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:
Gifts for Fathers of Fiction on Here Be Magic
Book Review of The Geek Feminist Revolution on That’s Normal
A Few of My Favorite Things on Suzanne Johnson’s blog
Luke Cage is My New Crush on That’s Normal
Most of all, I had fun with my boys. What was your favorite thing you did this summer?
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.
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.
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.
#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.
#3 – A TSTL or useless female lead or an alphole hero.
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.
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.
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.
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.]]>
I’m so grateful & stunned that anyone reads my books at all! I still fight the urge to apologize anytime someone says he/she bought my work.
— Olivia Dade/Dart (@OliviaWrites) March 31, 2016
I think this is common. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to tell people I write books, like it’s some unsavory hobby. https://t.co/EcEUWWV5ly
— Michelle Boule (@wanderingeyre) April 1, 2016
We need to own it. We write some damn fine books. @OliviaWrites
— Michelle Boule (@wanderingeyre) April 1, 2016
@wanderingeyre I was praised for my writing out of the blue last wk & I thot, “you think this is ok?” We all do this. Write, lady, write.
— K.G. Schneider (@kgs) April 1, 2016
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.
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.]]>
Enjoy your week. May the sun shine on your travels.]]>
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.
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.