Preparing to move has been overwhelming at times, exciting in others, and frequently filled with dust. My major accomplishments this week include packing all the books in the house, with the exceptions of childrens, cook books, and antiques, putting an offer on a house, and choosing a moving company. As I go about my days, living my normal routine and doing moving prep, I encounter people I have become friends with over the years, people who have been a friendly face in my day, and people who have touched my life in countless ways.
This constant reminder of people has led me to believe that we all live in a web of blessings. My life touches one person’s life, they reach out and love someone else, and that person befriends another. Each touch of a life reverberates like the strings of a web, alerting all that there are connections both deep and shallow and all make an impact. We can make no movements without effecting others. This is one of the things that makes us human.
Humans are social beings. We were made for relationship. In preparing to leave many of mine geographically behind, I have become reminded how large my web has become and I am grateful. I have been richly blessed with people that I love. I want to hug as many as possible, share a drink and a laugh, and remember my blessings. Thank you for being my friend.
We have gotten a variety of interesting comments about moving to Wyoming from people that have reinforced my beliefs that Texans are bad at geography.
This will probably come as a shock to no one who has ever spent any time with a Texan. If it is not in Texas, most Texans do not know where it is and there is a good reason for this. Have you looked at a map? Texas is huge. You can drive for 8 hours in multiple directions and still be in Texas. Most people who are born here, do not leave often because it is a pain in the butt to get anywhere else.
For my fellow Texans, here is a primer on Wyoming based on the comments I have gotten.
Wyoming is not South Dakota. Many of you think we are moving to the Black Hills. While Wyoming is just to the west of South Dakota, the topography in Wyoming is very different. Wyoming has more plateaus, canyons, and mountains than South Dakota. In fact, we will be living within sight of the Big Horn Mountains.
Wyoming is not next to Canada. It is closer to Canada than Texas, but most other states are. Montana, the state directly to the north of Wyoming, is, however, next to Canada.
Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming. It is not, to the surprise of some, in California.
Yes, we are moving out of the Bible Belt, but we see this as a good thing. We are called to be salt and light in the world. It is hard to be salt to others if you stay in the shaker. There are churches in Sheridan, Wyoming and we do plan on finding one to join because that is important to our family.
Speaking of religion, while there is a greater percentage of the population in Wyoming that are Mormon (11.53%), Texas has a greater number of LDS congregants by volume and more temples than Wyoming.
Wyoming does trend towards being a red state, but so does Texas. Yes, I do know they are conservative there, but I have always been a liberal surrounded by conservatives. I think I will continue to survive and make friends.
Wyoming is full of cowboys, ranches, and farms, much like Texas. I do not expect to go into much culture shock in that regard. I think the biggest adjustment for us will be moving to a smaller, much much smaller city. The Houston metroplex contains over 650 million people. The suburb of Houston I currently live in contains over 100,ooo people. Sheridan, Wyoming has a population just north of 17,000.
It is cold in Wyoming in the winter, but it is absolutely beautiful in the summer. My family is going to get to enjoy a slate of outdoor activities that the heat here renders miserable. For the record, I think the winter is pretty as well, even if it is more work to get around.
Thank you to everyone who has wished us well, even if you were not sure entirely where we were going.
I have lived in the Houston area for 32 of my 38 years. Those that are missing, I was still in Texas, just up the road in College Station and then Dallas. This is the place with my roots and my large extended family. As an adult, it has also become the place where I have started raising my own family and found a church that is like family. There are many wonderful things to recommend Texas, but this is never the place I wanted to be forever.
Mr. R, as many of you know, is an engineer and his job has kept us here, but it is no longer his passion or what he feels called to do. This shift for him and my strong desire to be in the mountains has led us to look elsewhere. This past weekend, my wonderful husband accepted a position at Blacktooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming.
We are moving our family to the edge of the Big Horn mountains! I will finally be in a place I always wanted to be and Mr. R will have a job he finds fulfilling. We have deep roots in Texas, so we will be back to visit. We hope some people come visit us and see the beauty of our new home state.
I plan on chronicling some of our move and transition in this space because there is a lot of things I need to learn about living in a cold climate and you will need to laugh at me as I learn. In the midst of all this, Plagues of the Heart (Turning Creek 4) will be released so there are a lot of exciting things ahead.
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.