Amanda Ross

Amanda Ross

Black speculative fiction author and campy fantasy heaux.

Journey to Astera: Update and Excerpt

It’s been two years since I started writing To Astera, With Love. In that time I’ve grown as a person and as a writer. I’ve experienced the loss of loved ones, I’ve gotten married, changed jobs, doubted myself, and reinvented myself. Now I’m happy to say that my book is on the road to publication — my final edits have been completed, my cover design is in progress, and it is now being formatted.  

What I’ve Learned So Far

Ask for help – this is my first time self publishing a book. I knew that deciding to go it all on my own would be difficult. As someone who wants to handle things on my own (re: control freak), it was tough at first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing and that I needed help. I asked a few friends who are already published. I joined writing groups and asked questions about things I didn’t know and responded with answers on things I did. I read articles, watch YouTube videos, and I just signed up for a few Skillshare classes. 

Stay organized – there are a lot of moving parts of self-publishing, so I started keeping a Google sheet of everything I needed to do and everyone I had to pay to get my book published. I created a brief that includes a list of marketing tasks and other essential tasks (like purchasing ISBNs, taking author photos, and signing up for Goodreads as an author). I broke down the tasks into sections by month, countdown style. This has helped me to not put too much on my plate at any given time. I’m learning to find balance in all other areas of my life, and so why not do so when it comes to publishing? 

Be kind to yourself – there are times where I get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done for my book to be successful. And even though I’ve gotten over my anxiety over asking for help and even though I am organized, sometimes I get in my head too much and the negative Nancy comes out. The self-publishing process is just that, a process, and I must remember that I’m doing my best. I tell myself that as long as I take one step, do one thing related to publishing my book a day at the very least, then I’ve won. 

Speaking of my book, are you ready for an excerpt? Here you go!

Another diner. Another motel with chipping paint and a bathroom fan that doesn’t quite work. This time Mercury shared a room with Griffin and Joelle while Ellis and Sloane shared the room right next door, not bothering to quiet their moans or stop the headboard from hitting the wall. 

They each barely spoke to each other as they rolled into Cape Elizabeth.

“I’ve never seen the Atlantic up close,” Joelle had said when they sat at a diner with ripped booths and sticky condiment containers. No one responded. Griffin and Sloane stared down at their plates while Ellis sat with his arms crossed, brow furrowed, scowling into the distance.

“It’s not as beautiful as the Pacific, I think,” Mercury said. Joelle turned towards him, her eyes glassy. She nodded. His body longed to hold hers, to kiss her and prevent the tears that loomed on her eyelids from falling.

“No, it’s not. But I guess we’ll never see the Pacific again, will we?” Ellis said.

“That’s not-” 

Ellis shook his head. 

“We all know we can’t ever go back to LA, despite our parents begging us to.” 

“What are you talking about?” Joelle asked. 

Mercury’s stomach flipped on itself. 

“They were all on TV the other night. 60 Minutes. They were begging us to come home despite whatever twisted shit we’ve gotten mixed up in. I know they’d never be able to believe the truth of what’s happened, and I know that we can never go back.” 

“That’s not true,” Mercury said. But he was flailing. He could feel their eyes upon him. “Once we get to Astera, they can help. Then we can go back to school and-” 

“Back to school?” Ellis said. “You’re never going to get to even step foot on campus. Not after what you’ve… what we’ve done.” 

“What had to do what we had to do,” Mercury said. 

Ellis scoffed.

“We did, you know that. We-” 

“I killed,” Ellis shouted. He looked around and crossed himself, noticing the attention they were drawing. “I killed someone. We had to fight again to just steal another car so we could bullshit our way into another hotel and a diner with fake money so we could have the world’s driest burger and soggy fries and a flat soda just to have something in our bellies so we can drive for hours on end to get to this magic summit where we don’t even know what they’re gonna do. We did all of this, and I killed someone.”

Mercury stared down at his patty melt and watched as the pool of oil from the meat slowly spread, soaking a crinkle cut fry. As the group ate in silence, Mercury could feel his anger simmering beneath the surface. He was tired of Ellis’ anger and resentment. After all – weren’t they adults? Weren’t they as capable of making their own shitty decisions as he was? He grit his teeth as Sloane and Ellis whispered in each other’s ears and laughed. It wasn’t enough that he blamed Mercury for his current predicament but now he was slowly stealing Sloane away from him.

As they paid for their food and left, Mercury’s gut warmed as he thought about every shitty thing Ellis had ever said or done to him. Like the time got drunk at Troian’s party and punched one of his friends in the neck because he’d hooked up with Ellis’ ex. Or the time Mercury walked in on him bragging about knowing that Mercury and his family were magic.

Walking back to the hotel room, Mercury thought about all the ways he could hurt his friend. He thought about Ellis’ sensitive knees, his stomach ulcers, his hair was thinning at the sides which forced him to wear a beanie. Who the fuck does he think he is? Mercury thought.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Mercury said aloud. Sloane and Ellis, who walked arm in arm, both stopped and turned around. 

“You good, Merc?” Sloane asked. 

“I’m not talking to you,” Mercury replied. “Ellis, just who the fuck do you think you are?” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *