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Shop is Closed

To prepare for the upcoming Literary Love Savannah conference, I’m closing the shop until at least 9/1/2022. Once I’m back from Georgia, I’ll refresh my inventory and list bookware and jewelry that I made for the conference that’s still available.

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The Waiting

I know in the scheme of problems, having to wait for something isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s one of things that hit me the hardest. The uncertainty. The constant what ifs. It takes such a toll that I have little room in my head for anything else.

I’m still waiting for news on the latest round of divorce court proceedings to be resolved. No news is good news I guess, but I wish I knew what was going on.

The weight of not knowing hangs over me like a leaden cloud. I trudge onward because I have things I must/want to do. I’m just so. So. So. SLOW.

I had to bump the pre-order date for Evil Eyed again. I have been chipping away at it as regularly as I can but I just can’t seem to make that shift into high gear to power through to the end. Of course that puts me behind on everything else I planned for this year. I can’t work on the final edits for Monstrous Heat until Evil Eyed is done. I can’t get back to Darkness3 until both of these projects are done. But now it’s taking me so long that I need to shift over to Blizzard Bound first or I won’t make that deadline either.

I am deadline driven. But this is getting ridiculous, even for me.

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ARC Team Interest Form

As you’ve seen the last few days, I’m making a big push to clean up some of my older stories, get them available wide, so I can make an even BIGGER push to wrap up Sunfires and Darkness. 

Because Shara is demanding my attention. Soon. 

If you’d like to join the ARC team and are willing to review BOTH older and newer stories, drop your info in my ARC Team Interest Form. I’ll be looking to add some new Blood in the coming months!

Note: please do NOT sign up if you’re only interested in Shara because it’ll be months before I’m ready to share her yet. Inactive members who haven’t been reviewing other books will be removed from the list prior to her return.

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Long Overdue Overhaul

Once I finally get started on something, it’s hard to call me off!

Since I started working on old backlist books Saturday, I’ve been going ham on all my admin tasks that I’ve been putting off.

  • Re-edit Free My Dragon
  • Re-edit Save My Dragon
  • Fix all the back matter through the Shanhasson series and reformat 4 books plus the boxed set.
  • Which lead to updating my bibliography document with all links (it was really out of date).
  • Fix all the back matter through the entire Connagher series in preparation for loading it wide. Reformat 7 books plus the boxed set.
  • Reload what I’ve already published to KDP, Kobo, and D2D with updates.
  • Update all of the books2read links with as many retailers as possible, especially for audio books.
  • Started hacking up the website, trashing a bunch of old pages that were cludgy or out of date.
    • Broke some stuff because I deleted it lol
    • Rebuilt missing pages and menus
    • Created missing book and series pages. (I still have a few to do but the current ones are updated.)
  • Created a new ARC list form to submit links. Preparing to do some clean up with this big backlist push to wide retailers.
  • Submitted another BookBub – braced for a YES this time! Please and thank you!

I still need to take a look at Their Vampire Queen back matter and reformat. It’s less bad than the really old stuff but it needs to be updated. I also created a mess for myself by changing my mind on how to handle the spinoffs, so I need to clean up my series numbering on KDP.

I’m still waiting on my Google Play and B&N accounts to update and let me publish, but I got my first book pushed through direct at Apple/iTiunes. Definitely needed a how-to guide for that beast! (And yeah I need to fix the blurb – I don’t like how it’s formatted.)

Getting there!

The next thing will be… deciding when to pull Their Vampire Queen out of KU and take it wide. I’m still on the fence on timing, but I’m hopeful that getting all this groundwork done will help me make that decision.

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Dragon Cursed – Free My Dragon

Okay, I’m ashamed at how long it took me to get back to these books, but I’m finally getting Free My Dragon (formerly Survive My Fire) and Save My Dragon (Formerly The Fire Within) back up at all retailers.

The key here is ALL retailers.

I decided in 2018/2019 when I pulled the old versions of these novellas for rebranding that I’d use this opportunity to publish direct through Kobo, Apple, GooglePlay, and B&N. I do have a few older wide books already, but I used Draft2Digital because I didn’t have the wide accounts set up yet.

Evidently, that was a mistake. Huge.

Because it took me until this week to finally make myself start this task.

Most of it is my fear of making a mistake. I’m comfortable with KDP and have been publishing there almost exclusively since 2017. With so many books, and so many direct sites, it was just too overwhelming. I couldn’t figure out how to start. In the beginning of my self-pub journey, I didn’t even format my own stories. So everything needed to be re-edited and then reformatted, at the cost of publishing something new (and shiny).

Well, for me, figuring out how to start was a dream. Writing has always been “Dreaming in Rhyme” for me. Friday night, after staying up late with my Beloved Sister so she could finish her book, I dreamed that I was working on Free My Dragon again. I took that as a sign. I mean, look at this cover. What the hell was I waiting for?

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Lessons Learned

My Evil Day Job is in IT and we moved to Agile a few years ago. Part of our regular ceremonies now is a sprint review/retro every two weeks. We talk about what went well and what didn’t–so that we can improve and change things up for the next sprint.

I’ve been doing a “book” retro each time I finish. I do some word-count vs. sprint analysis and compare that average to other books. I take a look at my elapsed time and any other factors that I can apply to the next book that might help me write faster or improve my process.

Since I just finished Leprechauned this week, I took a look at my stats. It’s pretty eye opening.

My word-count-per-sprint average was way down and my elapsed time was way up. I took vacation days from the EDJ in both Jan and Feb to help push to completion–and the book still dragged into March. I even bumped the release date two weeks to give myself a little breathing room.

What gives?

The biggest lesson I can take from this is how much of a problem it is for me to pick up and put down a book midway.

I originally started Leprechauned 2/28/2021. Yes, that long ago. I worked on it a little over a week and had just over 10,000 words before I decided to set it aside. I’d had the harebrained idea to try and crash-write the book before St. Patrick’s Day 2021 for a surprise release, which meant I set aside Knocked Up to work on it. Then I had some EDJ stress that made it apparent that I wasn’t going to be in a position to write another 30k+ in a week. (Though my crazy brain really wanted to try.)

This is my greatest weakness as a writer. I get these harebrained ideas on the spur of the moment and let them derail me. In hindsight, I should have stuck to Knocked Up and just kept working on it. I’m sure that I damaged my momentum stopping to pick up a different book.

I did the same thing by putting down Queen Takes Darkness3 to write Carnal Magic last October. Did I have fun with that book? Absolutely. Was it smart to put down a book that I was already 50%+ into? Absolutely not. Because here it is months later and I haven’t been able to pick it up again. I’m going to have the same issues when I do get back to it.

For Leprechauned, I didn’t pick it back up until the beginning of Jan 2022. I really planned to have it finished by the end of Feb, and on paper, that should have been easy for me to do. I know what my “average” word count can be each day without pushing too hard and I should have been able to meet that date.

Should.

But again, there were several factors at play that made the book hard.

  • I was served mid February – the ex is taking me back to court AGAIN.
  • When I first wrote Shamrocked, I kept it fairly light and fun. I didn’t have super deep characterization on the guys since the book was only in Riann’s POV. I didn’t have detailed world building notes either.
  • To take a “light” novella and turn it into a meatier trilogy is work. I had to flesh out each of the guys better and give them deeper personalities. I had to make decisions on the world and overall arc that weren’t needed for a single book. I had to better define the magic.
  • My style has changed quite a lot since I first wrote Shamrocked in 2018. I had to keep referring back to the previous book and read sections so I got the tone and characterizations right. I kept forgetting little tidbits of the world or magic that I needed to go back and verify.

All that took time. A lot of time.

So what am I going to do about it?

First up, I’m going to keep right on pushing through on Evil Eyed. I’m not going to make the mistake of setting down this world and characters again. I’m going to finish up the trilogy and get that off my plate before I do anything else.

Secondly, I’m going to do my best not to hie off on these side trails of shiny new projects that would be so much fun to do, especially when I’ve got other books started. When I get back to Helayna, I’m going to have to hope I took good notes and I’m going to need to spend days re-reading and getting back into that world’s tone and voice.

2022 is the year of cleaning out all these incomplete series and spinoffs so I can get back to Shara and Xochitl. The longer it takes me to finish Darkness, Sunfires, and anything else I tackle, the longer it’ll be before I can get back to our vampire queen. Because once I do get back to her, I want to focus and stay there.

Which is why I’d LOVE to have A Killer Need done too. But it’s going to be so much work to revise two books and write a third — that I originally wrote way back in 2014-16 or so. I have the covers already lined up. It’s just a matter of deciding if I can commit months to brutal edits and getting back into Charlie’s head.

We’ll see what the rest of 2022 holds.

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The Vicious Quandary

I wrote “The Vicious” two or so years ago for an anthology. I’ve always loved New Orleans and anything related to voodoo. Absolutely hungry for any show or movie or story that combines those elements. I fully intended to write a trilogy after “The Vicious,” and even have 2 of the 3 additional covers purchased. I signed up for another anthology with the plan to write the next book (you may see a link to that anthology at the end of “The Vicious,” depending on when you downloaded it).

But here’s the thing. I’ve been BLOCKED on that series since I wrote it.

That’s why you never got the continuation in that second anthology. I had to pull my story from it. I couldn’t even start it. I paid a consultant to help me plot out the rest of the series. We met several times and I worked on at least two more books’ worth of plot. I had the characters and the overall arc figured out.

But I still couldn’t write a word.

At the time, I blamed the divorce, and yeah, I’m sure that might have had something to do with it. But there’s more going on here than just all the stress.

I feel like continuing that series would be appropriation.

I’ve never lived in New Orleans, though I’ve visited a few times. No matter how much I love the culture, no matter how many books I read about Marie Laveau, no matter how many books I study about Vodou and the loa….

In the end, I am a (mostly) white author writing about a closed practice.

While I LOVE my covers–the characters used on the covers are also white. They’re white men dressed up in costumes. The heroine is clearly white.

Meanwhile, the magic system is based on a very real and personal religion to many people. People who were enslaved and killed and forbidden from practicing said religion.

And I want to write a book about it?

The sad thing is YES. I still do want to write it. I’ve agonized about it. I’ve tried to come up with excuses in my head. It’s “appreciation” not “appropriation.” I love it so much! I can give the heroine a biracial background. I could have the covers redone and put authentic people of color on the covers.

But again, in the end, I am still a white woman trying to write a fictional story based on Vodou, a closed religion.

As a writer, I’ve always pulled from mythology and other civilizations. I love everything about ancient history, folklore, and other religions. The Bloodgate series – based on Maya mythology! The twins, Xochitl, her father, Huitz…. based on Aztec mythology. I’m proud of the research I did for those series and still have numerous textbooks I bought. But in the end, they’re still only textbooks – probably written by white people.

I made Shara and queens of her world descended from goddesses around the globe.

Appropriation? Or appreciation? Though I’ve never described the color of Shara’s skin, the woman on the cover is definitely mostly white – and she’s supposed to be descended from Isis. Granted, I don’t think there are tons of people still worshipping Egyptian goddesses today, but I’ve tried to be careful and respectful in that series. I don’t use Hindu goddesses, for example. I try to be respectful and appreciative of the cultures I use. But is it enough?

Which circles right back to “The Vicious.” As much as I appreciate Vodou, it is a closed practice that is still practiced today. And I have no known ancestral ties to that culture or religion.

I can’t in good conscience write it as I originally envisioned it.

I’m trying to do better and be a better person. A better writer. Not just in craft but in what my stories say. What I pull from. Maybe it’s fine to take the Greek goddess Hekate and make a possibly bizarre connection to snakes! (Queen Takes Venom) I didn’t think that kind of streeeetch would offend too many people.

Though as I grow in my own spiritual journey, I try to question everything.

Anyway, that’s why I still don’t have a continuation for “The Vicious.”

I welcome thoughtful discussion.

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What am I working on this month?

Welcome to 2022! I’m going to try to keep my blog updated better this year.

My focus for the first half+ of the year will be finishing existing loose ends to make room for Shara to return. This includes the following series: Her Irish Treasures, Queen Takes Darkness, and Queen Takes Sunfires. I would also REALLY love to get A Killer Need wrapped up. However, that’s going to take so much work… I don’t know that I’ll be able and willing to hold off on Shara long enough to tackle Charlie. We’ll see.

First up, Her Irish Treasures. Leprechauned is set to release March 1st, though if I finish it earlier, I’ll probably release it sooner. I’ve struggled a bit to get back into the flow of this story, since I wrote Shamrocked back in 2018 or so. However, the audio rights are already lined up, so I’d really love to get this series finished and available. Once I do get into the Irish flow, I plan to stick there and finish the trilogy with Evil Eyed.

What really rocked my world with this series is how it ties into Shara’s Their Vampire Queen world, especially once I talked with Merlin in Queen Takes Camelot. Just another branch of the goddess tree…

I’m still Zooming with Molly about five times a week. We’ll continue our sessions as much as possible. I need to find time to get at least two more sprints in during the day to keep up with my goals. Four would be better. I’m slooooow but steady, until I can finally see the finish line. I’m almost to that point with Leprechauned, so it’d be great if I could finish it this month!

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2022 Plan

First up, I’ll be working on Her Irish Treasures with Leprechauned slated for March 2022. My plan is to go ahead and write the third book, Evil Eyed, while I’m in the Irish groove. These are shorter books, planning 40-50k, so I should be able to get both done early 2022. Then I’ll get Darkness3 finished, followed by Sunfires3.

The real gray area for me is in between Sunfires3 and Blizzard Bound, which I’ve slated for a December release. I have a long list that I’d like to get through…. But I have to be realistic too. Just these projects will be about 290,000 words, which is roughly where I finished in 2021.

If real life cooperates and I can keep up my energy pennies, my ideal projects will be:

  • re-release One Cut Deeper
  • re-release Two Cuts Darker
  • Three Cuts Deader
  • Begin Shara’s return