writerly life

Armes Prydein update: September 2019

So, how has work been going on this current eternal-seeming Arthurian project, Armes Prydein?

Well, there has been substantially more research & planning than I had originally counted on, if not in volume than certainly in time spent getting through it. The pitfalls, naturally, of having only an average of 8-10 hours a week to freely spend on such things. Travel, other commitments, and stress have also provided interruptions. However, I’m pleased with how things are going, and I think I’m not very far behind schedule.

Things are going well because rarely has a week gone by without some progress made; I can always tick off one tiny box after the next, and the boxes are adding up. The end of that research & planning now feels genuinely, meaningfully near. I think I’ve plotted out a course for wrapping up most research within the first full week of October, and I’ll be aiming to finalize preparatory documentation by the end of November. Even though this will mean that I won’t continue to actually write the novel until December, more than two and a half years after I anticipated finishing the novel in five years… I cannot overemphasize how much time I know my front-loaded prep work is going to save me.

Finishing the rough draft in May 2022 could still very much happen. Of course, I’d love to finish it even sooner, but this is what remains a realistic estimate. If I’ve done my work right, I’ll face a shorter stretch of revisions after that primary deadline, and maybe I could be pitching by the end of that year.

Now I just need to think of another story or two that I could write and publish on the side while all of this is going on, without slowing anything down. That’s a hilarious concept. Even being on track, I need more time. I need so much more time.

Llywelyn Jones

Upcoming publication: “O Fortuna”

2017 was a quiet year for writerly news, and I seem to recall saying I wasn’t going to put anything here unless I really felt so moved. Even after keeping this particular blog alive for four years, I still haven’t entirely determined what function it ought to serve, or what sort of person is reading it. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing that always belongs here, it’s publication announcements, and I’m thrilled beyond belief to make one now.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already heard about this a few weeks ago, but let’s make this even more official: my sci fi novella “O Fortuna” will be appearing in Issue 6 of The Fantasist, with a publication date of March 15th! That’s less than a week away, and thus not too long that anyone can forget to check it out, wink wink. I have no idea how much to toot my own horn about this, but my astonishment and happiness stem from several sources. First of all, yes, I was a big award finalist four years ago and all that, but it was for a self-published work, so I have been trembling from the fact that I’ve finally gotten through the infamous query gauntlet— never before have I managed that for any work of fiction. Secondly, while I shy away from labeling myself as an “x genre” writer, the genres that feel like the closest fit are sci fi, fantasy, and horror, so I’m very gratified to break into the field. And lastly, I hadn’t given up hope for “O Fortuna” finding an audience, but I wrote it after coming to some very important conclusions about my own life. I’ve referred to it as my robot baby, and I can tell that baby has found a very good home in The Fantasist.

A little more about “O Fortuna”: inspired by the common but rarely sympathetic trope of the sexbot, this narrative focuses upon an android sex worker, Lux, who was once programmed to pleasure humans without thought for her own rights. Now living free, Lux has found that passing for a human with more legitimized employment also has its downsides; despite years of independence, she is caught in a quandary about what individualism means, and she’s searching for the person who can give her the life she really wants. Questioning the conventional wisdom about everything from sex and gender to future economies and the true role of AI, “O Fortuna” presents a nuanced, rebellious drama that draws a straight line from Frankenstein’s monster to the erotic dolls of some dystopian metropolis. This story’s future civilization does not glitter; it grinds, buzzes, screams, and cries.

That’s my official copy for it. I’ll also add that I’ve requested that the magazine include a content warning for implied sexual violence and discussion of sexual violence. The story isn’t a tragedy, but it’s not a walk in the park.

As for The Fantasist, the site link above should tell you a fair amount of what’s to read there, but one cool thing I’d like to explain about them is their innovative payment model for writers. If you want to read “O Fortuna” right on their site, you can go there as soon as Issue 6 is live on the 15th, and as far as I’m aware you don’t have to pay a penny. But if you would like to both support the magazine and my own future writing, you can also buy an e-book version of “O Fortuna” in their online store. Normally their e-books are $1.99, and from the 15th to the 22nd they’ll be on sale for $1.00 even (I earn the same cut either way). Furthermore, the magazine has a Patreon you can donate to, if that’s your thing; it would help them pay authors even more in the future.

I think that’s it. I’ve never released my own press like this before either, of course, so maybe I’ve done it all wrong. In any case, I’m very excited. Huge thanks to my husband and Sen Hardwick, who served as beta readers a while ago, and I’d like to dedicate this novella to Mary Shelley, Ursula K. Le Guin, and all the brave kinksters, inksters, weirdos, queerdos, revolutionaries, and cyborgs I’ve known.

D. Llywelyn Jones

All lakes lead to Avallach…

I haven’t provided an update about my writing activity since the winter, I realized, so here is some overdue news. Well, not news— I have no scheduled publications at the moment— but at least some information, because developments have occurred. I’m very gratified that my reasons for not posting much on this blog are largely that I’ve been hard at work. If you’ve been wondering about my next big project, today I’m lifting back the veil just a shade.

First, with regard to finished work, unfortunately, the situation with Frankenstein has reached a standstill. I had really hoped to manage a public reading and a full production in 2018, the 200-year anniversary of the original novel’s first edition, but the prospective director had to back out (which I say with no animosity, as she’s a lovely person). By the time that I decided to try pitching the script to local theatre companies on my own, the most obvious choices were no longer taking submissions for their next season. I should have known better, but there’s not much I can do about it now. Therefore, given that I also have other projects, I think Frankenstein must sadly sit on the back burner for at least another six months until I can submit it somewhere again.

Likewise, “O Fortuna” has retained “???” status, but I have my fingers crossed for some good news on that front. And while all of that makes it sound like nothing’s happened, something big (for me) has very much happened.

That is to say: last month I officially broke ground on my next novel, Armes Prydein. I may only keep that as the working title, but it’s rather likely to stick. The language will be English; the words in the title are Welsh, however, and a quick Wikipedia search will tell you what I’m referencing.

I’m going to try and post semi-regular updates about my progress without giving away too much immediately, but so far, here is what I shall say about this future beast of a book. Starting this past autumn, I spent approximately six months eating, drinking, breathing, and dreaming research about the island of Britain from the 5th to 6th century CE. Now I cannot call myself an academic expert on the subject, but I finally had a grounding to create a full cast of characters, rough plotline, and setting details for 1/3 of this novel’s content. I might still require the next 6-8 weeks to finish planning the whole thing as thoroughly as I’d like to before I truly dive in; however, before the end of April I had successfully written the opening paragraphs.

Now, as for why I say 1/3 of this novel’s content and not all of it, Armes Prydein is what can only be called an Arthur tale— it will be “my” Arthuriad— but as has become my way, there will be several stories connected to each other. I am classifying one story as mythic-historical fiction, another as alternate-history sociopolitical drama, and another as dystopian cyberpunk. A few characters will exist between all of them, but mostly the connections are thematic and structural. I toyed with the idea telling each story as its own novel and making a trilogy, but ultimately chose to keep things interlaced the way I know they need to be. Potentially a publisher could split the novel into three parts if that made a gargantuan, multi-genre, literary chimera more palatable, but if so I will create potential split points within each story’s plot.

We will see what happens. Ultimately, I would be shocked if I didn’t spend at least five years on this, and it will exponentially surpass the length of Tiresias. Particularly given that this will be only my second novel, I know it’s very ambitious. I decided to go ahead because a) if it’s going to take me so long to do it, I’d rather start it while I’m young; b) I am going to receive some collaborative assistance from my secret-talent husband, though he has not yet told me whether he would like a co-credit or ghostwriter status; and c) of all the projects on my plate, this is the one I have been hoping to write for the longest time. It’s extraordinarily important to me as a Welsh person, an occult practitioner, a linguist, a leftist, and a mythologist. It is, if you will, the novel that I will not be satisfied until I complete before my death. Everything else I accomplish should prove the frosting on the proverbial cake.

I know it would be a wise plan to produce some shorter writing here and there while I labor on Armes Prydein, and I will attempt it periodically, especially if I need to rest my brain from some segments that I expect to find emotionally challenging. However, I would like the estimated five years to not double to ten, so the novel will remain my priority.

Onward; this is what I’ve been living for.

D. Llywelyn Jones

A play, and a story

I feel somewhat stupid for not doing a proper blog announcement about this at some point: earlier this year, my adaptation of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus achieved what I will call its performance-ready form. I think I shied away from formally declaring anything because in my opinion (and in others’) the script would benefit from a public staged reading before a full production. I also have been dithering on whom to approach as a potential local producer, although an interested director does exist. Nonetheless, I do think of the play as “done”— ready for action. Immense thanks are due to my beta readers, as well as to Lucas Commons-Miller, J. Deschene, and Ally Matteodo of the Boston theatre scene for serving in a multiplicity of roles during last December’s private reading. When I figure out how to really move forward, I will be better about updating here.

Worth noting as well, I suppose: while it is now in beta, I completed my first sci fi short story, “O Fortuna,” earlier this summer. I consider this a personal success because it has been a long time since I truly finished a short story, and while some bodies would classify it more as a novelette, the fact remains that it is not a full novel, and yours truly the master of verbosity managed to tell a concise tale. I also suspect this is the first sci fi story of any kind that I’ve written without just a two-paragraph beginning. When it is out of beta, I’ll be querying magazines, or whatever else seems like a good possibility.

Until next time.

D. Llywelyn Jones

Edit: Oh, right. I also joined Medium. Follow here, if you’re a Medium person. I consider myself fairly useless at Medium so far, but if I figure out something to do with it, I will.

My work with The Offing

As I’ve been mentioning on social media at intervals, The Offing, a non-profit literary magazine sponsored by the L.A. Review of Books, invited me to guest-edit their first ever Trans Issue. I must say that I never anticipated this at all, but I’m pleased beyond measure to have had the opportunity. Everyone I spoke to at the magazine is incredibly kind, too.

In any event, the Trans Issue has now been published in its entirety. All pieces included were curated by myself and several other trans writers. I strongly recommend that you check everything out; some of it can be tough or triggering reading, but it’s all valuable, and I got to read some truly stunning work. Very inspirational.

The capstone for this experience— I got tagged for an interview, which I suppose isn’t my very first but is at least my first targeted toward myself as a writer. You can read the full text here.

Many thanks to C. Russell Price for the engaging questions, and many thanks to Jayy Dodd for tracking me down in the first place.


Not dead

Hello all. I realized I last updated this blog over a month ago, and I wanted to offer reassurances (if anyone was wondering) that I am actually doing rather well. Life is by no means perfect, but I’ve been adjusting to a new rhythm of things. My husband has a new job, thus a new work schedule; I’ve changed my own schedule, too, though less to line up with his and more to attempt a different angle of attack on my depression and energy problems. I’m trying to find the sweet spot between “waking up so early that my delayed sleep phase prevents me from achieving cognitive functionality” and “waking up so late that my seasonal affective disorder kicks into overdrive from the loss of sunlight.” So far, it might be working, but I’m not sure. In any case, a lot more is afoot than simply this challenge, so my attention has been pulled away from writing here. Speaking of writing, I’m doing a lot of things writing-related:

  • I’ve made some sporadic but satisfying progress in my new short story.
  • I’m partway through arranging a private reading for Frankenstein, and I’m getting very excited about how that will go.
  • As I’ve already announced on social media, I’m serving as a guest editor for The Offing‘s first Trans Issue, which will feature work entirely by trans people, curated by trans people. The issue will probably be released pretty soon, and when it does, I will obviously put a link here. I was very honored to receive the invitation for this role, and you should check out the magazine in general; a non-profit arm of the L.A. Review of Books, they largely exist to center traditionally marginalized voices across all genres and types of prose and verse. And they are actively invested in paying their contributors, guest editors, and staff a more-than-nominal amount! What a novel concept. (To help them achieve this goal, please consider donating to their fundraiser.)

That’s an intensely summarized telling of my life as it stands. My best and wickedest wishes to all of you as All Hallows’ draws near.


New look for the website, new work to do

I’ve had this site for about a year now— it seemed like the right time to improve the look. I’ll admit the old banner looked tacky, and even though I find white-on-black more readable and aesthetically pleasing, I couldn’t shake the feeling that a perfect stranger running across the page might find the look rather too Angelfire. This version looks less 1999, I hope. More literary. Something.

As an addendum, if you missed me saying so, I’m very pleased to report that Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is now in the beta reading stage. My goals from this point forward are to conduct further revisions during late summer/autumn, to arrange a private reading by year’s end, to do one more revision round and a public reading by mid-2016, and then to have the play professionally produced by some point in 2018— the bicentennial of when Mary Shelley published her original novel. That is basically a three year ongoing project, and I expect some stagnant periods, therefore I’m also especially pleased to add that this summer I intend to seriously get to work on my second novel. This itself will easily take me years to complete even the first draft, because it’s going to be very long— though technically I’m not going to be writing it alone. I will leave you with that cryptic implication for the night.


Clinging to the kernel

I woke up feeling like I need to be writing poetry again after this ongoing dry spell. It actually hurts when there is a poem inside that needs to be birthed and I can’t just go write it. I have to have a conversation with myself first about what style is mine to attempt. Becoming a poet again means confronting how the human I am likely to be in my late 20s, early 30s strikes me as someone very much like the human I was at age 14, just more experienced and enlightened; the human I was from ages 17 to 19, from 19 to 22, from 22 to 26, those people increasingly feel like a series of odd dreams. Moving ahead I cling to a kernel of something primordial because it feels the most true.


What am I up to?

Well, I never really followed up on posting more related to Pygmalion, did I? Quelle surprise: it’s hard to write about something that you’re directing as you direct it. And now it feels a bit late after the fact. Here are some other things I do hope to have news about soon in the next month or two, though…

• I might be doing some more New England area Tiresias readings/signings. Dates and locations are still pending, but if you missed the opportunity in June, you may yet have a couple chances.

• October is officially “finish my first play” month! I have the time to do so, and thus I really should. I offer no expectations or guarantees about the staging process, but the first draft is nearly complete, and I at least plan to have it vetted by betas, revised, given a private reading, and revised again. We’ll see where things go from there.


Moving on to new things

Well. Here we are. I think the new site’s temporarily how I want it.

I recently did up some business cards for myself, and I got a professional Twitter account, and I made a Facebook page for the entity that is “Devon Llywelyn Jones”— you know, me, but first/middle/last name all together and thus something different than how people know me in our daily lives. Also something actually closer to the sum total of “me” than just Devon. Being myself unfortunately means being more pretentious. I apologize in advance. Anyway, I did all of those things because somehow, a couple of years ago, I completed a novel.

I hadn’t expected to complete it, I wasn’t sure who would be interested in reading it, and I definitely had no idea if anyone would want to publish it. For a little while, I did send query letters to agencies about my completed manuscript. There were rejections, of course, and here is where I’ll state emphatically that I understand this is part of the process for new writers. I wound up self-publishing this novel, not out of impatience or bitterness, but rather because a respected friend of mine who was accidentally responsible for the entire circumstances that allowed me to write it— who also very fittingly became a beta reader and continued believing in my ability to write when I had gone for several years convinced that I could not— she pointed me to the Lambda Literary Awards, highlighting that the Transgender Fiction category receives few submissions, and suggested I get my novel in before the submission deadline, just to see what happened. Well, I never wrote Tiresias specifically thinking of it as a work of “transgender fiction,” but it certainly has a transgender protagonist and it certainly addresses big questions about gender identity and expression. So, essentially on a whim, I self-published, made this submission, waited around for a few months, and discovered I’d become a finalist.

It felt pretty surreal to be a major literary award finalist with my first novel— with only my second publication since being out of college. I still haven’t worked out what I really think of that fact. I probably shouldn’t hide the fact; I’m just figuring out how to present the fact without making it a brag. In any case, surreal as it’s been, it also felt silly to receive that kind of recognition without otherwise resembling a professional writer and having all the trappings that professional writers are (fairly or unfairly) expected to handle these days. Hence… cards. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube channel tied to Official Writer E-mail Address. And now, following the LLAs, realizing that oh, a real website would probably be smart. If nothing else, blogging has been something I’ve enjoyed since the tender age of fourteen, and I think I’m ready to do it in a way where my full name and identity are attached.

So this site now exists. What should I actually say in my first full post written for it? I could intro myself, but I’ve said more than enough about me on some of the static pages, and I’ve got some older posts transported here from a defunct blog that I’d like to leave up for posterity’s sake. I could write a little about the LLAs themselves, maybe. I think too much detail on those would indeed be bragging, however, so maybe I can summarize that experience as, “I came, I saw, I lost my category, but I met some lovely people, and it made me feel like I’m not just pretending to write.” I am a writer. I am. It might not be how I really make money, and I can’t make any predictions about that, but in the grand scheme of things, it is my actual profession— and describing myself as anything else first would be a lie, a lie I ought to stop telling.

I also now feel particularly comfortable qualifying myself as a queer & trans writer. “LGBT” is not the constructed audience I want to write for, it isn’t the section in a bookstore where I’d like to see all my fiction sitting. But I think it’s important to recognize that what I write has heavily queer elements, and if neither I nor anyone else commented on them, it would do my work a disservice. I think it’s likewise important to establish the fact I am trans to my audience, not because every trans person is obligated to out themselves— far from it— but because a) on a practical level, the degree of physical transition I’ve sought is insufficient for people to auto-call me “he/him/his” unless I explicitly establish that this must be done, and b) in a society where it is so especially hard for trans people to find professional recognition or meaningful employment, if I ever can live off of my writing then I am comfortable becoming an example of how yes, trans writers have legitimacy, trans writers have value, trans writers should exist.

Those are some things I think I learned about myself at the LLAs. Oh, I did also have the honor of meeting both Justin Vivian Bond and Kate Bornstein. I can’t resist mentioning that tidbit, if only because it was gratifying to have that sort of genderqueer presence at the awards, to feel welcomed by an older generation of gender rebels who have continuously laid the groundwork for me to feel safe owning myself as a he but not necessarily as a man.

And there is something else I’ve learned, or maybe not learned, but determined. It’s my conclusion from not only the awards but from experiences surrounding it— a book reading I did last week at Trident Booksellers & Café, the sales of Tiresias that have happened in general, the overwhelmingly positive personal messages I have received from friends after finishing the book themselves. The determination is… I am more ready than ever to write new things. Not simply in the sense of feeling validated and prepared to build an audience— no, that’s there, but not nearly as much as knowing I have truly exited the period in my life that prompted me to write Tiresias at all. More surreal than the honor of being a Lambda Literary finalist is the thought: “There was a time when I actually had to tell that story.” That time was, broadly speaking, from 2007 to when I completed the first draft in 2012. Not actually that long ago, but for so many reasons, I have become an extremely different person. I intended catharsis when I started the manuscript, and I have now had that catharsis ten times over.

I am ready to start tying up the very last loose ends. I was thrilled to have an impromptu lunch the other day with a dear friend who has not only served as muse and beta reader but who additionally works in (non-fiction) publishing, and unsurprisingly we got on the topic of next steps for this book, for my career. I mentioned how I was excited to be able to put “Lambda Literary Award finalist” in future query letters, but tired of thinking about queries for getting Tiresias proper literary representation when, as much as I valued my own novel, I wanted to keep my brain in new brainspace, not sitting back with this thing that I originally wrote just to fix the part of me that didn’t believe I could do it anymore. And my friend more or less asked, “Why make this effort, then, for a book that you do feel done with? Why not save your energy for moving forward as you like?”— and I realized immediately she was right.

I do intend to still find an agent and a publisher, but I’m going to look for them when I’ve got something fresher, something I’ve created that just needs to grow and grow and grow. Tiresias is an exorcism, a eulogy, a banishing, and though I welcome an audience for such a thing— for instance, I’m perfectly willing to do more readings, to promote the novel in its current form for purchase, and what have you— but I suspect it is a work of literature that will not grow itself as naturally as other things I have in mind. It is more like the soil fertilized from what I cannot help referencing in light of its content and themes: the burial of the dead. I will do what I can to maintain that grave in my life, to keep it in pleasant condition, to make it a place people will want to visit, but I cannot keep standing vigil by it. I have other places to go and things to do.

The last step I can think of for Tiresias is, honestly, just that I need a tattoo. Despite dreams of being covered in tattoos, I have none at present. Unsurprisingly for a writer, I can’t afford them. But the first one I will get is the one that fully closes the Tiresias chapter of my existence. It is a T. S. Eliot quote. Despite some obvious choices, it is not from “The Waste Land” and it is also not even from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It is from a somewhat recognized but much more privately relevant poem of his. Maybe even my favorite of his, I don’t know. These are the lines, from “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.”

The lamp said,
“Four o’clock,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”

The last twist of the knife.

If you have read Tiresias or you know, in a sense, what caused it— then you may understand the emotional significance of those words. Not necessarily, but maybe, and if not, I’m content to leave this an enigma for the future. The words will go on my skin, and they will become a part of my body, a marker of the way that I was changed, and I will go on, I will go on, I will go on.