Me, Myself, and I

The writing’s on the wall.  When one door shuts, another opens. Etc. Etc. Etc.  The answer was no thanks.

So it’s up to me alone to keep myself focused this year.  I was talking with my beloved sister and admitted that I only keep submitting to external sources because I want someone to tell me what to do and when.  When my editor says, “Turn this in on this date,” then my response is “Ma’am, yes, ma’am!”

The latent subbie living inside me, I guess.

But it’s true.  If I have a contract, I know exactly what to work on next, and even if it’s a miserable grind and the edits are bewilderingly hard, I find a way to do it. Because that’s what a professional does.

If it’s just me… I’m afraid I won’t push through the tough spots. It’s always easier to start a new project than to finish a difficult one.

I can write anything I want!  New shinies!  No one’s going to tell me to cut this or add that. It’s all my decision!

It’s all my decision.  What if I get stuck and I don’t have anyone to make suggestions on how to get out? What if I choose a really unmarketable project? What if I can’t finish the project?

I’ve been in this place before and didn’t finish a project for a year. I think that was 2005 but I’m not going back through the archives to verify. I have finished something this year, so all is not lost.  I just have to find a way to put my horse into the harness and start the journey, before she busts the traces, tangles the reins, and charges off into the hills bucking for freedom.

Of course, I have some medical things going on right now that are messing with my emotions and increasing my stress.  Hoping to come up with a plan of action soon. In the meantime, my concentration will be on The Prince’s Beast. I’m behind of where I need to be.

There is an open door. Somewhere. Even if it’s just a mouse’s hole.

First Submission of 2016

Yeah, I know, that’s pretty sad!  But I finally did drum up the courage to submit something to Carina’s “Too Taboo” anthology call. Right when I read the information, I saw a Twitter discussion (I swear, I get some of my best ideas from Twitter!) and it sparked an idea that flowed within days.

That doesn’t always happen.  Some stories I love so much and I just can’t finish them. It’s like my brain thinks something is wrong, or there’s some detail that’s just not gelling, and for whatever reason, I can’t finish.  Or I finish and I know it’s not worth doing anything with.

I had my doubts last night and almost talked myself out of getting the proposal put together (synopsis, UGH!).  I’ve had such a tough year and I’ve only just begun to make some headway. I could just hold this story back, finish it at my leisure, and self-pub it later, right?  Right. But that’s not pushing me to take risks and put myself out there.

I mean, one of the pluses of self publishing is definitely NOT having to write a synopsis. But that’s an important skill to have in order to sell on proposal or make longer series deals. What if something I write finally becomes a best seller (snort, chuckles, yeah, I know) and a BIG comes calling with a great offer?  I’d like to be able to write a synopsis — which means I’ve planned the story out. I know the beats and big twists. I know “whodunit” and “who banged who” and “why.” I’ve spent enough time to make sure my opening and closing images resonate and come full circle.

Granted, I don’t always need that level of information!  But if I have it, chances are that much greater that I’ll have the confidence to finish the book and know it’ll hold up to an editor’s red-pen scrutiny.

It’d be easier to hold this story back and self pub it “later.” (Which honestly might mean I’d never finish it.)  Well, I’ve never been much for taking the easiest path. I’m much more likely to kick the comfy stall down and charge off into the night, just to prove there’s still a wild heart inside me.

But I also want to make smart choices, and I did have to pause and think.  I have TERRIBLE luck with anthology calls. Honestly?  I’ve never had a successful acceptance for any antho call I’ve answered, and I’ve answered several. At least 5, I think.  All rejections. (Survive My Fire was my submission for a dragon antho call back in 2009ish.) So what’s a rejection going to do to my frame of mind right now, after all the other publishing biz blows I’ve taken this year?

It might be smarter to play safer, if for no other reason to protect my muse, which has been a little delicate this year.

Then Gregar kicked my ass for saying he was delicate, and I saw a cool clip of Idris Elba on Facebook (shared on my page here), so I decided I was being ridiculous. I wrote the damned synopsis. I polished my first 30 pages. And I submitted that puppy over lunch today.

 

Just Keep Swimming

Sorry for my lack of updates. I’m trying to do better!

Things are still in turmoil at Samhain. For the foreseeable future, I’ll be self publishing. My current series are tied up through 2022 and while I could self publish them, I don’t know that I want to continue series that are tied up elsewhere and in doubt. Though let me be clear – Samhain has always paid on time and continues to meet its obligations. The whole “we’re closing” but now “we’re not closing” thing has shaken my trust. And I don’t submit books to places I can’t trust. I certainly don’t trust working with a publisher who fired all its editors.

I’m still in a funk and needed a change. Something to keep me going when I’d really rather just play a game or watch a Royals game.  So I took up a prompt again this year in the BDSM GoodReads group challenge “Kink in Ink.” It’s slow going, but I am at least working a little and getting some words. It’s different and a small way I can give back to a group that welcomes authors and readers of BDSM fiction with open arms.  If you’re not a member of the group (where it’ll be offered for free through December), and assuming the story doesn’t suck, I’ll make it more widely available next year.

Alas, I haven’t spent time learning game programming lately.  I have a good direction – I just need to do it.  I still am interested in pursing a romance novel game – but since I haven’t felt much like writing, it’s hard to work on a novel game.

That Man and I are headed to KC this weekend for a Royals game.  My first in probably 30-40 years.  I don’t remember much about the only other game I saw as a kid, other than it was tied 0-0, went into extra innings, and we lost.  The kids are staying at home with Grandma, and we’re spending two nights in a hotel.  Supposedly That Man has agreed that I can and should write on this getaway weekend.  We’ll see if that goodwill continues once we’re actually there!

I also took the next two days off, and will plan to get some work done. Word by word.

Just keep swimming.

 

A New Endeavor

Not a new interest – because I’ve blogged about loving Big Fish Games before.  I love hidden object and time management games.  I also recently played my first visual novel game:  Regency Love.

And that got me to thinking.  Hard.

I love all kinds of romance.  I love all kinds of games. But how come there aren’t very many good ROMANCE GAMES?!?

A very very long time ago, when Survive My Fire was first published by now defunct Drollerie Press, we talked about making a Keldari game.  At the time, I knew nothing about such games or how that’d work.  Then of course Drollerie went out of business.  But the love for gaming–and story telling, obviously!–is still there.

After playing Regency Love, I even went so far as to buy a new (Objective-C) programming book.  Just in case.

I code all the time for the Evil Day Job – but it’s not in a game-friendly language.  I know a little html and js – but I’ve never been a “developer” in those languages.  It’s just bits I’ve picked up after supporting back-end processes that feed to our websites.  I do know Java, but am far from an expert at it.  FAR.  I’m strongest in a vendor language that is as far away from gaming as we are from the sun.

Or is it?

The way a programmer thinks is the foundation for any code.  I don’t care what the language is.  There’s an inherit understanding of how to tackle a problem, break into pieces, reuse, etc.  Adding polymorphism and inheritance does drive the learning curve higher, but I’ve been taught in several object-oriented languages.

So I know how to think in code.  I know how to write.  I know to how game!

And even in my weakest language – Java – we have a development tool in house that helps as much as possible.  e.g. if you start typing, it tries to be smart and fill in for you. All kinds of built-in look up capabilities and smart help information. Heck, with a push of a button I can make code auto-generate all the getters and setters for an entire class without even thinking about it.  It’s barely even “coding” in that regard.

So what I need is a good tool. I’ve been researching various software development tools for gaming and I may have stumbled across a gem.

I’ve demo’d several that were not for me, though I could see how they could be useful for others.  I walked through an entire HTML5/JavaScript tutorial on how to build a game from scratch.  Learned a lot – but still had too many questions about how to do a story-type game. GameMaker Player wasn’t bad – but crashed on me 15 mins in.  Construct 2 could also work… But it just wasn’t clicking for me. I’ve downloaded and installed Unity, but I’ve read that the learning curve for it is high, and haven’t had time to dig into it yet.  (Plus it’s not cheap!)  For what I want to do, it would be like buying a supercharged Porche for the sole purpose of going to the post office.

Then I found Tyrano Builder.  It’s ONLY a visual novel software tool.  Plug and play – drop in elements you want.  OR you can code in JavaScript or pseudo script for more complicated needs. Pretty quickly, I was able to get a basic scene going in a new Keldari novella/game.

And it is so freaking cool!  I haven’t been able to play in this world for a long time.  Too long, actually.  The game is based on what I’d planned to include in Given In Fire.  The only problem: it’s been so long since I had that idea, I can’t even remember the characters’ names, let alone what the story was going to be.

So it’s going to take me some time to a). learn the tool and b). learn how to write a visual novel game and c). write a meaningful story (several, actually, to accommodate multiple story lines through interaction).  But I have started it and it’s been a lot of fun.

I’m going to do a little more due diligence and check out Ren’Py – though at first glance, it’s too heavy on the Python scripting for me, after seeing how easy TB is to drag and drop the elements I want into play – and probably Novelty too.  The slight advantage with it might be the ability to get and develop game assets (like characters and backgrounds) easily.

I haven’t had a problem uploading images to TB – the problem is I don’t have very many images to play with.  I’ve got a couple of backgrounds I bought for Keldari novellas that are appropriately grim deserts.  I even managed to make a very easy/rudimentary text box tonight with Gimp to give a slight customization to the game.  I also downloaded a small dragon sprite to use – but I couldn’t use it for a game I plan/hope to sell someday.  It’s enough for now to let me see how the game develops.

Graphics are my biggest weak point in this area and I can’t compensate for it.  I’ve tried to learn PhotoShop and it’s just not my thing.  The graphics just look cheap and lazy and take me way longer than they should to cobble together.  I’ll have to hire that out.  Luckily, Raelyn’s son has an interest in graphic design and is helping me with a few secret things.  And I’ve been scoping out several artists in various forums to get an idea of what the going rates are.

I even bought a domain! So that’s my FUN thing I’m doing.

I also completed a short novella in April, but it’s a secret.  You’ll have to use your detective skills if you want to find it sometime this month.  It’s off the wall and crazy – my stress reliever project.

I also bought a cover for Three Cuts Deader.  I’d *like* to write it this year yet, but I need to get my mind around what I want to do.  I have a direction a little further along than before.

Oh and I still have a Celtic-inspired fantasy romance I’m working on.  I stepped away from it temporarily to work on the secret project, but should be returning to it in the next month or so.

Giveaway: Name That Series

My friend Angela Campell is making a new cover for my novella, Nightgazer, that was originally part of our Here Be Magic boxed set.  I’d like to write more in this world (especially now that I’m self-publishing for the foreseeable future) but I don’t have a series name.

I’ll paste the blurb below.  If you have a series title idea, please leave it in comments.  If I use your title, I’ll give you a $25 gift certificate to any online book retailer of your choice!

A princess on the run with a secret gift. A grumpy wizard stripped of his power. Can she heal him in time to save her throne?

Matilda, the Twenty Third Princess and youngest daughter of the Tyrant, flees the castle in the dead of the night after the Tyrant’s death. Hoping to survive her murderous half-siblings’ fight for the throne, she hides in the furthest corner of the realm she can find. Unfortunately, the infamous wizard once chained as the queen’s pleasure slave had the exact same plan.

Tormented by guilt for his part in his mentor’s death and stripped of his power by the queen, Oyrin Nightgazer plots revenge and hopes to restore the Wellspring–the source of all wizards’ power–that was tainted by his betrayal. The princess bears a massive bulls-eye on her back, but with his help, she might be able to stand against the evil queen and her daughter. Assuming he remains sane long enough, and Matilda doesn’t try to enslave him again.

Because with a wizard at her feet… She would be the mightiest queen the realm has ever seen.

Elements:  BDSM, wizard, cat shapeshifter, princess, magic

P.S. If you haven’t read Nightgazer but would consider leaving a review, drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) with your desired format and I’ll send you a copy.

Update

I’m still plugging along on my new fantasy romance.  I wrote about 5K words in April.  Not much at all – but it is progress.

I’ve been following along with #ListifyLife and posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s been fun – and I’m practicing my handwriting!  I still mess up in my journal and have to skip a few pages, but I’m getting less uptight about making it look “perfect.”

The news from Samhain is… no news.  Just some possible news she can’t talk about yet.  It’s making me twitchy and of course my writer brain is going off on all KINDS of scenarios.  All of which end up screwing over my books.  I hope not.  I’d rather start over on these covers and re-release myself than let someone else (that I don’t know, and never actually submitted to voluntarily) control them.  I’ll keep you posted.  As of now, all Samhain titles are still available everywhere, but I did notice some of the print editions getting pulled from Amazon Prime.  If you want a print tradesize, you’d better order one sooner than later.

And disappointing news for A Killer Need series too.  Carina won’t be pursuing a third book.  Sales don’t justify it at this time.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be one – it just means I’ll have to self-pub it.  That’s a possibility and I already have the title and suspense plot.  I do *not* have the romantic/erotic plot figured out yet.  So that’s on the back burner for now.

This all got me pretty depressed today and I was whining/bitching to my Beloved Sis.  We got to joking around and… I might have a really hilarious story idea in progress.  It’s campy, tongue-in-cheek, and completely, totally over the top.  But it was FUN and I need some fun right now.  So I’m jotting all my notes.

I’m trying to get my mojo back. I’ve been taking more time for me, like playing some of my old favorite time management games. I’ve also started taking baths.  I’ve been a shower girl for decades, but when we started making bath bombs, it was fun to take a bath again.  I’ve gotten addicted to Epsom salts, some nice essential oils, a glass of wine, and a book on my Kindle app.  I’ve found that I’m reading much more – which is a good thing.

I need to keep filling that Well.

It’s a weird feeling. I’m completely free. Uncontracted.  No promised works anywhere. It’s disconcerting to say the least, and yes, at times, paralyzing. There are too many choices and decisions.  But I’m working through my stages of frustration, fury, terror, despair, giddy relief, shaky hope, and back to frustration.

So that’s why I’m going for the fun idea right now.  It makes me laugh out loud and I really need that right now!  Branding/sales/publishing be damned.

 

 

Kanban Board

kanbanOver the past few years at the Evil Day Job, we’ve started using an “Agile” method of developing on certain key projects.  This involves taking a large project and breaking it down into individual pieces and hanging them on a board (physical or electronic) into three or more different columns. It could be something like “Ready,” “In Progress,” and “Complete.”  (Ours at work are more complex for testing, etc.)

The real goal is to keep only ONE thing in the “In Progress” section of the board so you can concentrate on it. Then we have daily – yes DAILY – stand-up meetings of about 15 mins to go over each person’s responsibilities on the board and make sure it’s up to date. If you can’t continue for some reason, then you mark the project as “blocked” and pull a new item from the ready board.  Then it’s management’s job to help you become unblocked and keep things moving into the Complete column.

The hardest part for me is keeping only one thing in the In Progress column, at least for work!  I’m always on 2-3 projects at once.  Even if I’m on a big several-thousand-hour project, they always still find ways to slip a maintenance or support item in that needs to be done.

I’ve tried the agile method for writing before and it just didn’t work, at least the way I had my board set up.  I’ve got so many ideas, and at the time, I had two publishers, plus the stories I wanted to write, plus all in various stages of writing, editing, production, promotion, etc.  It was impossible for me to keep track of everything that way, and certainly unrealistic to only have ONE task going at any one time.

However, someone recommended KanbanFlow to me a month or so ago (it’s free!) and this time, it’s working.  I think it’s part of the situation I’m in right now – sort of starting over fresh and trying to concentrate on one project, rather than keeping a bunch of pipes flowing at the same time.  I still have promotional, website, etc. updates to do, but I don’t keep them on my board.

I’ve been using one main board for only the fantasy romance. I broke out all the tasks, like worldbuilding, character development, etc and slowly moved them to the complete column. Then I took drafting the story and broke it down into small chunks, even writing the first draft.  I color-coded all the different tasks, which both makes it pretty and also easy to see what things go together.

What makes KanbanFlow work for me this time around is the built-in Pomodoro timer.  I can pick a task, set the timer for 25 mins, and work.  That’s honestly about all I can concentrate right now (and sometimes even that’s a challenge!)  Then the timer gives me 5 mins to take a break.  Usually I just do one session and quit, because it’s late at night when I’m finally opening up Scrivener.

Then I can look back at each completed task and see how long it took me – assuming I remembered to select the task and set the timer.  I figure I can do about anything for 20-25 mins, even make my brain pay attention!  And it’s working, for the most part.  I started with 500 word tasks. Then started bumping it up with weekly goals, which I’m still fine tuning. I really want to work up to 5K a week but that’s not happening yet.

I’m still fighting the “don’t wanna” camp, so anything’s a distraction.  Ooooh, a new game!  Oooh, I should research that!  I know, I’ll check Twitter…

When I finally open my file, it’s almost always after 11 PM.  Ugh.  But I am hitting 500 words most days, so I am making progress. I’d like to work up to 1K a day, but I’m going to have to figure out how to stop the time wasting.  I think once I get deeper into the flow and rhythm that I won’t have to fight the piddly things so much.

If electronic kanban boards doesn’t work for you, you can make one easily on your wall with Sticky notes or a piece of poster board. The visual “In Progress” column is a good reminder to keep working on that next task!

 

 

Monday Wrapup

Lots of small tidbits to share this week, so I’ll try a link/brief paragraph roundup.  I used to do these all the time!

#ListifyLife Spring for me is….

A photo posted by Joely Sue Burkhart (@joelysue) on


My #ListifyLife post is up on Instagram.  You can read lots of lists across all social media by following the hashtag.

I’ve also had two great reviews for Two Cuts Darker, including 4 Stars from RT!  I’m not going to the conference this year (Vegas, sobs) – price tag was just too much to swing this year compared to returns.  Are any of you going or do you do local conferences?

Two Cuts Darker also got a B review at Dear Author.  “The sex scenes are visceral, gritty, emotionally intense and plentiful (just how I like them). In both books each sex scene serves an actual purpose, moving the story forward and creating more intimacy between the couples.”

I was also at Here Be Magic last week talking about trying to find a planner system that works for me.  We had some great discussion on my Facebook page too.

Listify Life

I’m hoping to get back to a somewhat regular blog schedule.  It’s just hard after all these years – I start to think I’ve already said everything!  Or the things I wish I could say really aren’t appropriate for the general public.  :mrgreen:

ListifyEnter Roni Loren’s Listify Life Challenge.  Each week, she’s challenging us to make a list.  A simple list.  I can do that!  And I can use my pretty fountain pens, new Leuchtturm1917 journal, and my not-so-pretty handwriting. Apologies in advance.

Everyone’s welcome to participate!

Still Swimming

Two-three weeks ago, I was seriously wondering if I was “all wrote out.”  I haven’t written significant words all year and that sly little voice started whispering deep in the back of my mind that maybe I was broken. I’d pushed too hard in 2015 and I was burnt out.  Done. Finiti.

Then the Samhain news hit.

And yeah, that did take some wind out of my sails.  But when that happens, it’s easier to change directions than when you’re full steam ahead.  I’ve known for a long time that I could probably be making more if I’d self published, but my sense of loyalty is strong.  Plus I had/have a great relationship with my editor, Tera, and it’s nice not to have to foot the expenses up front for cover art, editing, and formatting.  The lure of 70% royalties is strong though.  And now with Samhain closing their doors sometime this year, I have to make the jump.

I’m still going to pursue traditional/small press publications, e.g. with Carina, with the right books.  I love my editor, Alissa, there too, and they can do way more with distribution than I know how to take care of myself right now.  But it is harder to get certain books published there because they’re picky, which is a good thing.  They’re only going to take on books that meet their needs, that they know they can sell.  Doesn’t mean a book is bad or shouldn’t be published — it just doesn’t meet their niche they’re targeting.  So not everything I write will be right for them, but look for future Carina releases as I can.

I’m building some brand new ideas right now with the hope of getting some new things released, that can be making some money before I start getting Samhain titles back.  That way I’ll hopefully have enough in the tank to pay for new covers.  As those rights come back to me, I’ll be hopefully writing the last book in the series and repackaging everything for hopefully new/better sales.

I’m expecting the Lady Wyre series to come back to me first because it earns the poorest sales.  If so, I’ll be writing the last Lady Wyre book.  I have a short story/prequel I wrote for that series, so I’ll either get it packaged and out on sites separately as a permanent freebie, or I’ll include that material into Lady Doctor Wyre.  I’ll have to make that decision once I get everything back.

When I get the Connaghers back, I’ll write Mal’s story and finish that series.

I don’t have any further planned Billionaire books.  But if I get an idea for it, I’ll consider adding another.  However, I’m expecting these to be the last books I get back, since they’re the newest.

I had to use this time for some soul searching.  I’ve been writing so hard, concentrating on my brand and sales and business – that my artist withered a bit.  That’s why I’ve had a hard time getting back into just writing new words.  So the next new project is going to be all for ME.  Things that make me smile.  That make me happy.  That feed my artist.  If it ends up BDSM, fine, but I’m not going to force it.

I need something a bit lighter right now to bring back some of the magic.  So I’m returning to my first love:

Fantasy Romance!