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It's been a very long time since I've pried myself out of Eos Europa's world and ventured into somebody else's. This is partly because I'm something of a "method writer" when it comes to the projects I take on; I don't like to head-hop too frequently, or I inevitably start to blend the unique voices and perspectives of my characters.

But now, as I continue zeroing in on A Dark Sky Opens's final draft—I can feel it. That itch to explore an entirely new world, to view it and perceive it through the eyes of a character that couldn't be more different from Eos Europa.

Introducing the Grimdark Fantasy series I've been planning for over seven years and it's main character, Lok Iyeska. I've written the first installment so many different times, and from more than three different perspectives, before settling on Lok as the protagonist.

While Eos Europa is ridiculously self-confident, unconditionally loyal, and willing to die for what's right, Lok Iyeska is insecure, strange, and unsettlingly quiet. There's a darkness to her, an affinity for the twisted, the ugly. Similarly to Eos Europa, she's willing to die for something that means a lot to her—but it won't be for what's right. It will be for revenge.

Due to the opposition of their mindsets and perspectives, I haven't found it possible to draft these stories simultaneously. Which is why, once A Dark Sky Opens is finally finished, I have decided to dive straight into Lok's world before drafting the third installment in the When Stars Burn Out saga (which actually will be very dark—making the transition from Lok's world to Eos's relatively comfortable and seamless).

I really, really, really can't wait to talk about these future projects more! I've been working on outlining the third installment in Eos's story diligently for the last six months—and just like its predecessors, it's ever-evolving. I expect it'll follow perhaps ten percent of the outline, but as long as I've got a starting place, that's all I care about. Likewise for the outline I've got ready for Lok's story. That's the life of a "plantser," I guess! I'm a sucker for story structure, and yet can't adhere to an outline. There's something about the stories I tell that forbid it. They're so quietly told, so intimately brought my way—as though channeled through a radio signal only I've got access to. I swear, sometimes that makes more sense. I don't feel like I've thought up these characters or their stories; I feel like they've been given to me. Like, from a far off, very different universe, Eos Europa is real and she's picked me to tap into her story and tell it here in this world. Likewise for my other baby, Lok Iyeska.

While Lok's story is still something I'm exploring privately, I will say one thing: This book is a lot closer to my heart than I originally thought it'd be. For years, I said this would be the one that I'd consider traditionally publishing, and while that isn't necessarily off the table, I doubt my willingness to subject the story to adulteration by a traditional publisher more and more, given how sentimentally I'm connected to it.

All fiction is, to a degree, autobiographical. When I wrote Eos into existence, it was in a time when I desperately needed to cultivate a modicum of self-esteem; I needed to connect with a part of myself that channeled Eos's swagger, her self-assuredness, her ability to completely believe in herself.

Conversely, when I wrote Lok into existence, I was exploring the darkest parts of myself as a human being. The ground was strong and steady beneath my feet, and I felt bold enough to edge closer to those things most of us shy away from.

One of Lok's biggest lessons has to do with her last name—which actually means "mixed blood" in Lakota.

For those of you who don't know, I'm half Lakota and belong to the Cheyenne River tribe in South Dakota. This piece of my past has been brushed under the rug, ignored, and starved for the vast majority of my life, despite growing up learning Lakota words, attending sacred tribal ceremonies, and owning my own Lakota regalia. Like many, I know what it's like to be caught between identities—to never feel fully one or the other, belonging nowhere. This is a very large part of Lok's journey to self-discovery, and I can't wait to share it (and a large part of me) with all of you once it's finished.

There's something about this year. My creative well has never been this full. After working my ass off editing for the last two months, I've officially taken another step back from it (I'll only be working with my personal clients until May, instead of the publisher I work for) and trying my best to focus exclusively on writing and publishing my own work.

Thank you all for sticking around, believing in my journey, my words, the stories I have yet to tell and discover—it means everything to me.

Here's to new stories! I can't wait to read yours!

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