NaNoWriMo 2017

Let the race for words begin! Yes, I’m participating this year (you can find me as joelysueburkhart).

I wasn’t sure which book I was going to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I’d intended to start The Mummy’s Captive Witch, but Queen Takes King was flowing too well and all the stars aligned for me to just continue writing in that world. I had 32,000 words at the end of October and decided to just keep on going.

So my plan is to finish the King (guessing 60-65K) and then go straight into Queen Takes Queen. Ideally… I’ll finish both this month!  Though Queen might go a bit into December.

I’m taking every Monday off in November, plus the week of Thanksgiving. We’re not hosting this year, so I won’t have to burn days of vacation cleaning house and shopping and cooking.  So I should have plenty of 3-5k+ days to get both books done this month.  That’s the plan at least!

I’m still working out my release schedule for the next few months and beyond. I did finally hear from Carina and it was a no. The only remaining publisher obligation I have is a contemporary proposal for Entangled, but it’s not working yet and I’ve got other things cooking right now.

I haven’t decided if Queen Takes Queen will come in Jan or Feb yet.  I should have the cover early Jan, so it’s possible I could release that month. We’ll see.  I’ll firm it up once I see how this month unfolds.

For 2018, I’m really going to shoot for the moon. My ideal releases will include

  • Queen Takes Queen (Jan-Feb)
  • secret pen name release, books 2 and 3.
  • Another Queen book or two in a different queen’s POV.
  • Queen’s Checkmate or Endgame (haven’t decided which title I like best)
  • Three Cuts Deader
  • The Mummy’s Captive Witch
  • The Prince’s Beast under a new pen name
  • A spinoff of the Billionaire series for Entangled

I’m also working on

  • A Connagher boxed set. Have the cover–but need to get the formatting done.
  • Getting the Shanhasson trilogy into print
  • Getting the Connagher books into print
  • Getting Lady Doctor Wyre and her men back up for sale (new covers).

These all cost $$$ so I need new releases out to pay for everything. Hence the big push for words.

Words, all the words. My focus in 2018 is MORE WORDS.

Flailing

I’ve been doing some of this.

via GIPHY

And some of this.

via GIPHY

And a lot of this.

via GIPHY

Queen Takes Knights has been going like gangbusters! A HUGE THANKS to all of you who’ve downloaded a copy, dropped a review/rating anywhere, or just talked about it on Facebook.  I can’t even begin to describe how great this past week has been. I’ve never had a book take off like this before. Never. I’m completely blown away. Humbled. Awed. And so freaking excited to finish the King and get it out for you.

It was the right book, at the right time, and the right people found it and told their friends, and in the end, it’s like lightning striking. It’s been a fantastic week.

THANK YOU!

On Writing: Process

The only thing that seems to stay the same – is that my process is constantly changing. For me, that’s a good thing, though it can be scary at times when something I’ve done in the past just isn’t working.

I envy people who can make up a week’s worth of meals and eat the same thing everyday. My horse would be kicking that stall down in a hurry. Writing is the same way for me. I have a hard time setting a flat, even number of words for every day. Even though I *want* to be able to say “write 1K a day to finish the book” – I know it’ll be more like 500, 200, 1000, 0, 2000, 1000, 0, 3000, 8000, etc. until the book is done.

I’m hoping that certain parts of my new process stay, though, because I really love it. You’ve seen me post all kinds of worksheets, spreadsheets, etc. over the years. Some books I plot. Some books I just know. Some days I get a couple of hundred words. Others I’m fighting to stop before my wrists give out at 5K. Sleep? Who needs sleep anyway? When the words are pouring…

I don’t want to stop.

Right now, I’m not using any of those old tools. At least not in the form I’ve ever used them before. If you haven’t been around me long, there’s a few things you should know about me.

  • I love the smell of leather. LOVE.
  • When I’m stuck, I like to write things by hand.
  • I think purple pens are magic.
  • I can’t draw a straight line (even with a ruler) to save my life.

So while I’ve done the bullet journal thing several times – I never got into the cool layouts that people draw, because I can’t. They look awful and I won’t use that notebook again because I’ll cringe every time I see the pages I ruined. I did buy a leather traveler’s notebook that smells DIVINE though, and I kept trying to use it. I bought some small colorful notebooks, but…

It took me awhile to figure out how and what to put in the notebook in a way that I could live with and find useful too.

I thought I needed one for each book, so that all that book’s info would be in one place. And yeah, that would certainly be easier. But my muse doesn’t work in a linear fashion like that. I might be plotting one book, and writing words on another, and running edits or formatting something else.  Or I might be writing book 1, and get an idea for book 3. So where do I put that, if I need to keep space for book 2 in between? What if I run out of space and have to put book 2 somewhere else?

Worse — what if I started a notebook for one book, but didn’t have it when I got a brilliant idea? I don’t want to forget it, so where do I write it down? I can’t physically carry every single idea notebook with me because DUDE. I have a TON of ideas. And one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that once words are working, and I can dip into the well and touch story at whim…

I don’t get words only for the story I’m doing. I drop that bucket down in the well and haul up all kinds of stuff – and I can’t hold it all in my head.

So what I’ve finally adjusted to doing is using one bullet journal style notebook for ALL stories.  I have an index at the beginning and I start with what I’m doing now. So my current notebook has a list of characters for Queen Takes Knights. Some pictures of the actors/actresses I cast for roles. Notes about characters. Then I got into the scenes I wanted to do, brainstorming etc.

But then I also started keeping a daily log of word counts. And it’s okay if the word counts break up pages of notes about plot or book 2. I don’t set any rules. I just use the next page, and if it’s something I want to be able to find later, I add it to my index.  If it’s really really important, I create a little washi flag so I can find it quickly.  I’m using a word count sticker I got from Bree and having a blast coloring in the little squares.

Combine this with my Kanban board, with the 20-25 min timer, and I can easily track how many words I get in each session (I use a different color).

And I don’t switch notebooks. I’ll use this one until it’s full. Right now, it has Queen Takes Knights info, including my edits and chapter outline. Future scenes I want to do in Queen Takes King. Future character sketches. And they’re not all in order. That’s okay. I’ve also got an outline started for the next zombie story, with the research and worldbuilding I’ve done. Smack dab in the middle of my daily word counts for Queen Takes King.

Once I finally let go of “everything has to be in order” – then the bujo process really took off for me.

Some pics below if you’re interested!

Cover Reveal: Queen Takes Knights

The queen is here!  Cover by Marisa at Cover Me Darling

This single cover inspired an entire series.  It was up for sale on a pre-made facebook group I’m in, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I had to have it.

It’s so ME.  All the blood. All those hands.  *shivers*

Writing this series has helped bring me back from the darkness that was 2016. It’s over-the-top sexy fun menage with MMF and planned M*MFF* too in future books.

The book is up and available at Amazonbut if you don’t have Kindle Select, wait until Monday, when the book will be FREE all week!

Long live the virgin vampire queen and her many sexy Blood.

Up next:  QUEEN TAKES KING.

Kiss Me in Wescott Springs by Holly Cortelyou

I’m pleased to welcome Holly to my blog today!  Enter her giveaway here.


Kiss Me In Wescott Springs
by Holly Cortelyou



BLURB:
Escape with two enticing tales of love. Sometimes opposites do attract and just need a second chance love… courtesy of a raspberry puff pastry and an unexpected discovery. And then again, maybe all it takes is a little wine, truffles and a remodel to turn enemies into lovers!
Welcome back to Wescott Springs where it’s always a sweet and sexy romp to love!


KISS ME AT LAST
One tempting kiss will rock his world…
What’s better than wine, chocolate and a little renovation magic? A sweet and sexy matchup between a handsome, hammer-swinging contractor, Sean McMallory, and a flirty and stubborn champagne bar owner, Melinda York, who’s in a remodel pickle! Sometimes trusting your enemy is the sweetest victory of all.


KISS ME, TROUBLE
Why gamble on a second chance at love?
Six years ago, Cole McCaffrey shattered Alix Porter’s heart into a million scattered shards. But one lucky encounter with flying artwork lands Alix right back into Cole’s lap. With seven short vacation days, can Cole spark their sizzling chemistry and convince Alix of his love, despite the lie that tore them apart?


Available on Amazon!
(99 pennies from 10/16 through 10/23)



TEASER #1 from Kiss Me at Last


With a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth, Sean had been waiting for an eruption for the last ten minutes.
It was day three of construction, and Melinda had looked far from chipper as she’d schlepped into the wine bar at eight in a slouchy gray sweater, faded jeans, and nondescript running shoes. Her eyes were bleary, and she cradled her coffee concoction like it was the crown jewel in the queen’s tiara. She’d winced every time his hammer drove home a nail.
Sean grinned. Hangover, he supposed, and he pounded a few extra nails for good measure as she scuttled into her office. That ought to fix her little red wagon, Miss High and Mighty and her sexy British accent. Not that he’d noticed.
He glanced toward her office door, and there was Melinda, staring at him with a stony gaze through half-slitted eyes.
“Good morning, Ms. York,” Sean said in his perkiest voice. “Sun’s shining, and it’s beautiful out.” He fiddled with the chuck on the drill and idly revved it a few times for some bonus noise.
“Is there anything quiet you can do for a while?” Melinda said, her tone was pained.
“Not feeling well?”
“I’m fine. I have some phone calls to make to wine distributors and a little peace and quiet would be divine.”
“Go back to your coffee shop for those calls. Unless you want me to take a break already? That will slow me down.”
Melinda glared. “I’m trying to get some work done, too.”
“Well, ma’am. This is a construction zone, so there’s going to be noise. We’re not slapping on some paint and hanging a few light fixtures. We’re adding beams, ripping out floors. What exactly were you expecting? Should I bring a bowl of potpourri or something?”
“That might help.” Her tone was drenched in syrup. “Or do you have a silencer for that drill?”


TEASER #2 from Kiss Me, Trouble


As they walked side by side out of the restaurant, a noisy group of women jostled by them. Alix scooted to one side to avoid a passerby whose nose was buried in her phone. She staggered into a towering potted palm.
The palm fronds swayed ominously, and Alix’s arms flailed.
“Easy there. Don’t take out that tree.” Cole twined an arm around her waist and pulled her close. A herd of butterflies stampeded through her belly. His touch was familiar, but it dazzled her senses as if it was the first time they’d touched.
“I’m not usually so wobbly on my feet.” Alix smiled up at Cole and didn’t move.
Cole blinked and broke into a lopsided grin. “You were pushed.”
“Like Humpty Dumpty? Did she fall or was she pushed?” Alix wrinkled her nose.
“It was a conspiracy.” Cole squeezed her waist and winked.
“Did you pay them to bump me into your arms?” She inched one hip closer to his body.
“That would have been well played.” Cole’s voice lowered, but she could have heard him whisper, for the rest of the world had grown distant. There were no glasses clinking nor bar patrons buzzing with laughter.
“And risky.” Alix let her hands creep up his chest until she could feel the solid thud of his heart. It was strong. It was beating as fast as hers. Staccato.
“I work the angles and the gray areas.”
“But, I’m the straight arrow.”
“Opposites still attract?” Cole’s mouth inched closer, and his scent filled her senses. He was exotic like sandalwood but grounded like cedar. He was heaven.



AUTHOR BIO:
Holly Cortelyou pens sweet and spicy small town, contemporary romances that just may have a kiss of magic or a twist mystery.
On any given day, she’s likely sipping coffee and procrastinating on Facebook or organizing a closet. Holly’s living her own Happily Ever After with an uber-handy, broad-shouldered and delicious husband, a sweet silver lab and a fluffball kitty in sun-kissed Southern Oregon.
She has hazel eyes, a goofy sense of humor and all the rest is subject to change without notice.




SOCIAL MEDIA:


State of the Union

I’m always more talkative when I just finished a book. So I thought I’d take advantage of that!

Writing in general is going much better for me this year.  I’ve completed two stories (both 50K ish), completed a proposal, and have plotted/prepped at least 2 others. I have *too* many ideas again, which is actually a good thing for me personally.  I feel creative. I’m dipping into the wellspring daily and finding my characters and their words waiting on me.

I continue to grow in other ways too. I fine-tuned some of my formatting processes with Scrivener. I’m not 100% happy and long for a Mac and Vellum – but that will be a goal for another year. I’m extremely happy with the re-release of the Connaghers and the covers that Kanaxa created for them.

I’m trying new marketing and growing my newsletter again.  (I had turned it off several months ago because I felt I was growing too fast without the systems in place to feed and interact with my list.)  Promos I’ve participated in the last few months have increased my newsletter by almost 1/3 again. Granted my open rate has fallen a bit, but still respectable in the 40-50% range.  I’m on a schedule with my newsletter, rather than only sending when I had a release – which isn’t a way to build a rapport with readers.  I’m *finding* content to send to you, even if I don’t have anything to say about me, which is a good thing!  I’ve automated my welcome and delivery of free/newsletter specials and made it easier to send ARCs out too.

I’ve tried a few different planner systems the last year+.  I use the Passion Planner for family and work stuff, but I’m finding a simple traveler’s notebook with a Tomoe River paper insert the best for writing.  I love the paper, I love the leather smell of the wrap, I love using colored InkJoys, or just the thin micron black pen. Added in some stickers from Bree (@totallybree) and midliners to color my sprints, and I’m finally liking how I track my progress.  I just don’t like spreadsheets for word count.  Coloring the squares by hand is much more fun, and the stickers save me from trying to draw anything (I can’t do a straight line even with a ruler).  (Some examples)

I’m using the notebook as more of a story bible, edit tracker, and for research notes too.  I put all my edit notes on QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS into the notebook this time around, including a timeline, character list, and scene list.  It makes it so much easier to track down the correct file in Scrivener when I’m reading the file on Kindle and find a typo or paragraph I want to tweak.

I’m taking the last quarter of the year to try and push through as many new projects as I can to get my income back up to a respectable amount. That income will fund the new covers I need going forward to continue to grow. I owe one more proposal to Entangled that I’m working on, and still waiting on the other from Carina.

Otherwise, I’m trying to finish up books I already have covers purchased for to minimize my expenses and maximize my earnings.  That means you’ll see QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS this month, and if all goes well, THE MUMMY’S CAPTIVE WITCH. This was a Zombie Category Romance cover I purchased *years* ago and never wrote.  There’s no better time to work on a zombie/witch story than October, so that will be my push.  I also have a cover for THREE CUTS DEADER already purchased. I’ve been stuck on the plot though so I’ll have to see if things come together or not.

I’m intending to do NaNoWriMo this year. Actually – my goal is to NaNo every month from here on out until I get “caught up” in my mind. I haven’t decided for sure which book will be my focus in November.  My brain wants to work on QUEEN TAKES KING, the vampire follow-up story, but I won’t have the cover until Dec. at the earliest, and likely not until Jan. Funds trickle in too slowly.  It makes more sense to do THREE CUTS DEADER first, but my writer brain isn’t always smart about what project it wants to work on. If it comes down to things are working on project C or D but not A or B that I intended to do, I’m going with C or D.

I don’t intend to lose my words again.

It Never Gets Old

I don’t care how many books I finish, there’s always a point where I doubt that I’m going to make it. Maybe I won’t be able to finish the book. Maybe it’s stupid. Maybe I should hang up the towel for good.

My brain knows that if I just keep trudging up the mountain, one step at a time, eventually I’ll make it. Even if I can’t see the top. But sometimes one more step feels like too much to risk.

So when I do finish a book, I want to revel in it. Roll in the words. Read it over and over with pride and exuberance. I FINISHED!  Yippee!  Hallelujah!

QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS is officially complete.

I had SO MUCH FUN with this one. It’s hot. It’s bloody. It’s violent. But it’s also funny (if you like my weird sense of humor) and touching too.

It’s a vampire world ruled by queens, all descended from goddesses including Isis, the Morrigan, Ceres, etc. so it’s very female friendly and the women drive the plot.

If you were afraid to read the Shanhasson series because of character deaths — but you love blood and sex — this is the series for you.  I promise every single book will be romance friendly. Only bad guys will die.

And my queen, Shara, is an equal opportunist in the bedroom.  *winks*

I’ve already jotted down notes for the next book, that I’m either tackling for NaNoWriMo or soon after.  I’ll be sharing the cover in the next week or two.  Definitely sign up for my newsletter if you want to read some excerpts and be the first to grab an ARC.

Bring on the vampires! Bring on the blood! Bring on the menage!  I CAN’T WAIT!

P.S. If you haven’t seen my posts on social media or my newsletter, you can also enter a huge giveaway 10/4-10/8 to download a ton of free books and and maybe win a Kindle and gift card.  Enter here.

Book Business Blather

If you don’t care about numbers and math and publishing talk, feel free to go pick up a free copy of Letters to An English Professor or The Horse Master of Shanhasson and skip the rest of this post!

I’ve always been pretty honest about sales and my numbers – which have never been fantastic, other than a really good year in 2010. That was my best year ever. I actually made more with books than That Man did at his full-time job that year.

But despite publishing many more books since then, my income has halved and halved and halved… again and again.  Of course the Samhain debacle last year put a huge crimp in my sales across those 10 books.  One Cut Deeper did really good (for me) at Carina, but follow-up sales of Two Cuts Darker were disappointing enough they declined to even consider Three Cuts Deader.  The Bloodgate series was already dead.

The Billionaires did pretty “okay” at Samhain in the beginning – but nowhere near my expectations.  I don’t know if it was the covers, their generally declining sales across the boards that forced them to close, MY generally declining sales…  All of the above, likely.

So I had a lot riding on the re-release of The Connaghers, and especially Mine to Break in July.  First and foremost, I needed to make back $1200 in covers alone.  I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads and they are NOT cheap.  Even $5/a day (their min) to explore audiences ads up quickly.

I’ve invested $20/month in Instafreebie to build my list. Just under $40/month for my newsletter service.  Since I started last year, I’ve managed to increase my list from 100 to 2200.  Not bad.  My open rates are between 45-50%.  I’d like to keep growing there, and building connections with those subscribers, so I’m experimenting with some polls and small giveaways.

So where am I at right now with the business end of things?  The good news:  I’ve almost made back the cover expenses.  Now all of that isn’t in my needy little hands.  As money comes in, it goes right back out the door for newsletters, giveaways, and advertising, and royalties come in 60-90 days after the fact.  But it IS coming back and I feel like it was a good investment.

Comparing January sales to what I made in July:  I saw a 676% increase in sales.  That sounds great, right?  But 676% of not much is still… not much.  July was a release month, and already those numbers are decreasing.  August was a release month for the Billionaire books at Entangled, and they did pretty well at first with the $.99 prices, but sales have quickly dropped off again (according to Amazon rankings).

So I need more books out, in those series, to keep the numbers. And of course I don’t have anything. Yet.

The bad news:  I’ve decided to pull the Connagher books back to Kindle Unlimited at this time.  So far in September, I’ve only sold 10 books across all of Draft2Digital’s venues.  TEN. For five books.  Yeah.  It’s just not worth it right now – and while the KU payout is small, I need any advantage I can get for visibility right now.  If you primarily buy at B&N or Kobo or iTunes, I’m sorry and if you reach out to me (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com), I’ll make you a copy that you can read on your device.

Returning to KU will allow me to do more creative countdowns and free days. I’m doing some promotions with Love Kissed Book Bargains that have really been outstanding (nearly 1500 downloads of Letters to An English Professor when I listed it) and will continue to do some targeted free day and $.99 bargain deals.

I will probably pull the Shanhasson books to KU too at some point – but they need some formatting work.  (I originally uploaded them in 2011.)  I’d rather get some new material out there than do this kind of busy/admin work, so that’s not high on my priority list at this time.

My take away at this point is positive – but needs improvement.  I’m going the right direction. The best thing I can do for my numbers right now is keep growing, keep giving away books, and write another Connagher book, and write another Billionaire book or spinoff. AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.  That wasn’t in my wish list right now – I have so many interesting shiny ideas I really want to do, but from the numbers game, it makes the most sense to capitalize on where I am right now.

I am still working on the vampire series — but I plan to release three books close together in back-to-back months, so I’d really like to have them written, or close to written, before I release the first one.  The cover artist doesn’t even have slots for the other two covers until Dec/Jan, so it’s going to be a little while yet before I can share that new world.

I would love to work on Three Cuts Deader – but while Carina still holds the rights for the first two books, I’m limited in what I can do. I have covers purchased, so I do want to work on them – but I can’t run the same kind of growth plans as easily when I don’t control the pricing.  So I’m still working on a plan for that series.  The longer it takes me to come up with a decision and plan, though… the less it will benefit me sales-wise to write them.  Two Cuts Darker came out well over a year ago.  Few people are going to remember Charlie and Vincent at this point except for a few beloved friends and family and a few dedicated readers (hugs, I love each and every one of you).  The general Amazon reader isn’t going to care about a third book in a series that came out 2 years or more ago, by the time I actually get the book written.

And of course, Lady Wyre is (not so) patiently waiting for me to decide what to do with her and her men.  My Entangled (former Samhain) editor would love them, and that would give me the more immediate opportunity to write another book(s) in that series.  I just hesitate to put too many eggs in a publishing basket when my last basket rotted and fell apart on me.  I’ve priced polishing those covers (not starting over from scratch) and am looking at $600 plus $250 for the third Lady Wyre book.  It’s going to take some time for me to get that much built back up.  So Lady Wyre is in a holding pattern until I decide for sure what I want to do.

I do have one last proposal out to Carina under a new pen name and entirely new genre. That could be a game changer and anything I plan now could get thrown out the window. I should know in the next few weeks (it’s been under consideration for 2 months now).

The bad thing for me is that I hop around too much. I can’t make a decision and stick to it.  I think, Oh, I should work on this! It’s so cool and I have a great idea for a giveaway! Or I hear about a great boxed set opportunity, that would let me write another book in the Nightgazer world. Or the Zombie Category Romance world. Both worlds I love and want to work in.  But I can’t hop around back and forth. I’ve got to focus. But focus is NOT my strong suit in the writing game.  (Picture horse kicking down her stall and running out into the blizzard again.)

And things at home aren’t the best. I can’t get into details but it’s not easy, it’s never easy, and carving out MY time to write is a constant battle.  I type this while facing a THIRD trip to the high school this afternoon/evening to pick Littlest up from marching band. Both she and Middle are in Geometry this year and I help them with homework several nights a week. Of course they can’t begin said homework until Mom’s ready to go write…

Anyway, that’s my long-winded blather post about the state of the union.  Onward and upward!

Mine to Break is out now!

He’s bringing war to the Mistress of Dallas’s bed.

Mal & Colby are finally out in the wild!  Retailer links are below.

This book got me writing again after the darkness of the past few months.  Mal and Colby gave me hope and reminded me about all the things I love. I got to visit with old friends, fix a few things that I left unfinished or didn’t get quite right, and hopefully lay a few threads down for the future. There’s also an Easter egg – a character makes a brief appearance from a different series.

And blackberry cobbler will never be the same!