Author’s Updates About Book IV in the Chronicles of Avilésor

Blood of the Enemy book pages: "The story will continue with Book IV: Lab Rat"


Earlier this month, I shared some big news on Patreon and then later on social media. The first draft of Book IV: Lab Rat in the Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series is officially complete!

As excited (and relieved) as I was to make that announcement, wrapping up the first draft didn’t come easily… nor was it planned until very recently.

It wasn’t until I was typing up the March edition of my monthly newsletter that I seriously started to consider the possibility of splitting the large manuscript into two books. After weighing the pros and cons (which I discussed with my Patreon subscribers), I decided to move forward with the division.

Now, in celebration of the eighth anniversary of my website, I’m sharing news and updates about Book IV.

Word Count Before & After the Division

When I published my newsletter at the beginning of March, the manuscript for Lab Rat was already at 219,109 words. For context and reference, the other three books in the series are approximately:

154k A Fallen Hero
194k Phantom’s Mask
204k Blood of the Enemy

This made Book IV the largest in the series so far, and I wasn’t even done yet. By my estimate, I was about 75% of the way through the manuscript. However, let me clarify that the first draft was about 95% written. I didn’t write this series chronologically; I recorded scenes as they popped into my head, and then went back to fill in the gaps and edit the pieces together.

I’ve talked before about my unpopular opinion that word count isn’t as important as most writers and editors make it out to be. BUT that opinion is based on the length of a story. (After all, the Chronicles of Avilésor was originally supposed to be one book that grew into a series of at least seven planned novels.)

I think stories take on a life of their own, and they should be as long as they need to be. I’m not the kind of author who can think of an idea for a plot and decide, “Okay, now I’m going to write a 100k book about it.” I hate that kind of confinement. I prefer to start writing and see where it takes me, as there are usually plenty of surprises along the way as characters develop their own personalities and the plot takes unexpected turns.

However, as I mentioned in that post, word count IS important when it comes to editing, printing, and shipping costs. I was becoming increasingly conscious of the growing word count as I neared the last quarter of Book IV’s manuscript. I had at least one big scene that still needed to be written, along with a handful of other important scenes that would likely need to be fleshed out better, and I was concerned that by trying to keep my word count under control, I might risk failing to give these scenes the attention to detail that they deserved.

After making the cut and adding an epilogue, the word count was slashed down to 147,788 words. This puts it slightly lower than Book I and gives me a lot more freedom to add more details during editing.

Pros & Cons of Dividing Book IV

While I was still on the fence about the split, I shared the various pros and cons with my Patreon subscribers before making my final decision. Here’s a quick look at the considerations I weighed:


As I mentioned in the last section, word count was the biggest driving factor.

Writing smaller books is a smarter and more economical publishing strategy. (Unfortunately for me, I love big books!) I pay my line editor per word, which means that by cutting my manuscript in half, I also halved that upfront cost… which was a big expense that I was concerned about after a rocky start to my event season. It also means the editing phases between me (phase 1), my beta readers (phase 2), and my line editor (phase 3) should move quicker since the editors don’t have such a beefy manuscript to read, meaning I can hopefully release the book faster.

A smaller book obviously has fewer pages, which mean the print cost goes down. And my distributor can fit more copies into a box, which saves shipping costs.

By dividing the manuscript, that also means part two of Lab Rat, which will now be Book V, should be able to follow Book IV with a fairly quick turnaround time since it’s mostly written and halfway edited already, which is good news for readers who hate having to wait between releases.


The list of pros looks really promising, but I did have some concerns. Primarily, was there a strong division point that would allow the first half of the manuscript to stand alone as a full story?

Initially, the most logical place to make the break looked like it was going to be a part that… shall we say, was going to leave readers extremely dissatisfied at the end. And I was hesitant to do that. Some authors delight in torturing their readers with cliffhangers, but I generally don’t. If I end a book on a cliffhanger, that’s because it was genuinely to best place to divide the books in my series, whether that’s because of a time gap, major event, tone shift, etc.

Luckily for readers, when I split the manuscript at that place, I quickly realized it wasn’t going to work. Not only were readers going to be unhappy with how I left a character’s fate (which I’m not going to name for spoiler reasons), but the plot in general just felt unfulfilling on many levels. There wasn’t enough of a resolution, and fates of other main characters were still left uncertain.

I ended up shifting the division point back a few chapters to resolve some of the most pressing conflicts with the main cast of characters while still (obviously) leaving larger plot points open to lead into the next book.

Publication Timeline + Next Steps

Now that I can officially say that the first draft is complete as of March 14, 2024, I’m starting to look forward at the publication timeline. Realistically, I’m estimating a release around the end of 2024 or beginning of 2025.

The next step will be for me to go through the first draft and do my initial round of self-edits. From there, the manuscript will go out to a handful of beta readers. Some of them are regulars who have helped me with other books, and some are new. After I get all of those copies back, I’ll review and incorporate their notes, then send the manuscript off to my line editor for the final editing phase.

While I wait for my beta readers and line editor, I’ll be working on creating the cover and interior layout for Lab Rat. The maps from Book III will be published again in IV, and I’m considering adding a pronunciation guide as well. I already have the ISBNs ready to be assigned to the hardcover, paperback, and ebook.

After I put everything together, I’ll send the book to IngramSpark. They’ll need to approve my files before I can order a proof copy to check for any final technical or formatting errors. Once I go through the proof copy and make any necessary updates, I’ll send a digital version to my ebook formatter to finalize that version.

From there, once everything looks good to go, it’s off to the presses! With Book III, I offered preorders from the first print run. I’ll be doing that again, but the process should be smoother by using my ecommerce website instead of this site, so if you’re interested in getting one of the first printed copies, stay tuned!

I won’t announce a target release date until I get through the editing process.

Changes Due to the Division

As you can imagine, cutting the manuscript in half caused some drastic changes. Only one beta reader has been receiving chapters as I completed them. Most of my beta readers don’t get the draft until I’ve had a chance to complete it and go back through it during my self-edit, which is the process I prefer. But this is a special case with a family member, and it proved to be opportunistic since I had someone who could realistically discuss options with me.

After explaining my two proposed division points, he agreed with my final decision and felt that the resolution would be satisfying despite the characters still having big issues to face.

Ultimately, this division feels very reminiscent to the split between Books I and II. For those who might not be aware, A Fallen Hero and Phantom’s Mask were originally one giant manuscript that was split in half for publication.

**SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T FINISHED BOOK I YET!*** (Skip ahead to the next section if you want to avoid them.)

Cato’s emotional and impactful confrontation with a particular antagonist at the end of Book II was initially planned to be the ending of the first book. I was torn, just as I was this time, about the idea of splitting the manuscript since I’d designed a particular ending.

But, when I stepped back and looked at the first manuscript, I saw a very clear division point in Cato’s journey as a fugitive and then a mercenary. Although Book I ended on an unintentional cliffhanger, the break made sense. Readers had a small-scale resolution with the main characters (the separated parties had reunited, and the twins had survived), but they still had the large-scale question of what was going to happen with Azar, the Agents, and the uncertain deal made between the Alpha ghosts and the humans of Phantom Heights.

The split between Books IV and V feels like a similar situation. There’s an immediate small-scale solution resolving the fates of the main characters, but it ends with a major power move by one of the antagonists setting up large-scale consequences for the next book. I will say that the plight of the main cast isn’t quite as resolved as I would have liked, but this ending made the most sense since there’s a short time gap between part 1 and part 2 that felt like a natural breaking point.

As for the discussions I’ve had on Patreon about Book IV’s different structure compared to the other three books and aspects of the novel that I’m really excited about, those really didn’t change for the most part. I’ll talk about some of those at the end of this post. Here’s some of what did shift with the manuscript breaking into two parts:

  • The original planned ending of Lab Rat was a BIG finale with some major consequences for both the Human Realm and the Ghost Realm. I’ve warned readers that “everything is going to change” by the end of Book IV. Now, I can still say that with the new ending, but it’s on a much different scale since that original ending will now be the conclusion of Book V. One thing I can promise without giving away spoilers — the lab-family’s dynamic won’t ever be the same.
  • The other three books definitely dipped into some dark territory at times. From a fountain filled with blood and human bodies, to some gruesome battle scenes that left victims unrecognizable… let’s just say these aren’t books for kids. Lab Rat ventures even deeper into the darkness. And yet, not quite as dark as it was planned to be. One particular scene was in the back half of the manuscript, so it’s been pushed to Book V.
  • Important new characters are introduced in Lab Rat, although readers won’t have much of a chance to get to know them quite yet since they’re more prominently featured in part 2.
  • Several characters have some major development and backstory exploration. Unfortunately for Ash, her turn was pushed back to Book V.

On March 21st, I officially obtained copyright permission to use lyrics from “You Are My Sunshine” in Book IV. The song has been a recurring element throughout the series so far.

"You Are My Sunshine" music box with the Chronicles of Avilesor books in the background

For those who might not be aware, I had to obtain permission to use the lyrics in A Fallen Hero and Phantom’s Mask.

Blood of the Enemy did not require permission because only the title was referenced in the novel, not the lyrics.

I recently published a Patreon post to give subscribers a more in-depth look at the process and why I chose this particular song to be a memory of Cato’s forgotten childhood.

What I’m Excited About for Book IV

I’ve said for a long time that Lab Rat is my favorite book in the series, and I hope that passion comes through when readers finally get to experience it. This novel is very different from the others, and not just because it gets dark.

(I’ll do my best to talk about why I’m excited without giving away too many spoilers.)

Book IV fills in a ton of missing pieces and thoroughly explores Cato’s relationship with his lab-family in their early days together. Essentially, readers finally get to see what happened to the protagonist in the two-year gap between the prologue and first chapter of Book I.

Normally, I’m not a fan of stories breaking the timeline, but this was a conscious decision that I intentionally made with the goal of capturing the heart of the found-family. After the development and buildup from three books, readers have fallen in love with these characters and come to understand their inseparable bond, even though they didn’t see it form in the beginning except for quick snippets of flashbacks throughout the other novels.

But now, readers have a chance to go back and meet the old Cato before he lost his memories, before Agent Kovak stripped him of his humanity, before he lost faith in his blood-family, before he met his lab-siblings… and they get to watch those events unfold with a lot of background information that Cato himself doesn’t have, which completely changes the experience compared to the very different journey that would have occurred if I’d kept the plot chronological and introduced the Alpha ghosts as strangers to Cato in Book I.

We also get to know Agent Kovak better as an antagonist (for better or worse). Book IV reveals the physical and psychological torture that Cato endured at the AGC. I love diving into the psychology of the characters, especially the complicated relationship of the twins in their role of serving their masters while also being part of the lab-family.

In addition, Lab Rat brings readers into Ero’s POV for the first time, explores the concept of the Mirror Realm, interacts with ECANI as more of a character than just a tool, reveals Axel’s tragic backstory, and advances major development for some of my favorite characters. Admittedly, a few of my favorite scenes have been bumped to Book V, but I still love Lab Rat‘s journey as it pulls back the curtain and shines a spotlight on the trauma of the past. It’s an emotional ride on many levels… if you can handle venturing into the darkness of the AGC…

On Halloween, I released an early sneak peek of the prologue to my Alpha-level patrons. Now, to celebrate the completion of Lab Rat‘s first draft and the anniversary of my website, I’ve unlocked that post to make it public so everyone now has access to it!

If you enjoy my work and would like to help support my career as an artist and author, please check out my Patreon community! Even pledging only $5 a month adds up and helps me cover basic business costs such as paying my line editor so I can publish the next book, covering vendor fees for events, maintaining my website domains, and much, much more. Every cent I earn from these subscriptions goes straight back into my business so I can continue sharing my books and art with you. And, depending on the membership tier you choose, there are some fun perks for you, too! You can read more about how donations and subscriptions help me in this FAQ article. 💕

Patreon membership tiers for Sara A. Noe
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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! 🖤