well. Always gotta have my fellow orc-writers show up. I’ll be planning that out in more detail in the spring, after I’ve sent Demons off to Laura Hughes for editing. If there’s anything anyone would like to see this year, leave a comment or tweet me or somethin.

Overall, it’s a pretty straightforward year, but if something big pops up, I’ll welcome it.

So those are my plans for 2018. I hope your own year will shape up well and I hope you find yourself in good fortune, friends and readers. You survived 2017 and that makes you mighty.

2017 Year In Review

This year. This fucking year. What a dumpster fire. Mostly. It feels like this one year has lasted for five. And while the socio-political aspects of the year bear most of that weight, there was some good that happened as well. I want to take the time to talk about my own year as it’s be quite a roller coaster as well.

The beginning of the year saw my partner, Nici, and I waiting to move away from my parents and back here to Tulsa with their mother. In February, we started our first D&D campaign with some friends, which definitely helped ease the stress of Darth Cheetoh pretending to be president and my stepfather’s continued…eccentricities. On top of that, I was still hard at work on the first draft of The Demons Within. We finally got to leave in April and, on top of coming back home to Tulsa, I’m still pretty proud of the fact that I managed to not only drive a moving truck for the first time but also did it while towing my van. That was a long 14 hours and I never want to do it again.

April also saw me join forces with some other r/Fantasy regular authors, starting the Fools of Fantasy. We had a big sale for the month, which really gave me a big boost in visibility and sales. It was pretty rad all around.

Once back in Tulsa, we started working towards a few things. First up, healthcare. We found out about Morton Health and their sliding scale, which we qualified for. Our visits are only $30 for each of us AND they’re a comprehensive clinic, which means that I also got to go for an eye exam a couple of months ago. We got Nici on the path towards health over the summer by finally discovering that they have hypothyroidism. Which explained A LOT. Unfortunately, before May ended, my van died. The transmission started going out and my battery was corroding itself to death slowly. Thankfully, Morton offers free transportation, so we’ve easily been able to get to and from our visits as needed.

May saw me finish the first draft of The Demons Within, along with doing Patreon stuff. I also managed to get us on foodstamps, which has been immensely helpful. Cause food. I’ve continued doing a good job at managing my diabetes without medication and keeping my A1C under 7 and part of that is thanks to not worrying about affording food. After all of that, the summer was relatively quiet. I’d also promised Nici I would sing at karaoke if they got their blood drawn, so I sang at “Last Caress” by The Misfits at live-band metal karaoke. My buddy (and our DM) discovered it before we came back so that’s our big group activity. It was a lot of fun. The next time, in August, I sang “Electric Eye” by Judas Priest and fucked up the second verse.

August saw me begin work on Grimluk 4 and the second draft of The Demons Within and preparing the kickstarter for the latter as well. Things with our living situation grew a bit more tense. It seems impossible to escape family drama but we’re getting by. D&D has helped a lot (as well as when we switched over to play Changeling the Dreaming with another member of our group running the game). D&D makes for a weird sort of therapy.

I also spent the summer working on a Fighter subclass and a Fighter-based character sheet for D&D, as I wanted a sheet that I felt more comfortable with. The subclass/archetype was the Monster Hunter, based on the Unearthed Arcana archetype Wizards did. Both have been pretty popular (along with the Orcs overhaul I released for Orctober). You can find links and previews to all of that in the works section in the nav bar above.

October arrived, with the second draft of Demons Within finished and the launch of the kickstarter and Orctober. It was a lot of fun. I’m still disappointed that I wasn’t able to actually get the recording of our one shot done and up for everyone but technical difficulties are fun that way. I was sure the kickstarter wouldn’t fund but, goddamn, a whole bunch of big damn heroes came in during the last 12 hours and made it happen. I’m still floored by that.

I’d also decided to take a break from writing for a bit. I was a bit worn out between starting a new book, getting a second draft done, doing all the Orctober stuff, and life in general. November was kind of a blur, with Thanksgiving coming and going, and now Christmas is gone and we stand at the end of 2018. I spent these last two months doing some proofreading for a friend to help her prep for celebrating her 20th book release.

Now here I am, at the end of the year, feeling accomplished and hopeful. Nici’s doctor put them on a new medication for mental health that seems like it will be the Right One finally. And along with everything listed above, I’ve had some other things that cemented/revealed themselves to me. So I’m gonna finish out the year with a public announcement.

As I said above, D&D is a strange form of therapy. And what do you know, it worked something out for me. See, my character, Gorthos, a half-orc fighter, is both bisexual and polyamorous. The latter of which I’ve been thinking heavily about through the middle of last year. The former of which has been a creeping question about myself. It came up with someone I’d developed heavy feelings for quickly. Ultimately, she and I ended up losing contact but it was a big sign. Add to that another friend of mine that I’ve known for a good long while and can honestly, 100% I love them with those kind of feelings too, and yeah.

Then, continuing on, there was a story for the other side. Early in my relationship with Nici, I realized that if they ever wanted to transition into a man, I would stay with them. I can’t imagine not having Nici in my life. That was NEON SIGN number one. Then a couple of months ago, I had a dream about a dude friend and I kissed him in the dream. When I woke up, I thought, “oh, that was nice, I’d totally date them.” Neon sign number 2.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m ending the year by saying this:

Hi, my name is Ashe, author of the only high fantasy weird western series starring an orc, and I’m bisexual and polyamorous. I lean more towards women still, but I have a non-binary gendered partner who I would still with no matter their gender identity and I can love more than one person at a time, and do.

Fuck you, 2017. We’re still here, asshole. The year’s been up and down, see a lot of change, a lot of destruction, a lot of outcry. It’s just the beginning. I think 2018 is gonna be pretty damn big.

 

D&D Fun

Hey all. Just wanted to let you know that DMsGuild finally let me upload all the files last week, so I got a couple of things to share. Both are pay what you want, so you could get them for free or you could toss a bit of change my way.

First up is the Fighter’s character sheet I made. I love the fighter class and it’s what I’ve been playing this year, so I decided to make my own character sheet, organized how I feel it should be organized. It’s very clean and I’ve been very happy with it. I built it and slowly tweaked it over a couple of weeks of play until I got it tailored to what it is now. For the time being, it’s only really useful for Eldritch Knights and Battlemasters. Champions don’t really have enough going on to warrant a reference sheet and I haven’t figured out a good design for the Purple Dragon Knight archetype from the SCAG book.

Second up is my own take on the Monster Hunter archetype for Fighters from the Gothic Heroes Unearthed Arcana article from last year. In all the feedback I found, the UA Hunter was deemed underwhelming and most people didn’t like that it was like a weaker Battlemaster, making use of superiority dice. I wanted to go at it to be more robust and unique, with a few features as shoutouts to the UA. No superiority dice and I’m definitely happy with strong it feels while still looking pretty balanced. I also included a version of my Fighter sheet with it. Very proud of how it all turned out.

Two Year Anniversary

It’s been two years since I released A Demon in the Desert.

Two years, man. It’s wild. Now I’ve got the third book drafted and I’ll be starting the fourth soon as well, with a Kickstarter for book 3 happening in October. I’ve learned a lot in the span of two years. I want to thank everyone who’s helped me and made this possible. Everyone who’s backed me, everyone who’s reviewed me, sent encouraging words, everyone who’s taught me craft and business. You’ve all been amazing. Who knows where things will be by year five!

Let’s Talk About Healthcare

Before you run away screaming cause I’m posting something political (and I don’t think it’ll be the last time), this particular piece of our ongoing crisis in America is especially relevant to me at the moment, though it should be especially relevant to everyone who is currently alive. Fair warning, this is mostly a downer topic and I will be mentioning suicide and rape.

In September, I had a tooth removed after it cracked in half. The dentist informed me the one next to it would need to come out as well and that I would need a bridge. It’s now May and the gum is starting to erode. If it stays unchecked, the other tooth will likely continue on until it cracks as well, and all my teeth start drifting. I really can’t afford to pay any of that right now. And I have no one to help me.

My partner has needed their tonsils out for a literal decade. And their wisdom teeth are finally coming in. I’ve seen those tonsils and let me tell you, they look like a fucking Bloodborne boss. They look like Amygdala heads (or the tonsil stone, alternately, which just looks like a tiny head).

Connect this to the events this week, where the House voted on their Trumpcare bill and the threat it presents to millions of people, and we are clearly in need of real healthcare reform. The US is the only fully industrialized nation without universal healthcare. Yes, we have Medicaid and Medicare but those require age and specific economic hoops, they are not universal. On top of the severely private healthcare system, vision, dental, and mental health tend to be disconnected or (prior to the ACA) way more expensive to use. That presents a wealth of issues all its own.

I wear glasses. I cannot function well without them. Before my tooth cracked, I hadn’t been to a dentist since 2008. Not that it really mattered. I haven’t had insurance since I aged out of parental coverage at 26. I haven’t been able to afford it and if I’d bought a plan from the Marketplace, I’d have been paying for something I couldn’t afford to use either, without vision or dental included to boot. Which, sure, is a major flaw in the system. That’s one reason people have decried the ACA and one reason Republicans have championed getting rid of it: rising costs and unaffordable plans. Except that’s a little disingenuous on their parts, isn’t it? Especially given the provision in the Trumpcare bill to exempt Congress from the provisions.

Straight up, I lean way farther left than the Democratic party, so I’ve never really been in support of the party (or a two party system for that matter), but it’s been well documented that the ACA was basically the plan Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts and the Republican party fought Obama every step of the way on any of it. And look where this shit has gotten us. GoFundMe (and crowdfunding in general) is basically the defacto way to fund major medical expenses now. I see at least one fundraiser daily between Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, and I just started one to fund my previously mentioned issues AND help me repair or replace my failing car (And I am, quite frankly, pretty damn desperate).

The US has dozens of examples for how to implement socialized healthcare on a national level, with Canada and the UK being the closest. And, surprise, given that insurance works by keeping a pool of money, it’s cheaper and more efficient to spread that pool out as far as you can. Of course, this would also require we close a lot of tax loopholes and fix how we do taxes (which is a whole other conversation in itself, especially when you look at small business owners like myself). Oh and also not give ridiculous tax breaks to people who absolutely do not need them.

Universal, comprehensive healthcare would solve so many problems for so many people it’s kind of fucking ridiculous. Being an author, I know a crap ton of authors, and you know what we all have in common? Barely being able to afford anything and/or several mental health issues. It is straight up exhausting worrying about health and finances all the time and it is immensely disruptive to the creative process. Regardless of that process though, there are millions of people worrying about whether or not they just should just kill themselves before they bankrupt their families. There are millions of sexual assault survivors worrying they’re going to lose healthcare for reporting their assault. And sure, Trumpcare doesn’t outright list sexual assault as a Pre-Existing Condition™, but it does allow insurers to give patients a big blast of “Fuck you” and that’s not any better.

And I’ll be real here, too, with the health stuff and my car dying like this, and having the financial situation I have right now, suicide has been floating around my mind. It’s really fucking hard for it not to. I’m mentally ill, with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. That is the perfect cocktail for this line of thinking. Chances are, if you haven’t had these thoughts a little, you know someone who has.

We desperately need to implore our elected officials to full support universal, comprehensive healthcare. Vision, dental, mental and physical health as well as prescriptions. God, prescriptions alone would do wonders for people, myself included but we need all of it. And for anyone who wants to bemoan Canada and its mythical “wait times,” you don’t wait for emergency care and you just pay for parking. I’ve heard in-depth discussions about Canadian healthcare because I know Canadians. Krista Ball has talked very openly on twitter (and in private) about her health escapades over the past two years, which included a breast reduction surgery that was fucking covered.

We need a change. Everyone deserves healthcare, yes, even Paul Ryan’s poor-people hating ass. Even the eldritch abomination that is Steven Bannon (even if he probably is a demon in a very poor disguise). Everyone deserves healthcare. Fucking everyone, period, no exceptions. We need help. We need our health. We have to fight for them both cause the people who are supposed to be our representatives are doing a fucking piss poor job.

If you made it this far, and you’re not part of the choir, do some research, think hard on this issue. It’s not about handouts or welfare queens, it’s just basic compassion and respect for life. Making America “Great Again” is gonna require some heavy changes. This is one of them.

I sincerely wish you, to combine references, long days, pleasant nights, and a long, prosperous life. Stay weird, be kind.

Looking Back and Going Forward

The Hell year that has been 2016 is coming to its end and 2017 looms ominously in the wings. With that in mind, I thought I might give a bit of retrospection on the year and think about what’s to come in the new year.

Personally, the year started off in a harsh note. I don’t exactly make it a secret that my family life is less than stellar, even if I don’t post much about it here on the Dot Com. Not a lot of that has changed. In a lot of ways it feels like it’s much worse. My partner and I are trying to move back to Tulsa and in with her mom. It’s not going very quickly due to a host of factors. So, if you want to help, buy my books, leave reviews, and spread the word about Grimluk.

Professionally, though, I think I’ve had a pretty great year. And a busy one up until October. February saw the Kickstarter campaign for Demon Haunted, which ultimately failed, topping out at $1600 of my $2000 goal. Which was cool. I backtracked and switched over to Indiegogo, making use of their flexible funding option for March. Thanks to some flexibility on Tim Marquitz’s part as my editor, the $900 I managed did the job. Even the self-publishing world benefits from good contacts. And hey, Tim‘s an author, too, and having a rough time with some health stuff, you should go buy a few of his books.

The summer was spent busting my ass on editing and finishing up the map of Ornesea and a few other image products for Grimluk, especially for the Indiegogo backers. In August, I managed to get a basic plot down for Grimluk 3 and started it. Unfortunately, by the time October rolled around, I was exhausted, so it’s sitting around 15,000 words and waiting on me to get back to it. But, ya know, hey, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

October also saw my first Orctober and it turned out pretty damn well and was pretty popular. I’ve also been selling pretty well. October saw me make $50 in sales, which is a definite milestone and one I’m stoked about. November and December have been great as well. December especially when compared to last year when I only sold one book for Christmas.

So, what’s in store for 2017? Well, first up, hopefully the move will get done and out of the way as quickly as possible but that’s not looking hopeful. So, beyond that, I give more hope to my mental health issues calming back down and letting me get back to work. I won’t be ready to crowdfund Grimluk 3 by Spring unless I get a sudden round of supercharging. So the plan is to work hard to finish the first draft of 3, start work on book 4, and run a campaign in October and tie it into Orctober and then shoot for another October release in 2018. I’m batting around the idea of doing a massive campaign for books 3 AND 4, but I’ll probably wait and run the campaign for book 4 in October 2018 as well.

Beyond that, we’ll see what else happens. I’m also debating getting some issues with Audible worked out so I can potentially do audiobooks as well. Depending on when I get moved, I might also attempt to start working on a comic with a buddy of mine, though that will depend on several other factors as well. I’ve also contemplated starting a Patreon again for short stories, mostly for a certain side character of Grimluk’s. I’ve also considered doing heavy metal album reviews. I’d consider trying to do Twitch streams but I don’t currently have the hardware to do that.

So, that’s all the news and forecasts I have to offer. I figure I can do some more posts here or there like my Why Orcs post. Was pretty amazed at how popular that turned out. I hope you had a good year, my friends and I hope 2017 meets you better than 2016 did. Remember:

Be excellent to each other!