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Shop Opens Tomorrow!

I’m still in temporary housing and most of my stock is in storage. However, I do have quite a haul that I brought home from Savannah (LLS) in July. I updated all the inventory for what I can immediately ship.

For books, I changed the setting to allow you to backorder when it’s out of stock. KDP can take a few weeks to ship books, but I’ll do my best to get stock in as quickly as possible!

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Mid-Year Update

Books/Stories Finished

  • Queen Takes Death: Prelude for Bloodlust
  • Queen Takes Blood
  • One Cut Deeper (edits)
  • new Zero Cut Danger (prequel)
  • Nighttime Feeds (Dark Needs anthology)
  • Monstrous Hunger

Books in Progress

  • Monstrous Hunt
  • Queen’s Crusade
  • Queen Takes Sunfres3
  • Queen Takes Darkness3
  • Queen Takes Death: Prelude (expanded)
  • Cajun Christmas
  • Blizzard Bound

Words written so far this year: 117,094

July is going to be one of the hardest and most stressful months of the year (and possibly my life), bleeding into August. My house isn’t finished yet, and my lease is up the end of this month. I’m also going to be gone to Savannah for a good week mid month, which affects packing, cleaning, etc.

The Evil Day Job has been very stressful lately with weekend work twice in June. Though the most stressful is trying to find another job once the transition is done. Right now, I do not have a job after May 2024. That means getting my resume updated and interviewing, even internally. They’re not guaranteeing me a position after the transition, and I’m too young (by a year) to officially retire with the company.

Folks, the last time I interviewed or updated my resume was March of 2000. Not kidding. My resume is older than two of my adult children!

Needless to say, I’m STRESSED. I have options but it’s still stressful. As long as I have kids in college, I’d like to keep my health insurance so they’re covered too, and I want to be able to comfortably assist with tuition.

And then…

On the way to pick up Laney from the airport yesterday, Roger Darling (my van) quit in Clinton. Luckily I had just enough juice to coast into Auto Zone and bought an alternator but no one could repair it same day. Dad had to come rescue us and drive us on into KC to the airport and back, then pick up Roger on the mechanic’s dolly and take him over to Floyd’s for repair. Bonus: now Floyd can go ahead and do my brakes, which saves me finding time next week. I need Roger for the big drive in less than 2 weeks! (And going down the mountains in Tennessee last year was terrifying – though we’re taking a different route this year.)

I’m no spring chicken, July is the hardest on me with the heat/humidity, and moving gets harder every single time. I can only do so much… But the clock is ticking.

I’m still trying to get quotes from movers. Laney and her boyfriend are moving out the 12th into their own apartment. Bobbie Jo is planning to move to New Hampshire, but her future roommate has been delayed until at least August. Meaning she and I plus two crazy dogs will be staying at my dad’s until my house is finished. Maybe August? But maybe not…

So far, I’ve made almost all of my BookWear and merch for LLS, though I still have at least 2 sessions left to get everything finished. Then I can ship all that ahead to Stella (goal by this Friday). THEN I can actually pack the Cricut room. I’m going to get all packages shipped out that I have stock for, and then maybe do some giveaways of what’s left to minimize how much I have to store.

I have the promo cabinet packed and sorted (what’s going to LLS, what’s going to storage). I have most of my office supply cabinet finished (WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY JOURNALS AND NOTEBOOKS AND STICKERS AND WASHI TAPE?!?!). I still have two bookcases to sort and pack – some of it will be the girls’ that they need to take/decide. I’ve already packed all my clothes except what I’m taking to Savannah and wearing during the week. The pantry is a mess but that’ll be the hardest part of the kitchen. I’m giving most of what we currently have to Laney anyway, but it does need to be packed. I can always borrow back things when my house is done, but if she can use it, I’d rather it be used than sitting around in storage somewhere.

I’m already planning to hire cleaners. The hard part is timing, because I don’t have an official move date locked in yet and I’ll be out of town for a week. If we can’t move until the 25th, that’s cutting things CLOSE with the lease up the 26th @ 8 AM.

I am still going to keep writing a little every day, but I’m not expecting big word counts until August. I finished just shy of 10K in June. I’m still going to hope for 10K in July but that might be pushing it. I am planning to do a reading of Queen’s Crusade at the House Isador party at LLS – assuming I can get a little more done. So cross your fingers. I’ll plan to post that to Patreon as well. I just need to do a little more work on it so I’m confident that’s the direction Shara wants to go.

I got my pre-order privileges back and I don’t want to put any deadlines into jeopardy again. I have ONE set up for Monstrous Hunt, and I’m almost halfway through it already. I should be able to comfortably meet that deadline and maybe even bump it forward. I gave myself extra time with the move(s) and temporary housing situation.

The tower is falling all around me and everything is changing. But I know there are GREAT THINGS on the other side. I just have to hold on until I get there. I see MANY books being written on my back porch.

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Shop Update

I’ve loaded some limited inventory of new shirts including Shamrocked “Get Lucked” and Dynosauros shirts.

One the Get Lucked ones are gone, they’re gone forever! Though I do have a few more shirts upstairs that are waiting for the glitter text to be added. I’ll try to get those finished this month so they can be listed.

I still have a tote from LLS to go through, which does include some House Isador merchandise. Maybe even a hoodie or two. I’ll try to get to them this week!

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Updated Fancy Spaghetti Recipe

This is mainly for my daughter and her boyfriend so I can send them this link in the future lol. But I did post the original recipe back in 2010, so it’s time for an update!

Makes A LOT and can easily feed 10 people plus leftovers. Either halve it, or better, freeze half for later. It also makes INCREDIBLE baked ziti and lasagna. For the meatlovers, brown more Italian sausages separately, cook through, and add on top.

Ingredients for full batch:
4 T olive oil (roughly a T per pound of meat)
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 packages of Italian sausage, casings removed
2+ lbs ground beef
2 8oz cans of tomato paste (roughly 1 can per 2 lbs of meat)
1 bottle of your favorite red wine (I use Dancing Bull merlot or Apothic red)
Dried basil/Italian seasoning to taste
Kosher salt, garlic powder to taste
1/4+ c sugar (my kids generally prefer pretty sweet spaghetti but it helps cut the acidic tomato)

1. In a large deep pot, heat olive oil and sauté the diced onion until softened.

2. Add in the Italian sausage and brown on each side. Don’t smash up much – this makes large “meatball” chunks.

3. Add some of the red wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the browned bits.

4. Dump in the tomato paste, dry seasonings, and sugar.

5. Add the rest of the meat.  Do NOT brown.

6. Pour in red wine until the meats are barely covered.  Don’t worry about incorporating all the ingredients at this time.  It looks a little disgusting with all the raw meat, but trust me.  Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low or med-low, and let it simmer about an hour. For 2 lbs of meat, I’d use roughly half the bottle. For 4+ lbs, I’d use all the bottle (except for a glass for ME lol.)

The alcohol will cook off, leaving a rich, delicious sauce that tastes as though it took hours and hours to make.  If the sauce is a little thin, you can take the lid off and let it simmer another 1/2 hour or so to cook down a little. If it’s too thick, add more wine (or water if you drank it all).

We used to make it with a large can of crushed tomatoes and 1 8oz can of paste, but the kids prefer it with a smoother texture from tomato paste, and it does make a rich, delicious sauce.

Serve with your favorite pasta, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and some crusty rustic Italian bread. 

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Lessons from an Old Dog

Our adopted dog, KC–named, of course, for the Kansas City Chiefs–has been in our family since 2010. We’re not sure how old she was when we adopted her, but we’re guessing around 18 months. Putting her around 14 years old.

Over all, she’s still in GREAT shape considering her age. She has cataracts that affect her sight–but she can still see. She doesn’t hear as well any longer but her nose still works. She can sniff out midnight Domino’s no problem. She can still navigate the stairs up and down from my bedroom daily. She has some arthritis but she’s not in a lot of pain. She has some fatty lumps–but they’re not cancerous so we leave them alone.

However, she’s lost a step. Okay, a couple of steps. She used to be such a jumper that she could escape a 6 foot privacy fence by jumping/climbing over it. If we ever boarded her, they removed her collar, just in case she managed to climb up their chain-link fence to dangerous heights. Without even straining, she could jump up onto my high king-sized bed–that I need a step to climb into myself.

But the past almost two years we’ve been here, I could see that her jumps were getting harder. Especially jumping down from the bed onto hardwood floor.

Naturally, I bought her a set of stairs. Naturally, she refused to use them.

Luckily, KC is highly food motivated, so I ended up buying small treats to lure her up and down the stairs a couple of times. In our morning routine, if she stayed on the bed until I was ready, then I would get her a treat and give it to her if she used the stairs to get down instead of jumping. I thought it was kind of dumb at first that I had to give her a TREAT to do something that was only HELPING her. But it was working. She even sometimes will use the stairs at night to get up and down if she smells someone getting that late-night Domino’s.

And it dawned on me. Sometimes, even though we’re older and supposedly smarter, even though we KNOW something is in our best interest, sometimes we need a little treat to make that habit change.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a guy on TikTok with a master gaming spreadsheet for “winning” your life.

Can I pause here and admit to how many spreadsheets I’ve tried in my long life and author career? All of the productivity and tracking spreadsheets any writer has ever talked about is probably in my dusty Dropbox folder. I can usually do them a month. Maybe a bit longer. Though eventually I just run out of steam. I can see the benefit to doing it. Especially when it comes to accumulating word count. e.g. if I wait until the end of the year to add up my monthly word counts… It’s too late to go hey, what the hell happened in February last year? Why did I fail to even write 10K?

But this “winning” spreadsheet has a gaming aspect that is more unique than the normal spreadsheet. It focuses on “leveling up” your character. Just like in a game. From the humble, clueless peasant wandering around in the countryside without any weapons or knowledge or skills–to the knight with full armor on a quest–to the queen of the universe.

Queen of YOUR universe.

I was intrigued. I do love a good game. I am too competitive by far and had to delete all the games on my phone because I had to level up as far as I could. Buy all of the enhancements with the coins I won. Get the outfits or awards or whatever, no matter how long it took.

Why didn’t I tackle my daily tasks with the same gusto?

It’s a simple concept. Just a checkbox on daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that I assign to myself. They can be basic things, like get fresh air (it’s amazing how long I can go without even stepping outside since I work from home), or more complicated, like mail orders, monthly birthday cards, etc. As you click more boxes, the colors change, and you earn points.

When you accumulate enough points, your character–YOU–level up. You can treat yourself to something.

Funny enough, I’ve only used one of the level treats. I’ve found that the daily exercise of checking off boxes and watching the colors change in the spreadsheet as I accomplish more tasks plenty of reward.

I combined this with a sticker on my calendar for every day’s word counts, keeping track weekly and monthly. If I have a bigger word day, of course, I get a BIGGER STICKER! I have a SHIT TON of stickers. Just begging to be used.

Old dog. With a little treat to lure me into using the stairs.

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Missing an Old Friend

I never met Lynn Viehl (S.L. Viehl, Paperback Writer) in person but I read her blog for years and years. Way back when Thursday Thirteen and Blogspots were a thing, and long before I ever published anything. It’s how Sherri and I first met – commenting on some of Lynn’s old blog posts!

A lot of what I know and use about plotting and character development came from her posts. I still ask my characters “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I wished I could find my copy of her write like a cheetah book (it’s out of print now) but I think it disappeared along with one of my old laptops.

Just this week, I was thinking about something I read on her blog years ago. Something about being a quantum writer. So I took a walk down memory lane today and went through some of her old posts. I was always in awe of how fast she wrote, and how she kept her stories so tight and organized.

She did a lot of ghostwriting even back in 2018 when she stopped blogging. I wish so badly that I knew what name(s) she writes under so I could continue reading her books. I loved the Darkyn and StarDoc series so much.

Paperback Writer, wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well and loving life. I’m still trying to be the light.

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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.