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.

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.

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

DAMN! WHY DID I GIVE THIS UP?

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

I’LL NEVER LET ANYONE MAKE ME FEEL SMALL AGAIN.

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.

 

My Crazy Tooth Saga

My family thinks I’m a quack. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or dentist and this is only my personal experience.

I haven’t had many good experiences with doctors or dentists. Generally, I’m of the opinion that they’re going to make recommendations based on the all mighty dollar–theirs, of course–and not what would be best for me. Especially if it means I can control my own health through nutrition or natural means and save a bundle.

I’ve had some experience healing a few minor ailments naturally, like a bladder infection. I believe in the healing power of garlic, honey, natural essential oils, Redmond clay, etc. and use them often to keep my immunity up. I drink a green smoothie every morning containing only greens and fruit, sometimes a little yogurt for the probiotics. I keep bone broth in the freezer and the first thing I make when anyone’s under the weather is wholesome chicken soup with that broth and lots of garlic.

So when my tooth started acting up this weekend, I turned to a few of my online sources to see if I could heal it myself.  I’ve been following Katie’s journey to heal her cavities, and that inspired me to try and avoid a root canal if possible.

This tooth (upper molar, second from the back on the right) has given me trouble for a long time. A few years ago, the filling fell out. At first, I didn’t really notice or know what had happened. Then I put off going to the dentist (stupidly–because the fix would have been a lot easier if I’d gone as soon as I realized what had happened). In the end at least a year if not more passed before I got the tooth refilled. As a result, he had to drill quite a bit and warned that it might be too deep for the nerve to continue and I might need a root canal. (This was also before I got too “crunchy” in my efforts at going as natural as possible.)

Just the thought of a root canal scared me! So I immediately started using Earthpaste, a natural toothpaste made from Redmond Clay that helps with mineralization. As I said earlier, I also make chicken broth from bones quite often and coconut oil is in frequent use.

Friday last week, my tooth was suddenly much more sensitive to hot and cold. I started rubbing on coconut oil laced with oregano oil to combat any infection that might be brewing, and researched some possible home remedies. I found recommendations for Arnica (for inflammation and general healing) and Hypericum (for nerve pain/damage) that I easily found at my local health food store.

Before I could go shopping, though, I woke up early Sat morning because of that blasted tooth. Every time I rolled over, my teeth clenched together just enough to send a throbbing pain through that inflamed nerve. It was bad enough I almost asked That Man to cancel our planned trip to Mythos for my birthday so I could get in to see my dentist.

But I knew what conventional medicine would say:  root canal.  I’m torn on whether I really want a dead tooth in my mouth or not. There’s so many conflicting articles about whether root canals are beneficial or deadly (Snopes says all the naysayers are quacks, but there’s a ring of truth to many of the articles that make it difficult for me to discount completely).

I had pain, but it wasn’t more than I could bear, and I didn’t have any swelling. I decided to see if I could get through the weekend, at least until some of my harder-to-get supplies arrived.

So the next steps I implemented as soon as I hit the health food store:

  • Taking arnica and hypericum 3x a day
  • Had some whole grain toast (most people recommend avoiding grains to heal your teeth, but I don’t have any problems with gluten, other than I want to eat it all) loaded with really good Kerrygold butter and local raw honey. For me, this was like a heavenly dessert!
  • Started taking fermented cod liver oil caplets (I’d been doing this before, but quit because they were so expensive).
  • Oil pulling with coconut oil and oregano oil. I’d done this a couple of times, but it’s so inconvenient with my morning schedule, I didn’t get a routine established. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I’ve started getting up 5 mins earlier and swishing while I take the dogs out.
  • Flossing with tea tree oil.
  • Eggshells in my smoothie. I know this is probably the quackiest thing of all, but eggshells have tons of calcium and minerals that can help your teeth. (I also smash up the bones in canned salmon and eat them.) I already buy farm eggs from a guy That Man works with, so I washed them really well, and then boiled the shells for 5-10 mins. Tossed in my Vitamix with spinach, banana, and mango, I hardly knew they were there, other than the occasional gritty piece.
  • Thawed out a jar of chicken bone broth to drink with garlic and ginger, and made beef soup from the Christmas prime rib bones I’d kept in the freezer. I’ve had a cup of bone broth (at least) each day.
  • Continued to rub a paste of coconut oil, oregano oil, and Redmond Clay on my teeth and gums whenever I had any pain.

So in summary, I upped my mineral and calcium intake, my healthy oil intake to help with absorption, as well as using all the natural antibiotics and healing agents I reasonably could. Everything I read said to drink raw milk too, but it’s illegal in my county so that’s a no. I love cheese but generally count it as a luxurious treat, so added sharp cheddar to my menu the last few days.

 

Results:

Saturday was my roughest day. I’d implemented the above routine, but the pain was borderline of what I could bear, though once I started taking the arnica and hypericum, it was significantly better for a few hours at a time.

Sunday I was starting to feel a little better. The arnica/hypericum wore off about 7 AM, so I got up, took some more, and went right back to bed. I still had periods of nearly constant pain, but no swelling and more importantly, it wasn’t worse. The natural arnica and hypericum definitely knocked down the pain, though it wore off quickly enough that I contemplated taking it four times. I caved and smeared on a little Ambesol instead (not natural at all) so I could get another couple of hours of relief in between without overdosing.

 

Monday: My comfrey and plantain arrived. By then, I probably didn’t need these two items, but they’re not bad to have on hand. I took a pinch of dried plantain and crammed it up near the sore tooth like a wad of chew, holding it for 20 mins or so. It made me feel kind of funny as the plantain-flavored spit got swallowed. I’m thinking it was too strong, so if I do it again, I’ll soak the plantain first, pack in the wet herbs, and then maybe swish with the “tea” once I’m done. The comfrey is supposed to really help “knit” the bone and tooth back together but I haven’t actually used it yet. The plantain made me just a little queasy, so I thought I’d wait and see.

Tuesday: Very little sensitivity. If I rock my jaws back and forth (to get a ridge of my bottom tooth poked up into the filled cavity spot), I can “feel” the filling. The nerve zings me just a little, but nothing major. I’ve been able to chew softer things on that side without issue. I skipped the midday arnica/hypericum dose but took it at night. I also haven’t done much with the paste. Didn’t need to!

Summary:  At this time, I don’t feel like I need to rush to my dentist and beg him to pull out this tooth!

  • I think the arnica and hypericum helped immediately knock the pain down to something more bearable and speed the healing, while I worked on my nutrition.
  • The oil pulling has helped tremendously with sensitivity.
  • I don’t know that the high minerals and coconut oil/butter have helped, but they certainly haven’t hurt.
  • The plantain “wad” might have had some poultice/drawing out effect, but I’d already seen improvement at that point and I would do it differently next time.

I’ll keep with the oil pulling routine, even though it’s inconvenient and see if that’s enough to bring down the remaining sensitivity. Overall, I’m completely relieved and giddy that I can put off any dreaded major dental work for hopefully a long time!

Getting Unstuck – With Tarot

I blogged earlier that I was stuck on Billionaire #3 and started brainstorming the premise to figure out where I went wrong.  The final step for me to come up with a solution was flipping to my favorite tarot deck, The Steampunk Tarot.

That deck works fantastically for Lady Wyre’s universe, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get anything helpful on a contemporary idea or not. But it was worth a try.

Some background on this story idea:  When I first started working on this idea, for some reason I decided the heroine needed to change.  I built an entirely different backstory for her and gave her a different profession.  I loved what I built… but the story just died.  I couldn’t take it anywhere.

So the journaling and brainstorming I did first was to compare the original premise that I’d found lacking, and the newer premise that was a storykiller, and see if I could come up with a new (better) solution that solved all the issues my subconscious seemed to be having with both ideas.

My questions were about the heroine.  Who was she?  Why was she willing to step into this story in the first place?  What kind of woman is she?

Personally, I like to shuffle the deck 7 times and then spread them out in a line in front of me.  I don’t pick from the top.  I randomly drew 3 cards, flipped them over, and started taking notes one by one.

Note:  It’s important to LOOK at the card first, without reading anything the deck’s guide might have about it.  You’ll probably notice things that aren’t even mentioned in the guide that can add a cool layer to the story.

The cards I drew:

  • Queen of Wands
  • Seven of Pentacles
  • Five of Swords

This is one of the few times that the cards spoke perfectly to what I needed.  It’s not unusual for me to draw a card featuring a man when I’m trying to figure out a heroine.  That can still be helpful, but it’s not as “obvious.”  These cards were very obvious for this particular story.

Obviously the Queen of Wands is my heroine.  The first things I noted about her card without peeking at the book:  a riding crop (snickers, you know me so well), a sunflower, and a fox emblem that looks like a mask as part of the horse’s tack.  The book’s information about her was spot on.  This was my heroine to a T.  There are still several things I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping they come through slow revelation.

The Seven of Pentacles isn’t a character, but a message to me for this book. Yes, I should pause and take a full accounting.  Something’s not adding up.  There are good things in this idea, but not enough for success.  Evaluate.  (Which I was doing.)

The last card represents my hero, but also the book’s premise as well.  There are 3 main characters, two men and a woman, the same as my book.  One is obviously the “lord” or wealthy man.  Ditto.  It’s also a shifty deal-in-the-night-gone-bad sort of card — which my hero fully expects and experiences, even if that’s not his heroine’s intent.  The tarot guide says “He may have all the swords now, but I warrant someone will find something else to stab in his back.”

Oh yes indeed they will.

Now I feel like I can finish plotting this book!  I’m excited about it, where before I kept avoiding even opening my file.  Onward and upward.  I’ve got to hurry and get this one done, so I can change gears to Vincent’s story (Charlie’s brother).

NaNoWriMo 2014 – The End Edition

I knew I was close.  But the closer I got, the further away the end was.

The last scene went on.  And on.  And on.  Someone decided it’d be a great idea to add a small sex scene too.  I mean, it is a reunion scene, right?  They ought to be pretty happy.  But this tired, plus writing in the car for most of the evening with That Man’s crazy driving… Yeah, it was hard.

But I finally made it.

New personal record:  8,454 words today.

NaNoWriMo total:  48,573 words

Total book:  91,318 words, not including the last 30K of chapter breaks.

I have some [notes] to fix.  A read-thru is in order.  Then I’ll be shooting it off to my Beloved Sis.  If any other sweet souls would like to beta read this new book, drop me a note.

I was going to say I’m too tired for a snippet, but there’s one bit in particular that I wrote tonight that made me laugh.

If anyone but Charlie had brought me to this deserted location, I’d swear they were going to leave me out here to die.

P.S. There are howler monkeys in Belize.  I had to look it up for that scene.

P.S.S. I’ll be busting my ass the rest of the week to turn around edits on Bilionaire #2, FLEs on Never Let you Down, and an important first step for this book I just finished.  I have news coming soon!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 17

As usual with weekends, I don’t have a ton of wordage to show, but I did keep up with at least 1K a day and I’m still slightly ahead.  Even better, I got over the typical hump between end of Act 2 and beginning of Act 3.  The story is overall nearly at 75K, one of the longest books I’ve written in quite some time.

Even better:  I only have 10-20K left to write and this book is DONE.  GRINS HAPPY DANCE YAY!

NaNoWriMo total as of last night: 31,818

He fisted his hand in my hair and forced my gaze away, up to his face.  “This isn’t about what you want, Ranay.  This is about what I want.  I want you to stop me.  I want you to have a limit that you don’t allow me to cross.  I need to be able to trust you in this or we can’t be together.  I’m too dangerous otherwise.  I need you to be able to stop me.”

 

NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 12

No D&E this morning as expected.  Middle had a late basketball game last night so I didn’t even try for early today.  I did manage a couple of hundred words in the car after dimming my laptop screen so it didn’t affect That Man’s driving too much.

Story wise I’m on the very edge of the first shocking reveal.  Ranay is going to hear some very disturbing things.  Is it really Charlie’s work?  Or someone else?  But why would the FBI think it’s him…?  She’s on her own and heading into the darkest point of the story.

Yesterday’s final NaNo count: 24,634

Snippet:

His pants hung open enough to reveal the dark cotton of his briefs and the bulge hidden beneath.  He tugged the black T-shirt over his head, bare skin drawing my gaze up.  He was as lean as I suspected, chiseled muscle that made my mouth water.  More chest hair than I’d seen on a man before but not so much that I thought of a burly backwoodsman.  Both his left shoulder and pec bore ink.  From the eagle, flag, and skulls, I guessed some kind of hardcore military background, but I couldn’t concentrate on the design.

A silver ring was planted in his left nipple.

I could almost feel that metal between my teeth.

He stood silent and unassuming, not threatening or large.  His arms were loose at his sides, his shoulders down and relaxed.  Nothing screamed domination and control in his stance.

Until I dragged my gaze back up his body to his eyes.

I trembled.  I couldn’t help it.  The fire blazing in his dark eyes seared my brain to ash.  It took all my concentration to force out one word.  “Master.”

His eyes.  Always his eyes.  It was why I’d worked so hard at never really seeing him, or at least never meeting his gaze fully.  Once he saw what I really was, I knew I’d never be able to escape.  He needed no cuffs or chains or collars to bind me to him.  All he needed was that dark all-consuming need that swallowed me whole and left me crying for more.