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Meditation and Gratitude Tools

These are a few of the tools I’ve been using over the past few months to reduce my stress and improve my overall wellbeing. Some of the links are affiliate links.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I first read this book over a year ago and it was one of the first steps I took to making a better practice of self-care. I started doing meditation right away, but the visualization and affirmations took longer to stick.

I used Headspace to learn about meditation. I really love his sessions on creativity and self confidence and have listened to both series at least twice.

The I AM Journal. This was one of the first tools I started using to get into a better gratitude habit. I loved the idea of writing down only THREE THINGS every day that I was grateful for and concentrating on my feelings. What I wanted most of all. How I would feel when I achieved those things. I don’t currently use this journal just because I don’t like to have yet another place to write stuff down in. But it got me started into the habit I’m using now.

I bought a copper fountain for my office and I love the constant gentle sound. I’ve got some crystals in it too that I’ve collected from various places. I don’t know that they make me feel better, but they’re pretty and I like them. Water is important for my muse (I’m starting to understand this more). As in my wizard story Nightgazer, “wellspring” is a metaphor for where the magic happens. I often picture Story bubbling up inside me like a fountain, and the sound reminds me to let the water — and the words — flow. It’s not so much work/effort, but tapping the well and letting the water come.

My Himalayan salt lamp is always on in my office. I love the gentle, warm glow that it casts so much that I bought another for my bedroom. I also have these salt tea light votives that I use in my office and around my tub when I take a bath. Again, I don’t know that they truly make me “feel better” fighting the negative ions in the rooms and such, but I *like* them. The glow is very comforting and makes me feel good when I see the light.

When I start a low-key sprint, I always do better if I put on my headphones and use one of my apps to help block out noise. Usually Naturespace but lately I’ve also been using Brainwave 35 with my own playlist of songs like Tibetan Singing Bowls, Crystal Bowls, etc. Very zen and relaxing.

Be Focused Pro is my timer app with set 10, 15, or 25 min sprints. The hardest part for me is stopping at the break and actually starting again. It’s easy for me to get distracted. I typically struggle with 25 mins. I lean toward 15 usually, but sometimes all I can manage is 10 mins. I do what I can when I can.

I’m experimenting with Productive – Habit Tracker this week to keep an automated list of my basic self-care tasks each day. So far I really like it, but I don’t know that I’m ready to spend for the Pro version yet. I love that it lets me color code items (so I have gold stars for sprints, and blue for zen stuff like meditation) and it keeps stats for me – though long-term, it’s hard for me not to get too focused on perfection and stressing about checking off an item. Which defeats the whole point of relaxation!

I’m still experimenting with visualization tools.

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On Stress, Healing, and Burnout

For personal reasons I can’t yet divulge entirely, I’ve been forced to cut back on my production this summer.

At first, I was angry. I had so much to do. So many plans that had to be put on the back burner. This was going to set me back months, maybe longer. Would hot trends even be hot in 3 months? 6? A year?

If you’ve been in publishing long, you know the answer to that.

I told myself it didn’t matter. I could still write ahead and have a whole bunch of stories ready to go. But the reality of all the stress I was (and still am) under slapped me in the face so hard it took my breath away, as well as my words. It was hard to be productive when I knew I couldn’t do anything with it. It was hard to focus when I was under so much stress. It was hard to be motivated when my personal life was in complete upheaval.

I need stability. But I also need deadlines. These are elements of my personality that I have been trying to embrace.

I had neither.

So I stewed for awhile. I cursed. I tried to come up with a plan and motivate myself. I created a new bujo and used a bunch of Washi tape to make it pretty. It was better than nothing — but I still wasn’t getting a lot of words. If I was lucky, I could get about 250-500 words — if I succeeded in even opening the file! — on the Princess Takes Unicorns prequel I’ve been working on for like a year. It’s only a short story. Why couldn’t I finish it?

Sigh.

I didn’t want to give myself a heart attack or stroke from the stress — or even cancer or other illnesses. (I watched Heal on Netflix.) So I was forced to slowly begin to work on ME not a story. My first efforts were to begin meditation again. Not everyday, but more frequently. I ordered an “I AM” journal and worked on my gratitude and affirmations. I came up with a mantra that I repeated when I was stressed or upset. Over and over and over, because yeah, it’s been a rough few months. I started writing down affirmations in a spare journal as often as I could remember to do it. Just free-writing a whole page as often as possible.

I started listening to that still voice inside me. I started trusting in my gut. I went through a forgiveness process and actually burned the paper where I’d written my hurt down. Not once but several times lol.

I took more long baths with candles and bath bombs. I read more. I indulged in Netflix horror movies. I bought some incense and started a little ritual when I went to my computer to help me relax, even if I didn’t manage any words.

And I started doing the things I *knew* I should do to help with productivity. I just had resistance to them. Mainly, low-key sprints and setting a timer.

A lot of writers use sprints and are very successful with them – but I have to be careful. I have just enough achiever in my strengths that I want to be the best. I want to do well. I want to be the fastest. And if I’m not, I avoid it. I put immense pressure on myself to type like a mad person when that timer goes off – and if I’m mentally not in the place to achieve a lot of words, I don’t want to do it. I avoid it. Because I know I’ll be disappointed in myself.

This took a mind shift, but I think I’m finally in a better place. I don’t use the timer so much to “sprint” but to focus. The word count doesn’t matter. It only matters that I’m working on ONLY my story during that time. If I’m reading and editing, that’s okay. If I’m just adding a few lines, that’s okay. If I’m writing slowly and relaxed… THAT’S OKAY! I just need to dedicate the TIME to do the work.

The words started to come. Slowly, yes, but the words are flowing again. It’s more of a gentle trickle than the rushing Amazon River, but I’ll take it. I’m learning to embrace that ebb and flow better.

In all of this, I finally realized exactly how close to burnout I probably was. Forcing myself to write while under this major stress would have probably pushed me over the brink. I don’t know how long my muse would have been incapacitated if I’d kept pushing and forcing the words over the summer. I had all the classic signs of burnout:

  • difficulty focusing
  • tired all the time
  • no motivation
  • no creativity
  • irritability
  • wanting to veg and binge Netflix

Granted, the Homelife stress has been extremely high for years and was certainly contributing to the approach of burnout. But I also wasn’t taking good care of my muse. That’s why Checkmate and Triune took me soooooo long. I struggled to focus. I had a lot of “I don’t wanna” and I didn’t know why or how to get over it.

Usually for me, the more pressure I apply and the tighter the deadlines, the better I perform. Usually. So it was hard for me to admit that I was probably not in a good place. My mind kept insisting that I should just push harder. My “feelings” were just feelings and I should be able to write just as much even with my Homelife exploding around me.

Not.

So while it has been a frustrating summer… I can also look back and admit that I was exactly where I needed to be. I needed to spend these months forming some new self-care habits. I needed the down time. While the Homelife stress isn’t any better yet (though things are in progress and I hope it can resolve in the next few months), I have found my stride with writing. Yes, it’s slower. But that’s okay. The flow is there. I’ve almost finished the short prequel and I plan to spend the first 3 weeks of October expanding Queen Takes Camelot.

Yes, I know. After all my talk above about stress, I set a fairly tight pre-order date! But I need the pressure to make sure I actually focus and work, and I have other pressing reasons for that deadline.

It’ll be a good test to see if my new habits will continue to help me keep moving forward, manage the stress, and still find space in my head to be creative. I’ve got a checklist I’m trying to do every single day, both for sprints and for self care. I may post more often in Oct just as an accountability.

Let the words FLOW!

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A Their Vampire Queen Update

At the end of Queen Takes Triune, I told you that Shara needed a break. She needed downtime with her Blood, to rest and play and just simply BE Shara. She can’t face the next trial until the other queens come to the table.

All of that is true.

But there’s more.

People ask me things like How many more books will there be? Is Helayna Ironheart going to be a Triune queen? Who are the other Triune queens? How many books will there be? Who’s the next bad guy?

And I’m like uh…. I don’t know. Not until THEY TELL ME.

I know that sounds crazy but I’ve learned over the years to sit back and let the story come to me – rather than me chasing and forcing it to happen. A lot of this is personality. It’s just how I’m wired.

I’m a high INPUT and LEARNER personality. I’m also on the cusp between FEELING and THINKING, as well as JUDGING and PERCEIVING. (I think it’s my Gemini nature – I pull on either side depending on what I need. I’m a writer – but I’m also analytical and work as a computer programmer.) That means that most days I consider myself an INFP on the Myer-Briggs personality scale, but I also sometimes have other qualities (INFJ, INTP, INTJ) driven by my analytic side.

I can sometimes apply the analytic side to writing and make things happen, but generally, it’s best for my writing if I LET it happen. If I let my emotions and intuition guide me, I feel like more “magic” happens, and that’s what I love most about writing. I love it when pieces come together in a magical, special way that just ARE. They weren’t planned out.

I honestly didn’t know why xyz was important. I just knew it was needed. Example: I still don’t know what special thing Kevin had written into his conciliarius contract with House Isador. I just know there WAS something special and unique and when it’s important and affects the plot, it will be there waiting for me to know.

That’s great and all, but it makes it hard to explain to you when the next book(s) will be here and which queen will do what, because I honestly have no idea until they show up and tell me what’s going on. So when I said Shara needed a break, that was true. But I also needed time for my subconscious to start working on some of these other details. I needed time to let some things unfold magically in my head that I wasn’t even aware of.

I need time to let those ideas bubble in the background while I indulge my LEARNER and INPUT until the well is full again and overflows in a deluge. So maybe I’m making bracelets, crocheting something, watching a new show (I’m really enjoying Carnival Row), making shirts for Penned Con, etc. while I’m also reading and researching general things. Like… death masks. Pretty cool stuff. Ancient mythologies (you know how much I love them already.) And…

Boom, something triggers me, in a good way, and I start to know things. I don’t know why these things are true yet, but I know they’re important, so I write them down. Then more comes, maybe while I’m in the tub, or as I’m trying to fall asleep at night, and I start to get excited, because I know the story is finally coming. I can help this process along sometimes by working on other things (nothing makes one idea perk up like when I set a deadline for something ELSE because let’s make this as complicated and pressure filled as possible. That good old “P” in INFP.)

So that’s why I’ve been getting through some tasks that have been on my to-do list for awhile, like re-releasing Lady Wyre. Because I knew the best way to get these silent queens to show up and start talking is to tell them to shut up while I do something else. Reverse psychology for the win!

This is a long-ass way of saying that I have made some decisions on the future of Their Vampire Queen. Three queens have announced themselves as Triune candidates and are willing to step up to the table (literally!) and help Shara with the future.

I’ll be posting more details in the Triune group over the next few months and even opening up some polls etc if you’d like to play along with titles or things like that. It’s too early to set dates yet, but these queens will hopefully be arriving early next year.

The rest of this year…

Things are complicated by some personal shit going on. I’ve had to put a brake on several projects until I get my life sorted out and finalized. However, my plan of attack for the rest of the year in no particular order (you know that if I type this out that it will actually cause a rift in the time-space continuum and nothing will go according to plan but I’m going to try anyway):

  • Princess Takes Unicorns prequel finalized (up to some events that drove Princess Takes Academy).
  • Lady Wyre’s Rebels (third NEW book for Lady Wyre to finish her incomplete trilogy)
  • Queen Takes Camelot – expanded

While these things are slowly being worked on, I will also be letting the three queens chat in the back of my head and building some momentum until they’re ready to break free. Goddess let it be soon!

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The Story Behind the Story – Part 1

With the re-release of Lady Wyre’s stories coming over the next few months (Lady Wyre’s Regret is available free right now, and Lady Doctor Wyre re-releases August 26th), I thought I’d talk a little about these books for the newer people who may not have been around in 2011 when she first came to be.

First of all, it astounds me that she’s EIGHT years old. It just doesn’t seem possible.

Your first question may be why on earth did I choose the Regency period for a SF mash-up?

My first actual published story was a Regency short story in a now defunct ezine. Yep I know. Given Shara’s dark and bloody story, that may surprise you lol. But when I was younger, I read a TON of Regencies. I read EVERY Regency Signet my small-town country library had on the shelf. Years later, I loved Amanda Quick. I loved the gowns and titles, the stories of wallflowers and rakes, Dukes and nannies. And of course I loved the great Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

But I’m not an historical writer. I can (and did) research the time period, but it’s not my speciality. I was afraid of making title mistakes especially. But they were so fun – much more fun than the more strict and staid Victorian period.

When steampunk began to rise in popularity, I was intrigued, definitely. But I couldn’t get into the Victorian period at all. I also didn’t really care for the “steam” aspect – which is kinda important for steampunk! Duh. But it got my brain bursting with ideas.

What if… Regency ladies ran amok in space? Even better – what if ladies REIGNED in space? Because the number one thing that always irritates me is patriarchy in SF. Come on, people! There are so many reasons that women could and should be more powerful than in a traditional patriarchal society! Let’s play. Let’s have some fun and encourage women in sciences and positions of power. Let’s make that the NORM.

So I knew I wanted the main character to be a lady. A duchess, naturally. But I also wanted her to be special. I took some elements of Doctor Who (which is why she’s Lady Doctor Wyre), the fun outlaw adventure aspect from Firefly, and the elements of Regency Society that I enjoyed – and turned them on their head. Instead of the Mamas hot on the heels of the dashing young (rich) lord for their daughters, they’re hot on the heels of the dashing powerful (rich) ladies for their blushing sons.

Lady Wyre is just the beginning of what I hoped to do in this world.

But circumstances were stacked against her. The main problem, I think, was that I was stretched over too many series at too many publishers at the time. I took over a year to release the next stories each time, and that’s just too slow, even back in 2011. We also struggled with marketing. We tried marketing her as steampunk – but she’s NOT steampunk. So it just never took off like we hoped, even though Lady Doctor Wyre was nominated for a Romantic Times Book Reviews award. Then, of course, Samhain went out of business entirely, and I was adrift and unsure what I wanted to do.

So hopefully I can correct those mistakes this time around and give her a better chance at success. I love this story world too much to let her languish on my hard drive any longer!

A mash-up of Jane Austen and Firefly, this series puts ladies in charge–in space. If you love a Regency romp and space opera adventure, join Lady Wyre on her adventures.
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A New (Old) Series

If you’ve been waiting on an update for Lady Wyre, REJOICE!

Lady Doctor Wyre was originally published in 2011 by Samhain. When they went out of business in 2016/2017, I was indecisive about how I wanted to proceed with republishing the series. Then Shara took off, and I just didn’t have time to come back to Lady Wyre.

She’s been languishing long enough.

Over the next few months, I’m going to republish Lady Doctor Wyre, Lord Regret’s Price, Her Grace’s Stable, and finally, cap off the relaunch with a new book, Lady Wyre’s Rebels. If the relaunch does well, I’ll plan to write some of the other books I wanted to do in this series, like the Deathright and Seven Crows (working titles) I had planned.

For now, you can grab a copy of the free prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret, to learn more about this series.

A mash-up of Jane Austen and Firefly, this series puts ladies in charge—in space. If you love a Regency romp and space opera adventure, join Lady Wyre on her adventures.
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Sterling Silver Bracelets – In progress

I had a request for sterling silver bracelets, since many people are allergic to the inferior metals. Unfortunately, the charms are VERY expensive, ranging from $5-15 each. Yes, each. Shara has a lot of Blood… So that makes a complete House Isador charm bracelet in silver very expensive to make.

However, I’m going to experiment with fewer charms to keep in the $30-40 price range. Like I’ll have a “Shara Isador” one that’s an ankh and Isis charm only. Or a cobra charm with the ankh. With all sterling silver findings and chain.

If you’re in the market for something like this and I haven’t already talked to you, feel free to message or email me so I can be sure to stock the materials. I have some supplies ordered and will experiment with them over the next week or so. Hopefully I don’t mess them up! Even the silver wrapping wire is $17 a roll.

But they’re going to be pretty!

I also have a House Camelot charm bracelet made – by accident. Middle Monster picked out some matte black beads at Michael’s when she was shopping with me, and loved the crown charm I’d picked up. I made her an all-black crown bracelet – but she didn’t actually like the dangling beads. So I’m going to make her an elastic stretchy one, and I repurposed this bracelet to have all of Gwen’s Blood represented, as I know them today. If the weather cooperates, I’ll take some pictures tomorrow.

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This Week’s New Releases

It’s been a busy week – so busy I forgot to even list out what all came out this week!

Queen Takes Darkness is now available! This is a short novella featuring Helayna Ironheart – the wolf king’s sister you met briefly in Queen Takes Triune. This story will be included in the MORE print anthology available exclusively at Literary Love Savannah in July. Though you can order a copy directly from me if you’d like. I’ll be getting a link set up on the Shop shortly.

Queen Takes Rook is also now available in audio! Even better, Queen Takes Checkmate will release next month. I’m so glad this series continues to be made available in the audio format.

Releasing today, Seduced by Myths includes a short novella from me titled, “On Death’s Wings.” This is a re-imagining of Beautiful Death, written the way I wished I could have written it in 2005.

I’m hard at work on adding some fresh new bonus content to add to “Queen Takes Alpha,” “Queen Takes Twins,” and “Queen Takes A Late Christmas,” which were all previously released in Between the Sheets anthologies (and are no longer available). Queen Takes More will be available the first week of June.

And finally, WHEW! I told you it was a busy week! The pre-order for a new project is now up. Magic & Mayhem is an Academy-themed boxed set that will include our favorite unicorn vampire princess. I don’t have the title for Xochitl’s story yet, but I can’t wait to dig in to her story.

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House Isador shirts and bundles

If you’ve been waiting to get your complete set of Their Vampire Queen books, I’ve finally got the bundles loaded. Choose just the six main books, tote and shirt – or add a bracelet or coffee mug if you’d like. All shipping is US priority shipping.

I’ll be loading the shirts separately in a few minutes! That way if you already have the books, you can grab just the shirt.

Next up, I’ll be adding House Ironheart and Mythomorphoses wear!

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New Charm Bracelets in the Shop!

I finally got the House Isador charm bracelet listed in the shop! There’s an optional form that you can fill out to tell me what colors or sizes you’d like. These are handmade by me in my free time. Yes, I know, that sounds crazy when I’m writing all the time and work full-time too, but making the jewelry is FUN. It’s actually a stress reliever for me.

Soon to come are purse/planner charms and themed bookmarks. I also have charms ordered for House Camelot and House Ironheart!

Queen Takes Triune is also now listed in the shop. I’ll work on a House Isador bundle once I get previous orders out the door.

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Signed Paperbacks, Merchandise, and More

Behind the scenes, I’ve been working with my friend Erin to open up a shop, and I think we’re finally ready to at least crack the door, LOL.

Please be patient with us. There’s a learning curve to getting all the plugins to work correctly, and then of course processing your orders. I have a lot more merchandise to add to the shop, but we wanted to see how just a few things were working before we build it out too far. Right now, there are some House Isador mugs and single copies of each book currently in print (Queen Takes Triune and Their Vampire Queen bundles aren’t ready yet).

I’m only open to US orders right now, until I figure out how to handle VAT. If you’re international and don’t want to wait, message me and we’ll figure out other arrangements.

If you’re hoping to buy the entire Their Vampire Queen set, please wait a bit longer until I get Queen Takes Triune in print. I’ll be making a really cool bundle with tote and shirt. But it’s not quite ready yet!

If you’re only buying a single print book, I can send it cheaper via media mail, so message me and we’ll figure that out too. I’m still tweaking the shipping plugin to figure out how to do single books media but anything else priority. I can also do PayPal manually for those of you who prefer that method of payment. I don’t have that turned on here yet.

Coming soon: House Isador charm bracelets, bookmarks, and T-shirts!