NaNo, Monarchs and Dead Rock Stars (updates and excerpts)

Hello darkness, my old friend.

That’s only partially accurate. I’m actually coming off an upswing of a weekend, and am still feeling rather warm and fuzzy. I hosted my first Friendsgiving, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years but never did, because it seemed so friggin’ daunting to make all that food and host a bunch of people, and anxiety is my ever constant companion. But somehow, despite my being there, it went well! I say any gathering with wine, tea, coffee and multiple flavors of pie is a success. My friend, who had never cooked a turkey before, just went all in and decided to deep fry a 20 lb bird on my porch (I am a vegetarian and hid my face in a pile of sweet potatoes), and nothing was blown up! Given  how I attract disasters like a magnet coated in hot glue, I consider the First Annual Friendsgiving officially a success.

And – I won #NaNoWriMo2017 yesterday! The book needs a lot – I mean A LOT A LOT – of revisions, because I am a pantser who types so fast that I make lots of typos, and I went hard on this one, just writing off the cuff, on autopilot, kind of a stream of consciousness thing, and I literally have no idea what the hell I wrote. I mean, I have a general idea, but…I went off the rails. And you know, after last year’s tome of a novel that I spent an entire year researching, with its heavy, historical subject matter and grim plot, I’m okay with that.

For those following at home, Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree is the book I’ve spent the past two years of my life researching and writing, and the past six months revising to the point that I actually thought I might end up in the Milledgeville Asylum myself from the stress (it’s actually no longer operational, thank god, but you get my point). In between bouts of fervent, rapid editing and chugging enough tea and antacids to kill a large horse, I’ve been pitching like crazy. And let me tell y’all: pitching is the most soul sucking, horrible experience in the world. While you’re assembling agents and publishing houses, it’s fun! You’ve got your cute little spreadsheet and your list of possibilities, and with every website and agent bio you read, you feel more and more confident that these people are going to love your book! How could they not? You’re a match made in heaven! And then you send 100 queries over the course of a few months and you get 60 rejections in in your inbox, and you realize that somewhere along the way your soul seized up and died in a grease fire of self-loathing.

Milledgeville Asylum/Central State Hospital, 2017

Did I mention I hate querying?

I’ve spoken at length about how I feel on self-publishing, and I still feel very strongly that it’s a viable option and spit in the eye of any book industry snob who tells me otherwise (fight me), but Monarchs is not a book that I ever meant to be self-published. Hence the soul-crushing querying, and participation in pitch contests, and generally wishing I had picked a different career.

Imposter syndrome notwithstanding, I just woke up one day and was like…”This book is going to make it. Somehow, I just feel that it is.” I still feel that way. There have been some signs. So I’m just sitting over here with my appendages crossed, because I put my everything into this book and I want it to be out there, living and breathing in the world. I hope to be able to update you all with good news very soon!

But for now, back to reality, and this year’s writing effort: .deadrockstar. This year’s effort is a lighthearted, dark and campy romp that fits firmly into the supernatural fantasy category. I have never, ever written in this genre. I am so out of my element, but damn, it was fun.

I need a goth translation of ‘how you durrin’?’

I’m still two chapters away from the conclusion, and it needs an ass ton of editing, so I really have no reason to share an excerpt with you all. It’ll be light years before it’s a book I’m shopping around, and therefore doesn’t need promoting. But hey, it’s Tuesday and my book is a cute little campy goth nugget and it was just Halloween and we all know that October and November are Peter Steele Month(s) and he was the main muse for the protagonist in this novel and I could go on, but let’s just say I WANT TO SHARE A BIT WITH YOU, and if you’ve read this far you deserve it, so here we go:

“My name is Stormy Spooner; I’m a lifelong atheist, a vegan, and a librarian – and I’m a necromancer.

How did I get into this mess? I wear glasses for fuck’s sake. I’d like to say that your guess is as good as mine, but it was my own fault.

You wouldn’t be the first to tell me that it’s impossible to be a necromancer and an atheist. As my best friend, Sloan, loves to tell me, “you don’t even like, believe in anything. How can you practice magic if you don’t believe in it?”

And I would have once agreed. I don’t believe in magic, and I sure as hell don’t practice it. What I did wasn’t practice; it was more of a pathetic, drunken fumbling that accidentally hit the mark. It was supposed to just be a joke.

When I announced to Sloan, between sips of our dark-mint-and-mocha iced coffees, that sweltering, humid summer, that I was going to become a necromancer and raise the dead – well, one dead, specifically – I was just kidding around. I have a dark, twisted sense of humor. It gets me into trouble a lot. And this time, it got me into the worst trouble of all. All because of some dead guy with pretty green eyes and hair so black it absorbs the light.

Oh, come on. Haven’t you ever had a crush on a dead guy? Come on, you know you have. Jim Morrison, maybe? Jimi Hendrix? James Dean? Julio Iglesias?

All the hot dead guys have names that start with J, seems like. Except for my dead guy. The guy whose green eyes stared down at me from the posters on my wall all throughout my lusty teenage years, the guy whose voice ignited a million fantasies, the guy whose death at the maddeningly-young age of 38 had haunted me for years. The guy who had faded into an enigma, just another dead rock star in a sea of dead rock stars. Pick your poison, they’re a dime a dozen. My dead guy was never really famous, not the kind of famous that John Lennon was (another “J”), or Madonna or Michael Jackson – he was a blip, a cult-favorite, a moment in time. More people these days haven’t heard of him than have. My dead guy is what you call “obscure” (and why Sloan loves to joke that I’m a hipster). My dead guy, the enigmatic, dark and mildly terrifying Philip Deville, former lead singer and bassist (and sometime harmonica player) of the Bloomer Demons, my favorite musician of all time and the orchestrator of my sexuality. I can’t put too fine a point on it, really. He was the guy. My dead guy. Well, until he wasn’t. Dead, I mean.

You’re going to have to just trust me on this, and I’ll tell you the story, but let’s just get it out of the way right out of the gate. I’m so exhausted from trying to hide this dude, because it is not in his essence to be hidden and he fights me every step of the way and honestly, at this point I just can’t even anymore. My dead guy is no longer dead. He’s very much alive – or undead, which I think he’d prefer, because it has that gothy sort of feel to it, and that’s what gets him all hot and bothered – and he’s a total pain in my ass.

Believe it or don’t, but I raised the dead. I’m a necromancer. And my (un)dead guy, Philip Deville, wants me to do it again.”

Copyright 2017 Lillah Lawson

By lillahlawson

Author of Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree (Regal House, 2019), the Dead Rockstar Trilogy (Parliament House, 2020-24), So Long, Bobby (2023) and Tomorrow & Tomorrow with Lauren Emily Whalen (2023). Georgia Author of the Year Nominee. Horror Writer's Association Member. Historian, Newspaper Columnist, Library Board Secretary, Genealogist.

3 replies on “NaNo, Monarchs and Dead Rock Stars (updates and excerpts)”

I wish I could tell you. I’m still a chapter or so away from finishing, and then it’ll go into editing mode. I promise I’ll keep you posted! Hoping to find a home for this one, too! It’s very different from what I’ve written in the past.


Just found you from an instagram post. This will amazing. Reading the excerpt i felt lile i was reading my own thoughts. I mean Peter Steele, necromancy, and just saying Jim Morrison…Hello, im in! But then i was like…wait this is fiction lol. But seriously i cant wait to read this. Looking forward to hearing more!


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