A few more days…

I need a few more days to finish Queen Takes Rook. I’ve been pushing hard, but I needed to take a few days off to be with my Beloved Sister while she had surgery this week. The first half has already been sent off to a few betas and editors, so hopefully the last half will go quickly.

I’ll finish the last few scenes, do my edits, send it to the betas and editors, and then switch back to make the final revision pass while they look at the last half.

Sorry for the delay – but I promise, it’ll be worth it! Shara kicks some major ass in this book.

Marathon

Do you hear the tick tick tocking thundering away? That’s the sound of my self-imposed deadline quickly approaching for Queen Takes Rook.

I’m honestly nowhere close to being “done” yet. It’s going to be a mad scramble to finish, and I’ll have to hope my editors, beta readers, and formatter can fit me in quickly to make the deadline on the 17th. I won’t put out a book that’s not edited, so have no fears in that regard. But I’m definitely going to be cutting it close.

And it’s so frustrating because on paper, I had plenty of time. But there’s more to writing than just getting the words down. On top of the business aspect (ads, giveaways, takeovers, etc.), some books require a lot of thought. I’ve been pecking away at Rook for weeks now, and it’s been a slow chiseling process. It’s still mostly a giant hunk of shapeless stone. Though I can see what I want just beneath the surface, and I’m tapping a little quicker on it now.

In the past, I would have given up by now. I would have picked up another project because it was easier. I would have decided to work on another series (for my other publisher), or start a new idea, and goddess, yes, I’ve been so tempted. I even have a trilogy set of covers in the works with exclusive photography on a new series that’s only in my head. I have a spinoff “dark queen” cover I bought from a different designer, and two others I’d like to commission her to do that will match it.

Not to mention the other ten or so covers I’ve bought that caught my eye, or were cheap, or just spoke to me somehow.

It’s taken me years and years, but I’ve finally realized I have to just finish this series. No matter how hard it is. Now matter how shiny something else is. I have to finish it. Now. Not in six months or a year. That will stall my momentum again.

It’s a marathon right now and I’m at the part where my fingers feel like hunks of concrete and my brain feels like slogging through quicksand and I wonder if I’ll ever even see the finish line. I’ve got the pedal pushed to the floor, engine whining, tires spinning…  I’m barely moving, but I am moving in the right direction.

Eventually, the tires will hit solid ground and I’ll accelerate to the speed of light and finish in a rush of glory that will leave me giddy for days.

Goddess, let it be soon.

Review Drive for Mine to Break

In case you didn’t notice, print editions of The Connaghers are going live!  Dear Sir, I’m Yours and Hurt Me So Good are already up and available, and the rest will be coming this week.

Mine to Break (released last July) only has 7 reviews, so I’m trying something a little different. I’m calling it a “review drive.” I set up a Google doc for you to drop links of your reviews.  On April 5th, I’ll random draw 5 names to win the winner’s choice of any signed print book from my backlist. This includes the Connagher books coming this week, the Shanhasson trilogy, or Their Vampire Queen.

If this is a success, I’ll consider doing it for other books in my backlist as well.

To make it easy for you to participate even if you’re not on my ARC list, Mine to Break is FREE this week!  Download your free copy – and your review will count as a verified purchase.

Catching Up

(I’ve been playing with making lots of graphics. Isn’t she pretty!?!?!)

I’ve taken a bit of time off lately to refresh and get my mind back in shape for Queen Takes Rook.  Switching gears to The Treasurekeeper (Shamrocked) was a fun change of pace. But now it’s back to blood and steam and vampire war as I tackle Shara’s next book. I’m behind of where I wanted to be by now, but the time off was nice. I even got some pleasure reading done!

I took two of my kids to my dad’s farm over spring break last week. I intended to get allllll the words, but ended up resting (good), saw my sister (even better), and did something else shocking. I rode horses! When I was in high school, I rode ALL the time. But after getting married at 18 and going to college, I probably only rode 2 times in nearly thirty years. Now I really feel old.

When all 3 daughters go to the farm, Papa doesn’t have enough horses and saddles to go around for me to ride too, but since Middle stayed home to work (yes, she’s old enough to have a job now!), we had the available horse, and the saddle… and my girls begged me to ride with them. They took it easy on me and only rode the 4-mile loop…. hahaha yeah my entire lower body was miserable by the time we got home.

But it was sooo much fun that I rode again (the 4-mile loop backwards!) a few days later and wasn’t nearly as sore. It’s definitely something I want to do more of and I’m hoping to make lots of trips to the farm this summer.

I upgraded my laptop and finally splurged and got EXACTLY what I wanted: a new 15″ Macbook Pro! I’ve drooled over Macs forever but couldn’t justify the cost. But I want to format with Vellum (the Cadillac formatting software that only runs on a Mac) and I had the money, so I walked in and told the guy exactly what I wanted. No dillydallying or settling for something cheaper. It was very empowering. I rarely ever spend money on something for “me” even when it’s writing income, so I’m trying to change my mindset and make smart investments. This time it was also a smart splurge and I love it so much the girls keep telling me I love it more than them. Of course I don’t. (pets the new laptop)

Business wise, I’ve been playing with a lot of new techniques. I’ve started some AMS ads, fine tuned my mediocre Facebook ad knowledge, read some books, and signed up for some classes.  I’d like to maybe open a store eventually and sell books direct, at least signed print ones, but the amount of work is daunting. It’s the sales tax that makes me hesitate the most. I am also interested in moving my website and newsletter to Wix, so I’ll be doing some research and testing out some possibilities.

This writing gig isn’t just stringing some words together and calling it good. At least not any more. I’m hoping that I can build my ad skills (especially AMS) and keep my income up in between releases, or at least somewhat steady, so I don’t kill myself trying to release every 30-45 days. That’s a brutal pace I really can’t keep with the Evil Day Job and everything else.

I’m far from an expert, but learning all the time.

Clearing the Baffles

(reference from one of my favorite movies, The Hunt from Red October)

So it’s been a crazy few months. I went from barely writing anything in 2016 through May 2017, to finishing 5 books now (Mine to Break, Queen Takes Knights, Queen Takes King, Queen Takes Queen, The Treasurekeeper for Shamrocked). Even better, I’m on track for finishing three more by July of this year (Queen Takes Rook, Queen Takes Checkmate, Queen Takes Jaguars).

One series, started in October, and complete in less than a year. That’s my goal!

I finished The Treasurekeeper for Shamrocked: An Anthology of Irish Shenanigans and got it sent off in time. It’s probably one of my funnier–but still very sexy–books, a bit shorter under 40K, but still some meat to it. I left it where I could write more in that world/series if I want to. It features a gargoyle, a leprechaun, the four Irish treasures, a curse only the heroine can break, and some demons/dark fae including a kelpie, some imps, and a couple of pookas.

I also sat down and finalized the publication schedule for the rest of Their Vampire Queen this weekend. Part of my brain is like “but but but we can do it QUICKER!!!” and maybe I could. But I also need to sleep more than four hours a night and I’ve got to get our taxes done, and the house is a pit. So Sherri talked me down off that cliff.

So, to the best of my knowledge right now, here’s the release schedule for the next 3 Queen books.

P.S. Queen Takes Knights is free this week and Queen Takes King will be a Kindle Countdown deal for only 99 pennies!

On Writing: Bujo Story Keeper 2

See part 1.

Continuing a series of posts about how I’ve been using the Tomoe River notebook for my writing, this time I’ll show how I plot at the highest level. I’m not the kind of writer that wants or even likes having every single scene listed out in gruesome detail. I really only need a roadmap to keep me on track. I need to know the main points – and I can capture enough to guide the story on two pages in my notebook.

I use a combination of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey for my plotting.  I’m almost always thin in the middle – which is one reason the middle can take me a long time to get through. I try to have at least one major candybar scene for the midpoint that I really want to reach, and then after that, the rest is downhill. Sometimes a book will have a couple of candybar scenes. Sometimes I’ll be writing a book, and an entirely new, unexpected scene will rise up and demand my attention. That’s all great – that means the magic is working!

I don’t care if things change or I mark out something in this initial plan. I mainly use this to help me figure out how much more story do I have to figure out. I don’t always write it down, either – though I should. I know it’ll go better if I write it down rather than relying on my brain to hold the whole thing, but sometimes I convince myself I don’t need to take the time for this step.  (Don’t listen to my brain and write it down if you can.)

Since I’m on a tight deadline for this story, I sat down and did this tonight. In less than an hour. So I really have no excuse not to do this every single time.

I start with 18 bullet points, basically, on two sheets of paper.  Some of them I don’t care about as much, but I write them down in case it sparks something later. The big MUST DO ones are: Inciting Incident, the Call, Crossing the Threshold, Midpoint, All is Lost, Climax, and Resolution.  Anything beyond that is gravy on top.

My favorite thing to do, though, is the opening and closing image. I love coming full circle. I love reflection. I love the words or thoughts a character have or say coming back in a new way at the end.

[Aside: I tried to do this with Queen Takes King, but ended up shifting the story line around. The line “Merry fucking Christmas to me” was supposed to begin and end the book, and it did, at first. But then you would have missed out on the smokin’ hot scene with Mehen, which I originally wrote for Queen Takes Queen. It made more sense to pull that scene to King (since, duh, he’s the king), but that messed up my perfect reflection. Having a complete and satisfying conclusion was more important to me than a cute catchy line ending at the right place.]

So generally, this is how I plot.

  • I know how the book opens.
  • I use that image and flip it, so I know how the book ends.
  • I figure out the inciting incident. What drives the beginning.
  • I figure out what the ending is. What needs to happen to get to that final image.
  • Then I fill in the spaces in between.

Below are two images from my TN. One blank, and one filled in. Note: the one that’s filled in may give you spoilers to the novella I’m working on, so if you don’t like to know a complete high-level plot, skip that one!  Though I kept it at a very high level.

Hope this helps! The most important thing I hope you see is that you don’t have to have a ton of information figured out. I’ve only got a few sparse sentences for each of these bullets, but that’s PLENTY for me to write this novella and find the end without wandering around too much.

 

On Writing: Bujo Story Keeper 1

I have a novella that I’m working on that’s due 2/18 and I need to put it together fast and well so I can write the book.  I’ve had some questions about how I’m using the bujo for writing – and as any good teacher will tell you, sometimes showing other people how to do something helps YOU figure out how to do it better.

So it’s the perfect time for me to capture some of what I’m doing since this is an entirely new world. This will be a series of posts as I have time. Hopefully it’ll be helpful for someone!

In the Beginning

My theme is something Irish or related to St. Patrick’s Day. The name of the boxed set/anthology we’re doing is “Shamrocked.” I already know I want to do a RH so I need at least 3 heroes. I need a story that I can introduce all the characters and the world quickly without a lot of set up – because I only have 30-40K to get the story told. And if I’m going to go to all the trouble of setting up a new world, then I want to be able to write MORE books in this world. So this story needs to be 1). satisfying in a shorter medium but also 2). extendable.

I did some brainstorming and got my premise. I don’t think I’ll go into a lot of that at this point – I’ll keep this generic and high level. As I’m doing my research and brainstorming, I put the pages into my existing bujo. This notebook has a bunch of other ideas, plus my revision notes for Queen Takes Queen.  I keep track of everything with an index at the beginning, just as you would for any other bujo.

The first few pages are just messy notes. Brainstorming. Interesting tidbits that may or may not have anything to do with the story. But eventually I get a better idea of what I want this story to be, and I make a list of what I know or my goals for the book.

Casting. Part of my process is to pretend I’m an uber-rich director and I can hire any actor or actress I want to play my characters.  I find a pic I like and print it out. Then I create a two-page “spread” in the bujo. Really all this entails is the pic (attached with tape or washi), and the information I know about the character. It may be very sparse. It may change. That’s okay. I just need something to start with. I usually have the left-hand page with the high-level stuff like name and age, and then I leave the right-hand page for notes and backstory as they come to me. Note: do a spread for your antagonist if you have one.

Places or World. I do the same thing for places, houses, anything unique that I’m using in the setting.

Leave plenty of white space to make notes or add research details.

Helpful hint:  If you have multiple stories in the notebook, use washi tape to make a little tab in a color that’s meaningful to your story. That way you can flip directly to those pages!

Next: plotting!

On Writing: Process 2

This is an update to this Process post.

Stephanie Christine asked if I was still using a bujo for writing and the short answer is YES.

I actually filled up an entire notebook!  Okay, this might seem like a dumb thing to be proud of — unless you saw how many notebooks I have with 10% (or less) of the pages used and then it’s stuck on a shelf, never to be used again.

Here’s proof that I filled up an entire notebook! You can see the word count stickers I continued to use all the way to the end, plus random notes to myself as I needed it.

My only complaint with this method was cutting out the word count stickers. They were just a hair too long to fit into my notebook without hanging out, and it annoyed me when it hung off the side or got crooked.

The Etsy shop where I bought the Tomoe River notebooks (Paper Penguin Co) had a new notebook they intended to be used as a monthly calendar/planner. It was so colorful and artsy with the watercolor splashes that it inspired me to give it a try, even though it’s not the super nice paper I like. I got the grid version, and now instead of having to cut out the word count stickers, I just color in the grids under each day’s totals. It’s not dated, so if I want to skip days, or need to go over to another day, it works perfectly.

(You can see those massive weekend counts I had in order to finish!)

My only slight gripe is that it bugs me that each day isn’t symmetrical. But I’m trying to just go with the flow and not be anal about one day having more space than another. It’s actually great (if I’d just get over my appreciation for symmetry) because I can’t write as much during the week as I can on the weekend, assuming That Man stays out of my hair.

I’m still using my other Tomoe River notebook that I customized a bit. For example, when doing my first pass edits, I make a scene list, a timeline, and a fresh character list, along with a master list of any questions or things I want to consider changing that involve more thought. It also has all my research notes in it. I know a ton of Maya mythology after the Bloodgate series – but did not know quite as much Aztec mythology as I needed for Queen and I had to look a bunch of things up.  There are *many* similarities, but unique items too that I had to document.

I’m also using a combination of several planners at the moment – but I haven’t settled into a routine with them yet.  I picked up both the New Release Planner and the Book World Domination planner from Nicole.  There are pieces of each one that I like a lot and have printed out, but I keep forgetting to use as much as I need to.  These are especially helpful for planning out release schedules.  I need a calendar to do that – and I don’t want to have to draw one in my bujo.

That’s one thing I’m still adjusting to:  lead time.  I have pre-order dates to set, coordination with the formatter, cover artist, editor, beta readers, etc.  It’s not just MY date I need to keep track of. I’ve already had one release go out with my crap temporary cover and it was my lack of enough cushion in the schedule to get other people’s things in place.  I’m also struggling with the best way to keep track of the various promotions I try, for which book, how much it cost, and what the ROI was.  I’m getting better at this with the New Release Planner though the sheets provided are for a single book – not across all my spending each month.

AND yes, I bought a different downloadable planner that is focused on tarot: The Biddy Tarot Planner. This one is more weekly and monthly focused with spreads to help you tap into your intuition. I’m behind on it already, but I’ve been trying to pull a card each day and think about what it may mean. It came with a cool printable tarot card set that’s the perfect size to stick into the planner for the card of the week. I printed them on sticker paper!  However now I’m back to having to cut things out, which yeah, I find annoying (I can’t cut straight and back to the symmetry thing again).

For each of these downloadable planners, I printed out the pages I liked and used an ARC system to make my own pseudo 3-ring binder. I’m reusing the cover I made ages ago because I love how it looks – even though I get annoyed because things slip around.

 

So what has all this tracking accomplished, you ask?  The numbers speak for themselves and you can see exactly when I started to shake things up and get some traction after a disappointing 2016.

  • May: 2,324 words
  • June: 49,281 words
  • July: 19,888 words
  • August: 3,589 words (a bit of a hiccup here with school starting, Princess went to college)
  • September: 29,851 words
  • October: 38,265 words
  • November: 41,194 words
  • December: 17,711 words (this would have been way larger if That Man hadn’t planned an Eureka Springs trip on my week I’d taken off from the Evil Day Job to write)
  • January: 61,434 and the month isn’t over yet.

Finishing the Damned Book

Silly me – I don’t think I’ve even shared the cover yet. Tada!

It was a race down to the wire, but thanks to a crazy weekend of sprints and an intrepid team of beta readers who are comma warriors, QUEEN TAKES QUEEN is done and dropped off to the formatter.  She’s usually very fast, so I may have ARCs going out as soon as this evening, and I’m set to meet my KDP pre-order deadline.

Now you may be wondering why I’d put myself under so much stress. I had to grind some huge numbers the last week or so to finish the book. I got about 4 hours of sleep two nights in a row. My hands are killing me.

But there’s nothing like the high of finishing the book and meeting that deadline.

And here’s the thing about my personality. I need deadlines. If I’m left to my own devices, I’ll putter around on five files at once and never finish anything. Then I’ll wallow in misery because I *know* I’m not making any real progress, and it’s pretty hard to write well when you’re wallowing in misery. (Note: see my lack of progress in 2016)

So yeah. Deadlines matter. I’ll continue to set hard dates for myself and keep the pedal pushed to the floor as often as I can, because it’s just me setting these dates now. I know what I’m capable of. I know I can write 70K in a month (The Billionaire Submissive) when I need to and the story is flowing.

I *am* letting up on the pedal a day or two to recuperate.  Though I have committed a novella for a St. Patrick’s Day anthology and I need to have it written and edited by 2/18.  So yeah, another crazy few weeks are just ahead!

I’ve also had some back and forth in my mind about which Queen book to write next. I was tempted to write a book in Mayte’s POV next, and then maybe even Leonie’s, rather than another book in Shara’s POV. I thought if I got into their backstories and really dug into them, that I’d be able to get the final showdown plot easier. Which is probably true – but doesn’t serve THE story well, which is Shara’s story.

However, I dithered long enough that I don’t have an excerpt ready to put into the end of QUEEN TAKES QUEEN like I’d hoped.  So if you’d like some sneak peeks, be sure to join my Facebook group, Joely’s Triune, to get the earliest tidbits of what’s coming next for Shara in QUEEN TAKES ROOK.