I’m only slightly insane.

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Long ago, when I first started releasing books, I did it all wrong.  I didn’t know, and there was no one to teach me, so I made it up as I went along.  According to Google, I was advised to write the first book in a series, just in case the publisher didn’t want to contract the whole set, so I wouldn’t waste my time.  So that’s what I did.

Then, I found that traditional publishing isn’t for me.  I wanted to get paid for my work (yeah, I know, crazy stuff).  I wanted to have control over the representation of my characters.  No white cover models for my black or Hispanic characters.  I wanted to have boundaries be pushed and lines get crossed.  I wanted to write MY stories, not the diluted type expected with mass media.  I don’t do well sitting back and letting someone else make my decisions for me, and work doesn’t scare me.

So, I put out my stand-alone book, One More Day.  It was well received, even if hardly noticed.  Wonderful reviews, but very few of them.  I realized my problem was discoverability, so I wrote another book.  Then another.  The whole time, I was working on more in the background while I saved up enough to publish.  And still, I didn’t think I should finish a series.  I wanted more options.  It never dawned on me that indie publish and trade publishing have such different rules and needs.

Now, I have too many series on the go.  Rise of the Iliri is almost done (Will be finished in Mid 2019).  The Demons’ Muse should be done by the end of 2019.  Gamer girls will end early in 2020.  And, during one of those breaks, I decided to release a trilogy to fill the gap.  It’s done, so why not?

BUT!  And this is a big but.  I will not be making myself insane going forward.  Instead of following the pressure of reader demand, I’m going to write out the entire series and quick release.  I like how this is going with the Dark Orchid series – three books in three months, even though I spent a quiet year writing them in the background.  The readers enjoy the fast releases.  The visibility is good for my sales (and thus keeping my lights on) as well.  It’s like a win-win.

This means that 2019 will have a LOT of books coming out.  It means I will be pushing myself a bit.  It also means that 2020 will be simpler, easier, and cleaner.

To all authors just starting out, learn from my example.  DO NOT release the book when you finish.  Write the entire series.  Give yourself the room to make fixes before you’re on a deadline.  I know it’s thrilling and exciting, and you think this is going to be your big break, but that’s not how it works.  You end up spending most of your time trying to get noticed, and not putting words on the page.  You find that the deadlines you’ve made aren’t long enough.  You get frazzled, feel stressed, and have a greater chance of giving up because of it.

But if you do, push on.  Anything can be fixed.  All mistakes are chances to learn and improve.  If I can clean up the messes **I** have made, then you, too, will be fine.

And 2020 is going to be SO NICE.  I’m really looking forward to a bit less insanity.

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He calls me an artist

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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 )

Words, words everywhere

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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!

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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.

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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

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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?

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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

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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.