Counting Down the Days

I’m hard at work on Queen Takes Queen. A bit behind… but I can make up that bit once my downhill momentum picks up. It will, I know. I just have to trust the process. Eventually those 1k, 2k, 3k days suddenly become 5k, 8k because I want to finish. I was a bit under the weather this weekend with a stomach thing the family had Christmas – New Years, but I luckily only had a minor touch of it.

Each chapter of Queen reveals more cool things about how the courts work and how complex every political situation is going to be. I’m pretty sure I figured out the title for Mayte’s book too. At first I was thinking Queen’s Jaguars, but I’d like to stay with the “Take” aspect, so I might use Queen Takes Jaguars instead. Yes plural. Of course!

I have a lot of cover action happening this week.  I should get Queen Takes Queen’s cover going and I’ve already booked her for the next three months to get the remaining books in the series created ahead of schedule (so I don’t have another unfortunate mishap of not getting the correct cover loaded in time). I also have an appointment on a secret pen name project for the next 2 covers. And… I bought a premade cover last night for an unfinished work I’ve talked about before:  Grotesquerie. I think I may have figured out how to fix it, and then I saw the cover and it was perfect. So I have no excuse now.

Other than time. Always time.

Writing in 2018 – The Plan

The universal truth about me and plans….  If I write it down, it WILL change.

But I have to plan to the best of my ability, while remaining flexible. I know things will change. But I’d like to lay out a little bit about what you can expect from me this year.

First, let me start with a few things I’ve (finally) learned.

  1. I have to finish series as quickly as possible.  For many reasons, but the primary two: I get bored easily and it helps sales. Readers really really want complete series. Some won’t even buy it until it’s complete, because they don’t want to be stuck hanging around waiting for that last book for year(s).
    1. Corollary: I have more control over this if I’m indie. I won’t have to worry about publishers cancelling my series and killing my motivation to work on a “dead” book again.
  2. I have to have deadlines. I’m a “perceiving” personality type – which really means pressure. I like pressure. I like deadlines. Sometimes the only thing holding my attention on a single project is the deadline, and yeah, the tighter the better. I will have to be sensitive to burn out and pushing myself too much, but if I just work on whatever I want, whenever I want, I WILL NEVER FINISH. So, deadlines.
  3. I have to track. Words, sales, pages read, everything. I am becoming a spreadsheet master.

First Half of 2018:

So with that information laid out, my #1 priority in 2018 is to finish Their Vampire Queen. That means…

  • Queen Takes Queen will release 1/29/2018. I am currently behind schedule, but will keep pushing to get this turned around.
  • I’m going to stick to releases every 45-60 days as much as possible.
  • There are three more planned books.
    • Mayte’s book, untitled, end of March/first of April
    • Leonie’s book, untitled, end of May/first of June
    • Queens Take God, the final showdown, working title, end of July/first of August

I have a secret pen name series that I never finished that has a lot of potential. I’m getting the next two covers made in January to light a fire under my behind. Ideally I’ll release the next two books close together and have another complete series. I’m not sure of length or timing yet. I’d planned to write at least one in January – but it depends on how long Queen goes over. I may not be able to fit it in yet. I may cram the Queen books closer together to make room on my schedule for new things, rather than trying to switch back and forth. We’ll see.

I’ve verbally committed to writing a novella for a St. Patrick’s Day themed anthology, finished story due by 2/28. I’ve got a loose idea for it, but haven’t started it yet, and the idea could be “big.” e.g. it may not fit into a shorter piece and do it justice. I may back out of this one, pending timing, how everything goes in January, etc. We’ll see.

I am reworking the Shanhasson trilogy covers with the same cover artist in February. FOR PRINT! And I’ll plan to release a boxed set of the trilogy as well. Maybe some new content. We’ll see.

“We’ll see.” See what I mean? haha. Ultimately, my goal is to get to as close as possible to one new release a month. That may mean cramming the Queen books closer together. Or stretching them out slightly to let me fit a different release in between. I’m not sure which one will work best yet.

Second half of 2018:

New series planning. It’ll be reverse harem, and either SFR or dark contemporary. I have ideas for both, but haven’t spent time yet to see which one will hold my interest the most. But I will definitely be ready to kickstart a brand new idea!

I need to reissue Lady Wyre’s series and get at least the third book I’d planned finished, again, keeping with that “finish” theme!

I want to write Three Cuts Deader this year. Because this is a “want to” project, and I don’t have control over the first two books, this may fall lower on the list. I’m limited in promotions and marketing I can do when I don’t control the series. But a handful of you do occasionally ask about this series and I really would like to do one more.

Up for grabs.  AKA I have no idea.

I have FOUR premade covers I’ve purchased over the past few months just for fun. One is definitely fantasy, and I’d love to write a big, sweeping epic fantasy again. But I don’t have a specific idea or plan yet. Two are definitely contemporary. The other one makes me think royalty, but could go fantasy too. They were pretty and cheap and I couldn’t resist!

So, that’s as specific of a plan as I can get! I’ve got a lot of new ideas, which is great. I’m writing again, hard, which is the GREATEST. As long as the Muse continues to cooperate, my general goals are to

  1. finish what I start
  2. release nearly monthly
  3. get as close to one million new words as possible

Writing in 2017

2017 was a stinking pile of burning trash in a giant Dumpster for many reasons that I’m not going to rehash or get into here. I’m going to concentrate on only WRITING and mostly GOOD stuff. 

Between Samhain drama and my Carina series getting canned, I wasn’t in a good place. In 2016, the only new material I’d managed to finish was a short novella. I felt stuck in many ways. Then I had surgery at the end of the year. Up until May of this year, I wasn’t writing in 2017 either (at least not with my normal drive and determination). It was looking like another really bad year and I thought about walking away from publishing for good. Who would notice, honestly? (That’s what my brain was telling me. I hadn’t had a new release in so long I might as well have dropped off the face of the planet.)

But a few things happened in 2017 that set the wheels in motion for bigger and better things.

I could write paragraphs about how each of these bullets cascaded into new opportunities and challenges but I don’t want to write a book in this post! So I’m going to let the numbers speak for themselves.

Achievements/New Challenges in 2017

  • Set up my first pre-order in KDP (and met it).
  • Set up my first print book with CreateSpace.
  • Set up my first boxed set.
  • Re-released 4 of my old Samhain titles as an indie.
  • Re-released 3 of my old Samhain titles with Entangled.
  • Finished 3 new books (just under 200,000 words) and started a 4th.
  • Submitted a different proposal (3 chapters + synopsis) to Carina. Ultimately it was rejected but I’m still glad I went through the motions and I fulfilled a promise I’d made.
  • FINALLY hit #1 bestseller in an Amazon category!
  • Tracked all my sales across all channels and all books that I have control over for the entire year.
  • Created 3 graphs to plot out the optimum release schedule for the rest of the QUEEN books.

Here’s the GOOD STUFF – the numbers.

  • I’ve given away 11,072 FREE books to increase my newsletter and KU pages read.
  • Jan – Aug I had 2,318 page reads (very few books in KU).
  • Sept – 12,208 page reads (when I moved everything into KU).
  • Jan – Sept I sold 664 books.
  • Oct was the game changer with QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS release.
    • Gave away 3567 downloads the week after release
    • Still had 125 sales
    • With 201,757 page reads
  • Then QUEEN TAKES KING continued to push the numbers up in Dec.
  • Bringing my 2017 totals (through today) to
    • 1987 sales
    • 554,097 page reads

These are not huge numbers for the big-time indie sellers. I’m not hitting any lists with these numbers!  But for ME, this is huge and means I can easily continue to fund new covers and books and even pay some other bills without depending on my Evil Day Job bonus to seed a new series. Comparing July sales (163, when Mal’s book released) to December (774, when King released) is a 375% increase.

It came down to THREE THINGS.

*   Not giving up when I really wanted to.

*   Not being afraid to give away free books to build my readership.

*   And stumbling across the premade cover that I fell so hard for, which went on to be QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS.

That cover inspired the entire series that turned the numbers around in a huge way.

So here’s to a bigger, better 2018!  My pie in the sky goals:

  • 1 million words written
  • 1 million page reads
  • 5,000 sales.

Queen Takes King’s Cover

The good news:  I have the cover for King!  The bad news:  I didn’t get it uploaded to Amazon in time for Monday’s release.  *weeps*

We had some difficulty getting the King just right and one thing led to another. I got the final files last night, but the preorder was already locked, so I couldn’t upload it. Nothing I can do about it now, but stay up until midnight Sunday night and see how quickly Amazon will unlock it so I can upload the finalized cover.

This guy looks more like Shemar Moore than Idris Elba to me but who’s complaining?!?  Not me!

 

 

NaNoWriMo Update

I was so so close…. Just under 44,000 words.  I should have been able to get just 6,000 more, right?!?  And I planned to – but I had some stuff come up for the Evil Day Job that took priority.

I finished Queen Takes King, which was my primary goal.  And I started Queen Takes Queen. Although the 7,000 words I thought I was going to use to open Queen ended up getting pulled into King…  So I’m behind of where I want to be, but you’re getting way more with King than I planned!

So now the big thing to watch for is the cover for the King.  I can’t wait to see what Marissa comes up.  And of course I need another NaNo style month in December, because I intend to release Queen in Jan.

Annnnddd, I’m going to get a short piece put together for an anthology some other RH authors are working on. Due Feb.

So it’s going to be a crazy start to 2018!!

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: