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.


I’ve been doing some of this.


And some of this.


And a lot of this.


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.


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.


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

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!

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.

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.

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.


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.

Overcoming Inertia

So it’s been a pretty long drought.  But I can finally say… I finished another book.  Mal’s book, MINE TO BREAK, is finally going to release on July 25th!  You can pre-order it for $2.99 on Amazon here, but I will be uploading this book wide to other retailers if Amazon is not your jam.  (It just may not be up for pre-order, though I’ll see how it goes once I get edits completed.)

So how did I finally grow some words in a barren, cracked earth?  It took some doing, that’s for sure.

The number one thing that helped me was a class I took in May at the Margie Lawson Writing Academy, called Write Better Faster with Becca Syme.  It’s a little pricey for a class ($75) but highly recommended and well worth your time.

But don’t go into the class expecting some secret handshake that suddenly helps you write 5K a day. It’s not that kind of class. First off, she had us take personality and strength quizzes.  What makes you tick as a writer and person? Once you delve into personality, she helps you tap into the proven tactics that increase productivity and performance for your unique situation.  This includes an hour on the phone with her talking through the results and things to try.

For the planner lovers, we even had a session on which planners tend to work best for your personality.

But for me, none of that was as illuminating as the class on essential pain. That’s the idea that sometimes change and growth and work can be painful. It’s a natural human survival tactic to want to avoid pain (unless you’re a masochist!), so sometimes we avoid doing what we know we need or want to do, just to avoid that pain, without even realizing it. Ironically, we end up causing ourselves MORE pain with that avoidance.

So I realized for a lot of reasons I can’t get into publicly that I had started to avoid writing, because I didn’t want to face that other pain.  As Jane Yolen says, a writer has to “tell the true.” And I was avoiding the true.  Which caused me more pain, because I lost the thing that was giving me sanity and pleasure when I most needed it.

Silly, huh?

The other thing that has really helped me this year, and especially this past week, is daily meditation.  I use HeadSpace, available in your app store. This week, I started the creativity track and WOW.  It’s so illuminating, literally.  When I was avoiding writing, avoiding the true, I ended up making myself smaller.

I was drawn up tight in a fetal position, just holding on for dear life.

At first, I was trying to protect myself – but when you’re small, you take up less space, and nature abhors a vacuum. Others start taking up that space, squishing you even smaller. And smaller. And smaller. Maybe intentional, maybe not, but it’s hard to gain space to breathe.

But as I started to uncurl and look around and push back against the crowded confines I’d gotten used to, I realized… hey. Why was I allowing myself to be made to feel so small? It wasn’t protection – it was prison.

The creativity pack starts with a visualization, that your creative energy is a spark inside your chest. Small, but bright. And then you visualize it growing. It fills your body, the room, envelopes your house, the world, the UNIVERSE. It’s not small, it’s HUGE and wonderful and you sit there imagining all this warmth and sunlight and energy all around you and I’m thinking


And then in the next heart beat, I’m thinking


Instant Pot Rabbit Stew

I haven’t shared a recipe in awhile, and while this was super easy – it was so good that we have no leftovers despite filling the 6-quart Instant Pot to the brim.

Rabbit isn’t something we eat very often, sadly. I’ve avoided most wild game since my childhood, but my dad convinced me to try rabbit again last year and it was fantastic.  Granted, these weren’t actually wild rabbits, but home raised with a controlled diet, but they didn’t have that sharp wild taste at all.

A guy at That Man’s work gave him a rabbit, but only 1 to feed 5 people, all which love rabbit, was a challenge. I’m pretty sure Middle could have eaten the whole rabbit by herself if we’d grilled it!

Rabbit Stew stretched out the rabbit to feed all of us. Middle ended up having 3 bowls, and Littlest ate the last of the “leftovers” That Man was going to take for his lunch tomorrow.


  • rabbit, cleaned, 3-4 lbs. Whole or cut up (doesn’t matter)
  • 6-8 cups water
  • salt, pepper, basil, rosemary to taste
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 3-4 carrots, large sliced (they’ll cook to mush in the Instant Pot if you’re not careful)
  • 3-4 potatoes, peeled, large sliced
  • baby portabello mushrooms, large sliced (I used 3 huge ones from Sam’s Club)
  • 2-3 stalks celery, sliced fine
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • homemade noodles (optional, but crucial for my family. I had some set aside from Thanksgiving in the freezer)


  • The cleaned rabbit was already in a large Ziplock bag.  I added flour, salt, and pepper directly to the bag and shook it up to coat.
  • Preheat the Instant Pot on the saute setting.  Add 2 T olive oil and brown both sides of the meat.  It’s okay to use the whole rabbit intact as long as it’ll fit.
  • Once browned, I added water to almost cover the rabbit since I wanted broth for stew. Add herbs of your choice but rosemary was nice.
  • I used the Instant Pot’s built-in meat setting (35 mins) and released the steam manually at the end of the cycle.
  • Add the veggies and set the Instant Pot for manual 10 more minutes.
  • My Instant Pot was filled to the brim, so I let the steam release naturally for a good 15 minutes before I turned the valve to reduce splatter.
  • By now, the rabbit was literally fall-apart tender. I removed the meat and bones with a slotted spoon and let it cool a few minutes until I could pull out the meat and return to the pot.  I don’t like a lot of skin or dark meat, so I saved out all the icky stuff for That Man to eat.
  • Add the homemade noodles if you have them. I cranked the Instant Pot back to saute so it’d boil the soup and cook the noodles for about 10 minutes.  The homemade noodles were coated in flour to prevent sticking in the freezer, which gave a nice thickness to the broth.
  • Taste and add more salt if needed.

By the time I added all the veggies, I’d filled the pot to the max fill line. And we still ate it all.  The broth was rich and thick, beautifully seasoned.  Some parts of the rabbit were a bit stringy but overall it was delicious and easy to make.

Noise Noise Noise

I sound like the Grinch – but Whoville is in my head and it’s been rather noisy lately.  Okay, for the past year.

For me, indecision and uncertainty can be crippling.  It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to let go and just deal with whatever may happen.  I’m consumed with “what ifs” that honestly don’t even matter, all spawned by whatever cliff might be approaching.

Like the whole Samhain thing – for over a year. Will they close? What if they close? What if they don’t give me my rights back? WHAT IF THEY DO?

Thousands and thousands of incessant thoughts swirling all the time in the background. Then add in Princess’s college decision, Middle’s knee rehab and whether she’ll be able to play next year, Evil Day job fun (cough), That Man generally being an ass, other submissions hanging over my head…

It’s hard to get any writing done when so much clamor is filling up my brain.

I guess I wasn’t really aware how much this noise actually distracts me, because I’ve lived with it so long. But I’ve been practicing meditation this year, and wow, it’s eye opening how many times my brain wants to gallop off into a new direction just in a 10-15 minute window. Even being aware of the noise, my brain couldn’t shut it off – I started thinking about this blog post and what I would say about said noise when I was meditating – rather than meditating!

My brain is firing off about half a dozen steps ahead most of the time.  This book, this plot point, what if this, one of the kids needs…. The Evil Day Job needs… etc. etc. etc. a thousand times a second.  Sometimes I do literally hold an entire book in my head at once – or even multiple books.  If I can just type fast enough, I might be able to capture them all.

Needless to say, I haven’t been productive in a long time, but FINALLY Samhain has closed and I’ve gotten my rights back so I can start making new plans.  I still struggle with indecision with some of the details, but just making that step is a huge part of my brain being able to focus on a new plan and settle down.

And yes, I’m still practicing meditation and will continue working on finding those moments of blue sky and quiet perfect calm inside my own head!