Oliver Invictus

Swift September, Waning Year

Title plate: Month in Review, September 2019September, that lovely transitional month, has come and gone. I knew it would be busy, and I planned accordingly. Just, with everything else happening, I neglected to set up a blog post in advance.

So here’s the official announcement: Annals of Altair Book 3, OLIVER INVICTUS, is now available on Amazon. It dropped back on the 18th, and it is, apparently, more high-tension than I realized.

…Whoopsie?

One of the problems with the whole pre-order process is that it’s easy to set up a title and then walk away. In this case, though, that “problem” was a blessing. Here’s what’s been happening.

Early September

I had a doctor’s appointment to evaluate a treatment plan I’d been on for the previous 3 months. Without going into a lot of details, basically I have a chronic (and genetically caused) folate deficiency. Because it was undiagnosed for most of my life, and because I had put myself into a cycle of ill health in the months prior to diagnosis, my system was haywire until I sought treatment.

The good news: most of my numbers vastly improved. Like, cholesterol down 30+ points, blood sugars back into normal ranges, vitamin D in double digits again (and nicely high double digits, hooray!).

The bad news: one of my numbers was worse. I kind of expected it. There’s family history involved, and I’ve lived my whole life knowing it was a possibility. Essentially, the damage at this point was too far along to reverse. So, my doctor tweaked my treatment plan, and I am now officially tied to a prescription.

(I’m also tied to a methylfolate supplement, but that’s over-the-counter. If you feel like you’re living life with your brain wrapped inside a lead blanket, maybe consider getting tested for an MTHFR mutation.)

After spending most of September on this new plan, I FEEL AWESOME.

Relatively speaking. I’m waking up alert instead of feeling like someone poured a load of mud into my skull while I slept. I have a happier, more hopeful outlook. Life has possibilities again.

It’s amazing the difference a couple of little chemicals can make.

Middle September

I celebrated my birthday. I’m now 39, for anyone who is nosily curious. Not sure why, but I’ve loved that number since I was a kid (it’s triple-thirteen, plus 3²=9; just some beautiful patterns happening). It was a good day, quiet but spent with people I love.

That same week, I attended the annual ANWA Writers Conference. I went with some of my specific writerly roadblocks in mind and got some excellent insight for how to maneuver through them. Plus, I got to reconnect with some of my favorite fellow authors and friends, amazing creatives who are bringing light and laughter and beauty into the world.

It was good times.

And, of course, the middle of September saw the launch day for Oliver Invictus. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered, and to those who have since bought, read, rated, and reviewed. You people are the best.

End of the Month

The main reason Oliver had such a low-key debut is that I was leaving the country shortly thereafter, on a trip whose plane tickets I bought last February before I knew I’d be finishing a book. While his story uploaded into readers’ kindle clouds, I was slowly compiling my necessary supplies and wrapping my brain around the prospect of traveling for a week.

Mostly I was worried about my cat. Would she be here when I got back? Would she drive my mother insane during the interim?

Yes to both questions, as it turns out.

I went to the UK with the ever-intrepid Rachel Collett. We visited Bath and Welshpool, and had an overnight in London before flying home. I think I successfully converted her to travel by train. (We don’t do trains in the desert southwest. I mean, they exist, obviously, but the only passenger trains are specialty ones like the Grand Canyon Railway or the light-rail that runs through the Phoenix metro area at 25 mph.)

Drinking the Bath Water

Roman Baths in September

Living my best life in the Roman Baths. Yes, I drank the water, but not from this crusty pool!

Bath is phenomenal. Some highlights:

  • The Bath Abbey
  • The Roman Baths/The Pump Room
  • The Jane Austen Centre
  • No. 1 Royal Crescent (now a museum)
  • Basically every street and park and river walk

Netflix was filming their upcoming Regency series, Bridgerton (based on the Julia Quinn novels, which I have not read), so some streets were off-limits to visitors. It was fun to catch a glimpse of actors in period clothes, though, and horses and carriages and an entire street covered with gravel to hide the modern pavement. One of the buildings had a green screen up the side of it so they could modify the setting in post.

Kind of crazy. Totally fascinating.

People kept apologizing for the weather, but it was honestly lovely.

Tromping through Castle Grounds

Just over the border from Shrewsbury, England lies the town of Welshpool, Wales, home of Powis Castle and Gardens. I’ve followed the Powis Twitter account for a few years now, so actually visiting there was an awesome treat.

Powis Castle September 2019

At the Powis Castle entrance, ready for adventure. Ignore my derpy face.

Everything in the castle is authentic, right down to the 2400-year-old Etruscan vases sitting demurely atop the 14-foot shelves in the library (which is stocked with, among other things, much of Empress Joséphine’s personal book collection—just a minor souvenir the family picked up from the continent after the Napoleonic Wars, nbd).

Robert Clive, aka Clive of India (a regular pirate if ever there was one), had a son who married into the Powis family (the Herberts), so his collection of artifacts—bought and plundered—passed to this estate. The Clive Museum on the castle grounds displays many of these items, along with an acknowledgment that some were ill-gotten spoils (which is a step in the right direction, I guess).

The family lived there until at least the mid-1900s, but the castle and grounds now belong to the National Trust. Hence, conservation is the name of the game. Light sensors in every room record daily UV exposure, and one of the volunteers disclosed that if they exceed their yearly quota, they get shut down until January rolls around. So, blinds are pulled low, and castle visiting hours are set, and absolutely NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY allowed.

Between the castle tour and exploring the gorgeous gardens, this excursion merited a full day. The bi-polar weather went from sunshine to rain and back again half a dozen times, and I sang silent praises for the pair of duckboots I wore.

When you’re mucking about the loam of Wales, appropriate footwear makes all the difference.

Powis Castle and Grounds September 2019

A view of the castle from across the grounds

And that’s how I spent my September.

I don’t usually cram so many events together, but that’s the way things converged this time. Now it’s back to the proverbial grindstone for me.

Oliver Invictus | Official Reveal and Pre-Order

If you read between the lines of my last post, this one will come as no surprise. I’m pleased to announce the upcoming publication of Book 3 of the Annals of Altair: Oliver Invictus arrives on September 18, 2019.

You can pre-order the ebook HERE. Hooray!

Oliver Invictus book cover

Summary: Oliver Invictus

Dead at Fifteen

Oliver Dunn’s life is officially over. Pulled from his bed in the black of night, he’s headed for the Prometheus Institute’s mysterious shadow campus, where anomalies like him vanish forever.

But no sooner does he leave Prom-F than the school descends into chaos. The student body revolts, classmates make a break for freedom, and one silent, powerful projector among them corrals the adults into a hive-minded collective of slaves.

Yanked back from his impending doom, Oliver’s mere presence restores order. The Prometheus heads demand that he ferret out the rogue projector, but he’d rather die than cooperate.

His life is already over. They can’t threaten him with any fate worse than his own. But they can threaten the one person in the world he actually cares about: his former handler, Emily Brent.

If you haven’t read the first two books of this series, that summary might raise a lot of questions. If it’s been a while since you read them, ditto. Because I’m a giver, I’ll go ahead and post links for those two books as well:

Book 1: A Boy Called Hawk

Book 2: A Rumor of Real Irish Tea

That’s it for the announcement part of this post. A new book! Go forth and pre-order!

Or, if you’re game, stick around and read on.

Background Notes

I always considered the Annals of Altair complete at 2 books. This is apparent in their structure, which is pinned to the US Constitution. A Boy Called Hawk uses the main body for its chapter numbering (Preamble, Articles, and Sections) and A Rumor of Real Irish Tea uses the amendments (27 in all).

My younger self thought it was funny to have the Constitution as a meaningless frame for a hypothetical future in which that document itself had become meaningless. Actually, my current self thinks it’s funny too.

So.

A third book was not on my radar. What was I supposed to pin it to, the tax code?

The Plot Thickens

Still, I had family members that asked for more, and I knew that more happened beyond the scope of those first two books. Besides, if the original structure was meaningless, and meaninglessness was the point, then abandoning it for a meaningless chapter-numbering system would be fine.

Confident in that reassurance and the knowledge that I don’t have to publish everything I write, I tackled a third book for NaNoWriMo.

Back in 2015. (Seriously did not realize it was that long ago, but the timeline checks out. Tsk tsk, Kate.)

The story stalled at the third act, as my stories chronically do. I played with it a bit over the years, but it was definitely a back-burner project.

Why?

Well, I’ll tell you.

This series gets the least amount of traffic among my literary canon. Not a surprise. It’s dystopia lite instead of the gossamer fantasy that is my usual fare, so it’s easily skipped. It was also more like a personal art project than a commercial endeavor. Hence, for a while, I saw it as my weakest link.

We don’t draw attention to the weakest link.

But I truly love the story and its cast of characters—on both sides of the conflict. My initial vision to spin a yarn about four kids escaping an oppressive government morphed into a tale about the rotten little antihero tasked with bringing them back. By the end of the second book it was clear that Oliver and Emily were more the main characters than Hawk, Hummer, Honey, and Happy. I’ve always known what became of them afterward, and part of me always wanted to write it.

However, it seemed self-indulgent to work on a book that strayed so far from my perceived fantasy brand, and that few people—if any—actually wanted to read.

So what changed?

For my birthday last year, I sat down and conducted an inventory of my writing: unpublished projects, planned-but-unwritten projects, and works-in-progress. The list was kind of a slap in the head: I had 20 books in some form of development, not including my notebook of story kernels, and not including the six published books I still needed to switch over to my imprint.

The creative pile-up weighed me down. When you have too much debt, you get rid of the smallest one first. Thus, Oliver Invictus, 75% complete, moved up in the work queue.

(As a side note, the idea for Soot and Slipper hadn’t even occurred yet. I’m not great at managing my plot bunnies.)

The final impetus to complete the draft came from a comment on my blog last April. It’s one thing for people you know to ask for more of your work—there’s always a voice at the back of the head saying they’re only being polite, or that it’s their way of expressing a compliment. It’s quite another for a stranger to speak up. That’s a call to action.

And, as it happens, answering that particular call was within my ability. So.

Long story short (too late)

I estimate that roughly twenty people outside my own family might actively want this book. I hope more than that will read and enjoy it, but if its total market saturation is only those twenty, I still consider it time and effort well invested.

Mostly because I want this book.

Whether Oliver Invictus has a large audience or a small one, I’m excited for its readers to experience the next leg of this upside-down world.

And why September 18th?

It’s Oliver’s birthday. It seemed a fitting day to bring his story to light.

Annals of Altair series book covers

Look at these covers, you guys! They look like they belong together! +1 Branding skills for me!