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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

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2021 Year in Review

2021 was a comeback year for me.

I’m not completely out of the Divorce Direwoods yet. Please send good vibes that things will resolve without further court appearances.

However, I have enough closure that I was finally able to get some decent momentum this year. The game changer for me was to start meeting my Beloved Sister almost nightly via Zoom. We may only get 1-2 sprints in, but the consistency has helped us both complete numerous books this year. I’m still disappointed that I didn’t manage to finish Queen Takes Darkness3 and Queen Takes Sunfires3, but I’ll tackle them early in 2022.

My word count for 2021 was 271,980. Words definitely took a hit in April-June, which was expected. I had to get the house ready to list, and then sell and move to a new house by June 1st. Word counts stayed a little low for me through the rest of the year, but I was fairly consistent given two traveling trips in August and November.

All of these books were released this year (The House Isador ones were hardcover versions) except for Leprechauned, which will release early 2022.

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Mailing Update

As of last night, I was completely caught up on mailings except for a few prize requests for things that aren’t available yet or were out of stock. All orders, Patreon gifts, and prizes were out the door. I even have the December birthday cards done already!

Of course, I immediately set up a giveaway for the ARC group… And Friendsgiving giveaways on my main pages. But I’ll try to keep caught up now that I’m not drowning.

The whole reason I had to get ahead is the holiday cards are looming. While waiting for the card stock and bookmarks to be delivered, I’ve cleaned up my mailing list, eliminated duplicates, fixed bad addresses by hand, and contacted people who didn’t submit full addresses. This year, we’re sitting at 987 cards. Whew. I hope I can get them all done and in the mail as quickly as possible so they’re not horribly late.

Molly jokes that I’m singlehandedly keeping the USPS funded lol.

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Omnibus Collector’s Box & Hardcover Versions

The shop reorganization is almost complete and will open back up tomorrow.

There were a couple of people interested in the House Isador Collector’s Box, so I wanted to let you know it’ll go up for pre-order tomorrow. I cannot guarantee shipping by the holidays – it depends on how quickly KDP can get the volumes to me. But I did “cheat” and ordered some a week or two ago to try and get ahead a little. I wasn’t sure how many people would actually want the box, so I didn’t want to go out and buy 40+ copies up front.

You can also get just the paperbacks (one and two) or if you love glossy, heavy books, I’ve also got hardcover versions available (one and two).

International peeps – if you’re interested, please contact me and I’ll get some shipping estimates. USPS is not shipping to Australia for the holidays, but I can see what prices I can get from UPS.

I also uploaded ALL my old copies of anthologies that I had lying around. All are limited edition, and most of them are no longer available for purchase anywhere else.

Happy shopping!

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Changes to the Shop

First up, I’m almost caught up on orders. My apologies to everyone who’s been waiting to receive your packages. I have two more orders to finish up – just waiting on padded envelopes, which should arrive Sat. I’ll get these two orders ready to go before I leave for Vegas on Sunday.

I’m not happy AT ALL with my very slow mail responses, so I’m going to make some changes that I hope will help me stay on track and not get so far behind.

I did some reflection, and there are three major places I tend to get behind.

  • Making shirts
  • Making jewelry
  • Out of stock books, waiting on KDP shipments

I don’t have any helpers with the shop. I’ve offered to pay my adult kids to help, but they just don’t have any desire. I have to make all the items, do the packaging, and arrange shipping. It’s time consuming especially on the bundles and takes away time that I could be writing another book. However, I LOVE seeing and thinking about House Isador merch out in the wild. I just need to find a happy place between minimizing disruptions to my writing and not failing to get orders out in a reasonable timeframe.

I’ve found over time that I really don’t like making shirts on a regular basis. I especially don’t want to put writing a new book aside to go make a specific sized shirt, and then find out I don’t have the right size or style. Or I’m out of vinyl. It’s always something, and if I dread doing it, I put it off until it’s a problem.

It’s different when I’m making a bunch of shirts for an event. I get in a rhythm, and I like coming up with new ideas and designs for that particular event. I’ve got some AWESOME hoodies I made for LLS but I haven’t listed yet. I just haven’t had the time.

I also love making jewelry – when I’m in the rhythm of making it. There’s a whole process to it, and it takes me several days (usually) to make one. I have boxes and boxes of beads organized by color, and it takes time to drag all that out and then put it all away again so I can write. It never fails that I have a red and black one made, but the order is for a purple one, or vice versa, and now immediately I’m behind on a several day project, that takes away time from me writing another book.

So… here are the changes I’m making to the store effective once it opens again.

  1. All bundles are obsoleted. I will do SPECIAL bundles with limited stock when I have shirts made, etc. But only when I have blocked the appropriate time to make or gather whatever items are in the bundle.
  2. All bracelets and accessories are marked out of stock. I won’t take new orders on them.
    • What I will do instead is make jewelry when I have all the beads and tools out, when I have planned time away from the book. Then I’ll list what I make, and all you’re waiting on is for me to put the finished product into packaging and slap a shipping label on it. I’ll post about items being ready on the blog and in the Triune.
    • This also allows me to be more creative. If I’m in the mood to design something new, I can make several of them at once. If I’m tired of red and black and want to experiment, I can do so without feeling guilty about making someone wait.
  3. I added inventory to all the items in the shop. That way you can’t buy a book if I don’t have it, and you’re not stuck waiting on the next KDP shipment to arrive.

I am going to try and get all the books I have on hand listed. e.g. there are currently some copies of the Omnibus House Isador volumes up, and all the short novellas. I will be listing the House Isador hardcovers soon, as well as the special limited House Isador bundle.

I will also list all the shirt stock I have already made individually in the size I have, so if you want one great. it’s already made! No waiting on me to get to the Cricut room.

I’ll revisit this new setup in a few months and see if there are any more tweaks I need to make. Eventually I’d like to get to having “events” where the shop is open with special items that I’ve already made, though I will have signed books available all the time (assuming I have the stock).

Let me know if you have any questions!

Long live House Isador.

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Writing by Zoom

Excuse me while I get a little emotional.

Since Molly and I have started our Zoom sessions almost every night, each of us has completed FIVE books. I’ve also written two short stories. We’ve edited and published those stories too in that time.

This is especially amazing for Molly, since she has been blocked for 12 years.

While we are “sprinting,” we don’t race. If we did race, I’d lose every night! I’m pretty slow in that regard, but you don’t have to be fast when you’re consistent. That’s what Zoom has been doing for us.

We always talk awhile. How was your day? What’s going on at work or the kids or our parents? At first, yes, we did talk a LOT. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year thanks to the pandemic. Now, though, we usually talk 15 mins or so and then we get to work.

I set a 25 minute timer. Usually I have to mute once we start, because I write in the downstairs dining room and the kids are always in and out to the kitchen making racket. I put on my headphones with my book’s playlist, and we go. Once the timer goes off, I unmute and tell her. We chat a bit about the scene, or what was fun or hard. I may agonize about the never-ending sex scene, or she may laugh and tell me about a killer line. Then we go again.

Most nights, we can get in 2 sprints without even trying. Some nights we can get 3, especially if we start a little earlier. On Friday nights, if we’re on a roll, we can hit 4. The books finish themselves.

One night this week, we were talking about writing in general and we came back to the car metaphor. Sometimes when you’re in the zone, it’s like driving at night. Flying down the road with reckless abandon. You don’t even need your headlights – because you see it all so clearly. It’s glorious and exhilarating. Just you and the road and the roaring hum of the engine rumbling beneath you.

I personally love to hit that zone near the end of a book. I need the pressure of a deadline breathing down my neck to help me finish. In that impending doom, I want to hit the gas and fly the last few miles to my destination.

People say don’t burn yourself out. You’re pushing too hard…

But that’s not what my engine wants to hear. It was built for that reckless race down the dark road, going faster, harder, until we hit “the end.”

Or so I thought. During the divorce these past two years…

Sometimes I hit the gas, ready to accelerate through to the finish line, and my engine sputtered. The car actually died in the middle of the road, and I could only stare in horror as a semi-truck barreled down a hill straight at me. I missed my deadline. I pulled a pre-order. And I’ve not been the same since.

Once that happened, I’ve been a little scared to hit the gas. I don’t want my car to die. But I miss that glorious, reckless speed toward the finish line, adrenaline pumping as I soar through the night.

Regular Zoom sessions with Molly have helped me trust that when I press the pedal, my car will respond. I’ve got enough gas in the tank. My engine is a well-oiled beast. Fine-tuned, transformed, with more horses than ever beneath the hood.

I’m ready to floor it and drive through the night. Again and again and again.

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The Plan’s Kiss of Death

One of the most annoying things about my personality is my inability to stick to The Plan once I decide on The Plan.

Like seriously, it’s a joke. I sketch out a beautiful, aggressive, challenging plan to suit my need for pressure and deadlines. I’ll even put it into my bujo writing notebook.

Which is immediately the kiss of death. If I write it down in my journal, I suddenly become allergic to The Plan and everything changes. Butterfly flaps its wings etc etc and suddenly I’m doing exactly the opposite of what I thought I was going to do.

In my defense, usually something from real life throws me off my game. I count on momentum to build as I work on a project. I start slow, and I build to a crashing crescendo to finish a book. So when something knocks me out of that momentum, my brain gets… bored. Short circuited. Or maybe in that moment of silence, I hear something that makes me start to think and question and wonder.

Squirrel! Look over there. Isn’t that a nice shiny thing that I could do instead? I mean, The Plan is already out the window. Might as well mix things up now, right?

So I had The Plan to get either Queen Takes Darkness3 or Sunfires3 done before I head to Vegas Nov. 8th for 20BooksTo50K and Sherri (I wanted both, but that would have been challenging even for this idiot who loves a challenge). I was making pretty good headway. But then I got into a sex scene and it just went on and on. And on. And on.

Not the sex itself, just the scene. The set up. The character interactions. The tiny little reveals that happen when a person is vulnerable. All good stuff but it was just an absolute crawl. Then my Dad had a procedure in Kansas City a few weeks ago. I was his designated driver. We ended up staying in the city two days while he recovered.

Of course I’d built that into The Plan. I took my laptop, my bujo, and even my Traveler in case I needed to write at the hospital. And I did write. But I couldn’t bring myself to focus on that never-ending sex scene.

My momentum was broken. In that silence, that moment of opportunity, my brain said hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have a Halloween story out by the end of the month? Like that would be crazy, right? You do have that witch story you wrote for LLS’s anthology.

Sure. Carnal Magic. It was a cute little 5k witch story. Not a novella.

But you could make it a novella. With a little work. You love a challenge.

*curses* Yes, I do love a challenge. But I don’t have a lot of time…

Even better, right?

And so here I am working on the witch story instead of what I’d planned to do. Even though I have a pre-order next month for Sharan Daire that I haven’t even started.

I don’t even know that I can finish the novella in time. Because once I read the short story and plotted out what I wanted to do, I immediately tore the original 5k to shreds and shifted elements around to make it work for a longer story. I find that level of edits much harder to do. Once I “tell” a story, my brain is happy with it and doesn’t want to see it in a different light. But it’s a challenge.

And I love a fucking challenge.

So I may or may not have a longer Carnal Magic out next week if I can pull off a miracle.

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I haven’t done one of these “WTF is Joely Writing Now?” posts in a while. As always, I’ll warn that as soon as I write this down, it’ll probably change… But I’ll do my best to keep up with my plan, though Gregar may have other ideas.

Now that Queen Takes Darkness2 is out, I decided to move directly into Queen Takes Darkness3 and Sunfires3. These two side trilogies have unfortunately dragged out over the last two years (thanks to divorce), and I had to cancel the original pre-order for Sunfires2. The cancellation not only really hurt my momentum, but also damaged reader trust. I suspect a lot of you may be reluctant to pick them up until the trilogies are finished, so that’s my #1 priority.

This does put Four Men & A Baby (Sharan Daire) at risk with a projected 11/30 release date. I will most likely need to bump it to 12/30 instead, but I’m going to leave it alone for now. It really depends on how long the third and final books for Karmen and Helayna end up going (expecting 50-60K but not sure).

After that, I’ll move to Leprechauned, another series that has dragged out far too long. If I can finish it up early, I’ll release it earlier in 2022 (currently set for 3/1).

In the spirit of tying up loose ends, the next thing I’m going to focus on is One Cut Deeper, Two Cuts Darker, and Three Cuts Deader. I got my rights back to this series, and so the first two books are getting new covers and a facelift. Since I want this series to do really well, I’m going to hold them until I finish Three Cuts. I know a few of you have been waiting a LONG time for the rest of Charlie and Ranay’s story! I think the series overall will just do so much better if it’s completely ready to go for a rapid (re)release.

Now for the bad news. Or not really bad, I guess, but things that are dropping OFF my schedule. I had planned to do a trilogy for Belladonna (Queen Takes Venom) and (or possibly combined with) a Hades twist with Queen Takes Death. However, I know you’re all anxious to get more of Shara’s and Xochitl’s stories. I even suspect I may have a bit of a riot on my hands if I take the time to write other side queens, even if I think they’d be a blast to explore. Belladonna will be important, but I can figure out what I need without writing a trilogy for her. Other people have done Hades rewrites, so I’m not sure how much new material I would add anyway.

So… if you’re still reading this far, all of this clearing and planning is for one big reason. Watch for Shara to return on 10/17/2022, the five-year anniversary of Queen Takes Knights.

Long live House Isador!