This month, I have had the utter joy of returning to the world of Aven in a deep way for the first time in quite a while.
Since finishing drafting The Bloodstained Shade last September, I really haven’t done much with the story. Not much new, anyway. I did some polishing on From Unseen Fire before the relaunch back in the spring, but that wasn’t deep work. In May, however, I set to the task of finding a developmental editor for Shade (Cameron Montague Taylor, whose praises I intend to sing quite thoroughly whenever I can, and whom I heartily recommend to self-pubbing authors in need of editorial services), and a couple of weeks ago, I received her notes on the manuscript and editorial letter.
I have so much enjoyed digging into them. The tribulations of the past year have been, I have to confess, somewhat disheartening, but getting feedback from someone invested in and excited by the book has really re-energized me. I’ve remembered how much I love this world and its characters!
I’m hoping I’ll be able to announce a release date for The Bloodstained Shade soon, once I’ve assessed how long I think the remaining work will take me. There’s less to do than my anxiety feared, I think, but a fair bit of heavy lifting will be required to strengthen the bits that currently droop and to maximize the potential of some character arcs. Once I figure out how long that’ll take, I’ll announce a date, get a cover made, and set things up for pre-orders!
What I can definitely announce now is…
The Bloodstained Shade will not be the end of the Aven Cycle.
“But Cass,” I hear you inquire, “I thought this was a trilogy?”
Well. Yes and no. It was initially acquired by DAW as a trilogy, but even before From Unseen Fire was out, we were talking about expanding it to at least four books. My second editor wanted to call it the Aven Quartet rather than the Aven Cycle for that very reason. The contract for the fourth never manifested, however, and y’all who’ve been following me know what else followed (and those of who you follow the SFF publishing industry closely may now also have a clearer idea of why). With the reins firmly in my own hands, though, I get to make the choice! And that choice is definitely that The Bloodstained Shade is Book Three of Four.
The biggest reason for this is that it allows The Bloodstained Shade to be a stronger book on its own. Cramming in conclusions is something I actually tried, early in 2021. It was a mess, and it made me miserable. So I stopped! I wrote a book that tied up some major arcs but left some threads dangling for my future use. After getting feedback from my new editor, though, it’s clear to me that I need not only to tie those threads up, but to let readers of Shade know that Book Three is not the end.
I will be upfront with y’all now: I have no idea when Book Four will come out. I have pieces of it blocked out in my head, but I have not written an actual word of it (beyond bits that were initially stripped out of earlier books and will get reconfigured). I haven’t even started a Scrivener project or anything. I’m working on an entirely different manuscript that I will finish before I turn my mind back to drafting anything new for the world of Aven.
The good news is that I am feeling fresh, reinvigorated, and ready to put in a lot of work on my entire writing life. I’m also going to be starting a new full-time job in August, and I’m so excited for that transition. While on the one hand, full-time work might seem like it would leave me with less time for my writing career, I genuinely think it’ll be a boon. I’m going to have stability that I haven’t had in ages, and the job itself is one that I expect to keep me engaged with my creative side and in touch with my imagination. I’m hoping to get all my gears aligned to be more generative in the coming months than I’ve been able to be for a long while.
Thanks to all of you who have loved this story! I look forward to giving you its continuation.