The Final Countdown

Why, yes, that Europe song is on my playlist! Along with Never Be the Same (Camila Cabello), Permanent (Spag Heddy), Glitter & Gold (Barns Courtney), The Greatest Show theme song, and Hurricane from Hamilton.

It’s the final countdown. The last book for Shara’s main arc (though trust me, I have lots more stories percolating in Their Vampire Queen’s world with new queens, and Shara will obviously play a huge part).

Ra has it coming, and Shara fucking Isador will deliver.

This month is all about finishing the series I started just a little over a year ago. (I bought the cover in June and had the first glimmer of an idea then.) My plate is cleared. Queen Takes Jaguars is finished, and will be included in the Realms & Rebels boxed set in August.

I want to be finished with Checkmate *before* I head out to Literary Love Savannah the last week of July. It’d be terrific if I could release before then – but we’ll see. I do still have a long ways to go and I’m quickly running out of July.

Don’t look at the pic if you don’t want to be spoiled, though I admit, it’s pretty sparse. This is how I’ve started “plotting.” I say that loosely, because even I don’t know what all of the notes mean yet. But I sit down and jot out what I want to cover on 2 pages in my traveler’s notebook. That’s it. Note: this doesn’t include the scenes I’ve already written. I already had them figured out. This is what I have left.

I’ll say that again. I have no idea what some of these mean – I just know they’re important. The magic will guide me when I get there. But you can see that I have a TON of plot to get through yet.

So I’d better get busy.

The Queen is Live!

 Shara and her men are back and the hits (and heat and blood) just keep on coming. (snickers)

Queen Takes Rook went live last night, but it has really taken some time for the links to filter through the Amazon mazes. People were having a hard time finding it, and at one point, we joked we’d broken Amazon!  We didn’t of course but it was fun.

The reviews are pouring in and I’m just dumbfounded and awed. Thank you, each and every person, who’s picked up a copy and left a review already! It makes me smile to see comments like “best in the series so far,” because I truly want each book to be better and better.

Shara’s taking us on one crazy ride.

And here’s the funniest part. All four books? Happen in the span of a month. Yet she’s already killed a thrall, turned into a Cobra Queen, dragged Leviathan out of his prison, killed some vicious ants, taken her first sibling, gained ten Blood (including five-hundred-year-old virgin twins), and…

Well. I won’t spoil anything. Go read it!

 

A few more days…

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

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

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

Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goddess, let it be soon.

Clearing the Baffles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Writing: Bujo Story Keeper 2

See part 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So generally, this is how I plot.

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

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

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

 

On Writing: Bujo Story Keeper 1

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

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

In the Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next: plotting!

Finishing the Damned Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Counting Down the Days

I’m hard at work on Queen Takes Queen. A bit behind… but I can make up that bit once my downhill momentum picks up. It will, I know. I just have to trust the process. Eventually those 1k, 2k, 3k days suddenly become 5k, 8k because I want to finish. I was a bit under the weather this weekend with a stomach thing the family had Christmas – New Years, but I luckily only had a minor touch of it.

Each chapter of Queen reveals more cool things about how the courts work and how complex every political situation is going to be. I’m pretty sure I figured out the title for Mayte’s book too. At first I was thinking Queen’s Jaguars, but I’d like to stay with the “Take” aspect, so I might use Queen Takes Jaguars instead. Yes plural. Of course!

I have a lot of cover action happening this week.  I should get Queen Takes Queen’s cover going and I’ve already booked her for the next three months to get the remaining books in the series created ahead of schedule (so I don’t have another unfortunate mishap of not getting the correct cover loaded in time). I also have an appointment on a secret pen name project for the next 2 covers. And… I bought a premade cover last night for an unfinished work I’ve talked about before:  Grotesquerie. I think I may have figured out how to fix it, and then I saw the cover and it was perfect. So I have no excuse now.

Other than time. Always time.

Writing in 2018 – The Plan

The universal truth about me and plans….  If I write it down, it WILL change.

But I have to plan to the best of my ability, while remaining flexible. I know things will change. But I’d like to lay out a little bit about what you can expect from me this year.

First, let me start with a few things I’ve (finally) learned.

  1. I have to finish series as quickly as possible.  For many reasons, but the primary two: I get bored easily and it helps sales. Readers really really want complete series. Some won’t even buy it until it’s complete, because they don’t want to be stuck hanging around waiting for that last book for year(s).
    1. Corollary: I have more control over this if I’m indie. I won’t have to worry about publishers cancelling my series and killing my motivation to work on a “dead” book again.
  2. I have to have deadlines. I’m a “perceiving” personality type – which really means pressure. I like pressure. I like deadlines. Sometimes the only thing holding my attention on a single project is the deadline, and yeah, the tighter the better. I will have to be sensitive to burn out and pushing myself too much, but if I just work on whatever I want, whenever I want, I WILL NEVER FINISH. So, deadlines.
  3. I have to track. Words, sales, pages read, everything. I am becoming a spreadsheet master.

First Half of 2018:

So with that information laid out, my #1 priority in 2018 is to finish Their Vampire Queen. That means…

  • Queen Takes Queen will release 1/29/2018. I am currently behind schedule, but will keep pushing to get this turned around.
  • I’m going to stick to releases every 45-60 days as much as possible.
  • There are three more planned books.
    • Mayte’s book, untitled, end of March/first of April
    • Leonie’s book, untitled, end of May/first of June
    • Queens Take God, the final showdown, working title, end of July/first of August

I have a secret pen name series that I never finished that has a lot of potential. I’m getting the next two covers made in January to light a fire under my behind. Ideally I’ll release the next two books close together and have another complete series. I’m not sure of length or timing yet. I’d planned to write at least one in January – but it depends on how long Queen goes over. I may not be able to fit it in yet. I may cram the Queen books closer together to make room on my schedule for new things, rather than trying to switch back and forth. We’ll see.

I’ve verbally committed to writing a novella for a St. Patrick’s Day themed anthology, finished story due by 2/28. I’ve got a loose idea for it, but haven’t started it yet, and the idea could be “big.” e.g. it may not fit into a shorter piece and do it justice. I may back out of this one, pending timing, how everything goes in January, etc. We’ll see.

I am reworking the Shanhasson trilogy covers with the same cover artist in February. FOR PRINT! And I’ll plan to release a boxed set of the trilogy as well. Maybe some new content. We’ll see.

“We’ll see.” See what I mean? haha. Ultimately, my goal is to get to as close as possible to one new release a month. That may mean cramming the Queen books closer together. Or stretching them out slightly to let me fit a different release in between. I’m not sure which one will work best yet.

Second half of 2018:

New series planning. It’ll be reverse harem, and either SFR or dark contemporary. I have ideas for both, but haven’t spent time yet to see which one will hold my interest the most. But I will definitely be ready to kickstart a brand new idea!

I need to reissue Lady Wyre’s series and get at least the third book I’d planned finished, again, keeping with that “finish” theme!

I want to write Three Cuts Deader this year. Because this is a “want to” project, and I don’t have control over the first two books, this may fall lower on the list. I’m limited in promotions and marketing I can do when I don’t control the series. But a handful of you do occasionally ask about this series and I really would like to do one more.

Up for grabs.  AKA I have no idea.

I have FOUR premade covers I’ve purchased over the past few months just for fun. One is definitely fantasy, and I’d love to write a big, sweeping epic fantasy again. But I don’t have a specific idea or plan yet. Two are definitely contemporary. The other one makes me think royalty, but could go fantasy too. They were pretty and cheap and I couldn’t resist!

So, that’s as specific of a plan as I can get! I’ve got a lot of new ideas, which is great. I’m writing again, hard, which is the GREATEST. As long as the Muse continues to cooperate, my general goals are to

  1. finish what I start
  2. release nearly monthly
  3. get as close to one million new words as possible