For Readers & Writers
from Susan Dennard
M&D Issue #120

June 29, 2018

What's in this heart-to-heart?

Recent Goings On:


Sorry I've been away for a whole month. Y'all can likely guess why. It rhymes with "mudwitch" and feels like the never-ending book.

In all honesty, though, the book is going really well. I'm revising with my editor, and we should be into copyedits soon! PHEW. 😅 I really want to enjoy my summer, thanks.

Also, I haven't been to the dojo since March because I cannot "justify taking the time off" -- and I hate when my life turns into that. Pro tip: don't do what I do. 'Tis not healthy.

For the Misfits & Witchlanders:


Ampersand Extras, Tumblr Fandom,
& Bloodwitch Playlist (oh my!)

First things first! My Witchlands channel is now LIVE on the Ampersand app!

The Ampersand app offers a new way of reading where you can chat with friends, get access to new and exclusive stories, and provide direct feedback to the authors! And yes, I said authors because I'm not the only one on there! And more are coming everyday. 

If you download the app, you can step inside the world of the Witchlands with exclusive world guides, cut scenes from Truthwitch & Windwitch, the original 200 page proposal I used to sell Truthwitch, AND a 100-page excerpt of Screechers (that'll be available in a few weeks!).

I have been working on all of this for a long time, and I am so excited for you all to jump in and start reading. ENJOY!!

In other news, some fabulous readers are trying to stoke the Witchlands fandom on Tumblr. They are so awesome, so earnest, and the least I can do is try to help.

I'll admit, I've been so lax on that platform...but no more! In an attempt to help the fans reach each other, I'm reblogging and sharing and posting what I can!

Find me here. Then check out these devoted Witchlanders, who are making aesthetics, sharing their story theories, and offering a bit of fanart and fanfic too:

Finally, I've got that Bloodwitch (a.k.a. Baeduan) playlist I promised a while ago. I already shared this on Twitter, when I was writing the Bloodwitch climax, but here it is again along with a bit of specific info on each piece.

This is THE music I've listened to on repeat while drafting, brainstorming, and getting into Aeduan's head throughout the entire series.

Happy listening!
  • Starvation by Two Steps from Hell -- This music was THE music that sparked Aeduan's character. I already had a Bloodwitch monk "bounty hunter" character in Truthwitch, but I had no plans to actually write his POV. Then I heard this music, and something about it...I suddenly got Aeduan, and his opening line appeared in my head: "The Bloodwitch named Aeduan was bored."
  • To Glory by Two Steps from Hell -- This was the music I played on repeat during the lighthouse scene in Truthwitch.
  • Lay Aboard Lads by Brian Tyler -- I listened to this while writing the climax in Truthwitch (where Aeduan & Iz cross paths in Lejna). Since then, it has become my Aeduan-is-killing-some-people music.
  • Dark Slayer by Sarah Schachner -- More Aeduan-is-losing-it music. Right at that 2:28 mark. I listened to this when Aeduan found Owl in Windwitch.
  • Flying Snow by Two Steps from Hell -- Something about this music seems to encapsulate the emotional progression of Aeduan's & Iseult's relationship. Tense. Enemies. Don't trust each other. Then everything changes and someone decides to go back for someone on a battlefield in the Contested Lands (that 2:12 moment, though).
  • A Million on my Soul by Alexiane -- So I really struggled to find the right opening for Bloodwitch (alas, what is in the B&N exclusive edition of Sightwitch is NOT the opening anymore -- although parts do remain), and it was this song that finally helped me visualize the correct entry point for the book. This song really hits how Aeduan feels when the story opens.
  • Future Glory by Jed Kurzel -- This piece might as well be Aeduan's theme song in Bloodwitch. I listened to it A LOT, and I can just so vividly see him walking all badass-like across a battlefield. There's just something about it that feels propulsive and driven.
  • Bloody City by Sam Tinnesz -- First off, I love this song and how evocative it feels. Second of all, it very much fits with how Aeduan sees himself.
  • The Descent by Trevor Morris -- Oh boy, this music. This is some climax-cookie-scene music right here. That 2:06 mark is like THE moment when he makes a final, pivotal choice and Lady Fate's knife falls once and for all.
  • Run, Boy, Run by Woodkid -- Ah, what a classic. I think I've listened to this for every book I've ever written. It's just SO EPIC. I rediscovered this song while writing another cookie scene during the climax (for Aeduan), and it was kinda eery how well some of the lyrics aligned with what was happening... Oh, and I also listened to this during Vivia's Bloodwitch finale.
  • Burning Cold by Eurielle -- I listened to this on literal repeat while writing a THE ultimate cookie scene in the climax. It's actually Iseult's POV, but Aeduan is there. And there's a Well involved, and that's all I'll say about it for now. When the book is out, you'll see what I mean.
  • Warrior by AURORA -- I re-discoverd this song a few weeks ago, when I was good and stuck after the scene I wrote to the previous song. What I had planned no longer felt right, and it wasn't until I queued up this song that a solution finally appeared.
  • Loxian Gate by Enya -- First off, this is one of my fave songs of all time. Second off, I heard it for the first time right before Truthwitch came out (Alex Bracken and I listened to it...a LOT on tour), and since then it has become my Safi-Iseult-reunion song. It's just has this momentum, this purity... Perfect. ALSO, if you read the translation of the made up language, it's so appropriate for my sunshine and moonlight girls.

For the Daydreamers:


Tell the Story You Want to Tell

I shared this story on Tumblr (sp I apologize to everyone who has already read it), but since I don't think the Venn Diagram overlap of my Tumblr audience and my newsletter audience is very large, I thought I'd share the post again here. Especially since the post really resonated with a lot of people.

Also, full disclosure, I am so effing busy trying to get Bloodwitch done to meet my unexpected end-of-June deadline that I really don't have time to write anything new for y'all.

Anyway, enjoy!

When Truthwitch was on submissions, an editor rejected it because it “wasn’t accessible” enough. The editor suggested making it a single POV and single “evil” empire in a single location, and at the time, I was horrified. That wasn’t even remotely close to the vision I had for that book/series.

You see, I wrote Truthwitch as an adult fantasy book, and I wrote it in the vein of all the adult fantasy books I’d read growing up (before the days of a YA shelf!). Before we submitted it to adult fantasy editors, though, my agent and I sent it out to YA editors, and a fabulous woman at Tor Teen ended up buying it.

My editor and I worked our butts off to make that book as good as it could be; I worked my butt off to self-promote and run a street team and reach new readers; and I went out in to the world thinking…nay, knowing this was the best book I’d written to-date.

And then, as happens with all books, there were some people who enjoyed Truthwitch…and some people who freaking loathed it. I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone. But you know what surprised me most?

People didn’t like the world-building. They found it too complicated. They couldn’t follow along. Ugh, boring. Couldn’t read past 100 pages. DNFed.

In hindsight, this shouldn’t have surprised me. I mean, that first editor HAD warned me: Truthwitch wasn’t accessible. Still, this was the kind of world-building and complexity I had grown up reading – where you’re thrown into a new place, no explanations, and you figure it out based on context clues. It never ever occurred to me to write my own epic fantasy any differently.

And that obvious oversight on my part really effing messed with my head. I was so ANGRY (with myself) that I hadn’t made the world simpler, that I hadn’t eased people into it all more slowly, that I hadn’t realized not everyone enjoys the kind of fantasy I do.

The complexity and lack of accessibility was (and still is) the number one complaint I saw/see, and I totally get it. Those readers are right. And the fact that that editor was right – that those bad reviews are RIGHT – really killed my self-confidence.

And look: every authors wants their book to be a commercial success. To break out and be turned into a movie and reach more readers. It doesn’t mean we aren’t also happy and grateful with our current successes, but I really doubt any author out there doesn’t also want a little bit (or a lotta bit) more.

Realizing that I had screwed up in the accessibility/complexity department, and that this would prevent Truthwitch from ever truly breaking out…

Well, like I said, it messed with my head. In fact, I got so hung up on it, I tried to find ways to essentially “retcon” some simplicity into the plot and world. Like, I spun myself in circles trying to find a way to make Windwitch simple and NOT follow the complex path I’d first set up for the series…

Maybe if I cut this and never address that and then combine this and blah, blah, blah…


And then a dear friend of mine gave me some tough love. She was basically like, “STOP THIS. This isn’t your commercial success series. So what? Move on.”

Her argument? People who like simpler, more accessible books weren’t even going to read Windwitch, so why was I trying to appease them? The people who enjoyed Truthwitch were the people who liked over-complicated plots and dense world-building, and so I should continue writing this series exactly as I’d initially envisioned it.

Basically, I was wasting my time stressing out over an audience that was never going to enjoy the Witchlands. Maybe they would like my next series, but this one simply wasn’t for them. And that was okay.

Such obvious advice, right? Yet I couldn’t see it at all. Once I did, though…oh wow, it was liberating.

love super complicated (borderline convoluted), twisty-turny, massive-cast, massive-world fantasy series. Books like GoT, the Liveship Traders series, the Inda series, the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and on and on.

And I’m not conceited enough to think my own books are anywhere near as good as those, but I am definitely trying to appeal to those same fans. To readers who like what I like.

And once I saw that my attempts to simplify were futile, once I leaned into the complexity…Well, the writing got easier. I got out of my own way. I embraced what had made me want to write Truthwitch in the first place, and I stopped caring when I saw complaints about the world-building. Obviously, they were not my target audience.

Now, Windwitch ups the complexity, and Sightwitch like triple-ups the complexity. Sorry not sorry.

This is the story I wanted to tell, and though I definitely won’t reach as many readers as I maybe could have if I’d listened to that first editor…it also wouldn’t have been true to my heart (cue: 98 Degrees & Stevie Wonder).

TL;DR: Tell the story you set out to tell. There’s no predicting what story will turn into a commercial break out success, and trying to crack that code by writing a book that isn’t true to you…

Yeah, just don’t. You’ll be happier and more mentally healthy in the long run. Now seriously, go listen to some Stevie Wonder & 98 Degrees.

Upcoming Events:


San Diego Comic-Con
7/19 - 7/20/18
Full schedule to come!
San Diego, CA
8/30 - 9/3/18
Full schedule to come!
Atlanta, GA

Link Roundup:

As always, thank you so much for reading! Here are a few links for your weekend reading!


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Copyright © 2018
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St.
Suite 2201
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I'm a misfit, a daydreamer,
a fangirl, an animal-lover,
a feminist killjoy,
and a gluten-free
cookie-eater. 🐙
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