I have been struggling lately. I have sat down to write often over the last few months and every time I do, I stare at a blank screen. This has happened when I try to write for this space, for my newsletter, and even for my books. My creative drive has been in a cave, replaced in my spirit by sadness, disappointment, and anger.
One of the booktubers I watch, Marines, posted a video recently on creating in difficult times.
I watched it at work and almost cried at my desk. Her words perfectly described the feelings that have been plaguing me. She used a particular word to describe the way she felt. Mourning.
That word snapped something into place for me. It’s not that the candidate that I liked best lost. That was disappointing. It’s that the candidate that won so obviously and literally detests and devalues who I am and who so many of my fellow Americans are as people, as human beings, that has wounded my heart.
It has been painful to realize that people I love, respect, and do life with think a man who sees women only as sexual objects, handicapped people as the butt of jokes, people of color as entities to be feared, and the poor to be crushed is a person who is morally fit for any job, let alone the presidency.
And so I mourn. I mourn what I thought I knew about people I loved. I mourn the loss of our compassion, empathy, and values. I mourn the fight we must now engage in and stay informed for. I mourn for all of us in this world we have created with our own fear, complacency, and privilege.
Mourning is a hard place in which to be creative. What little I muster, I have been funneling into getting Plagues of the Heart (Turning Creek 4) completed. I am happy to tell you that a release date is on the horizon.
If you, like me, have been in a period of mourning, it’s all right. Take your time. Just remember that there us a battle being fought and we need you when you are ready.
If you have read this and do not understand or you think I am overreacting, that is OK too. I ask that you look with compassion on those around you and react with love.
For my part, I will try to not let this space be silent. A new book is coming and there are many things to be thankful for and thankfulness is how we move past this place of mourning.
Summer vacation is over. School started yesterday and my emotional state is somewhere along these lines:
It has been a good summer, but everyone in our house was ready for school to start. I have two children in school (Thank you, Baby Jesus) because the youngest is entering Kindergarten. Life is a beautiful thing. I put those small male humans on the bus yesterday and then felt like the rest of the day should be margaritas and dancing.
We had some fun adventures this summer that looked like this:
If you have been around this space with me long enough, you know the mountains have always called to me. I was born in Texas and live in a swamp (marshland, actually, but still hot and humid), but this is not where my soul loves to be. Houston is where we will probably be forever for various important reasons, so I will strive to be content in my circumstance. I have decided to pepper my house with mountain pictures, which will either make me exceedingly happy or depress me. We shall see.
I did do some writing this summer. Despite crazy schedules and trying to write a business plan for a brewpub, I still managed to write almost 30k words on Plagues of the Heart. I am about 20k away from finishing the draft, but it needs some tweaking. I do not have a publication date for it yet. Sorry, gentle readers. Words take time and sometimes time does not extend to all the things I wish it to.
I read quite a lot this summer. My reading numbers were boosted by a long car vacation and a husband who is obsessed with the Olympics. He wanted to watch ALL the sports, so I read and partially watched. Here is a list of what I read:
All for Rose by Jennifer Blackstream
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon
Barabrian Alien by Ruby Dixon
Mercenary Instinct by Ruby Lionsdrake
Lionemede by Linda Mooney
How to Catch a Wild Viscount by Tessa Dare
Barbarian Lover by Ruby Dixon
Trial and Temptation by Ruby Lionsdrake
Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews
Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
Must Love Breeches by Angela Quarels
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarels
Renegade Leo by Delores Diamond
Renegade Orion by Delores Diamond
Barbarian Mine by Ruby Dixon
Freeker by Ella Drake
Her Guardian Wolf by Jax Garren
Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan
Diablo Lake: Moonstruck by Lauren Dane
Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan
Sleeping With the Wolf by Maddy Barone
Desert Hunt by Anna Lowe
Desert Moon by Anna Lowe
The Taming of Jessie Rose by Beverly Jenkins
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
By the end of the summer, I realized a couple things. One: Most of my reading this summer involved aliens, shifters, or shifter aliens. I am not sorry about that. Two: I have not been including enough writers and characters of color in my list. I am sorry for that and have been remedying that post haste.
I wrote some guest blog posts around the web which you may find amusing:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you talk to me long enough, you will probably know a few things about me. I am a Christian, I read a lot, and I am a geek girl to my core. My dad raised me to love Star Trek and scifi and it was the one lesson I never argued about.
I loved Joss Whedon before he directed The Avengers and non-geek people took notice of him. My movie collection contains Buffy, Angel, multiple copies of Firefly and Serenity, and a fan film (not made by me). I have books that discuss his world creation and the fandoms that have resulted from the work of this geek god.
I tell you this so you will understand that I love him with zealousness, but I realized last week that he does one thing that I do not like.
He never lets his characters be happy and he keeps a sense of realism by killing off characters we love. Main characters that are unhappy, unfulfilled, or facing the yawning portal of doom drive forward and move the plot along.
This means, as a viewer, I always knew that, while the bad guys might get caught, relationally everything could go to hell (literally in Buffy and Angel) in a moment. If two characters settled down and were happy, one of them would die, or leave, or have a pesky soul getting in the way of them consummating their relationship. If two characters had been pining for each other, the moment one decided it was time to move the relationship forward, the object of their desire would move on, tired of waiting.
It ripped out my guts. It broke my heart. I can describe all those heart-wrenching scenes from those shows because they slayed me. (word choice intended)
I still love Joss Whedon. I think he is a genius, but all that emotional upheaval without some safe harbour is exhausting.
This lack of safe harbour is one of the reasons why I broke up with the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. For the non-geek, they are the Game of Thrones books. I read three or four of them, praying they would get better, but my prayers were in vain. Nothing good ever happens in those books to the characters and if it does, they die a horrible death or want they want/need gets horrifically snatched away. It was emotionally draining and no amount of great prose and character development made up for the way it hacked away at my heart with no glimpse of it ever making a turn for the better.
Recently, I read At Blade’s Edge by Lauren Dane and I realized Joss Whedon and the Martin books scarred me. At Blade’s Edge is the fourth in the Goddess With a Blade series and I highly recommend it. Like drop everything and read this book, recommend it. In the fourth book, Rowan, the main character, has finally found a safe harbour in the midst of a very violent and responsibility filled life. Her harbour grounds her, makes her stronger and lets the reader know that things can still be going to hell in a hand basket, but there is hope.
The entire time I as reading At Blade’s Edge, I was waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me. Dane has never done this to me as a reader, the way Whedeon and Martin do, but a sense of dread followed my reading. I was so caught up in my worry, I failed to let myself become emotionally attached to the relationship cementing on the pages. I was waiting for the worst to happen and for Rowan’s harbour to be smashed to pieces. I wanted desperately for that not to happen. It did get dented, but at the end of the book, Rowan’s harbour is, mostly, in tact and that made me realize something.
There is power in a safe harbour.
I want the characters I love to have one good thing even if the world around them is crumbling at their feet. I need them to be able to come back to one person they love and who loves them back. I want an HEA* or some semblance of it. I need it. Not only do the characters need a safe harbour, so do I.
I am not talking about a unicorns pooping rainbows kind of HEA. It does not have to be perfect, but I do want some hope at the end, a light that tells me all is not lost for the characters I have come to love. I think everyone deserves some peace and happiness.
I know that real life is not like that. I know many people live desperate, horrible lives filled with pain, abuse, hunger, and death. Life on this planet sucks an awful lot.
But sometimes it doesn’t and we need to be reminded that life can be good. Life can be great, fantastic, and amazing.
When I read a book, I want to be entertained by hope and happiness. You can take me to hell, but I want you to drag me back from the brink before you write The End.
As a writer, I can promise, even with only a few books under my belt, that I will never leave you without a safe harbour to dock your ship, fold up sail, and have a nice rest with someone you love.
I am a word person. I like words. I love the way some words roll off your tongue, like fisticuffs. I love what some words imply, like shenanigans. Words are important.
I admit, I might be a word person, but I am not a spelling person. You can’t have it all.
I want to take up the matter of what has become a common word usage that bothers me. Very few of you probably care or have noticed. I want to discuss the blog post.
This website is a blog. A blog is a website with entries that are chronological, usually with the newest appearing first. There are video blogs (also called vlogs) picture blogs, word blogs, and music blogs.
The individual entries on a blog are called posts. Their long name is a blog post. This entry you are reading is a blog post.
The problem is that I have noticed with annoying frequency that people refer to a post as a blog. They say, “I wrote a blog.” or “I posted a blog.”
I know why this had come about. Most of us are, at heart, very lazy and blog post is two words. People have just started saying blog when they really meant blog post or simply post.
The problem is that calling a post a blog means something entirely different than the way it is being used. “I wrote a blog” means you wrote an entire website which, in your defense, you may have done. It’s like a journalist saying “I wrote a newspaper.” They did not write a newspaper, they wrote an article for the newspaper.
It is more appropriate and correct to say “I wrote a post” or “I posted on my blog” or even “I wrote a blog post.”
I know this makes me a word snob, but the words we use have meaning. We argue over the use of certain words we find offensive because words matter.
Blog post, blog, and post matter very little in the grand scheme of things, but all words matter, no matter how small. Please, I beg you, stop using the word blog incorrectly.
Thanks for reading my blog post and rant. Have a fabulous Friday.
It is 5:20 am, which is too early for civilized humans, and I have the Reading Rainbow theme in my head. I loved that show. Incidentally, you can now relive your childhood by making your children watch the awesome that is Reading Rainbow on Netflix.
That is not why I started this post.
I was writing a letter to my editor this morning, congratulating her on the launch of her new focus, what she was already being fabulous at, being a word guru, and I realized part of the email needed to be a blog post.
A few years back I read something or heard something which talked about how we never know how much time we have and that all our relationships were precious. They went on to say that we spend a lot of time not telling people that we care about that we care about them. What a waste of precious time.
I grew up in a big, very loving family, the kind where you have to hug and kiss everyone when you come in and when you leave. It takes a long time to make it through the house, but I always knew, beyond a doubt that those people loved me dearly. As the years past and we grew up to have kids of our own, we still greet each other with hugs and kisses, it just takes a lot longer to make it through the house.
After hearing that, I decided I would be honest with people and tell them when they were important to me because there are a lot of people I love and I wanted them to know it as often as I could say it.
I do not think this diminishes the words when I say them. It is not like the argument that goes like this: If we say, “I love pizza.” and “I love the mountains.” and “I love my husband.” all the loves become meaningless. The love I have for pizza does not diminish how much I love Mr. Rochester. I do really love pizza. I love the mountains with a soul crushing love and I would do absolutely anything, go anywhere for Mr. R. I love them all.
Many languages have multiple words for love and we only have this one word: love. I think the word takes its meaning from the context of the discussion. Do I love my children the same way I love a good book? No, though occasionally I wish I had less of one or the other which depends on the day and the volume of the arguing going on over the legos.
I think it is ok to love pizza, my kids, my husband, my friends, and my family because I do love them. Not only do I love them, I want them to know it. I never want them to doubt when I am gone that I cared for them, deeply. I want them to know I prayed for them and rejoiced for them and loved them. And yes, in case you were wondering, I did pray for that pizza. I blessed it unto my body as a gift from the Lord because pizza and beer are amazing.
The thing about words is that you have to back them up with something. I love my children, but I treat them like I love them too. I love my husband and so I try to do things I know he prefers, even when they are not my preference. I love my friends so I listen to them and spend time with them. I hope that my actions match my words.
I know sometimes they do not because I also love myself and sometimes I am selfish.
Today, someone you care deeply for needs to know it. How often to people get to be told they are loved? Be a blessing in someone’s life today and tell them they are important to you.
Today is the day I launch book two of the Turning Creek series into the wild. Storm in the Mountains tells the story of Marina and how she finds her true purpose. With Marina, things are never easy. In this book, you will find saloon fisticuffs; throw-down brawls with monsters of all kinds; women who love their whiskey, tea, and coffee; a harpy who is always ready for an adventure; dialog full of wit and snark; and a man who knows the best things sometimes have the biggest thorns.
Here is the blurb:
Marina Ocypete is a harpy, a Remnant of the Greek myth living in a small town in the Colorado Territory She would rather start a decent fight than sit around idle. The local sheriff offers her a job as a deputy which seems like a better choice than suffering from boredom, but Reed Brant has a way of getting under her skin.
With the influx of Remnants in his town, Reed needs Marina’s skills as a harpy to keep the peace. His head knows she is not the get married and settled down type he wants, but she might be just the thing his heart desires.
When women start disappearing in Turning Creek, it will be up to Marina and Reed to find the cause behind the fear gripping their town. Marina will have to choose between a fate she never questioned and the man who makes her believe even a harpy can have a heart.
Order your very own copy at these fine establishments:
To celebrate Marina’s book birthday, I am giving away a Colorado Book and Coffee package which includes a signed copy of Lightning in the Dark, a signed copy of Storm in the Mountains, a Colorado coffee mug, a tree ornament made from recycled Colorado pine, and a bag of gourmet coffee. Click on the entry form below and share with your friends! a Rafflecopter giveaway
For Mother’s Day, I shared a snippet of my journey through being a mom of a baby in the NICU. I thought I had faced most of those demons, but we defrosted our fridge last weekend.
When I came home from Texas Children’s Hospital, the Milk Bank sent me home with over 100 bottles of breastmilk I had pumped while staying at the hospital. They represented hours of work and tears. I put them all in the chest freezer. We did not use bottles and they all just sat there. I knew the effort that I had put into those bottles, so I started looking into donating them. It turns out that donating breastmilk is not at all easy to do. Nearly impossible, which is very sad.
Then, Hurricane Ike made an appearance.
We live less than four miles from the coastline and, while we may be at the high point in our neighborhood, we are always in one of the first zones to evacuate. We went north to safety with our four month old baby in tow. Our house was fine, but the electricity went out for about 24 hours. The chest freezer contents were alright, but I did not want to take a chance on the milk if it had even defrosted a little. I had to throw it all out. It was difficult, but I did it.
There was this one bottle though, wedged in a corner and cemented in ice. It would not budge and I left it there.
Seven years later, it was time to defrost the freezer. Past time, actually. I unloaded all the other contents and there was that bottle. I had forgotten it was there, covered up by some cranberries and juice from the lemon tree. It was wedged tight, still. I turned off the freezer and waited. A couple hours later, I knelt down, pulled out the bottle, and took it inside.
I put it on the counter.
The label has his name, medical number (which I had memorized after a few days because I wrote it so often), the date (6/2/08), the time (8am), and medications (which I never listed because I was too tired to write advil every dang time).
I moved it around the counter.
I carried it around the kitchen. I put it in the fridge. I took it out. I put it back on the counter. I looked at it all day.
I could not throw it away.
That night, I was washing dishes, looking at it sitting on the counter, and I started to cry.
That bottle was hours of sitting in a curtained off space in the Milk Bank at Texas Children’s. It was oceans of tears shed while I begged God for the life of my son or the fortitude to survive if he did not. It was words of prayer sent up. It was almost seven weeks of sleeping at the hospital, going to the Milk Bank every 3 hours without fail to pump. It was mastitis and wondering if I was making an effort for nothing. It was pain and heartache.
That bottle was realizing that my baby might live. It was falling in love with Mr. R all over again as he read C.S. Lewis to our boy who we had never yet heard cry. It was holding Gideon for the first time when he finally got off ECMO and was stable. It was rejoicing when I was able to feed him for the first time. It was joy and peace.
That bottle is still sitting in my fridge. Mr. Rochester asked me today if I wanted him to throw it out. I said no. I think I will pour out the milk and save the bottle.
I want to be reminded of that time. I want to remember the tears and the joy. I want to look at it and remember to be thankful for what I have been given because it is a blessing, that child that lived against all odds. I want to remember what it feels like to be cast into the fire and come out refined. I want to remember so I will remember to share my story.
Sometimes we cry over silly things and sometimes we remember why we are blessed by those tears.