Writing My Way Out

Yes, I’m still alive!

My surgery went well and That Man is finally healed up too. However…  Let’s just say my recovery — and how certain people did or didn’t help me in any way, shape, or form — was pretty illuminating.

My friends and coworkers at the Evil Day Job were great.  They sent us dinner one night from a local restaurant and some beautiful flowers.  My Dad came down and stayed with us several days to help shuttle kids to school and me back and forth to the hospital.  I felt so badly when I came to in recovery and hours had passed since they’d taken me back.  I’ve never had surgery before and the procedures I’ve sat in the family waiting room had all been minor.  1-2 hours at most.  It never dawned on me to ask how long Dad would be waiting for news and I knew he’d been worried sick.  They took me back at 10:30 AM and when I first looked at the clock I was stunned it was after 2 PM.  By the time they got me to a room and brought my Dad to me, it was almost 5 PM and yeah, he was pretty worried.  I guess he’d been harassing the ladies at the info desk off and on all afternoon to make sure I was okay.

So December was all about healing.  I watched a lot of Netflix, crocheted and knitted a ton, and read.  I did some writing – but mentally just haven’t been in a good place for a variety of reasons. I’m finally starting to break out of the funk and getting back into the swing of things at work and at my laptop.

One thing I’ve started doing in 2017 is morning meditation.  I get That Man and Littlest out the door, and then I have about 10-15 mins before Princess and Middle need to be up and before I have to start work.  So I sit down and listen to HeadSpace.  I don’t know that I feel remarkably different in any way – but I know that meditation can help reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing and performance.  I’ve been able to stick with it and have almost completed 30 days (I have a hard time finding time on the weekends when everyone’s home to do a session).

My friend Sherri is “meeting” me at night to help me stay committed to a writing schedule.  I told her it’s like standing in the kitchen and looking at your cupboards and fridge… but feeling completely overwhelmed with no idea HOW to actually COOK anything.  I know the biggest hurdle I need to overcome is inertia.  Once I get those writing joints oiled and moving, that the words will come more smoothly.

So I’m playing Hamilton’s Hurricane and using my timer to help me focus.  Just 20 mins.  Then again.

I have to write my way out.

Women of a Certain Age

We don’t read much about older heroines of a certain age who are going through life changes.  While romance has come a long ways from pregnancy epilogues, there really aren’t many books featuring older women going through menopause or complications from that stage of life.

(If you know of any, please let me know.  I asked on Here Be Magic and didn’t receive very many recommendations.)

Some of it’s the stigma associated with periods and women’s health in general.  A boy was horsing around at school and took Princess’s purse. She yelled, “give me back my tampons!” and he dropped it like it’d caught on fire. For years, I couldn’t even get That Man to pick up a box of pads or tampons at the store for me.

Women are schooled not to talk about menstruation or health issues involving female reproduction. Yeah, it can be gross, but it’s important that we talk about these issues.  I’m trying to be more open with my daughters, even when they plug their ears and try to run away.

I’m 46.  No spring chicken. I started to see some minor changes in my period back in April, which up to that point, had been as regular as Old Faithful. I figured I was just edging into peri-menopause and wasn’t concerned.

Though the next two periods were quite heavy. Heavier than any since high school. Wake up in the middle of the night and change out the super tampon heavy.  I wasn’t a fan, but still not overly concerned.

Then I skipped a month. When I started again in July, it was bad.  But I figured, hey, I’m due. I skipped a month.  I had a pap scheduled, but I had to bump it out two weeks. Then another week. Because the period was still going (it ended up going for 8 weeks, most of them very heavy days). I didn’t want to reschedule a fourth time, so I went to my PCP anyway and said, hey, something’s going on here.

It was light enough that day that she went ahead and did the pap, but warned me that if I had fibroids (which we both suspected at that point), that I might need a hysterectomy. My mom had told me about her experience, but she was in her 50s when she had issues, and she just waited it out. The bleeding gets better once menopause hits.

But I’m years away from menopause yet. This could be going on for 5 or even 10 years. Or more.

And this was a bad period.  Not just in length, but volume.  I couldn’t leave home without changing everything, and taking spares.  An hour tops was how long I could go without changing out everything, super tampon and pad, without changing my clothes. One night we went out for dinner. I’d only used a pad, because it had been lighter a few days (the day of my pap, actually). I had to get up 3 times during dinner to change everything in the public bathroom and used up all my spares before we got home.

Thankfully I work from home for the Evil Day Job, so when it was at its worst, I could easily change my clothes if needed.  And I did, several times, when a meeting ran long, or just because. That’s the bad thing about fibroids. The bleeding is bad, but then there’s a GUSH and it’s just awful.  Nothing’s stopping that flood, not even a fresh super tampon.

My PCP confirmed I had fibroids but also noted my left ovary was larger than usual. She recommended I get to a GYN, so I called my old office.  I had to wait forever, because my doctor is that good, but if anyone was going to be talking about taking anything out or performing some kind of procedure, I wanted it to be her.

I finally saw her on Friday and they did another ultrasound. I definitely do have fibroids and my left ovary is above the “watch” size.  With just fibroids, we could try a few other things, but I’ve had my kids.  I don’t need to preserve my fertility, and as I get older, the risks for cancer go up.  So we decided to just take everything out now while the getting’s good.

Surgery’s scheduled for 11/30.  The sad thing is that when That Man had surgery years ago, all he had to worry about was scheduling time off from work and the rides back and forth to the hospital.  For me, I’ve got to figure out food, house chores, and the dogs. TM has already said he’s not cooking, and the last thing I want to do while trying to heal from surgery is eat nasty McDonald’s every night.  UGH.

So I’m packing my freezer now of homemade comfort foods.  This weekend alone I added two meatloaves and shepherd’s pie.  I’ve also got beef & barley soup ready to freeze, and I’m hoping to get fancy spaghetti sauce and chicken soup in the freezer over the next few weeks.

Of course, this is going to be right in the middle of basketball season with the two youngest girls playing on different nights in different towns/courts, and I won’t be able to drive for at least 2 weeks.  Plus all the practices after school to coordinate.  Luckily Princess is driving, and band will be over, so she can help pick up her sisters as needed.  Both Littlest and Princess have agreed to cook their favorite dishes (tuna casserole and baked ziti), so between them and the freezer, we won’t starve or go broke eating crap out all the time.

Thankfully I work for a great company with excellent benefits, and with Middle’s ACL surgery this year, we’ve already hit our out-of-pocket max.  This won’t cost me anything, and I’m set to take off the month of December to heal without worrying about my paycheck.

I’m still going to try and do NaNoWriMo first!  It’s perfect timing.  We’re still going to host Thanksgiving (another reason to make sure I get the house clean). And maybe after a few weeks of healing, I’ll be ready to write a little later in December and get some nice wordage.

Thanks for your good thoughts over the next few months!

The Prince’s Beast

kinkininkStory #2 of the year is finished!

Granted, this is a shorter story (<10K) than I usually do, but I’m still happy with it. That story is far from “finished” though – because the world and characters have a ton of potential. There’s a whole lot of danger and sex to be played out before the prince and his Beast are safe.  *winks*

So if you’re interested in this new MM story, head over to the GoodReads BDSM group. This story and many others will be posted for free exclusively in the group through December!


Clean Up Time

With all the writing upheaval going on right now, I decided to do some clean up around here. I’m looking into some new themes – but unfortunately, the ones I like cost money. So I’m making do with what I have now until some royalties come in.

I’ve modified the navigation menu and done some sprucing on my free reads.  Specifically, I’m finally releasing Letters to an English Professor (the Dear Sir, I’m Yours prequel) on all major retailers!  It’ll still be free after some begging/price matching on Amazon. I’ve also done some clean up on The Horse Master.  Both of these will be made available free to newsletter subscribers too.

Thanks to Canva, I’ve made some small graphics to brighten up the newsletter invitations and next books with excerpts. I’ve never included graphics in a self pub before, so it’s a bit of an experiment.  If it seems to improve sales, I’ll be doing the same work for all my self published works.

These are usually tasks that I tell myself I don’t have time to do because I’m writing. So it’s a good time to step back and evaluate what’s working, and what’s not.

Now, back to The Prince’s Beast.

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.


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.