Through Dreams So Dark: From Birth to Publication, or a Life in Books - Angela Boord

8 Apr 2023

When Jamedi asked me to write about the process of writing and publishing Through Dreams So Dark, I’m not sure he knew what he was getting into. The process of bringing Dreams into the world was long (so long) and fraught with setbacks. But I hope one of the takeaways is that the road to publication isn’t always a linear process. So, if you feel like you’re spiraling around on your own path, taking one step forward and two (or three or a dozen) steps back—I’m right here, keeping you company.
Now grab a comfy chair and your favorite beverage and I’ll tell you a story about a journey that has spanned most of my life.

In a certain kingdom, in a certain land, there lived a girl who dreamed about writing books to share with other people.

The road to publication for any book always begins with an idea, a little kernel of hope that needs to be stubbornly tended, fed, watered, weeded, and sometimes defended, until it finally grows into a mature novel. The idea stage is when you’ve got something that excites you, or something that grabs you, and your vision is shiny, bright, and new.

Or, sometimes, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t pinpoint the time at which you had the idea, because the book always seemed to be with you.

Like all my books, Dreams started with the characters. Some characters are very upfront about their stories (I’m looking at you, Kyrra d’Aliente), but the story that eventually became Dreams—the whole Rai world, in fact—is both a product and a catalyst of all the years I spent learning how to write. Some of the characters in Dreams have existed since my tween years, so I guess you could say that this story is almost literally like playing in the sandbox.

I didn’t grow up in the most functional of families. Like Sergei in Dreams, I lost my mother at a young age—even younger than he did. My mother died in childbirth, having me. Devastated by this bewildering loss (the odds of a woman dying in childbirth in the US the year I was born were 1 in 17 million), the adults in my life didn’t always behave well, and my situation didn’t really improve after my father remarried. The best way to deal with life at my house was to disappear or stick my nose in a book, and I learned early how to keep myself company by telling stories. Fortunately for me, I also had a best friend down the street, and we spent hours and hour riding our bicycles and inventing long, cliffhangery suspense epics based on the mystery and adventure books we liked to read (we were big fans of Trixie Belden, the Black Stallion, and Robin McKinley). By the time I was 11, writing them down seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

Sergei’s brother Kolya (who plays a minor role in this book, but who will show up repeatedly throughout the series) was actually one of my very first real characters—fitting as the older brother, he showed up before Sergei did. I was a Cold War kid, and when I made the shift from children’s books to the adult section of the library, I headed straight for the espionage novels (Robert Ludlum was my favorite) and the kind of portal fantasy popular in the 80’s—Barbara Hambly’s The Silent Tower was one of the first adult fantasy novels I ever read. I devoured Michael Moorcock’s alternate WWI series A Nomad in Time, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, and all the Darkover science fantasy books, right alongside suspense novels like The Bourne Identity, Jack Higgins’ WWII thriller The Eagle Has Landed (Jisel owes more than a little to the morally gray Liam Devlin), and a book nobody remembers now, Moscow Rules by Robert Moss, which is where I snagged the name Preobrazhenksy in the first place.

A writer friend of mine once remarked offhandedly that young writers’ first protagonists usually have a tendency to be stand-ins for themselves. I had to stop and think about that for a while. I was a short, nerdy girl growing up in a small town in Tennessee, but my first real protagonist was a tall, male Russian defector with PTSD. My Russian sensitivity reader for Dreams told me she was “stunned” at how well I had captured the alienation of Sergei’s experience as a Russian immigrant, though I don’t have any Russian background except for a lifelong interest in the history and culture.

Sometimes you don’t really know what you’re writing until other people tell you. A question writers are often asked is, “which characters in this book are most like you?” My answer to that question is usually, “all of them in some way”. None of my characters are me, they’re all different and individual, but I think the characters that show up in your head have to be people you can imagine your way into somehow. I guess my early life made it relatively easy to imagine my way into a ragtag crew of alienated characters and outsiders. Anyway, they’re the ones that emerged most strongly from the cauldron of my early experience, the ones who decided my head was going to be their permanent home.

A couple of years ago I found a box of old writing in the attic. In one notebook there was a sheet of notebook paper, folded in half and written on with a blue ballpoint pen that leaked, leaving dots and smudges; I’d forgotten I wrote it, but it was the first recognizable scrap of the story that became Dreams. In this scene, I shamelessly cribbed the setting from the Darkover universe, right down to the blue sun, and Sergei was trying to use a sword, badly, and being teased about it by an empath healer woman with silver hair. (Her name is Sina, and she gets a brief mention in Book 1 as the sister of the murdered healer whose death Jisel investigates, but she’ll play a real role in Book 2). I think I wrote this scene when I was sixteen, probably in class as a break from the long suspense novel about his brother which I was also writing in class—the margins of that manuscript are full of chemistry notes. The plot of that book followed Kolya as he was forced to confront his Soviet past and rescue a friend from a shadowy government organization using nefarious mind control techniques to extract Important Secrets from him. (I never did figure out what the secrets were exactly or why Kolya’s friend had them, just—it was an espionage novel, there had to be Secrets, you know? It also involved a lot of action scenes and a lot of injuries, but even then I was mostly interested in the character work.)

I didn’t really do anything with that scrap of portal fantasy until my senior year in college. By this time, I’d made a writing friend, and my writing friend and I would write these Nothing But Vibes snippets with our characters and send them back and forth via our university VAX accounts (yes, I really am that old). About that time an anthropology class made me wonder what would happen if the characters I had been writing about in our world suddenly ended up in a world they understood nothing about, where two cultures were clashing to the point of war, similarly to the US and the USSR, except much closer to the brink. And what would happen if one of these cultures had actually been ruled by gods, or people who were supposed to be gods, and what if the magic system was based on quantum physics but also shamanism and I could write lots and lots of creepy dreams and—

Well, you’ll notice I had a bad habit of not paying attention in class. Anyway, I got excited about it and the friend I’d been writing with got excited about it, and we started brainstorming a story that was kind of like vibes, but with a plot. (Not over VAX. By that time, I’d used my leftover scholarship funds to buy a computer with a 2400 baud modem. Go ahead and laugh, I’ve already made my peace with the fact that my book about the 80’s is historical fantasy!)

My friend and I produced a bunch of scenes that almost connected, but by this point we were in our mid-twenties, and our lives had changed. I was married with a kid…oops, two kids… and she had a job. It became obvious that I was also more interested in writing for publication than she was. Parting professional ways was a little like getting a divorce. I still wanted to use the basic story and the world and all my characters, but her ideas and my ideas were all kind of mashed up together. I didn’t know if there would be any legal issues involved in publishing a book that had started out as a collaboration but failed. Somebody referred me to a publishing lawyer online who did pro bono work, and I typed my question into his contact box. I was gobsmacked a) when he called me back on the phone and b) when he revealed he was actually Harlan Ellison’s lawyer. (Check out Harlan Ellison’s Wikipedia page if you want a wild ride in SF history, but this was about the time Harlan Ellison was involved in a lot of fights with online providers over digital rights.)

So, here’s me, wearing a worn out 90’s flannel shirt covered with spit-up, trying to amuse my toddler and my infant so they’ll be quiet while I talk on the phone to Harlan Ellison’s lawyer, who is kind enough to help out an unpublished nobody with crying children in the background because he likes to give to the community.

Anyway, Harlan Ellison’s Lawyer told me to write out a contract saying exactly how we would divide things up and then to sign it and notarize it.

So, that’s what we did.  I found a copy in that box in the attic. It’s crinkled and corrected using white-out (does anyone know what white-out is anymore?), just an old, yellowing piece of paper. But I really loved the book my friend and I had started making together. Cutting out main characters and plotlines felt like performing surgery on my soul. I couldn’t face the book after that, so I switched to a different story—a woman with a metal arm had recently walked into my head, and I thought she might have something interesting to say about that arm. (Her story became Fortune’s Fool, so I was right.)

Fortune's Fool, SPFBO5 finalist

Around this time, I joined Del Rey’s Writer Workshop (later the Online Writer’s Workshop). Several big names in SFF have come out of the Workshop, including Jim Butcher, Elizabeth Bear and (I believe) Mark Lawrence and N.K. Jemisin. I learned an enormous amount about writing during my time there, about craft but also how to see myself as a professional writer. I completed a draft of Fortune’s Fool I thought was “finished” (I still thought of revising as line editing back then) and gingerly picked up Sergei’s book again—still called Storm Clouds.

I once saw Robert Jordan’s early plans for the Wheel of Time series described as the “deathmetal version of Wheel of Time” (That article is definitely worth a read even if you’re not a Wheel of Time fan, just to get a perspective on how much can change in a project from idea to publication

I don’t know if you could call v 1.0 of Storm Clouds “The Deathmetal Version”, but it was pretty damn dark. One of my readers handed back the first two parts of the book and told me, skeptically, “I don’t know, Angela, these should be my people, but it’s just dark and more dark; there isn’t even a moment where the characters bond around a campfire!”

(I made sure to put a campfire scene in the published version.)

Writing v 1.0 was how I learned that drama is not actually traumatic events happening to characters, but the way in which characters direct their own stories in the face of it—even in very small ways. This is why there’s a sequence about Kyrra grappling, one-armed, with a water bucket in Fortune’s Fool, and it’s also why I chunked v 1.0 into a closet and rewrote it from scratch years later. Main characters need some kind of agency. V 1.0 was full of lyrical writing and angsty, dark, broody, and sad stuff, a lot of descriptions of eye color and Sergei’s mother as a ghost attached to him forever in a kind of reincarnation thing popular in fantasy at the time (ahem), but none of that will carry a protagonist whose decisions don’t affect the story, ever, especially if the story is structured to be character-driven.

A brief aside about agency here, because the way I use the concept is different than the way I often hear it talked about. I’m not talking about characters doing huge things like breaking out of prisons, winning knife fights, etc. I often feel like action heroes have the least agency because stuff just keeps happening to them. All they do is react to it. When I talk about agency, I mean that the character can make decisions that affect the way the plot moves. Sometimes big, awful things happen to people and to characters, it’s true. But maybe the change in the story comes down to whether they will share a cup of tea with someone who is supposedly their enemy. Maybe it’s whether they decide to say I love you or to keep their words inside and walk away. Maybe it’s if they keep winding that damn bucket out of the well or just let it fall back in and give up. That’s what I mean by agency.

I used my own agency in writing this version to do something really stupid—I sent a partial to an editor before I was finished writing the book.

If you are interested in trad publishing—do not do this. I repeat, do not do this. I got excited because an editor had turned down Fortune’s Fool with the words, “I would be interested in seeing anything else you have.” As it turned out, I did have something—I had the beginning of Storm Clouds Before It Was Dreams. I figured it would be months before the editor got back to me and for sure I would have the book done by then. Publishing moves on a glacial time scale, right?

Wrong. She got back to me in three weeks with a request for a full manuscript.

Did I mention I had just found out I was pregnant?

I panicked, but I was determined not to flake on this. Unfortunately, I was also nauseous 24/7, I spent a few days in the hospital with a retained gall stone, and I had two other little kids to care for. By the time I finished the book and packed all 200,000 words of it into a box to send to New York (this was before email submissions), I never wanted to look at a computer screen again. My third child’s birth was difficult and early and he spent time in the NICU, my writer’s group was fizzling, I felt like I had missed a year of my children’s life as my husband took them to the park, to the zoo, to do fun things while I hunched over my keyboard… I didn’t know what I was doing all this hard work for. For the money? (Ok, that was a joke.) For an editor to tell me I had done a good job? For an editor to tell me I had done a bad job? Or for an editor to never send me any word at all…

I had lost my true north. Writing had started out for me as playing in the sandbox, but this just felt like work with very little payoff. I tried to go onto a few more projects—published a few short stories and tried to start on Book 2—but by the time my twins were born in 2005, I was exhausted, and writing wasn’t fun anymore. So, I quit.

I didn’t actually quit writing. I tried blogging and sometimes characters would bug me enough to get through my block, and I would sit down and scrawl pieces of story out on printer paper, usually in magic marker to get around my internal editor. As time went on (and I had more children) I would think about the manuscripts in my closet. The idea of trunking them forever made me sad but rewriting them seemed like one more daunting task in a sea of daunting tasks I was already drowning in. As a kid who had grown up trying to escape my family, I wanted to make my kids’ home environment different. In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how he moved his desk out of the center of his office so he could make writing part of his family life, not the most important thing in it. I wanted a life like that, too (I would not turn down his sales figures either), but I couldn’t figure out how to balance the two.

Finally, in 2015 I dragged v 1.0 out of the closet and read it over. I still loved the world and the characters—Cam showed up in v 1.0 and he was definitely a keeper—but with many years of distance and a lot more reading under my belt, I could see exactly why my reader had said the book was just dark and darker. By 2015, I’d also grown up a bit myself. The first draft had been colored by depression and anxiety that I now had a better handle on. I wanted to write a book that was more hopeful at its core.

But the biggest change was that with eighteen years of motherhood under my belt, the original plot in which Sergei’s mother shows up as a complicated and somewhat vengeful spirit annoyed me. I’d moved past the dead mother trope, even though (speaking as probably one of the only people you’ll ever meet who has actually lost their mother in childbirth) books almost never get it right, relegating it to a piece of backstory simply to indicate the character has experienced Adversity. 

I found that after being a mother myself (I had eight kids at this point), I wanted to write about a mother who was more—who had done something heroic to save her children—a mother who might in fact still be alive somewhere—and a child who had grown old enough (and stubborn enough) that he wasn’t just going to accept the narrative of reality he’d been handed without poking it to see if it was true. I wanted to write a story not of everything falling apart, but of Sergei struggling to put his broken family back together.

And here’s the actual thing I feel books get wrong about characters who lose their mothers young; they assume that if the character can’t remember their mother, it’s just an issue of backstory. My mother was conscious for about twenty minutes after I was born and died less than twenty-four hours later. And yet, her loss has affected every single day of my life, and I still grieve her absence in my life and always will. It’s just that where other people have memories, I have a giant blank space, filled mostly by what-ifs and survivor’s guilt. Mothers matter, and I wanted to show that.

All these thoughts swirled around my head as I read the book, and they led me to examine all the relationships in the manuscript.

The core relationship of v 1.0 was between Sergei and his girlfriend (not Maddie, but more on that in a minute). That relationship was strained at the beginning of the book, and going through the portal to a dark world with no campfires broke it entirely. The girlfriend had a POV, but didn’t seem to do much, so I cut her out entirely (she sort of resurfaces in Dreams as Sergei’s ex-girlfriend, but differently). Because I wanted hope in the face of darkness, I decided that the interaction between Sergei and Cam deserved more space—it was fun and engaging and I didn’t know why I hadn’t spent more time on it in the first place. As soon as I focused on Sergei and Cam as best friends, their friendship became the central relationship in the book. Then Maddie showed up out of nowhere, bashing in the hood of a car with a tree branch, and suddenly I also had the beginnings of a romance, not the end of one. I felt like I had finally found the keys that would let me discover the real story.

Then I got pregnant again.The draft sat there unfinished through my pregnancy and after the birth of my ninth child, who was born with Down Syndrome and a serious heart defect. We were all suddenly pitched into uncharted territory, caring for a medically fragile and disabled infant, and that came with a steep learning curve. Abby had heart surgery in the summer of 2016, but it wasn’t until the one year anniversary of her surgery that I was emotionally able to think about writing again. And then what I thought was, I’m too old. It’s too late. I should face reality and give up. Writing was a child’s dream, but that’s all it was—just a dream.

Then I burst into tears.

Reader, that was my dark moment, when I came closest to actually giving up—but it was also the moment I rediscovered my true north. I’d given up on writing because I had been pushed into the weeds by all the “shoulds” of publishing at that time. But the real reason I wrote was because I had a bunch of characters in my head keeping me company. I liked to learn their stories by writing them down, and I wanted to share that with people, the way writers of all the books I loved had shared their stories with me.

I’ve never understood why some critics use “escapist” as a put-down. Books have always been a necessary space for me, where I’m free to think my own thoughts, experience my own emotions, to sit with myself and to travel outside myself at the same time, to learn about and connect with human beings in all their beautiful, ugly, joyful, sad, and funny experience, even when I felt trapped and isolated. Especially when I felt trapped and isolated.

I wanted my books to provide this kind of space for other people. I couldn’t throw my books in my closet a la Emily Dickinson and be happy. I knew I had to try again at publishing.

Starting over was hard, though—like trying to push a stuck and rusty wheel back into motion. I set myself a tiny goal at first—just open the notebook every day. And then, I would just write down scraps of imagery. But soon enough, words started pouring out. By spring of 2018 I had somehow finished a 300,000 word manuscript— v 2.0 of Storm Clouds, but still not Dreams.

I joined Twitter in the fall of 2017 because I’d heard authors needed a social media platform, but also because I’d been away from publishing a long time and I needed a way to research the business. At the time I didn’t know enough to decide to stick with trad or go indie. Indie publishing had changed so much in the decade I’d been gone that all I knew was that it had changed. A tweet about SPFBO sent me down a rabbit hole that led me to where I am today.

Quenby Olson’s excellent and moody supernatural fantasy The Half-Killed was the first indie book I read. From there I went on to K.S. Villoso’s books—and at that point it was abundantly clear that indie fantasy was an exciting and vibrant place to be. My word count on v 2.0 was shooting upward daily, a 200k draft of Fortune’s Fool was still sitting in my closet; I didn’t want to put my big books off to write something shorter to query because I was already forty-five. Even though I now knew indie authors and they all seemed to have actually lived through the experience of publishing their books (and even to—gasp—enjoy it!), the decision to go indie was really a leap of faith. And then—I finished my giant manuscript, realized it read like more than one book, and decided to let it sit while I revised the more complete Fortune’s Fool for publication instead.


We’re catching up to the present here, and what most people would consider the “process of publication”. We need to jump from 2018 to 2020 now. Fortune’s Fool is an SPFBO finalist, I’ve just sent its sequel off for its first editing and beta pass, and the world is in lockdown. The end of SPFBO anxiety combined with daily doom-scrolling is brutal. I need a break from the Eterean Empire books, so I pull out v 2.0 and start splitting it into three books so I can (insert air quotes) “make them shorter”.

I thought I’d just mess around with book 1 until Fool’s Promise came back from the editor and then I’d switch back to Eterea. Little did I know Fool’s Promise would be with the editor for six months (again--2020) and when it came back it would need a whole lot of work. By then I’d almost finished making the first section of v 2.0 into its own real book, so I took the time to finish it and send it off to my beta readers.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll realize this is the fourth time I’ve tried to write this book, three times from scratch, and—I’m not exactly sure how to categorize this draft. The draft that eventually turned into Dreams started life as a 70k chunk of story and survives in the beginning and the ending of the published book. My first try at feeling out the middle of the book put the word count up to 106k, and in my first blush of giddy optimism, I thought I might have a short novel on my hands, finally. But something felt like it was missing, and I finally decided it was context. I added secondary world point of views to illustrate the Rai world, as well as first person POV sections from Sergei as a way to illuminate the plot but mostly to build up the history of his friendship with Cam.

I made that decision because I wanted the ending of the book to hit hard, and I didn’t think it would do that if readers didn’t know exactly how deep their friendship went. But also, it was because of KD Edwards’ Tarot Sequence books. I absolutely adore KD Edwards’ characters; I would read a whole story about them writing a grocery list. Rune and Brand are basically brothers and their banter is fantastic, but the way you know the strength of their relationship is because they’re shown together in scene after scene in the first book of the series. This forms a really strong foundation to build on for the rest of the series. I didn’t think I could get that many of the right kind of scenes out of Cam and Sergei in the present narrative of Dreams, and anyway, Cam and Sergei have had something difficult in their past, a rift that they’re feeling their way around as they patch things up. But Sergei has memory problems, so… what happened? What was the rift? I thought I probably needed to show Sergei combing through his memories to figure it out for plot purposes, but in the process, I hoped to also show just how close Sergei and Cam were before The Thing drove this wedge between them.

The first-person scenes are my personal favorite part of the book. I loved writing them. Even though I’ve been writing this book forever, I had never written in Sergei’s first-person POV before, and the sequences just seemed to fall out of my pen. (I’ve graduated from ballpoint to fountain pen, but I still like to at least sketch my scenes out by hand before I type them in.) The Halloween sequence was enormous fun to write, with its combination of relationship trouble, banter, action, general creepiness, and an opportunity to include a Michael Myers goalie mask that I couldn’t pass up.

That pass netted me another 100k, which is as if I wrote a whole book onto the book I already had. And now, here we are in the actual process of publication. My process as it’s settled out usually ends up something like this:
1. Write the book. Know some things won’t make sense until the end but put them in anyway. Have as much fun with this stage as possible.
2. Read through the manuscript, making comments on post-its for revisions. (One of the best things I ever did was take Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course, which taught me a lot about how to analyze my own work.)
3. Revise the book (usually making it bigger by fleshing out characters and relationships, but also turning up the volume on the drama).
4. Make a line editing pass to smooth out the book.
5. Send to readers and/or my developmental editor and/or sensitivity readers.
6. Bite my nails while they read it but try to act cool.
7. Receive the feedback. Realize there is way more work to be done than I thought.
8. Weep.
9. Get back to work doing another big revision. Usually, there’s some cutting involved, but also more adding and a lot of scenes and chapter shuffling. Readers always have questions that need to be answered, and there are always more connections to make to strengthen the plot.
10. Send chunks or the entire manuscript to readers again. Bite my nails again.
11. Read through their feedback, throw myself on the floor, and say, “I’m just not as smart as they think I am! I’m not smart enough to write this book!”
12. Get back up and take care of it. Maybe after doing more research.
13. Finally figure out why I put those things I didn’t understand in the rough draft and get excited about the book again.
14. Send to copy edit and collapse.
15. Copy edits come back adding roughly a million commas, because what are commas, really. Usually, there’s a plot hole or two or some confusing character development to clear up, too.
16. After the copy edit pass, I’ve spent my editing budget, so I proof myself, using ProWriting Aid. Sometimes this works better than others.
17. Format the book in Vellum and proof again. And usually again.
18. Hold my breath as I upload the file to Amazon. Suffer an anxiety attack until the first reader downloads after release and confirms that there are, indeed, words in the file.

I should mention that while all that is going on, my cover artist is working on the cover and sometimes I get lovely, unexpected art DMs. Brad Bergman did the cover for Dreams, and he’s amazing to work with. The cover process goes kind of like this: I ramble about vague ideas and Brad translates all of this into pencil sketches, I pick the sketch I like best, and we talk about modifications, Brad does his magic, shows me the art and we talk about modifications and typography, he does more magic… and I mess up the page count for the physical copy templates a bunch of times.

So, that’s the basic process. Dreams, of course, was more complicated because… I don’t know? I did break my foot in the middle of revisions. But also the Lake? Entropists? Or, well…


The first roadblock I hit was with my original worldbuilding with the Miroko. I was originally trying to draw from Iroquois history or lore because the geography of the Rai world is basically North American, but my sensitivity reader suggested I take the characters in a direction I didn’t really want to follow, plot and character-wise. So, I tore all the Miroko worldbuilding down, leaned into the fantasy and magic and the Cold War analogues, and built it back up again differently. (This was when The Four came into the book along with Marinen).

New worldbuilding meant plot and character changes. Originally, Ináwé’s POV belonged to an already existing character who just didn’t work with Niko. After messing around with some exploratory notebook scenes from later in the series, I replaced her with Ináwé. I tried to write Ináwé according to the purpose I thought she “ought” to serve in the plot—as a Miroko insider who was just trying to fit in, to hide her Tarani heritage, and whose duty would involve hunting Niko down.

She didn’t like this very much. More than one reader (actually, all my readers) told me insider Ináwé was boring. Her POV was full of infodumps, it was dry, she didn’t do anything to move the plot… I had already cut one POV from the book (Tarani Lord Coridon’s, if you’re interested. I folded all the important information into Jisel’s POV as he interacts with Gensen, Coridon’s bondbrother and spymaster, which was an interesting exercise that taught me a lot.) I seriously considered cutting Ináwé’s, too. I couldn’t seem to get her sections right no matter how hard I tried. But when I looked at the trajectory of the series, I realized I needed her, and not only for her relationship with Niko.

My editor likes to meet on Zoom to talk over changes and during one of our chats, she said something that really stuck with me. We were talking about themes and how I was trying to make sure the book hung together by focusing mostly on the theme of unconditional love. She said, “In order to show a theme, you show what supports the theme, but you also illustrate it by including its opposite.”

A little bell went off in my head. As the orphaned daughter of an outlawed Miroko exile and a Tarani woman, Ináwé is given conditional love by most of the Miroko people she lives among; they set impossible standards of acceptance for her which she can never meet. I realized I had gotten Ináwé all wrong—at some point, she would have realized she could never fit in, and she’d probably spent a lot of her life giving everyone in authority the middle finger. My editor also suggested making her section go back in time from the present even further to include more of the lore about the Miroko/Tarani divide. Oddly, once I leaned harder into the nonlinear character of Ináwé’s sections, they suddenly came alive. When the book was released in October I was stunned (relieved and happy) to hear from a couple of reviewers that the epic fantasy sections I had banged my head against for so long were their favorite parts, and in particular they liked Ináwé. She’s not your typical “strong female” character, but I feel pretty passionately that female characters should be allowed to be as messy and complicated as male characters are.


All right, so now we’re up to release, or close to release, after copy edits and proofing. For Fortune’s Fool, this part of the process was relatively simple—I didn’t make many changes to the copy-edited manuscript, and being a bit of a mouse and a debut mouse at that, I only contacted four people for ARCS. Dreams was more chaotic because… well, I mentioned that Lake thing right?

I released the book at the end of October 2022, but October was a huge medical nightmare for my family. Kids were sick, my husband and youngest had surgeries that weren’t planned when I set the release date, and then my youngest got RSV and ended up in the hospital. I was scrambling to meet a deadline I’d made that didn’t allow for all this margin of error. Fellow indie writer Krystle Matar very kindly took over my ARC distribution, and somehow everything released (with actual words in the file!) and I took a really deep breath.

Waiting for the first reviews is always nerve-wracking. As an author, you can only control the inputs, you can’t control outcomes. You write the best book you can, make decisions based on whatever skills and knowledge you possess at that moment, and then you throw the book out into the world to make its own way.

But after Dreams released, I couldn’t dispel the nagging fear that I should have gone over the text one more time, considering the chaotic conditions in which I’d been operating. When I was preparing the paperback files (and waiting and waiting for Ingram Spark to approve them) a friend emailed me some typos she’d found, and I thought, you know, maybe I ought to give this a read before it’s committed to paper.

The beauty of being indie is that when you realize there’s a problem, you can correct it quickly instead of having to bring the wheels of a giant bureaucratic machine to a screeching halt. And it is a truth long acknowledged that the best way to find mistakes in your own book is to read it when it comes out in paperback.

That’s what I did with my proof copy. I went back through the text, correcting any more typos that had slipped through. I tightened up the prose that bugged me and cut a chapter and a few other scenes and pieces of scenes that seemed to drag the pace in the middle too much. I’d flag the places I wanted to change with post-its, and then the next day I’d make the changes.

Reading through the book was actually a nice experience. I write the books I like to read. Being able to curl up on the couch with my paperback the way I read books written by other people made it feel actually instead of theoretically real. When I got to the end of that read-through, I felt like I had finally done the best job I could. I uploaded the files again—asked Brad to tweak the template, because with the lower word count, I was able to make a paperback that used groundwood paper and didn’t weigh a metric ton—and I let the printing process move forward.

So—is that the end? Well, not really. The business/marketing part of writing is just as much a marathon as the process of creation. I took some time off this winter for mental health (and physical health, because after three years of avoiding it, we finally got Covid), but publication isn’t really the end, it’s just the point in a book’s journey where you shift from creation to support. And you pour your heart and soul into the next book, and the cycle goes on.


Angela Boord writes giant fantasy books that like to blend genres--from romance and historical to espionage and epic and beyond—and explore character in all its messy glory. Her debut book FORTUNE'S FOOL, a twisty, Renaissance-inspired historical fantasy, placed second in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blogoff (SPFBO5) and was nominated for a Stabby in 2019. Angela lives in northern Mississippi with her husband and children, where she writes most of her books at the kitchen table surrounded by Nerf guns and Legos.