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!

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.

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.

 

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.

Monday Wrapup

Lots of small tidbits to share this week, so I’ll try a link/brief paragraph roundup.  I used to do these all the time!

#ListifyLife Spring for me is….

A photo posted by Joely Sue Burkhart (@joelysue) on


My #ListifyLife post is up on Instagram.  You can read lots of lists across all social media by following the hashtag.

I’ve also had two great reviews for Two Cuts Darker, including 4 Stars from RT!  I’m not going to the conference this year (Vegas, sobs) – price tag was just too much to swing this year compared to returns.  Are any of you going or do you do local conferences?

Two Cuts Darker also got a B review at Dear Author.  “The sex scenes are visceral, gritty, emotionally intense and plentiful (just how I like them). In both books each sex scene serves an actual purpose, moving the story forward and creating more intimacy between the couples.”

I was also at Here Be Magic last week talking about trying to find a planner system that works for me.  We had some great discussion on my Facebook page too.

Listify Life

I’m hoping to get back to a somewhat regular blog schedule.  It’s just hard after all these years – I start to think I’ve already said everything!  Or the things I wish I could say really aren’t appropriate for the general public.  :mrgreen:

ListifyEnter Roni Loren’s Listify Life Challenge.  Each week, she’s challenging us to make a list.  A simple list.  I can do that!  And I can use my pretty fountain pens, new Leuchtturm1917 journal, and my not-so-pretty handwriting. Apologies in advance.

Everyone’s welcome to participate!

Upcoming Giveaway: Lots of Print Books

IMG_0051As I was straightening my office for the New Year, I realized I’ve been moving a giant box back and forth across the floor ever since we moved to this house 1 1/2 years ago.  Every time I have a call for the Evil Day Job, KoKo takes the opportunity to gnaw on the box, so it looks like a pack of rats have been chewing on it.  (The box only – the books are fine!)

These books are my previous RT convention hauls.  Some of them are signed, which makes it doubly hard to part with them! But I’ve finally faced the fact that I’m not going to read them.  I just don’t read print any longer and I need the space. I’m so busy, either running to pick someone up in the car, waiting in line, etc. that I always read on my phone, or if I’m lucky, one of the two Kindles we have (the monsters like them too).

So I decided to give these print books away.  I have plenty for TWO priority boxes and each box will have at least one signed Lorelei James book.  There’s mysteries, historicals, paranormal, etc.  I’m sure I still have some swag (from many authors), so I’ll throw in some of that too if you’d like.

To enter, you must be a subscriber to my newsletter.  Easy instructions will be included on how to enter (I don’t want to randomly draw a name and pick an electronic book reader like me).

The next newsletter will go out Feb. 8th (Two Cuts Darker release date), so sign up if you’d like a chance to win!

Crochet: Tentacles of Doom Scarf

IMG_1659Some Twitter buddies were talking about octopus scarves and I really wanted to make one.  This pattern from HELLOhappy looked really cute and pretty simple, so I gave it a shot.  It was fun and very easy to make – but fair warning: the tentacles get OLD really FAST.  I decided to only make 2 as called for in the pattern, and made all the others with different instructions.

I made two extra long curling tentacles and then folded them over to make a total of four tentacles.  Then I also made two long tentacles with a simple double-crochet-post stitch (where you go around the post of the previous row, rather than through the normal “chain” stitch at the top).  It gave an interesting 3-D texture to the tentacle, without driving me mad from boredom.

I didn’t want a lot of stuffing in the octopus’s head/body, but I did want a little dimension. It just so happened I’d made a “cowl” earlier in the month that was way too small and ended up more of a fat, wide headband. Which just didn’t work. So I recycled it into stuffing.

I made the whites of the eyes from some leftover “hairy” white baby yarn I bought to make my Evil Day Job boss’s baby a sweet little lamb hat.

Sewing things on/together is not my favorite thing, so I didn’t make as many suckers as I probably should have.  Maybe someday when I’m bored I’ll make a few more and sew them on. But for now, it was all I could do to sew everything together and finish the eyes.

It’s definitely one of a kind.  Some of the tentacles are too long and definitely uneven – but I’m not a matchy-match sort of person anyway.  I like it and the finished product is fun.  I still want to make a more elegant tentacle scarf, but haven’t found the right pattern yet.

Christmas Giveaway #3

I’ve emailed the winner for Giveaway #2.

Up next:  something to help the NaNoWriMo-ers or anyone who likes to color.  Adult coloring books are all the rage and I’ve bought several myself.  I do like to color – but I’m not sure that it’s “relaxing” for me personally.  We’ll see. I keep trying new patterns and markers/pencils to see what I prefer.

This giveaway includes:

I’ll ship these anywhere on the planet and you can enter as many times as you want. To enter, comment on this blog post with HEROINE names you’d like to see more of.