Superheroes and Fairy Tales: My 2021 Publishing Road Map

New year, new projects!

If you’ve seen my Works in Progress page, you may have noticed that I have quite a few for someone with only one or two releases a year. And that’s because I’ve been saving things up for a (hopefully!) prolific 2021. This includes more in the Red and Black universe and an exciting new series.

So let’s get into that!

Winter- Name change and “The First Date Curse”– For reasons that I’ve already gotten into on this blog, I will be changing my name in 2021. To be honest, with everything on the publishing horizon, it just seemed smart to get that out of the way early. So by the end of January, I hope to have my entire catalog turned over to Nancy O’Toole. If you’re in the small minority of people who buy print versions of my books, alphabetizing them should still be easy peasy.

My first release under this new name comes in the form of a short story, “The First Date Curse,” which stars Dawn’s best friend, Sunshine. While I love writing Sunshine, the fact that she’s a normie means that she’s usually restricted to the sidelines. With “The First Date Curse,” I was able to put her front in center in a fun story that introduces a brand new hero. “The First Date Curse” will be published this winter as part of an anthology put out by Superhero-fiction.com. The anthology’s focus is superhero romance, and my contribution has a nice mixture of love and action. Once I have the preorder link, I’ll be sure to share it everywhere.

Spring- Past and Future– Spring will bring the fourth book in the Red and Black series, the recently announced Past and Future! If you like darkest timeline scenarios and time travel, you’ll love Dawn’s accidental trip to a dystopian version of Bailey City. I had so much fun writing Past and Future, which really raises the stakes. Also, more so than any other volume in the series, it’s really Alex’s book. To get into the reasons why would be too spoilery, but I hope that everyone enjoys it.

Cover art and preorder link coming soon! Eeeee!!

Summer and Fall- The Twin Kingdoms Quartet– Now we’re getting into the brand-spanking new stuff. 2021 will see my breaking into a new genre: fairy tale retellings. Sure, I did dip my toe into things in 2020, but this year I plan to fully dive in with a novella series. Four books are planned, with at least three of those coming out next year.

Like many people, fairy tales were my first introduction to the fantasy genre. I have fond memories of reading “The Wild Swans” over and over again from a fat anthology of children’s stories. I remember being introduced to a wide variety of tales from “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” to “Brother and Sister” by watching the Grimm’s fairy tale anime. And of course, there was Disney, who’s versions of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Cinderella” have become the default version in my mind.

But one thing that I’ve noticed, as an adult that still loves fairy tales, is that most of the retellings I’ve come across still star kids and teenagers. I read one last year that starred a twenty-year-old, which felt like quite a twist. This makes sense when you consider many of the original tales and the age when most people are introduced to them. But does it have to be that way? Do our princesses always need to be fresh-faced youths?

The amazing Twitter account, Into the Forest Dark (@elliottblack3), recently tweeted that “Fairy tales are not about innocence but the loss of innocence through trauma. The protagonists travel through the perilous world of the fantastic, which they have to overcome, in order to find healing and transformation,” a statement which I wholeheartedly agree with and perhaps explains another reason why fairy tales are so often associated with coming of age.

But that transformation is not limited to adolescence. We all have been through trauma and have experienced loss during this pandemic, whether that’s the loss of loved ones, the loss of financial security, or the loss of vital life experiences. And that’s not even counting the rest of the trials and tribulations that came with 2020 and those that have yet to come. But just like the heroes in our favorite fairy tales, that loss does not need to drag us down forever. We can be healed and transformed.

This summer, I will launch The Twin Kingdoms, my fairy tale novella series, with a “Beauty and the Beast” telling. But my Beauty is someone who already has some life experiences behind her. Rose is a spitfire, a tough-minded 30-something widow who’s life has been forever transformed by the war that has gripped The Twin Kingdom for nine years. To set her late husband’s soul to rest, she must travel into enemy territory. In a land filled with people who despise her, she is trapped in an enchanted manor with a hideous and secretive beast, a scarred soul with his own past burdens.

I can’t wait for you to meet Rose and Kris. I can’t wait for you to meet everyone! In fact, I will be looking for places and ideas to promote this new series to make sure that it can find its audience, people like me that never stopped loving fairy tales.

But as I’m gathering ideas for that, I’m going to be focusing on promoting Past and Future and the Red and Black series.  Keep an eye on this blog (or join my newsletter) for more information on all my projects.

2021 is going to be quite the year.

2020: The Good Parts Version

I’m not gonna lie. 2020 was a shit show. On top of the pandemic and other national and worldwide issues, it was, bar none, the most difficult year of my life. I’ve already blogged about some of the reasons why, so I won’t go back into it again. This post is about the opposite: highlighting all of the good that happened in between the suck.

And you know what? There was more of that than I remembered!

Jumping Into Podcasting with One For All

I started 2020 by releasing something completely new. One for All: A My Hero Academia Podcast is my first foray into the podcasting medium, and it’s still releasing weekly episodes almost a year later. I’ve learned a lot about podcasting, from getting comfortable behind the mic to editing audio, and I’m excited to see what the future brings.

Visiting the Readfield Community Library

The library reading is something pretty much every writer dreams (or dreads) of, and my first was extra special. For eight years, I was the librarian at the Readfield Community Library, and getting to return there in February to share my fiction was really wonderful. I loved getting to reconnect with all of my former patrons and board members and look forward to doing so again in a post-pandemic world.

Red and Black goes Silver and Gold

Sometimes unfortunate things have good results. In 2020, I lost my job for a few weeks. As a result, I was able to publish my third novel in May, a whole month earlier than expected. Silver and Gold, the latest volume in the Red and Black series, got to finally delve into Dawn’s forgotten memories and provided me with a fun structure that challenged me as a writer. Perhaps releasing a dark book wasn’t the smartest idea for a dark time, but just like Dawn managed to escape from SynergyCorp, I know that we all can find a way out of our own prisons.

The Superhero Fiction Virtual Conference

Apparently, recording a podcast every week filled me with silly ideas because this past May, I ended up participating in an online video conference, which included two live streamed panels put out by superhero-fiction.com! I really enjoyed getting to chat with my fellow superhero fiction writers. Doing these panels actually inspired me to do other live streams, including a live reading and a superhero fashion panel.

Revisting The Lady of the Watchtower

A few years back, I published several short stories in online magazines. This August, I gathered them together with a couple of shorts I had published on this blog to create my own mini collection, The Lady of the Watchtower. I’m not gonna lie. This sold pretty poorly. Still, the people who have read it seem to really connect with the stories. I’m just happy to have them out in the world.

Self Published Fantasy Month

2020 was a weird year for blogging. I started strong out the gate in the beginning (especially when I was furloughed!), but as things got more and more trying, I found any reflective type of writing to be an emotional burden. Then Self Published Fantasy Month came around, which was all about honoring great works of self-pubbed fantasy. I had so much fun reading wonderful books, and blogging about them, that it became a welcome distraction from everything that stressed me out so much. I look forward to taking part in this challenge again next year.

King of Hearts: An Experiment in serialization

During October, I serialized King of Hearts, a steampunk retelling of Bluebeard, on my blog, which ended up being a really interesting experience that taught me a lot about serialization. If you like your fairy tales a little dark and twisted, it can still be read for free on my blog.

So there you go! Seven good things that came out of 2020. And that’s not even counting all the fun stuff I got to write that will be coming out in the future. For more on that, check back in the blog in about a week to see a list of what I hope to publish in 2021.

Get ready for Past and Future, Red and Black #4

His name is Forecaster.

With the ability to see the future, Forecaster has carefully guided the lives of many. But when Dawn finally meets him, his news is troubling. In five years, she is destined to die, and Bailey City will be destroyed in the battle. To prevent this outcome, Forecaster shows her a vision of the resulting wreckage.

And then something goes wrong.

Trapped in the future, Dawn will have to navigate a disturbing version of her home, where empowered people are hunted and enslaved by SynergyCorp, and every remaining citizen of Bailey City fears one man above all else:

Faultline. 


I’m so happy to announce that the fourth book in the Red and Black series will be coming out this spring! The novel is currently in the hands of my editor and she will be digging in during the month of January. On top of that, my artist is hard at work bringing a brand new character to life.

Past and Future (as you might have guessed from the lack of colors in the title) really represents a turning point in the Red and Black series, where the stakes are raised and our characters have a whole new host of problems to deal with. It also allowed me to play with some of my favorite types of stories, darkest timelines and time travel. As we move into 2021, expect to hear a lot more about Past and Future: a cover reveal, release date, preorder, ARC access, and more. I’m so excited about this book and can’t wait to release it to the world.

Before I go, I just want to thank you to everyone who has supported me, given the heavier subject matter of my last post. A lot of people saw it and reached out to me, which was incredibly kind. I wish I could say that things have improved since then, but given that I lost an uncle to COVID and got in a very minor car accident (I wasn’t even in the vehicle when it happened, and have an appointment to get it fixed up), it’s safe to say that 2020 was intent on throwing a couple more challenge at me on its way out.

But 2021 is right around the corner, and I’m intent on making it a really special year for my fiction. Keep an eye on this blog for more information on everything that’s coming your way.

Everything I haven’t been talking about

Trigger Warning: Saaaaaaad. Also, long.

I almost drowned at the age of six.

I remember the sequence of events so clearly. I was visiting my godparents, who had a big beautiful house by a lake. I was off with my cousins, including a few that were playing on a small boat. For whatever reason, I really wanted to be on that boat. So I jumped from a nearby dock with hopes of landing on it.

Only, I missed, and the water was a lot deeper than expected.

I was fully submerged, eyes wide open, staring across the murky depths. And I’ll never forget the feeling that came after. That all of my stability was gone, and I was completely incapable of finding solid land again.

This is exactly how I have felt for the past few months, ever since my spouse asked me for a divorce. So if you’re wondering why things have been a little quiet here, now you know.

There’s a lot of intense emotions that come with the disillusionment of a seventeen-year relationship, the primary ones for me being sadness, guilt, and a lack of stability. Most people can understand being sad. I feel like so many people have been in a similar state in 2020, even if it wasn’t for the same reason. The experience of not being able to stop crying. The melancholy that never seems to let go. Even in the moments when you manage to find your old self, latching onto something you enjoy (a good book, a favorite TV show, talking with old friends), only to have that sucked away once the book is closed, the show is over, the conversation finished. In times when you would normally be content, you just end up sinking back down. The lingering worry in the back of your head, “Is this just who I am now?”

Guilt has been more complicated. I have a tendency to be, as my therapist has pointed out, a little hard on myself. It is far too easy to fixate on what I have done wrong and shoulder all responsibility. I don’t say this to make me look good, because it isn’t good. As my friend Kim has pointed out, this has more to do with control than anything else. If I only focus on my own mistakes, it gives me the illusion that the situation is still within my control. Unfortunately, it only leaves me with the false belief that I am solely responsible for sabotaging the most important relationship in my life, rather than the sad truth that things probably would have fallen apart no matter what.

This brings me to that lack of stability again, the feeling that I am once more, over my head in water, with no way of getting myself out. I don’t know how to live without the person who has been by my side for virtually all of my adult life. I mean, who the hell does that even make me anymore? Do I go back to being the awkward, emotionally overwhelmed teenager I was before? It certainly feels like that sometimes.

As a lifelong introvert, it is not in my nature to reach out to others when I am in pain. In fact, the opposite is often true. Instead of asking for help, I self isolate. As a result, I haven’t told too many people the truth. None of my coworkers know, and the circle of trust made up by the few friends and family members I have let in is small. I’ve found that when someone does learn what’s going on, I tend to get one of two reactions. Shock and/or anger on my behalf.

I am fortunate that these people have been nothing but supportive. That regardless of their relationship with my spouse, they want to make sure that I’m okay. But the anger and frustration that comes from some can catch me off guard, even if it makes sense given the circumstances. How else are you supposed to react when someone is hurting a person you care about? But I sometimes wonder if these more confrontational responses are solely due to the situation or more due to my own reactions. When your marriage falls apart, you are supposed to be furious. To throw your partner’s shit on the lawn and change the locks when they’re not looking.  But instead, while I have often been frustrated, I’ve mostly just been sad, and I wonder if that’s harder for people to deal with.

Another reason I haven’t told many people, specifically my readers, online friends, or listeners of the podcast?

Bigots.

I know that there is a 99.999% chance that this post will not go beyond my small circle of influence. In a world of blue checkmarks, I am (quite comfortably) Not a Big Deal. But I know how things can slip out to the wider world, which is the reason why I have (and still am) burying the lede on this whole situation rather than go for a more clickbait headline. Because well over a year ago, my husband came home from work and told me that she was a transgender woman. And how no matter how much I love her with all my heart and desperately wanted to keep my marriage together, things still ended up falling apart.

There is no hate in me over this. How could there room for it with all of the sadness, guilt (which has mostly settled to shame), and the feeling that my life falling apart? Sometimes people just change, and what they want on the other side is also going to change. Sometimes, one of those changes is they no longer want to be married to you.

I have not blogged about this because I am worried about the type of person who might come across it. Not family and friends who understand the emotional complexity of it all, but at a particular type of person, who might be tempted to use situations like mine as evidence for why transgender people are “bad.” To them, the only way to exist is in an endless war of “us versus them” or “cis versus trans people,” failing to realize that pain can be found on both sides of my particular situation. That the real villain is the fact that we live in a world that doesn’t allow people to be themselves if it falls beyond a specific set of narrow parameters. And that this whole situation, the guilt, the sadness, the lack of stability, could have been solved more than seventeen years ago if [Deadname] had always been comfortable living as Annabeth.

To be honest, when I originally envisioned writing a post like this, I thought I would be on the other side of it. It’s how I usually deal with things that are overwhelming and painful. I keep it all for myself until I have found a way out. Because it’s so much easier to tell people that “I was hurting, but now I’m better” than it is to say that I still have bad days and that even my “good ones” can involve weepy interludes and shots of crippling fear. That I am still beneath those waters.

As I write this entry at 3AM (whoops! 4 now!) the day after Thanksgiving, the world is anxiously waiting for a vaccination for COVID-19. I even saw a magazine cover that depicted a syringe as a literal light at the end of the tunnel. And the chatter is in the process of shifting from”how long can this pandemic last?” to finally seeing a way out.

There are days when I feel like I can glimpse the way out of my grief, but it feels even farther away than a vaccine that I will be one of the last people to get as a (thankfully) healthy woman in her mid-30s. And on more days than I’m willing to admit, I can’t see a way out at all.

But I am trying to move forward. To get used to living alone. To the financial instability that comes off a one-income household and how that might impact my ability to publish beyond next year. To the overwhelming set of changes in front of me. The actual divorce proceedings. Changing my name. Changing my name on all of my books. Having to tell everyone, from coworkers to my goddamn dentist, that they will have to fix my name in their stupid files because I couldn’t keep my marriage together.

And now we’re back to shame.

There’s a book that I used to read as a kid, called Fortunately by Remy Charlip. It’s a book about opposites, where a man goes to a birthday party. On the way, unfortunate things happen, including a bonkers sequence involving a not so successful plane trip. Fortunately, something good always happens to save him. My dad must have read this book to me a hundred times when I was a kid, and as an adult, I’ve used it as a metaphor to see the world. Unfortunate things are going to happen, but fortunate events are always on the horizon.

And boy, 2020 has really tested this theory.

There are some days when I just can’t believe that things will ever be right again. But even with the evidence to the contrary, I need to keep pushing forward, need to keep the faith. Because I clearly didn’t drown back when I was six. For some reason, which I will never understand, I kept my hands sticking up and above the water, leading some neighborhood kid who, after seeing me fall in, came over and quickly fished me out, bringing me back to solid ground.

I need to trust that I can find that again.

Note #1: If you have also discovered that your spouse is trans, I hope this entry does not make you feel defeated. Just because this is how things turned out for me doesn’t mean that it is the only solution. I highly recommend reading Amanda Jette Knox’s Love Lives Here for a much different outcome.

Note #2- Because tone is so easy to misinterpret on the internet, I want to re-emphasize that I am not angry with Anna over this. The goal is to remain close friends. I hope that everyone will support her on her journey. 

Add Some Superhero Fiction to your Cyber Monday Shopping!

Hey everyone! Just wanted to pop in quickly to let you know about superhero-fiction.com’s wonderful ebook sale and how you can get the entire Red and Black series for less than two dollars.

Superhero-fiction.com is a great resource for finding out more about published works of superhero fiction. For the past few years, they’ve done a Black Friday/Cyber Monday style sale where they feature a ton of cheap-to-free ebooks. Check out this year’s list. While you’re there, I hope you’ll consider the Red and Black series, my series about a super fangirl turned superhero. Book one, Red and Black, is free, and book two and three, Black and Blue and Silver and Gold, are just 99 cents each. All three are part of kindle unlimited.

Enjoy your Cyber Monday shopping!

A Scary Start to Fall: September and October in Review

September Posts

  1. My First Short Story Collection and Prepping for Self Published Fantasy Month: August In Review
  2. Self Published Fantasy Month: My TBR for September 2020
  3. International Giveaway for The Lady of the Watchtower
  4. Self Published Fantasy Month: My Recommended Reads
  5. Self Published Fantasy Month: Interview with Lou Wilham
  6. What I Read for Self Published Fantasy Month: 2020 Edition

October Posts

  1. Introducing King of Hearts: A Steampunk Fairy Tale
  2. King of Hearts: A Steampunk Fairy Tale, Chapters 4-6
  3. King of Hearts: A Steampunk Fairy Tale, Chapters 7-9
  4. King of Hearts: A Steampunk Fairy Tale, Chapters 10-11

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I didn’t post a September in Review post. And that wasn’t because I forgot. Around the time I was getting ready to type up my post, everything fell apart.

Meet Eleven, one of my two cats. He’s a mischievous yet affectionate fellow that recently turned six. We’ve had him since he was a kitten, so by now, it’s pretty obvious what “normal” behavior is for him. And in the last week of September, he wasn’t acting like himself at all.

One morning, when I was exercising, I heard him yowl from the other room. Assuming that he was lonely, I went over to give him a pet. But it soon became obvious that this wasn’t the case. He was clearly in pain and struggling to use the bathroom. After a couple quick phone calls, we surmised that he had what’s known as a urinary blockage, which is more common than you’d think among male cats. It can also be deadly.

Thus began the week from hell. Poor Eleven, who hates the car, had to be trucked around to multiple locations (first, our local vet, and then an animal hospital almost an hour away) to perform life-saving medical procedures and surgeries. It seemed like every time things seemed to finally go well, they would take a swift turn for the worse. The blockage had been cleared. No, the blockage hadn’t been cleared. The blockage had been cleared, but now he needed to get grit removed from his bladder. His bladder had been fixed, but it was obvious that he would get blocked again and needed a second surgery. The phone calls built up. The medical bills built up. I began to think that nothing would ever go right.

Even when they were ready to release him to us, there were complications. He could come home but has to be isolated in a room with no furniture so he couldn’t jump and play. This left Eleven, who loves his humans, crying if he was left alone for too long.  He was given new food to prevent issues like this from happening again, but he refused to eat it. He had special medicine to help with the pain but kept on spitting it out. He had a cone to stop himself from picking at the incisions, but he kept on taking it off.  You get the idea.

Eleven is doing a lot better now. He actually loves his new food so much that I’m a little concerned he may be eating too much of it! But it’s clear that he’s happy and healthy, so I’m trying to focus on that and not the dread that something might go wrong yet again.

So you might be asking, with all of that going on, did I actually get any writing done? Fortunately, the answer is yes!

Prepping for NaNoWriMo and More!

As you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge where writers try and write a novel (or at least 50k of it) in a month, and I am a BIG FAN of it. Every one of the Red and Black books started as part of this challenge, and 2020 will actually be my 10th NaNoWriMo. So even with all of the craziness going on, I knew I wanted to participate. So while I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be at this point in time, I have a lot of notes written down for the first half of the book. The rest, I’ll just have to figure out on the way!

On top of that, I had another couple of cool writing-related things that I did this month. I serialized King of Hearts, my Steampunk retelling of Bluebeard on the blog (check it out if you haven’t already), and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for Superhero Fiction’s Behind the Mask podcast.  Host Franklin Kendrick asked me all about the Red and Black series, and I actually ended up dropping some tidbits about book four! Behind the Mask is available in video form on youtube and as an audio podcast. Check it out if you’d like to learn more about book four and the inspiration behind the series!

What’s Next?

As mentioned above, November is all about National Novel Writing Month, and I’m going to do my best and stay focused on that. I’m not quite as prepared as I’d like to be, so I have a feeling that this book might be a little more challenging than normal. If you’re participating, feel free to add me as a buddy!

Wish me luck!

King of Hearts: A Steampunk Fairy Tale, Chapters 10-11

Unlock the secrets…

Remove the masks…

Break the dragonfly…

How will Alison survive?

Complete Alison Sharpe’s journey in King of Hearts, a steampunk retelling of the dark fairy tale Bluebeard. You can begin the story with chapter one, or go straight ahead to the new content by reading chapters ten and eleven today.

I really hope you all have enjoyed my dive into the dark for Halloween! If you’d like to learn more about my fantasy/fairy tale fiction, feel free to check out my short story collection The Lady of the Watchtower: Six Stories of Magic and Transformation. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter to learn about all of my projects and receive a free story in the Red and Black superhero universe.

Introducing King of Hearts: A Steampunk Fairy Tale

Alison Sharpe has always been better with automatons than people. But talent with clockwork helps little in a world where the odds are stacked against you. Because women can’t inherit when a male heir is present, Alison’s birthright, her father’s workshop, has been passed down to her selfish brother. Now, her only chance at freedom is an apprenticeship with the brilliant Edward Ashton. Alison knows that a job in Ashland Alchemical could open doors for her, but what will happen when she stumbles upon the secrets locked away at Glass Manor?

King of Hearts is a steampunk reimagining of the dark fairy tale “Bluebeard.”


October is all about Halloween, and I knew I wanted to celebrate this year with a dark and creepy story all my own. The results are King of Hearts, a retelling of the fairy tale “Bluebeard” with a clockwork twist, which will be serialized here on my blog over the next few weeks.

You can start off today by reading chapters 1-3 today! The next batch of chapters will be posted in one week, on Monday, October 12th.

Enjoy!