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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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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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Fine-tuning My Process

Part of the Writer’s Journey is figuring out how to improve my process. I want to write my BEST books every time – but also turn them around FASTER. I don’t want to give you books that you’re not satisfied with, or aren’t my best work. Yet I also need to make sure I’m not wasting my time, goofing off playing games or whatever (though sometimes the best way to get around a mental block is to do something else and let my sub-conscious mind work on it).

I’ve been trying to do a better job with keeping a kanban board on my wall over my writing area. We keep electronic boards for the Evil Day Job, but for my writing stuff, I really like having the physical board. I wasn’t the best at keeping this updated in Q1. e.g. some of the notes are from Dec, but I kept them up because I was lazy.

But at a glance, I can definitely get a good idea of what I have coming up, and what I *finally* finished – e.g. look at all those stickies of word counts! That was for Queen Takes Triune. You can see that toward the end, I just quit with the notes, because I had the end in sight. (The book ended up crossing 90k).

Anyway, I’m getting ready to clear the board and so thought I’d grab a picture of it first.

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Personal Growth as a Writer

I’ve been working really hard on improving myself lately, both by understanding my personality better, and also by improving my writing processes. This is likely to be a really long post with some data and analysis if you’re so inclined. Though I’ll spoil it here and say in summary: wow, have I grown a lot as a writer since 2005. Also, newsflash, momentum is key for my personal success as a writer.

I’ll also preface this with: this is my personal experience. Slower is not better. Faster is not better. DO YOU. Also remember I have a full-time, usually stressful job and three busy teenagers/college kid to manage. So while I’d love to write for hours and hours a day, it’s just not possible for me at this time. My normal writing session is 9PM-midnight if I’m lucky and the kids don’t bother me with homework or emergencies.

First, the data analysis. Queen Takes Triune is the first book where I successfully kept track from start to finish of my word counts per day – and then followed up to analyze those numbers. Yes, there were days I forgot. I’m sure there were many. (I hope there were lol.) But in general, I kept track of my word counts every day. Toward the last half, I also kept track of sprint sessions, and whether they were timed, untimed, or interrupted. Again, I’m sure I missed many – but there were enough there for me to gauge some trends.

I did keep word counts for all the other Queen Takes books – but not always by session. I also didn’t make notes about other stuff going on in my life to explain gaps in time. I made extra effort to keep track of this information this time around so I could improve.

But before I get into the actual takeaways, let me touch on a personality element that has always prevented me from doing this kind of analysis before. (If you’re interested in learning more about your personality and how it affects your writing, I highly recommend signing up for Becca Syme’s Write Better Faster and Strengths for Writers courses).

ACHIEVER is only my #5 top strength. However, it has handicapped me in the past. How? I would get hung up on “how well I was doing.” If I felt like I was getting a bad grade (even on my writing), then it would crush my mood and I’d give up on tracking. Say I only managed a couple of hundred words, and my goal was 2000. “Oh well, I failed. Stop taking notes. I can’t recover from that. Your daily average is already trashed and it won’t recover (like GPA).

I know, that’s not the best way to think about it – but that’s my first reaction. Or I’d set crazy high word counts because I *can* write 5K a day. So I should be able to write 5K *every day*. Right?

Wrong.

So even though it kills my achiever side to look at the numbers, I did keep track as much as possible. Then I put all the numbers into a spreadsheet so I could see them. Painful. Ouch. “How did I only keep track 6 days in November? (Note: I wrote other days, I’m sure – but I didn’t track them.) Why was December even worse!? What’s with all these empty days? Even after I found my stride?”

What were you thinking, Joely? Why didn’t you do better? There’s no way in hell this book should have taken you until MARCH to finish!!!

That’s immediately where my Achiever went. I had to face that pain, suck it up, and look again. And understand why.

Takeaways

  • Momentum is key. Early Nov, I went to Vegas for 20Booksto50K. While I did write while I was there, I was busy and forgot to track. It also wasn’t anywhere near 1K+ a day. Same with the Australia trip for Books by the Bridge. I was busy for days before preparing, and then had to take a week to recover. I did write while on the plane and in Sydney – but I didn’t keep track and it wasn’t enough to keep my momentum.
  • Focus is key. Late Nov – early Dec, I paused work on Queen Takes Triune to write the Holidays Between the Sheets short story. While it was fun and I’m glad I did it… it totally killed my momentum. I didn’t recover from that break until January. Obviously holidays and family stuff added to that delay – but it was a costly mistake.
  • Timed sprints really will make me focus. I know this isn’t earth shattering. I’m not that fast a writer – and my achiever got hung up on “doing well.” I know writers who can do 1K in 25 mins. I can’t do that, even if I’m completely in the zone. So my brain said, “why sprint at all?!?” Well, brain, because setting the timer and making myself do nothing else for that time is GOOD. 300 words in 25 mins is GOOD ENOUGH. And if I do it again and again and again, I will finish the book. Duh. Sidenote: the more sprints I did in a day, the more words I got. So while the first one or two might be “average” at 350 words, toward the end of the day’s work, I could write 550. Momentum, again.
  • Even when I am finally finding my stride and consistently hitting days in a row and multiple sessions each day, I still will have an off day. That’s OKAY. That’s my INPUT (#2) and INTELLECTION (#1) strengths speaking up. On days where I didn’t have as many words, I was researching or thinking. I needed to find something that sparked the next piece of worldbuilding. When I get stuck with the plot – I need to RESEARCH. I need the INPUT to spark the next bit of creativity. I need to THINK and scribble on paper and make weird connections that don’t mean anything to anyone else but me.
  • I am also an “exponential” writer, meaning I go faster toward the end (if I keep my momentum). I wrote 30% of the book in 5 days. Gulp. That’s the “P” in my INFP Myers-Briggs kicking in. I need the pressure to finish. Deadlines are great – but self-imposed ones don’t always work for me.

Some actual data references.

  • Untimed session examples: 158, 80, 68, 345, 186, 286, 195 words
  • Timed sessions (usually same days as untimed ones): 330, 325, 531, 499, 589, 550, 622, 514 words

You can definitely see doubled results across the board, even when the session was interrupted.

Side note: untimed sessions are not BAD. In fact, I plan to allow myself at least one untimed session at the beginning of every writing session. That way I can flip back through the last couple of paragraphs or even the entire scene, read and make light edits, and then continue with the next scene when I’m ready.

Now the fun part. How am I going to take this information and improve?

I have two novellas (20K each) due by May 10th – with an Evil Day Job trip likely somewhere in that time frame. There is plenty of time for me to do these. If I focus. If I work on my momentum. And I implement what I’ve learned so far.

For each novella, I will come up with a schedule – but it won’t be a “write 2K words a day” kind of schedule. That doesn’t work for me.

  • A couple of days for INPUT and INTELLECTION. Research, brainstorming, jotting notes.
  • Write the BLURB first. That gives me a road map for the main conflict.
  • A complete plot outline generated from those days of thinking and researching.
  • Write each day – even if I only read through what I’ve already got to keep the story in my head.
  • Don’t work on any other projects, even the second one that’s due.
  • Use the timer, but allow myself 1 or 2 untimed sessions daily as needed.
  • Keep a daily “words remaining” count on my notes so I can see that number going down. But don’t stress about how many words I get each day.
  • Lean into my pressure personality. If I feed the momentum and keep my focus, I know the words will be there when I need them – at the end! For Triune, I went from writing 500 words a day to 5000+ near the end. I just can’t lose that momentum!
  • TRACK. So I can make adjustments on the next book again.

What was the reference to 2005 about? That’s when I finished the first draft of Beautiful Death. I wrote a long post in the Triune about my unhappiness with that book, and I had decided to rewrite it for an upcoming anthology to be the way I always wanted it to be.

So this weekend, we made a trip to Mythos in Joplin and to visit my Beloved Sister. I planned to read the old draft on the way down, and jot down the major plot points I wanted to keep, along with all the things I wanted to keep or change.

I didn’t even make it 4% through the book before I gave up. I wanted to unpublish the book and print it out… so I could BURN IT. I don’t want to say it was bad, but goddess above, I could not get through it. That is not the kind of book I want to write now. I just can’t. I couldn’t even think about lifting out the characters as they are now.

So let’s just say I have more work to do for the first anthology piece than I planned, lol. So I’d better get busy.

It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!

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The Final Countdown

Why, yes, that Europe song is on my playlist! Along with Never Be the Same (Camila Cabello), Permanent (Spag Heddy), Glitter & Gold (Barns Courtney), The Greatest Show theme song, and Hurricane from Hamilton.

It’s the final countdown. The last book for Shara’s main arc (though trust me, I have lots more stories percolating in Their Vampire Queen’s world with new queens, and Shara will obviously play a huge part).

Ra has it coming, and Shara fucking Isador will deliver.

This month is all about finishing the series I started just a little over a year ago. (I bought the cover in June and had the first glimmer of an idea then.) My plate is cleared. Queen Takes Jaguars is finished, and will be included in the Realms & Rebels boxed set in August.

I want to be finished with Checkmate *before* I head out to Literary Love Savannah the last week of July. It’d be terrific if I could release before then – but we’ll see. I do still have a long ways to go and I’m quickly running out of July.

Don’t look at the pic if you don’t want to be spoiled, though I admit, it’s pretty sparse. This is how I’ve started “plotting.” I say that loosely, because even I don’t know what all of the notes mean yet. But I sit down and jot out what I want to cover on 2 pages in my traveler’s notebook. That’s it. Note: this doesn’t include the scenes I’ve already written. I already had them figured out. This is what I have left.

I’ll say that again. I have no idea what some of these mean – I just know they’re important. The magic will guide me when I get there. But you can see that I have a TON of plot to get through yet.

So I’d better get busy.

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The Queen is Live!

 Shara and her men are back and the hits (and heat and blood) just keep on coming. (snickers)

Queen Takes Rook went live last night, but it has really taken some time for the links to filter through the Amazon mazes. People were having a hard time finding it, and at one point, we joked we’d broken Amazon!  We didn’t of course but it was fun.

The reviews are pouring in and I’m just dumbfounded and awed. Thank you, each and every person, who’s picked up a copy and left a review already! It makes me smile to see comments like “best in the series so far,” because I truly want each book to be better and better.

Shara’s taking us on one crazy ride.

And here’s the funniest part. All four books? Happen in the span of a month. Yet she’s already killed a thrall, turned into a Cobra Queen, dragged Leviathan out of his prison, killed some vicious ants, taken her first sibling, gained ten Blood (including five-hundred-year-old virgin twins), and…

Well. I won’t spoil anything. Go read it!

 

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A few more days…

I need a few more days to finish Queen Takes Rook. I’ve been pushing hard, but I needed to take a few days off to be with my Beloved Sister while she had surgery this week. The first half has already been sent off to a few betas and editors, so hopefully the last half will go quickly.

I’ll finish the last few scenes, do my edits, send it to the betas and editors, and then switch back to make the final revision pass while they look at the last half.

Sorry for the delay – but I promise, it’ll be worth it! Shara kicks some major ass in this book.