He calls me an artist

!Jaeda_s1

I remember the first time my husband called me an artist.  I was sitting in Pizza Hut, of all places, with my best friend and her husband, discussing the song “Take me to Church.”  And yes, I was discussing – they were looking at me as if I’d lost my mind.  To them, a song was just a song.  To me, it was a million pieces of effort that blended together to make something even bigger.

At the time, I was working for an internet service provider during the day, trying to sneak in time to ride horses between that.  I’d dabbled with writing, but I thought no one would ever see it.  It wasn’t good enough, I thought.  I wasn’t meant to be an author.  I was simply venting on screen to myself.

My best friend and my husband convinced me to take it further.  He pointed out that the blog I used to have was popular.  I pointed out that it wasn’t for my writing, but rather the subject.  He captioned comments about how many people loved my words.  I agreed to send a query letter.  She researched all the information I could ever ask for.

To this day, he still doesn’t read my books.  He has no clue what I write, and he doesn’t care.  He says he doesn’t need to know.  He likes the stories better when I try to explain them.  Which, let me add, is a jumbled mess of reasons, theme, and skipping around.  Mr. Perfect doesn’t care.  In his mind, I’m the best writer ever, and that’s kinda a big deal.

Now, he calls me an artist all the time.  As he sits and listens to me freaking out about the conflict not being intense enough, the rising action lasting too long, or the foreshadowing being all too obvious, he laughs.  It’s kinda nice, though, having someone around reminding me to just keep it simple.  He’ll stop me and say, “Just tell the story.  No one cares about the rest of that crap.”  He’s right, too.

I think that’s the trap that so many of us fall into.  We read the how-tos, we scour the internet for advice on how to be better.  Rarely, do we remember that the secret to an amazing story is right in the middle of our chest.  It’s the part that pounds so hard in fear when we admit we made something, and the bit that races when we wait to hear if we failed.  It’s the strange organ that has nothing at all to do with emotion, and yet everything.

It’s all about the heart.

We’re told to be careful, warned that we’ll offend someone, and prepared for rejection.  How often do we, the artists of the world – regardless of the medium – dare to just jump blindly?  Dare to just plug our ears, ignore all the caution, and throw ourselves into the wind?

Ok, not completely blind, because that would be foolish.  We need to be prepared for the fall, and ready to clean up the mess we make.  I’m talking about editors, beta readers, harsh critiques that break our fragile little hearts, and enthusiastic praise that puts them back together.  Then there’s the hardest part of all: knowing that we may not fly.

Because sometimes we don’t judge it right.  Sometimes we miss.  Sometimes, what makes our blood rush doesn’t resonate with others.  But you know what?  That’s ok.  Being an artist is the bravest thing in the world.  Every day, we offer up the biggest thing of all – our souls.  We drain them out, letter by letter, until thousands of others can taste the pain, joy, and victory with us.

When we get it wrong, it’s just a step.  Forward or backward, they all count.  If we stop trying, that is when we fail.  If we keep moving around, eventually we’ll learn to waltz.

So, tonight, when my husband tells me I’m his little artist, I think it may be the biggest compliment of all.  He doesn’t care if I’m a little frazzled, if I go from talking about one book to another in the middle of a sentence, or if I forget that I’m actually talking because I had an idea.  He just smiles at me like I hung the moon, brings me another coffee, and tells me it’ll be great.

(and if you’re wondering, that beautiful piece of art at the top of this was made by Mr. Perfect for the Dark Orchid series.  getbook.at/pol )

Advertisements

Words, words everywhere

www.GodColor.com

Where I live, it’s winter.  That means the sun sets early, the days are cold and wet (doesn’t really snow here, but it is the rainy season) and outside fun grinds to a halt.  Luckily, I’m a night person, so this works out.  No more fighting to get up early enough.  No more struggling to maintain a decent schedule.  At this time of year, it’s just me and my words.

And, in 2018 I hired not just one assistant, but two.  I have people to do the things that I hate.  Wonderful, amazing people.  Katie and Kitty both dove in to lighten my load.  Where one keeps my external stuff – like social media, scheduled engagements, and release hype – moving, the other keeps the internal stuff – plotting, groceries, and locating my head when I set it somewhere and forget – from getting out of hand.  Know what this means?

I have one job.  I write.

Before I published my first book, I fell in love with writing.  I didn’t mean to.  I didn’t plan to.  I most certainly was not one of those people who spent her life dreaming of being an author.  Nope, I fell into it unexpectedly.  I just had to vent, and that venting became a rather long series called Rise of the Iliri.  And then another idea happened, then another, and then a herd of others.  It seems like this is my calling.

But being an author isn’t all about writing.  In fact, writing might be the smallest part of it.  There’s marketing, engagement, promotion, editing, formatting, covers, contracts, and SO much more.  It’s exhausting.  I was spending hours every day trying to keep up with this stuff, and the words always got pushed aside.

But something happened this fall.  My own personal dream team came together and things CLICKED.  A gift from Katie.  An off-handed comment from Kitty.  A plot book.  When those things combined, something happened, and I found myself able to spend a little quality time with my words.  Then my husband mentioned that I seemed less stressed, possibly even less intense with the workload.  But, I’d just doubled my monthly word count!  How was this possible?

And when the time changed, it only got better.  I’m lazily writing, taking breaks, spending more time laughing with friends and doing REAL things, and dropping 15,000 words a day.  Sometimes only 2,000, but that’s ok.  I have TIME to play instead of write.  Then, because I had enough time (and someone in my facebook group gave me the idea) I accidentally dropped a complete rough draft in just over 2 weeks.  It felt GOOD.

It felt rejuvenating, and I immediately dove into the next book.  Then the one after that.  I realized that if I finished up a mostly complete trilogy, I could dedicate more time to getting ROTI 9 perfect.  A couple of weeks of work, push back ROTI 9 by 2 weeks (maybe 3, can’t recall) and spend some quality time with Sal.  As a bonus, while my readers waited, they’d have something that’s been sitting on my hard drive to help pass the time.

I can’t really see the downside.  I already had to push ROTI 9 back to March because of other reasons (contractors tend to have holidays).  That would mean THREE months without my readers getting a book. Oh, I know y’all will wait for it to be good, but I have this trilogy, and three months… and the numbers are just lining up, and it means I get to be with Sal…..

The little bit of time it’ll take to get it ready would give me a wonderful mental break to relax, refresh, and come back at ROTI with the loyalty it deserves.  It gives me the chance to figure out a little hole I accidentally found in the Demons’ Muse series (whoopsie!  Don’t worry, it’s already handled) and a set of books I adore would finally get to be seen!

I know some people hate when authors do this.  When we release books while another series isn’t finished, it makes them crazy.  To me, I know what’s happening on the back side.  I know these books are almost done.  They will appeal to some people and others will hate them.  Also, if I wait to release them until both ROTI and DM are complete, they’ll be sitting here, done, for another year!

So, I’ve decided to bribe my readers for patience by giving them a complete trilogy while I make sure that the next to last book in Rise of the Iliri answers many of the questions you’ve been asking.  Not all.  No, some of those have to wait for the end, but a lot.

And while I’m at it, I’ve found that joy again.  The love of being lost in words, letting worlds and ideas flow through my fingers, ready to be consumed by your eyes.  I’ve found my happy place.  It’s in the words.  These wonderful, amazing words that transport us to different places and times, allowing us to be the hero of our own story.  The words that make reality fade to nothing and remind us that it’s ok to feel, that emotions are power (mm, that’s a hint) and that feeling them is nothing short of magic.

Oh, lookey what I’m doing!

angel-wallpapers-badass-1

The 8th book in the Rise of the series just released.  The reception has been amazing, and I’m still stunned at how many people have fallen in love with those pale beasts as hard as I have.  Currently, I’m on track to end the series in ten books.

But, Rise of the Iliri isn’t my only project on the go.  Currently, I’m enjoying the beaches of Vesdar, the forests of Tyrnigg, and trying to cope with the barrenness of Daemin.  In other words, I’m writing the second book in the Demons’ Muse series.  It has an official title: For Love of Evil.  It also has a very beautiful cover, but you’ll have to wait to see that.

My goal is to release at the end of November, possibly early December.  I won’t give a specific release date yet because I’ve learned (over and over again) that the moment I do that, I suddenly forget where this story is supposed to go.  Nope, no jinxing myself.  These demons (and angel) are moving along rather nicely right now, and I’m more than happy to let them play a bit.

And once Demons’ Muse 2 is done, I will be putting the finishing touches on Gamer Girls 3.  Oh yeah, that means THREE MORE BOOKS this year.  And next year should be even better.  I’m aiming to release six, plus an extended box set (if all goes well).

Things are moving.  All of that behind the scenes stuff I mentioned has been handled.  Books are going to be coming out hard and fast, so I hope you’re all ready for this.  And, just to make it even better, I got one more exciting release to tell you all about.

When it Rains, a menage love story.

WIR 2
Click here to read the description

Kitty Cox, who wrote the Gamer Girls series with me is finally releasing her solo debut novel.  I got a chance to read it early (benefits of writing together!) and let me assure you, this is amazing.  Sometimes, even strong women can find themselves in a bad situation.  Kitty does an amazing job of showing one woman’s escape from her abusive husband and how the dreaded future can end up a dream.  This book is amazing.  Brook isn’t a victim; she won’t let herself be.  Instead, she’s going to take back her life and own her happiness.

I don’t know how she does it, but Kitty has a way of taking the darkest subjects (seriously, if you haven’t read FLAWED, you’re missing out) and making them into something so inspiring.  This is not a dark book.  Yeah, it has some serious subjects, but somehow she had me cheering for Brook from the very first page.

So you, my lucky readers, will get to enjoy four amazing books in three months!  Brace yourself, because the end of 2018 is going to be a whirlwind.

The art of being slightly overwhelmed

math-magic-wallpaper-1

I don’t know if most people’s lives follow the seasons, or if it’s just mine.  Winter tends to be productive, spring is for organizing, in summer all my planning goes out the window, and when autumn comes back around, I spend all my time trying to catch up and get ready for winter.

And now that I’m an author, years seem to move a little faster!

Some days, it feels like I’ve been running since dawn, only to find that by midnight I’ve still done basically nothing with my latest book.  Oh, I’ve met my word requirement for the day, but in the wrong book, by editing something else, or doing something behind the scenes.  And, of course, summer is when the readers are devouring the most books.

The kids are out of school, the road trips/flights get boring, and the time beside the pool is perfect for reading.  So, people want something new and invigorating to read.  But here I am, trying to clean up the messes I made as a novice, struggling to get out the next book in the series, helping a friend with her book, and hoping to catch a few minutes to build up my backlist so next year will be less hectic (or the year after that, or maybe later… but one day I will get there!)

And my aunt wants me to figure out how to find time to come visit her for a weekend?  My brother is doing a thing, and wants my input?  My best friend misses me and wants time to hang out.  Oh, right, and I have a husband, dogs, cats, horses, parents… AHHH!

I’m sure I’m not the only author who goes through this.  I also don’t think it’s my readers pushing me.  Nope, I’m the only person to blame here.  I always want to do more, do it faster and better, and do it bigger.  Considering I already write some hefty books, bigger might not be the best idea.  Ahem, anyway, my point is that I’m perpetually living in a state of minor rushing.

This became apparent yesterday for me.  You see, my husband and I have been renovating our home.  It’s just a little thing, but we gutted it and are rebuilding room by room, from the ground up.  Well, it was finally time to get living room furniture.  That means a trip outside the house, away from the keyboard and latest book, to SHOP!  (I should also probably mention how much I hate shopping.)

About 2 hours in, I’m like “I need to be writing!” because I’m actually an addict suffering withdrawal at this point, but I was making an effort.  Three hours in, I’m thinking that the pink sofa would do.  Four hours in and I wonder why this food thing is so important.  Can’t we just skip it?  Six hours after I left my house, with a truck filled with things I honestly needed and more scheduled to be delivered, I’m ready to bite something because… BOOK!

So my team (that would be a combined effort of my husband and best friend) get me home, help settle everything, and I FINALLY get to sit down and…

Crap, I don’t remember where I was.  What was I going to write?  Why can’t I find any words?!?

Four hours later, and my total word count is still atrocious – but I adulted!  I did grownup things, and socialized, and supposedly wasn’t even annoying to be around.  That’s a win, right?  Now, if I could just remember where I was…

*sigh*  Looks like I have to re-read this entire book from page 1 to remember what I was doing.  Yep, that’s another day lost.

Oh hey… But I remember what I was doing in that OTHER book that isn’t even on the release schedule.  And I had 4 new plot ideas while I was in the stores, and I just saw this awesome image that would make a great cover.  I need to get all of THAT done too (I really don’t, but my mind is convinced I do) and now here I am, re-reading the first paragraph in the book I’m trying to finish for the seventh time in a row, thinking about that time twenty years ago when I…

So, if you ever wonder why I’m a little bit frazzled, it’s because my brain makes twice as much (or more) work for me than anyone else ever could.  I’m constantly in a state of being slightly overwhelmed, and loving it.  For me, this is called inspiration.

And don’t worry, that book is still in progress.  So are 3 new ones.  Now if I could just stop thinking about them and finish this stinking paragraph!  Now you know why I can’t announce release dates ahead of time.  I’m my worst enemy, it seems.

What exactly is a Cliffhanger?

climber-299018

Lately, I’ve seen people talking about cliffhangers when a book is complete.  In reality, what they’re referring to is a subplot or device used to maintain interest in a series: a lead.  Possibly even a hook.

You see, just because you want to read the next book doesn’t mean the last one ended on a cliffhanger.  Take my Rise of the Iliri series as an example.  Each book ends with an epilogue that sets up the next book in the series, making it clear what’s coming next.  In this series, every novel is basically a battle in a much larger war.  That doesn’t mean the books end on cliffhangers.

Why?  Because there is a clear beginning, middle, conflict, resolution, and ending.  Then there’s an extra hook at the end.  A cliffhanger, however, is one of those stories that might as well end with “to be continued.”  The plot of the story was NOT resolved.  What the MCs were trying to accomplish neither succeeded nor failed.  It’s still in progress.  We see this all the time with season finales on TV.  Just as you get to the point where your favorite character’s life is in danger, and you aren’t sure if they’ll survive… “To Be Continued…”

But a complete novel doesn’t have that.  BloodLust, the first book in the Rise of the Iliri series sets up the goal early on: Sal wants a place to belong.  Ideally, she wants to be an elite soldier, have her freedom, and make humans stop treating her like a second-class citizen.  Most of the book deals with this to one extent or another.  She also has a budding relationship forming, complications between her job and her species’ natural tendencies, and discrimination from humans.  Her success with her unit makes some humans uncomfortable, which comes back to those who’ve helped her.  Then, just at the very end of the book, we learn whether she was successful… or not.  Did her actions result in her losing her place – or cementing her position?  (Sorry, no spoilers here!)

But then there’s that epilogue!  Sal’s only mentioned in it, but the reader gets a glimpse of what’s happening in the background, and what Sal’s actions may have set in motion.  This brings up a NEW problem, and one she’ll have to face in the next book.  It’s a teaser, a promise that this series is about more than the one battle.  It makes the reader want more, and want it NOW.

That doesn’t make it a cliffhanger.

Now, if I’d gotten right up to the point where she gets in the big fight and stepped in the door to see if her friend was still alive… then stopped before revealing what she saw… that’s a cliffhanger.

If I’d made it so she was debating resigning her position, had her talk to her commanding officer, let him know she was leaving, and end with him saying, “We need to think this through…”  Then THAT would be a cliffhanger.

You see, in neither of the above examples is there a resolution.  There’s no ending, no way to know if the struggle we’ve been following for all those pages resolved the way we wanted (or not).  Oh sure, the war is still going on, the Emperor is still amassing his army, the humans are still discriminating against the iliri, and her love life is still unresolved… but those are all subplots.  The STORY, if broken down, is about a girl trying to find her place.  To be a complete story, we need to know if she does or does not.  All the rest is a part of the series arc.

And yeah, I know that cliffhangers are common with indie authors.  You see, it’s hard as hell to write a convincing ending without satisfying everything the reader wants to know.  If we get all the answers in the first book, why is there even a series?  Why would someone want to continue this saga?  And so, there are always some threads left hanging.  It could be a romance subplot, a character backstory issue, or so many other things.  Those are fine to leave open.  They don’t make a book end with a cliffhanger.

And ripping up a book or author for cliffhanger endings when they aren’t?  It can cripple sales, depress authors, and ruin their reputation.  Sure, some readers love that feeling of being left hanging.  Most?  They hate it.  They want a resolution for the plot of THAT book.  Don’t let your desire for the next installment come out as hurtful resentment.  This is most important with newer authors who don’t yet have a fan base and are still trying to get enough reviews to counter that omnipresent one that seems to be for a different book (because we ALL get at least one where we wonder what the hell was being read).  Just know that this is a powerful word in the literary world, and one that should be used correctly.

THE SERIES IS COMPLETE

3 WWWC Cover B

This is it!  The final installment of the Wolf of Oberhame trilogy is now live!   Come, see how the story of the Gladiator Queen ends.

I know that many of my fans waited for far too long for this book, but I promised you this book, and so here it is.  Writing it wasn’t nearly as easy as I’d hoped.  The first rendition had 90% cut and restarted, but I think what came out of that is better than I could have expected.  Then again, I might be biased.

This low-fantasy saga of betrayal, love, and revenge has touched so many of you.  We’ve cheered for the gladiators, cursed them, and longed for them.  Now, we finally get to see what their fate holds, and if Luck is really as fickle as the Lion of Lenlochlien warned.

 

Forbidden Fruit

snake-1322240

Now that I’m waiting on the last stage of When We Were Crowned (yes, a release announcement is coming SOON!) I’m taking a mini-vacation.  Mostly reading, a little plotting, and a lot of playing.  So, in this time off, I’ve come to a realization. I will probably write something that will offend you. Yes, YOU, my favorestest of all readers. Although, I promise I’m not doing it to piss you off.
 
You see, I write to examine the human condition.  That means for every topic I show in a negative light, in another book, it will likely be given positive vibes.  Take the religious tones in Kiss of Death, as an example.  In my lineup of unreleased works, I also have a main character who is a Priest – and a damned good one.  Things like sexuality, personal identity, politics, religion, and more will likely come up.

The truth is that I don’t do this to shove my own ideas down people’s throats, but rather to examine how someone else could think that way.  Usually, a fictional someone who ends up as the main character, but still.  I’ve written about drug addicts, a highly driven woman guilty of her own sexism, a cancer survivor, and monsters.  I will write about guy on guy sex, girl on girl, polyamory, monogamy, and asexuality.  Faithful or atheistic, I don’t think it makes a person good or bad.  It’s just one of so many traits anyone can have.  How that blends into the whole is what’s really important.

But somewhere, I will hit YOUR personal pet peeve.  Doesn’t matter if that’s because the MC is 40 or 17 (I don’t write younger than that, sorry).  If it’s because the plot ends with happiness or sorrow.  Something will eventually be one of your personal “nopes”… but I hope you’ll at least give it a chance.

Granted, not everyone will like my work.  I get that, and I’m fine with it.  Still, for those who do, don’t let what someone else wrote convince you that I’m going to write it the same.  If I put a hot topic into a book, it’s because I want to see if there’s a way to bend something bad into something good, or possibly to examine how something good could end up being so bad.  I want to give my readers the chance to step out of the boundaries we’ve grown up in, and look at the other side.  To open a dialogue, if you will.

No, not because of any moral altruism.  Sorry, I’m not that benevolent.  I just think that the act of analyzing things in a new way is fun.  Yes, I like to THINK about the what ifs, and how the nuances of anything can change our perception.  I mean, the iliri are the personification of that.  I wrote them to be as far from humanity as possible, and yet still relatable – because I wanted to know if it was even possible to make that happen.

Mostly, though, it’s because we’re not SUPPOSED to talk about these things.  The taboo has an appeal that is undeniable, and I’m not the kind of person to refuse it.  Between the covers of a book, these examinations are safe and secure, kept somewhere we can walk away if it’s too much.  They also let us feel someone else’s struggles for a bit, and forget our own.  And isn’t that escapism the whole reason we all love to read?

See, every book I produce starts out with one question: what if?  Not something subtle, either.  Things like “What if Earth had a mind of its own?  How would that affect the life on its surface?”  Or “What if legendary creatures are simply evolutionary failures?  Or maybe successes?”  And then I dial it down.  If a vampire was just an evolved human, then what would one girl’s story look like?  If the planet has a mind, would s/he have children?  And I keep going down until I find the bit that makes me FEEL something.

You see, thinking and feeling go hand in hand.  One is not better than the other.  It’s like love and sex.  Sure, you can have one without the other, but when they’re paired up just right, it’s magic.  I want my books to be YOUR magic.

So, forgive me when I finally manage to offend you.  It’s not intentional.  This is just me trying to think outside the box.  Who knows, one day, maybe I’ll even find a story that has never been told before. After all, everyone needs a dream.