Sometimes Writing Looks Like 5am

Photo by Riccardo Meneghini
Photo by Riccardo Meneghini

The longer I do this thing called life the more I realize I don’t know and need to learn. Recently, my learning has been around changing schedules.

Before kids, I had the luxury to sit for hours and read or write. Then I had a baby, and I couldn’t do anything alone and my precious time without another human clinging to me was limited to brief nap times (why did my boys never sleeeeep???). I had to relearn how to write.

Gone were the hours of writing. With small children, you have to write in small bursts because that is all they allow you. They are constantly in need of clean diapers, dry clothes, food, and snuggles. So needy!

Then, they got older and our schedules shifted again.

I would do the bedtime routine with my boys, then spend a couple hours writing before seeking my own pillow. It was beautiful. I wrote three books that way.

A year ago, I got a new job, one which requires longer hours and more use of my brain and emotions. By the end of the day, I am exhausted. I am done and my brain has nothing left to give. All I want is a spot on the couch, a beer or a wee dram of scotch, and whatever show Mr. R and I are binge watching (currently Tru Blood season 4).

Writing has been slow and I am trying to finish the second half of the next Turning Creek book. By slow, I mean it has not been happening much at all.

It has been hard to admit that my schedule has shifted yet again. I feel like I have to learn how to write all over again.

I have, of course, tried getting up early to write. I write best in the morning but I share my house with boys who possess a particular skill. We call it Momdar. It is a much more sophisticated version of radar. Unlike a radar, a momdar does not just detect, it thwarts whatever plans the mom has planned. No matter how early or how quiet I am when I get up, my boys know and leave their beds to join me and interrupt whatever I am doing.

Momdar has prevented me from writing in the mornings whenever I sneak into the study.

At the suggestion of Mr. Rochester, I have tried a different approach.

I leave a bean bag chair, my laptop, and my series bible in the master bathroom when I go to bed. Instead of creeping through the house to the study when my alarm goes off, I creep into my bathroom, plop down in my bean bag chair, put in my headphones, and write until 6:30.

It has worked brilliantly.

I have met people who tell me they would love to write a book, learn a new skill, or start the dream that has burning a hole in their pocket… if they only had the time.

I am here to tell you the time is now. The trick is finding the routine that works in your life right now and realizing that in 6 months, a year, or two years, your time and schedule may demand that you do things differently.

It may demand that you get up at 5am.

 

Who gets an opinion here?

The answer is everyone.

I have seen often enough recently a comment that has started to grate against my brain. It’s this:

“[They] have no right to an opinion about [this thing that intimately effects me].”

They is usually a person or groups of persons with some kind of power over the speaker.

Men over women. White people verses any person of color. Rich over the poor. Old verses the young. Young verses the old. Hetro vs anything else.

The list is endless.

I’ll be honest and admit I have thought this sentence before, usually in regards to reproductive rights or socio-economic issues. But I knew when those words went through my mind, they were wrong.

The trouble with opinions is that everyone, and I mean everyone, is entitled to have them. By taking away someone’s right to have an opinion you are doing to them the very thing that is making you so angry. You are taking away their right to be. To be a thinking, breathing, valuable person in the world.

Even a misogynist, a racist, a classist, or a straight-up hateful person is allowed to have all those bad opinions. They are, in fact, entitled to them.

What they are not entitled to do is share them in a way that incites violence. I would argue that harmful opinions can always be used to fan the flames of violence from either side of a topic but that is a soapbox for a different day.

But here is where I think this “X has no right to an opinion” argument becomes truly harmful. When that phrase is followed by a “because they are [from that other group that is not what I am].”

There are two dangerous things about this.

First, you are putting the other person into the Other category. If we want to erase some of the problems the creation of The Other has created in our culture, we have to stop participating in it. If you want to stop being an Other, we need to start seeing people as people and not as Others. Changing the culture starts with you. It starts with me and it starts with us making different choices about how we use our words and how we act.

Secondly, and here is the one that has made me so angry. If I said the following as a woman:

“He has no right to an opinion about that because he is a man.”

I have just taken away the right of every man to speak up who also agrees with my point of view. If I say all men have no opinion about lady things simply because they are not ladies, what about all the men who want to stand by my side and fight? Do they also not matter? Am I going to take out a large portion of the people who are fighting for the same things I am simply because they have a penis?

Ridiculous.

Isn’t that the same thing people do when they place you and I in The Other category? They marginalize us because we are not like them. I don’t like being marginalized and I sure don’t want to do it to anyone else in my efforts to shut them up before they have a chance to come stand beside me.

I want to shut them up by having better facts. I want to shut them up with well-crafted words. I want to change their mind by having compassion for others. I want change their mind by choosing mercy and justice.

I do not want to shut them up by telling them they do not matter as a person.

But what do you care? These are all just my opinions, anyway.

 

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I want to have a break-up conversation of the “It’s not me, it’s you” variety. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, chocolate, or ice cream and let’s discuss book break-ups, aka the DNF.

I used to feel guilty about DNFing (Did Not Finish) a book. Maybe it was a holdover of well taught Catholic guilt, but I never DNFed a book, no matter how poorly written or how much I wanted to strangle one of the characters. I persevered through countless books I ended up hating because I felt bad for them. I couldn’t help it.

I no longer have that problem. I say no, guilt free, to plenty of books these days.

This change of heart happened because am an actual adult now with an actual job and a family who expects me to spend time (time I used to spend reading) doing crazy, time consuming things, like cooking/serving 2+ meals a day, laundry, dishes, a paying job, and just enough housework to keep Mr. R from getting annoyed. In between my adult duties, I self-publish my own books and read, a lot. I average about a book a week, more than most I know, but less than others.

The blunt point is my reading time is precious and less frequent than it used to be. I refuse to waste it on books I don’t like.

If you, like me, have found your time is too precious to waste, here are some guilt free reasons to DNF a book. Bonus: with Liz Lemon.

#1 – You are not in the mood.


via GIPHY
Yesterday, you really wanted, no needed, to read that post-apocalyptic erotic romance by Kit Rocha, but today you need something sweeter. You should not feel bad about putting one book on hold to start another. Unlike past relationships, books will always wait for you and you should pick that Rocha book back up later. When you are in the mood. Go binge those dragon shifters then flounce back to Regency romance. All is well.

#2 – The character/plot/writing style is so awful or insipid you are afraid that if you keep reading you may strangle the character/author/or yourself.


via GIPHY
Just say no to this one. Put it down and do not look back. I give a book 100 pages or about 50% to turn around a bad plot, a TSTL character, or mediocre writing. If, after that, the book is still making me want to claw my eyes out, I switch books and never look back. It is also unlikely I will go back to that author unless I get a great recommendation from someone I trust.

#3 – A TSTL or useless female lead or an alphole hero.


via GIPHY
This one is related to #2, but has it’s own category because it annoys me that much. Sidenote: I will also breakup with TV shows displaying one of these two characters without relief. If the female lead always needs rescuing and is a complete idiot, I can’t like her enough to care that she is in peril and I definitely do not want her to get the guy. Alternatively, if all the female characters in a story are two dimensional or completely absent (not in romance usually, but other genres populated by men*), I am out. I want to see myself in the story and I am neither an idiot nor useless.

If all the males, and especially the lead, are alpholes, I am gone. An alphole is a term in the romance community which means an alpha asshole. A good, recent example of this is Christian Grey. You know this guy. He treats other people like dirt and he always has to be in charge because he is better than everyone else… in his own mind. The worst part is there is usually no true redemption or grovelling. If you are an alphole, there better be some epic character development and groveling. Hands and knees, flat before God groveling. And even then, I may not forgive you.

#4 – I need a break.


via GIPHY
Sometimes, I read non-fiction or heavy fiction (Literature)**. I read a little and take breaks, interspersing my forays into improving my mind with genre fiction. After some nice shifter or regency or post-apocalyptic novels, I will go back to the non-fiction or Literature. Most of the time. Sometimes, the non-fiction is too boring or the fiction is so prose heavy and sad, I just can’t, so I leave. No looking back.

That’s it. Those are the four reasons I DNF books or take a break from them. All in all, I probably only DNF about 5-7 books a year.

Next time you start feeling like you just can’t bear another page. Quit. Say no guilt free. Life is too short to spend it reading books you don’t like when there are so many great books out there.

*wide generalization, sorry, it is sometimes true and sometimes not.

**Let’s not start in on the whole what is “literature” argument. It is a good conversation and I have opinions, but not right now.

This month I am giving away ebooks to some of my newsletter subscribers and I promise, you will not want to DNF them.



Free Books and Unicorns

Photo by Andrew Kuchling.
Unicorn! photo by Andrew Kuchling.

Today, you will find me over at the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers’ Blog talking about copyright and the internet for authors and humans beings in general. It’s fun, sexy stuff. What? You don’t think so?

Because I have been remiss in sending out monthly newsletters, which are really just an excuse for me to give away copies of books I love, I am going to give away three ebooks this month to three different subscribers. Join my mailing list (below) for a chance to win one of these wonderful reads.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – It’s still my favorite book of all time and it should be yours too.
Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley – A Regency Romance with a surprising heroine.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh – I do not read contemporaries very often but this one is swoon worthy.



An Honest Look at the Finances of an Indie Author

Photo by Bart Heird.
Photo by Bart Heird.

One of the things I love about the writing community, and the indie author community in particular, is its transparency. Gone are the days when discussions about contracts and money were things you just did not do. I applaud authors who are forthright with what contracts say and how much they make. This transparency helps us all learn and be realistic about our prospects.

I have had books on sale for over a year and I completed my first tax return in which I had sales to report. Since today is officially tax day, I thought it would be beneficial to share what taxes look like, honestly, for newbie indie author.

This was not an easy post to write. I will admit that being this transparent is nerve-wracking, but I believe it is important.

Disclaimer: I did not become an author to make gobs of money. I became an author because I have stories to tell and I love writing. Yes, I want people to read my books and like them, but even if I never published another book, I would keep writing. It is part of who I am.

Another Disclaimer: I am in this writing books thing for the long haul. I have done my industry research and I know I will need more books in my backlist before I start making any meaningful money. I define “meaningful money” as my books pay for themselves and that book reading habit I have.

Here are the numbers:

First, I tracked how much production cost for each book I have produced. This only includes my outside costs. It does not include my own labor cost for things like formatting.

book cost totals

 

 

 

Clarifications:
Content Edits include developmental edits and line edits.
Copy Edits are the last round of edits and include copy editing only.
Covers also includes all the Twitter and Facebook banners and other graphics for each book.

These numbers do not include an entire hosts of other expenses which includes, but is not limited to the costs of: ISBNs (I used to be a librarian. I think these are expensive but important.), proof copies of the paperbacks, software I use to compile the ebooks, traveling to a writers conference, traveling for research, copies of the print books I order to do giveaways, other giveaway items, envelopes for mailing, postage, marketing, writing classes, books on writing, domain costs, web server costs, professional organization dues, or the sheer amount of caffeine I consume in the form of tea and coffee per year.

If you total up the production costs (not including anything from the paragraph above) of putting out three books, the total is a whopping $3,965, averaging $1,321.67 per book.

There are cheaper ways to make books. You can forgo hiring a professional editor. You can hire a cheaper editor. You can buy stock covers or make your own. You can rely on readers or beta readers to do your copy editing.

You can. You can do all those things, but I do not. I want to put out the best possible book I can write. That means, I contract out the best people I can find and pay them decent money for the very hard work they do for my books. Some authors pay more than I do. Some pay less. The best thing about being an indie is I choose, and this is the path I have chosen. Your path may differ and that is okay.

Now for the hard truth. My tax returns included sales for the first two books which combined cost me $2,630.50 to produce. The third book, Letters in the Snow, did not go on sale until early in 2016. I included it here for comparison purposes.

With two books on sale, I made a whopping $448 last year.*

I did not forget any digits. That is $448 before taxes.

This is the hard truth of self-publishing, but I have friends who have gone the traditional route and their finances do not look that much better than mine.

What it means:

I am not going to lie. The numbers are disheartening, but I know they can get better. They will, eventually.

I still have a ton of work to do. I have mountains of words to write. If I want to make more money, I have to write more books. Good books, maybe even great ones. Books people want to keep reading at any rate. The ones out already get fabulous reviews, so I know I have the start of an audience and that is an amazing thing all by itself.

If you are new to publishing or thinking of jumping in, it is absolutely worth it. I did not write this post to scare you. I did it so you do not work under the belief that writing, packaging, and marketing books is an easy wave your wand thing to do. Mrs. Weasley is not going to do all that work for you, my dear. It is work, rewarding, but work.

For most of us, it also takes time. This is not my full-time job. It is another job I do, in addition to many other things that require my attention. I wish I did hide in a little hut all day and write, but that is not reality. I am learning to be content with the time I am have and be wise in my use of it.

My best advice? Do your homework and make an informed choice. Even more than that, find a circle of cheerleaders who will jump down the rabbit hole with you.

The even better advice? Keep writing, my friends.

*Updated: That is gross, not net. I lost money in the long run.

The Truth About Writing

I saw this tweet from an online writer I know and it spun me away from the WIP I was working on and made me think.

 

I replied.

I could not help but laugh at all of us, because I have been feeling terrible about my writing the last few weeks.

Writing anything of length looks something like this, for me anyway:

I have a brilliant idea. Writes. This idea it shite. Writes. How am I ever going to finish this? Writes. Why are the characters doing that? Writes. Everything I write is terrible. Lord, save me from myself. Writes. Reads a newsletter from my editor. Gets inspired. Writes. Gets annoyed at lack of time to write. Gets time to write. Stares at screen. Plays a video game. Reads a book. Or five. Writes. Why the hell am I doing this? Thinks about that other series I could be writing and will not get out of my head. Solves a problem in the plot of the next book in the series but NOT the one I should be currently working on. Ignores the other story and writes. I’m a genius. Writes. I suck. Repeat a million times.

We write these personal things. Books. Stories. Poems. Even if they are not about us, we are in them. Part of us is there, poured into every word and turn of phrase. That is me on that page, in that book you are holding and I want to be lovely and fun, but mostly I just feel like the geek who got pity invited to the party.

I want to own my work better.

My books are good. They have women in them who can rip a man’s throat out, drink their weight in whisky, and who fight for their own HEA. While they do not need a man, they sure do love to have them around. They are worth reading. My harpies are worth falling in love with. I am head over heels for them.

And, like any good love story, this is my confession scene.

I am proud of them. I do want to own up and say, I created them. For better or worse, they are mine.

I love writing. It complicates my already busy, overcrowded life, but I need these words I weave like I need air. One of these days, I’ll be able to admit that I am good at it with better frequency.

Until then, I better get back to writing.

 

 

A Consuming List

I’ve been working on Turning Creek 4, Plagues of the Heart, though lately in the evening I have been too tired to write. I am not, however, too tired to binge on Daredevil or read. Here are a few books that have captured my attention in the past week. In order of most recently read:

Captive Dragon by Ella Drake – Paranormal Romance (shifters) It’s a sea horse, y’all.

Kilt in Space by Ella Drake – Scifi Romance (humanoid) A nod towards Beowulf with kilts!

Sworn to the Wolf by Lauren Dane – Paranormal Romance (shifters)

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop – Paranormal (shifters)

Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream – Paranormal Historical Romance (shifters) AND a Cinderella retelling FTW

A Brewer’s Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery by Dan Woodsky – nonfiction

Queen of Starlight by Jessa Slade – Scifi Romance

What I am reading right now:

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle – fantasy (maybe with romance)

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg – graphic novel

As you can see, I have been on a shifter kick lately and most of the romance books are definitely on the steamy side. I blame this on Lauren Dane. I read Wolf’s Ascension a little over a month ago and have been craving that sub-genre ever since. Everything on the list was a great read.

Last month, I also went to see Anne Bishop at Murder by the Book. I enjoyed her reading from Marked in Flesh, which you will notice is on the list above.

Anne Bishop
I am sporting my Sunnydale High School t-shirt.

Mythology Mondays: Book Review Edition

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

Today (a day late), I want to do something completely different. Instead of talking about a Greek myth, I want to highlight another book by a fellow Texas author who writes fiction based on Greek Mythology.

The Loves of Olympus series, by Sasha Summers, is a wonderful re-imagining of some of the Greek myths we know and love. The first book in the series, Medusa: A Love Story is free now on kindle and the other two in the series, which I have not read yet, are both priced for binging.

medusa summer

If you are at all familiar with Medusa or if you read my mythology post on Medusa a while back, you know that Medusa’s story, no matter how spun, will be tragic. Summers expertly weaves the tragedy together with a beautiful story that ends with an HEA both touching and fitting for her couple.

Summers perfectly nails the personalities of the gods who seek to control the world according to their own narcissistic wants. The havoc they wreck with power that goes unchecked is the force that drives much of the book. How mere mortals deal with the power wielded their way is what makes this story compelling and will keep you turning until the very end.

I recommend this book to anyone who had enjoys the Turning Creek series, a little mythology, and a powerful romance. Spring Break is coming up, perfect time to get a new book and read the day away.

Here is the blurb:

It’s said love
can change a person. Medusa wasn’t always a monster…

Medusa is ruled by duty, to her Titan father and the Goddess Athena. She’s no room for the tenderness her warrior guard, Ariston, stirs. When Olympus frees her from service, her heart leads her into the arms of the guard she loves… and curses her as the creature with serpent locks.

Ariston goes to war with a full heart… and dreadful foreboding. He learns too late of the danger Medusa faces, alone, and a Persian blade sends him into the Underworld. But death, curses, nor the wrath of the Gods will keep him from returning to her.

Poseidon will use Greece’s war to get what he wants: Medusa. He does not care that she belongs to another. He does not care that she will be damned. He is a God, an Olympian, and she will be his. 

 

Mythology Mondays: Mount Olympus

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

Photo by stefg74.
Photo of Mytikas, the highest peak on Mount Olympus. Photo by stefg74.

Mount Olympus is an actual set of peaks in the Balkan range in Greece. Mount Olympus consists of 52 individual peaks, the highest of which is Mytikas (pictured above). Mytikas soars to 9, 573 feet, which may seam like small potatoes to Americans who claim many fourteeners, but Mytikas is the highest peak in Greece. It is a popular place for climbers and home to an impressive number of flora and fauna.

In Greek myths, Mount Olympus is the seat of Zeus and the home of the gods. Mytikas was said to be the exact location of the house of the gods which was topped by a bronze dome.

In the world of Turning Creek, the Greek gods did live on Mount Olympus, but their home was destroyed in the uprising led by the original four harpies. The following is an account of those early days, taken from my notes.*


Banished and forgotten on the islands of Strophades, the harpies nursed their bitterness and their appetite for revenge increased. There was very little to do on Strophades except plot the downfall of the cause of their imprisonment. The four harpies swore on the River Styx that they would see Zeus cast down from Mount Olympus and punished for the curses he had placed upon them.

It was not hard for the harpies to find others who had yearned for their own revenge on the Father of Olympus. Zeus had a nasty habit of granting power to others, only to be displeased at the threat he felt to his throne once those powers were wielded. Countless women lost their purity to Zeus and many of his children resented their birth. There were even whispers at the time that Hera, once loving wife to Zeus, had finally grown tired of her husband’s philandering and the growing ranks of bastards in her court.

By the time the rebellion took root, mortals had turned their eyes and their faith from the mountain of the gods. There were no supplicants to record the battles that came nor list the fallen. Few rallied to Zeus’s side and, in the end, those that did, lost all.

In the final battle, the harpies led the charge through the great throne room and tore the flesh from Zeus’s bones. With his last breath, he sent his spirit from his shredded body. It erupted from him in the shape of a thunder bolt and disappeared across the skies.

The harpies had extracted their revenge, but at a great cost. One of their own, Podarge, was killed by Ioke in their final charge. The four shields ran after the death of their master, but word of them cropped up now and then whenever the world found itself at war. Podarge’s body was entombed in Mount Olympus with the fallen of both sides and her line died.

Those left dispersed into the world, intermarried with mortals, and watched as their history became the stuff of legends and myths. With each passing generation, their powers weakened and they became Remnants of their ancestors’ greatness.

Every few generations, a story would surface of some adventurer seeking the lost bolt of Zeus, but it was never found. Few Remnants believed such a thing even existed. Other Remnants remembered the tales of Zeus’s cruelty, passed down to them like bedtime tales of the boogeyman, and they feared one day the stories would be true.


I am giving away a signed copy of Letters in the Snow (Turning Creek 3) and some fun writing things. The giveaway ends today!

 

*Please note that, as an author, I have taken great liberty with the original myths.