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Shop is Open!

I did a quick inventory update and will get some additional books ordered in case you’re wanting to shop for the holidays. I do have some shirts that need to be listed, but they’re still packed up from LLS. I’ll try to get to that this weekend.

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Mindset Recharge

I think it’s safe to say that allowing myself to switch projects has re-energized me.

Yes, partially due to being so happy back in House Isador, but my productivity has soared, even with devastating Evil Day Job news last week. I’m a high stability writer, but I’ve still been able to churn out several short pieces for the upcoming Queen Takes Blood prequel.

Coming back to House Isador is like coming home.

Even better, as I write these short prequels for each Blood, I get to go back through their existing scenes in Their Vampire Queen. I’m re-reading their introductions and refreshing my memory on their backstories. For some characters, I’m inventing the backstory since they never really got to have that page time. I’m also making sure that each character has a specific theme song, and I’m including them in the Their Vampire Queen playlist.

Some of the characters are still tricky to get deeper. Mehen and Ezra are prickly, but Mehen has had quite a bit of page time. I feel like I have him down pretty well. Itztli and Tlacel came on page together and just didn’t get a lot of solo scenes. I want to do them justice. Nevarre is tricky for other reasons. But it’s been super fun to figure out what each Blood was doing right before Shara called them to her side.

Each prequel short story is being posted on my Patreon as I finish them. Rik & Daire’s prequel will be available Nov 1st in a BookFunnel anthology that I’ll post more about once it’s live. Once I finish all of the stories–cursing Shara a little for calling soooo many Blood–I’ll make the combined Queen Takes Blood available free to newsletter subscribers, or available at all retailers. More to come on that.

The rest of this week, I’m going to focus on getting more packages out, and hopefully getting my holiday cards ordered. If I have time, I’ll also go through the inventory from LLS and update the shop so I can open it. I know there have been several people asking for some items! I just want to be sure I’m in a good place to get packages out quickly so there aren’t any delays.

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Exit Sign

The universe flashed a neon exit sign at me this week, and my entire perspective has been shifting to a new reality the last few days.

I don’t talk about my Evil Day Job a lot here, other than the fact that I still have one. I’ve been with the same company and team (though the team members have shifted across various sub-teams several times) my entire 27 year career. My coworkers are my friends, even though we live states apart now. When I go up for work, we hang out every night that I’m there because it might be years before I get to see them again.

Of course with any job there are highs and lows. I’ve been unhappy with a lot of my job duties for the past ten years or so. Basically I was asked by a now-gone manager, “What would you like to work on next?” I said, “I don’t care as long as it’s not support. That’s the only thing I DON’T want to do.”

And guess what I’ve been doing since then? Yeah.

The late night calls. 2 AM. 5 AM. One night I was called THREE TIMES with only a half hour or hour in between calls. The instant stress and anxiety when my phone starts ringing because it might be work. Getting up from a deep sleep at 7 AM on New Year’s Day to work for a couple of hours because five other people were called first and didn’t answer their phone. The stress of having to make on-the-fly decisions that could cost the company a lot of money if I’m wrong — when I’ve been dead asleep.

But the people matter to me, and this many years in, of course the retirement benefits matter to me too.

Guess what That Man took 50% of though… So of course, that’s weighing on me. An early retirement means I’d only end up with 25% of where I could have been. But it’s been tempting over the years.

Especially when I’ve cancelled pre-orders or shifted book plans in the past because EDJ work needed to come first. A late-night or overtime week meant that I couldn’t make my writing deadlines. My time is so limited, and my brain power is often consumed by work instead of plotting or thinking about my next book. So when I do sit down to write, I’m slow because I’m still thinking things through.

This far in, though, you think, “I can make it a few more years. I can hit 30. And if I hit that, I can hit 35….” And of course the health insurance is important, both for me and my adult kids who don’t have careers of their own yet. My youngest still has two more years of college that I’m helping her with.

Plus, it’s less frightening to know that I have a constant salary with good benefits, rather than trying to be a full-time writer without any benefits at all.

Until on a random Tuesday in October you find out that all of that is going away. Just like *snaps* that.

The universe hung a flashing neon sign right in front of me. I have approximately 12-18 months left and my career and all the people I’ve worked with for 27 years this December will be gone.

Sure, there’s a chance that they could find a spot somewhere in the company for an old dog like me, but the reality is that my technical skills are limited to the job that I have been doing. I’m not well suited to move to another team with modern technology. I’m only GOOD at the programming language that we’ve worked on for 27 years and that’s going away. Maybe I could take a chance and find an entirely new area of the company to work for. It would likely involve a demotion and pay cut. Is it worth it to keep my benefits? I don’t know. Right now, my gut says no.

My gut sees the writing on the wall and the flashing sign. Exit now. Arrow here.

It’s time to go.

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Upcoming Changes

The short statement:

I’m planning to cancel my last two pre-orders (Monstrous Hunger and Blizzard Bound). They both will still be published but I am not going to commit to a date. Side effect: I won’t be able to have pre-orders again for a year. And that’s ok.

The longer discussion behind this decision:

I’ve written a lot about my process. There are several posts (here and here) about the retrospectives I do once I finish a book. I try to learn from each book and fine-tune my process with the goal of writing faster with the same high quality book that you’ve come to expect from me. I stated early on that 2022 would be the year of finishing up loose ends with the goal of getting back to Shara’s world. I 100% committed to finishing Her Irish Treasures, and I did complete both Leprechauned and Evil Eyed this year. Though they took me much longer than I intended.

Why is that? When I’ve been making all these constant changes to improve my process?

I’m a thinker, a strategist, and sometimes, very analytical. I write code for the Evil Day Job and have a Masters in Mathematics. But I’m also a creative, a dreamer, and a visionary at heart. Sometimes those things work well together–and sometimes they don’t. The analyst keeps looking at my stats and scratching my head. What’s going on here?

WHY AM I GETTING SLOWER?

I’m not burned out. I’m not blocked.

I know my personality type. I thrive on deadline stress. I love impossible deadlines and challenges. Setting a pre-order seemed like it would be the ticking bomb that my brain needs to kick into high gear and get the job done. And yeah, sometimes that has worked over the last few years. But… Sometimes it hasn’t. The gear hasn’t been there when I tried to shift.

We’ve been over all the personal stuff that has been going on with the divorce, plus moving and pandemic and all the other stressors. That might play some of a role in my general slowdown but this felt bigger.

Like I was missing something. Something crucial.

So I decided to do a retrospective of my retrospectives. The biggest takeaway from those other retrospectives was that when I shift gears to other projects, I noted that the original project took a hit, and when I picked it back up, I had to build back up to a reasonable speed. Therefore, I determined that the best way to overcome context switching between worlds/books/characters was to stick to the same series and just finish it.

Makes sense, right? And I did that with Her Irish Treasures as much as possible, especially Evil Eyed and now Dynosauros. And Evil Eyed was so slow that it took me an additional 2 months longer than I originally planned.

I know what I’m capable of. I have written 50-70k in a month before when the wheels are spinning and the words are flowing with minimal editing needed (e.g. they weren’t throwaway drafts but solid work). Yet there have been months this year where it’s like pulling teeth to get 10k.

I have often referred to my writer personality as a horse (this post is old but parts still hold true). The urge to run wild and free is always there. Even in the middle of a blizzard, my horse wants to leave the nice warm stable. Lately, Beauty has been feeling like an old, worn-out plow horse. Just pulling the plow in nice straight rows, day after day. The plow sinks a little deeper into the ground. Becomes a little harder to pull. The field needs to be plowed, though. The work must be done. But she can’t help but wonder where the joy went, and if it’s possible to get it back. Why does it have to be so heavy?

And I realized today after doing some more meditation and journaling on the matter, that the answer has been in my retrospectives all along. Sometimes a strength can be a weakness. And sometimes a weakness can be a strength.

What if… the work that I took a break from was actually slowing down regardless of the break? What if that break to another project was exactly what my muse needed to do in order to re-energize and find light again? What if instead of beating myself up for switching projects and trying to “fix it” – I actually embrace the need to switch to something else as a strength?

What if switching projects is one of the key things that has helped me finish as many books as I do?

So I decided to embrace the switch. I have a short story that I committed for a BookFunnel anthology that I need to write. I WANT TO WRITE – you’ll see why. I actually dreamed about it (which is huge for me when the subconscious is working on the story for me). And instead of working on it then, I made myself write down the dream and then keep plugging away on Monstrous Hunger.

There’s nothing wrong with Monstrous Hunger. I love the story. I love the characters. But writing it is heavy and slow right now. It shouldn’t be. At all. This is a fun, over the top crazy story with dinosaur monsters, interesting peens, and all the shenanigans of a good sexy romp. But I have been plodding and plodding for days. Since the beginning of October, my sprint average has decreased by almost 20% and still sliding. With the deadline just around the corner, that is the opposite of what I want to happen. I need to be hitting my stride and cruising at my best speed.

As soon as I made the decision to set this book aside, I went to work on the short story. I decided to read the beginning of Queen Takes Knights to remind myself of what was happening when Shara first meets Rik and Daire. After all, I wrote that book 5 years ago this month.

And I started to cry.

It was like coming home.

There is the emotion and joy that I have been searching for. And when it’s time, and I feel that the well is full of joy again, I’ll come back to finish up the dinosaur romp.

And it’ll be even better than I ever envisioned.

Commence kicking down the stall in three… two… one.

Go. Run. Be free.

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A (Possible) Vicious Solution

Earlier this year I wrote about the Vicious Quandary and why I’ve not been able to finish Undead in New Orleans. It’s been on my mind for months, even since writing that post.

It’s the one story people ask about more than any other, even more than when we’ll get another Princess Xochitl book. I’m so grateful that people are interested enough to want to read more, and I certainly hate letting people down. I felt like surely there was a way I could write the story I wanted to write–but still be respectful to Vodou. I just needed to give the story time.

I am an INPUT writer. Sometimes when I’m stuck in a plot point or idea, I get the feeling that if I can only find the one missing piece of information I need that everything will fall into place. If I’m stuck in the middle of a book, the first thing I do is open up some browser tabs and start researching different things until I find the nugget that makes it all make sense. Sometimes it’s not even a fact–but a song or image.

For the Vicious, it was an image.

A cover, to be exact. I don’t know why this cover was special but when I saw it, it made my brain tingle, for lack of a better word. I bought it immediately. I’ve seen similar ones before, but it was the right moment, right colors and elements, right aesthetic…. And that image freed the log jam in my head.

I’m not ready to show it yet, and I don’t want to make any promises about timing. My schedule is jam packed as you know. I have a million ideas and things I want to write but my time is at a premium as long as I have the Evil Day Job. But I am jotting notes and working through the mental connections of what I will need to change in the series’ plot to make it happen.

Keep your fingers crossed!

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Solo Writing Retreat Night 2

Even though I’d just finished a book at 2 AM the night before (Monstrous Heat), I moved directly into Monstrous Hunger. Sherri and I met Sunday night for a couple of sprints. As always, I started slowly, but I’m learning new characters and getting a feel for how this book is going to go.

The night before, I also took myself on the “Eureka Springs Loop” – through the historic district, up to the Crescent Hotel, and then down through the shopping area. I’ve been on that loop many times with That Man, but I’ve never driven it and certainly not alone. If you’ve been to Eureka Springs, you know that some of the roads are extremely narrow and steep, especially when people are parked on the main shopping roads. I was nervous about getting lost and having to go up a goat track to get out lol. But I had no problems at all and made the entire loop myself. I even ended up exactly where I’d hope to end up and found my way back to the cabin easily.

The only thing I wanted to do on this trip but didn’t was get out at one of the springs. Sat. night there was live music down by the Basin Hotel and all the parking was full. Maybe next time.

Sunday night, I ate leftover pizza on the couch, had a nice long bath in the Jacuzzi, and then packed up/organized as much as possible for the checkout. Loading up Roger (my van) didn’t suck as much as unloading, though of course I had to do that once I got home. Everything was destroyed in the house, the kitchen was a mess, but everyone was glad to see me, especially my dog who didn’t have anyone to sleep with until I came back.

Overall, it was a great time. I wish I could have gotten more done, but I accomplished the #1 and #2 goals on my list. I finished the book and I sketched out an impossible plan for the rest of 2022 that I’m already behind on. Score!

I also added some wants to my forever house at my dad’s. I definitely need a spot for outdoor meditation with that first cup of coffee in the morning!

Meditation with a view
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Solo Writing Retreat Day 2

Sunday was my planning and recovery day – plus a new start (later post).

After being up until 2 AM the night before, I slept in later than I intended. Had my brunch and still took my nature meditation time out on the deck. The friends I saw this time were a lizard that scurried across the floor and a big buzzing bee that hovered overhead in the beams. They both left me alone for the most part, but another large fly or wasp kept buzzing around my head, which cut my time outside shorter than I planned.

I came back inside and pulled out some of my notebooks and fancy pens that I brought to begin a planning session.

Magical bag of notebooks and pens

First, I did a retrospective for Monstrous Heat. The same “pick up and put down again” issue hit me for this book. I underestimated how hard the edits were going to be, and I had no choice but to put the book down so I could get Evil Eyed completed. Losing momentum is tough. Changing POVs from third person to first is tough. Adding more monster sex scenes (literally) is… you know it. Monstrously hard. Laughs.

But this was a really fun book. It continually surprises me how much I’m growing as a writer. The original draft was written in 2016. I was not a new writer then. I’ve been published since 2009 by small presses with good editors. But man, did that original draft need some overhauling!

I guess Shara has really taught me a thing or two.

Then I moved into my calendar for planning the rest of the year. I have a love/hate relationship with my calendar. I want to do so much. I have so many ideas. So many plans. Figuring out how to get it all done in the limited time I have with the Evil Day Job and all the interruptions of real life is the difficult part.

I joke that if I write it down and make a plan, that I basically have to throw the whole thing out after day one. It’s sure to change immediately. But I have to plan and keep trying to get a better system down. Continuous improvements! Learning those lessons from retrospectives. Or why do them, right?

So again, keeping in mind the number one thing that messes with my momentum is shifting gears from one book to another, I’m really going to buckle down and focus on the other Monstrous books. The complication is Blizzard Bound set for Dec. 1st and a surprise prequel freebie I need to finish by mid October. In a perfect world, I will get all this done on time and I won’t have to bump any dates.

We’ll see about that.

I WANT to get back to Their Vampire Queen ASAP. I have half of Helayna’s third book written. Shara is ready. Karmen’s hovering in the background. Even Xochitl and Belladonna are ready to join the party. But if I put down what I’m currently working on to start… and then try to pick up something else to finish… and then try and go BACK to our vampire queens… it’ll take me forever.

I won’t get anything done if I’m switching from world to world and spreading books out too far.

If I can get these tasks done by the end of the year, then 2023 will be the year of Their Vampire Queens.

I know I always set impossible goals. I am an overachiever at heart. But if I set more “reasonable” goals, then I just don’t get things done. I need that constant crazy pressure hanging over my head to function at full capacity. So I’ve penciled in my due dates and sketched out a sprint schedule that will allow me to do all the things I want to do by the end of the year.

I just have to stay off TikTok! And actually sit down at my open file to write. Sometimes that’s the hardest part.

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Solo Writing Retreat Day 1

Yesterday was all about finishing the book (Monstrous Heat). I was close, but still had 20 some pages to edit and then a new ending/expansion to write. I wasn’t sure how long that was going to take.

I allowed myself to wake up without an alarm clock and then had the first cup of coffee sitting outside on the covered deck. Pure heaven listening to the birds, watching the trees sway in the gentle breeze. A mama deer and her fawn grazed across the gravel road just 20-30 feet away. When I get to my forever home at Papa’s, I’m definitely going to need a similar place to sit each morning and soak in nature.

Cabin porch with a view of the woods

I brought plenty of breakfast and snacky foods, so I had a quick bagel and then got to work. I meet with Sherri via Zoom twice yesterday and we got several sprints in both times. I was into the new ending scene(s) when we said goodnight at midnight my time, so I just kept going. I finally finished Monstrous Heat at 2 AM this morning.

Wine, crackers, bread, bagels, and freshly ground coffee from home

It stormed several times last night. I went out on the deck until it got too wet and windy. Rain and hail pounding on the roof woke me up a few times but I slept in pretty late this morning. I love the look of a log cabin but it’s definitely noisy. The cabin pops and snaps continuously throughout the night. Sometimes I swear it sounds like someone walking across the floor. That’s the only time I’ve been a little scared to be myself. I wake up several times throughout the night, thinking someone is here. Luckily I’ve been able to get back to sleep without too much issue, though.

It was late enough last night when I finally went to bed that I didn’t get my nice long soak in the tub. I’ll shoot for extra time tonight!

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Solo Writing Retreat – Night 1

It’s just me and all the characters hanging out in my head for the entire weekend! I’m so excited I don’t know what to do with myself!

As a gift to myself, I booked a cabin in Eureka Springs, AR just like That Man and I used to do for our anniversary. Only this time *I* picked which cabin I wanted, based on criteria that are very important to me.

  1. The size of the whirlpool tub
  2. Writing area
  3. Quiet – for deep work thinking

This cabin is almost perfect. There were too many stairs up to the main level, and the bedroom is also in the loft, but I guess I can use the exercise. It was hot carrying everything in by myself but I hauled it all in and I’ve unpacked.

Lots of slate stairs
Lots of comfy places to sit and think

Love the tub — but the voyeur is a bit much.

Deer be watching

I’ll post more about the trip and what I hope to accomplish over the next few days!

PS I brought a lot of wine AND there’s a winery just down the road…!

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Evil Eyed is Locked & Loaded

It was touch and go for awhile. If Sherri hadn’t been able to edit the finished 50k over the weekend while I wrote the last two scenes, I never would have made it by the lock date (today).

If you’re a member of the Triune, we started a “finish date” pool on 7/11. I really thought I was almost done – but those last two scenes just went on and on. I was planning on 4-8k more, which would have brought me up to around 50K. Instead. I ended up needing another 13k. Evil Eyed finished at just over 56k.

As usual, I did my retrospection while the story is fresh on my mind. This book took MONTHS longer than I planned, so I expected an outrageously high number of sprints and a low word count average. Instead, what I found is that all the numbers were right on, other than a higher number of interrupted sprints. The real problem was just getting those sprints in. I had several days, even a full week here and there, off where I had either none or only one sprint per day. No wonder it took so long!

I had a ton of interruptions, both personal and professional. I wanted to be done before LLS but that didn’t happen. With all the shirts I needed to make and the preparation/packing, I lost several days. We also had some major personal/family developments last week that I’m trying to be sensitive about and not be specific, but all of that impacted my ability to focus. The short answer is that I don’t have to worry about That Man taking me back to court ever again.

It’s over. I’m finally free.

It may have taken me months to write, way longer than I ever intended, but I’m extremely happy with how Evil Eyed turned out.

Aidan is one of my most favorite characters to ever talk in my head.