Warning: There are spoilers on this page, I recommend not reading on, unless you’ve already finished reading Malicious Designs.
Even though Malicious Designs is the opening story of the serial, it’s the seventh “book” I’ve written in this world (if we only count the ones I’ve previously published). Those other books are no longer available, but they’ve been updated and are coming as part of this serial.
Earlier iterations of the serial were called The Bastard Cadre (perhaps you see why), the original opening book, also called The Bastard Cadre, is still part of the serial (in an updated form - it’s now the fifth “book” or story arc). As I’ve improved as a writer and storyteller and as the mythology of the world I’m writing about has evolved, I wanted to go back to the beginning and do a better job of introducing Avril and his cadre.
Originally, Avril was kinda just told about the cadre, “Oh, and by the way!” and I really wanted him to experience the connection with his cadre-mates before he understood what it was. Also, just telling him, was a missed opportunity to give you something to puzzle over, I hope I gave you enough information throughout the story that you either figured it out or that it made perfect sense when Zin finally told Thorn, “You must protect your cadre, but I must protect my cadre too.”
Giving you enough to figure it out, is why Thorn’s cadre is such an important part of the story, and why I think his cadre was the perfect antagonist for this opening. Avril’s cadre is different to Thorn’s, but Thorn’s represents how cadres are typically deployed by the chosen they’re bound to, and the mechanics of the bond are, for the most part, the same.
With the move to the serial format, I also changed the name of the stories. I still like The Bastard Cadre as a title, but that naughty B word made it hard to get ads for the series. I tried ads on a few platforms for The Bastard Cadre books, and to my surprise the ads got knocked back about 70% of the time for profanity.
I assume there’s a list somewhere and the ads I tried to run were scanned for words on the list and the rejections I received were automatic, but I’m not a particularly keen marketer, and it’s a lot of work to follow up about ads to explain Bastard was used legitimately (ha!), especially when even that process only had a slightly better acceptance rate than when dealing with bots.
As I do plan to market these stories, even as I groan at the thought of it, I decided to save myself some busy work and pick a new title.
I considered The Cadre, but I had to explain what a cadre was far too many times to settle on that for long. I eventually chose Cogs. I like the simplicity of it, and how with just a little bit of context it conveys the idea that we’re all just tiny cogs in some big complicated machinery.
Also, I love the short URL cogs.ws (I’m pretending WS stands for Web Serial).
For better or worse, this serial is the creative project I’m excited about getting into the world, so taking a year (or so) to go back and add new books to the beginning and rewrite the existing books, feels like time well spent.
I also really like the serial format and the story is much stronger told this way, and I think the format (daily episodes by email) fits into my ideal reader’s schedule far easier than big books do.
Essentially, with a serial, I think readers can lose interest at any point if the writing and the story aren’t engaging enough, and if that happens they can just walk away and never return. With books, there’s a bit of a sunk cost mentality, “I’ve read this far, I may as well push through to the end,” that I don’t think serials get in quite the same way. This pushes me to make sure the writing is as tight as possible and keep each episode interesting whether that’s through mysteries solved or started, exciting action scenes, cool but inevitable twists, or fun/weird/revealing interactions. Ultimately, this makes me a better storyteller and gives you better stories.
I hope you’re eager for the next part, Discarded Gods. It’s set 23 years earlier than Malicious Designs and the connection might not be immediately obvious, but both arcs are very much part of the same story.
Discarded Gods follows Ethan, who Avril mentions a few times in Malicious Designs. It is set a couple of decades earlier, the Cleansing is still a fresh scar on the psyche of the survivors and Rasa newly empty, and Ethan, as you’ll see in episode 2.1 Wakizashi, ain’t doing so well.
Avril and his cadre are central figures in Cogs, but the world is much bigger than one cadre, and the stories jump between different people, places, and even back and forth on the timeline, though they will always come back to that central element, and it will become clear quickly how Discarded Gods is connected.
Discarded Gods is the shortest of the story arcs so far at just 27 episodes, but it includes a lot about the world that we didn't get to see in Malicious Designs.
We catch up with Avril again in the third arc “Brotherhood’s Curse”, but by the end of Discarded Gods I think you'll be eager for more of Ethan’s story.