I Novel, JA Wood, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Back on the Box

Wow, what a crazy few months. Back in October, my entire foundation felt pulled out from under me. Deciding to sell my house with the intention of banking the proceeds so I could afford to try the full-time writer gig was a HUGE change, but apparently that’s how I do things. I trudge along, tolerating, tolerating, tolerating — whatever the problem may be — then finally snap and make a big decision, and never look back.

The process of selling the house, moving, and getting settled in at my new place took longer than I’d hoped, but it’s finally done. And I’ve found a sense of home again, something I was afraid would be always lacking. My entire mental well-being was so wrapped up in my house that I wasn’t sure I’d ever find that sense of stability and comfort ever again, but now that I’m unpacked, settled in, and have a new routine, my foundation is once again stable. I’m home. I have a new writing space, and I love it. It’s perfect.

And, next week, my day job replacement starts training. Which means I’m not far from being able to finally leave the place I’ve worked for almost 17 years (half my life!), and try to write full-time. It’s a scary prospect, but I have to try it. It’s either that or continue in a dead-end, unchallenging job that leaves me feeling like I merely exist rather than live. I want to live.

Now that all the pieces are falling into place, I’m finally writing again. Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) was supposed to have been out last June, but after releasing the Matchmakers Trilogy, I just seemed to lose all motivation to write. Life, eh?

But Betrayal is now finished, and just getting a last few touch-ups with the red pen before I slog through the tedious process of formatting and setup, getting the files ready for publication. It’ll be so worth it, though. I miss that feeling of having a new proof copy in my hands. I can’t wait.

(Aaaaaand I even got back on my box jumps. Not well, and not every time — I still have to build myself up to them — but they’re not insurmountable anymore.)

As for what’s in store for the rest of the year? All going well, I’m hoping to get back to my previous schedule and also have books 7, 8, and 9 in the Shifting Isles series released throughout the year. If I have time for it, I may even throw in another m/m romance trilogy that the Muse has been teasing me with for several months now. And that’s not even counting the remaining 5 books in the Shifting Isles series after Book 9, and the standalone that takes place before the events in the series, and the other series that takes place before the standalone, and another side series I’m toying with, and…

Yeah. Straitjacket. I need one.

So many books to write, so little time…

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Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

A Year of Excess

Wow. 2015. What a year! And I can’t believe it’s about to end already. Where has the time gone? I swear it was just yesterday I was packing up 2014 files at work to store away, and now I’m about to do it all again.

As for writing? That’s been a rollercoaster all on its own. It certainly didn’t help that life was seriously getting in the way all the while…

 

Excessive Anxiety

To people who have never experienced shyness or social anxiety, it’s difficult to explain just how debilitating it can be to try to be social. Add in any other layers to this anxiety, and it can be downright earth-shattering. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store requires an internal pep talk, deep breathing, and a whole lot of hurry.

It can be terrifying to go through the day feeling like you have a spotlight trained on you at all times, when all you want it to just curl up in a dark corner in the safety of your own house and hide away from the world. You don’t want to be seen. You don’t want to be acknowledged. You definitely don’t want to have to interact with anyone for any reason whatsoever.

That’s not to say I’ve been a complete hermit. I did get up and go to work every day, but it was robotic. Habit. Familiar. Fifteen years of going to the same office every day made it easier to stick to that routine without having to talk myself into it each morning. I did go to the grocery store, because it was necessary. Other than that, I pretty much stayed home. Home was safe. Home was comfortable. Home was my own familiar territory where I could be myself and not have to constantly put on a mask for other people and pretend to be something I wasn’t.

Through all that, I could turn to my stories for solace and escape, except for one problem:

 

Excessive Writer’s Block

Gah! How completely frustrating! After having written Return to Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3) in pretty much a matter of weeks, it then took me over a year to complete the next book, Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4), which is due out at the end of this month. I struggled with this one to the point that I almost threw my hands up and quit. I just could not get the plot to come together. It was almost unbearable to reach the point at which I realized the story wasn’t working and demanded a complete rewrite.

So, I finally gave in and did a rewrite. Scrapped some 50,000 words (half a novel), and started over entirely from scratch.

Twice.

Then, thank the gods, it finally started to come together. Move a few key scenes to different plot points, and what a difference! The character arcs and plot progression finally flowed the way they were supposed to. After battling this one for over a year, Broken is finally and blessedly finished and about ready to be released. Now, of course, I’m way behind on the writing schedule I had set for myself early in the year, and though I know it’s not true, there’s a part of me that’s inclined to blame that at least partially on…

 

Excessive Work Hours

For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week at my day job. No lunch breaks. I pretty much park myself at the desk and I’m there until closing, eating like a Hobbit (every two hours) between answering phones and writing up invoices. I’ve done this schedule before, and I’ll probably do it again, whether I like it or not.

Alright, so, it’s not quite as bad as I make it sound. It does pay the mortgage. It does pay the bills. It does give me a definite sense of security and familiarity. I don’t take lunch breaks mostly by choice — it’s just easier to be there all day rather than leave my customers waiting, easier to be there rather than coming back from a break and trying to play catch-up. Still, it’s exhausting. For a person who thrives on solitude and silence, being in a noisy environment all day long, especially with the constant drone of conversations layering over one another, it leaves me at the end of the day with a bone-deep ache for peace and quiet.

It also leaves me with little time to take care of things for myself. Even just trying to get to the dentist or the chiropractor can be a challenge. And one thing I’d been wanting to do all year, but hadn’t managed, was to go visit my old high school so I could take my English teacher, Ms. Mayfield, a copy of one of my books. Though I was always the math wiz in school, and never thought I’d pursue a hobby or a career in writing, Ms. Mayfield helped foster a deep and long-lasting love for philosophy and the written word. Finally, just the other day, I had an opportunity to stop by the school. I didn’t get to visit long, but to see her again was so cool. She has such a passion for words, something I’ll never forget. And to see the smile on her face when she had my book in her hands — that made all the struggles worth it. Ms. Mayfield is one of those teachers who makes you love school, who makes you excited to learn, and she’s definitely a person I’ll treasure forever.

But, after a bunch of hugs, smiles, laughs, and shared memories, I had to get back to work. The office was a disaster when I got there, and a bit overwhelming, but I managed to get everything righted and caught up and then finally take a breather when I found a few minutes of quiet.

One of the perks of working for the family is that I’m allowed to write in my downtime. When the phone gets quite and the flow of invoices slows down, I can fire up the laptop and knock out a few thousand words, if I’m lucky. I’d never be able to get away with that working anywhere else. And for a while I really thought I was going to be stuck having to find another job until we started getting…

 

Excessive Good News

Thanks to the very nasty divorce my mother put my father through a few years ago, the family business wound up with an obscene amount of debt in order to buy her out. We’ve been teetering on the edge of collapse because of that for so long, there wasn’t even a tunnel, let alone a light at the end. Every day I woke up thinking this would be it, that we’d lose everything, that I’d lose my house, that I’d lose my writing (alright, so I’m a bit dramatic). Then, this year, everything turned around.

Debt still there? Yes, but suddenly it’s more manageable. The bills are all paid. I don’t have this terrifying stack sitting beside my computer anymore. I sit at my desk and look around helplessly because I have nothing to do. No budgeting to plan. No bills to decide which to pay and which to let go another month. No stressing over how to shift things around to make sure my employees get paid first. The To-Pay slot in my filing rack is empty. It’s so weird! And after having put myself on voluntary cut pay for almost two years, I finally got my regular wage back, so I’m saving money again. No more fretting about losing my house, my sanctuary, my safe space where I can be alone with my characters and forget the world for a while.

But not having to stress over work meant that there was suddenly all this new space in my brain to worry about other things, which meant my anxiety spiked. Until, one day, I finally got angry, put my foot down, and decided to make a change. First discovering and then attacking the root of my anxiety meant I could finally see a possibility of life — not just existence but life — in my future. Which led to…

 

Excessive Happiness

Now, if you had asked me, any time prior to a few months back, if it were possible to be excessively happy, I’d have laughed in your face. Excessively happy? No such thing, right? What could possibly be so bad about being too happy? Was it even possible to be too happy?

Oh, yes. It’s possible. It’s so incredibly possible.

Once I decided to do something for me and started moving forward, the happiness started out exquisite. I hadn’t felt true happiness in so long that it was such a relief! Finally, I was starting to feel alive!

The happiness was so intense that it was almost erotic. I would lie on the couch on a day off work, just staring out the window with a big smile on my face, almost (and I never in my life thought I’d use this word in a serious manner) writhing with pleasure just from being so damned happy.

After a few days of this, it got to be overwhelming. I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, giggling. After two weeks, it became such a burden that I found myself wishing for sadness or anger or even numbness just to have an emotional break!

Eventually the happiness tapered off to a sense of contentment. Things moved forward, I took some necessary steps, and I had high hopes for the future.

Then I wound up with some time off work to recover from an operation, and I went into it thinking this would be exactly what I needed. A nice little break from work, some quiet time at home, a chance to get caught up on my writing and editing. Ah, yes, I was definitely looking forward to it. What I was not expecting, however…

 

Excessive Boredom

Yeah, so…being at home, post-op, sounds like a nice relaxing time in theory, but reality was a bit different. I wasn’t in much pain, but I was so damned exhausted while my body healed that I couldn’t seem to get my brain out of a fog. I had eleven straight days of not having to go into the office to look forward to, and suddenly I had nothing to fill them with.

I couldn’t write. I tried. Oh, believe me, I tried. And I knew I had so much to do in order to get back on schedule, but I just could not get my brain to properly engage. So, I took a break from trying, and tried to read instead.

Couldn’t do that, either. I couldn’t focus.

I did ultimately manage to put on a show and zone out while watching it, which provided a bit of a distraction, but even that didn’t hold my attention for long. So I wound up on the couch, staring at the wall, bored out of my gorram mind.

At any other time, I could easily spend a Sunday lying on the couch with nothing but my thoughts and characters to keep me company. I love that. It’s my favorite way to spend a weekend. But during post-op recovery, my brain couldn’t even handle that. So…I got nothing done. Ugh. All that productivity I was looking forward to, and none of it came to fruition.

Eventually, things stared to go back to normal. I went back to work — on restriction, which sucks (no hauling around cases of antifreeze for a while, dang it) — and got back to my stories. I finished the last of the editing and formatting of Broken that I’d been putting off, and the writing for The Five-Hour Wife (Shifting Isles, Book 5) is going well, so I should be just barely on schedule for the posted release dates I’d set for myself. That is, if I can keep on track while my imagination is bombarding me with…

 

Excessive Book Ideas

I was nice and focused on the Shifting Isles series, sticking to my schedule and looking forward to hitting my target release dates. Yet, in the meantime, I keep getting ideas for more books.

Sometime earlier this year, the J.A. Wood series popped into my head, and hit me with such intensity that I knew I’d have to ultimately write it (a series of books set in the world of the Shifting Isles, but taking place prior to the events in that series). Based on the ideas I currently have for it, this new series will probably fall somewhere in the 5-6 books range.

So far, anyway.

And then I got an idea for another new series, also taking place in the world of the Shifting Isles, but pulling in stories of some minor characters you’ll meet in the Shifting Isles books and delving deeper into their own stories. This will be the Matchmaker series, and is currently sitting at a total of three books.

Hopefully it’ll stay that way. For a while, at least. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to release and another to finish, so, I had better get to work. Which means, of course…

 

Excessive Coffee

Mmmm….coffee…..

I Novel, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Writing Therapy

I’m feeling a bit like a failure as a writer lately. Well, for months, actually. I’ve been more or less stuck on Book 4 of the Shifting Isles series since last November, and it’s driving me insane. I deleted 50,000 words, regained a fresh set of 50,000, and now even those aren’t quite working for me. I know exactly where the story needs to go, but I can’t seem to make the words travel from my brain to my fingers to the computer screen, and I don’t know why.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been writing a lot (well, comparatively speaking) in future projects, primarily in the J.A. Wood Series. Considering those books won’t be out for at least three years, and I’ve got a deadline set for Shifting Isles Book 4 in just about five months, you’d think I’d have my attention where it should be, but I can’t seem to drag myself that direction.

And just about the only thing I’ve written with any real urgency in the last several months was inspired by some real-life pain.

I’ve posted before about the fact that I originally got into writing as a means of dealing with the aftermath of having been raped. Putting those words down on paper was by far the best way for me to handle the trauma and get back to some semblance of a normal life. It was a much more effective technique than any session with a therapist ever was.

It seems like any time something bad happens, if I can get it down on paper, throw the problem at my characters, it becomes a more manageable and survivable thing.

Aubbie 3-13-01 to 7-13-15
Aubbie: 3-13-01 to 7-13-15

Last week, we lost our Jack Russell. She was 14 years old, and came to work with us every day. It was sudden, so we had no time to prepare. The void it left was devastating. No more little dog sitting on my lap on the way in to work, no more old lady chasing after her toy in the office and keeping the customers entertained. No more dog-sitting for Dad and having the little cuddle bug snuggled up against me all night in bed. No more belly rubs and rolling around on the floor. No more happy little smiling pant.

I sit here at my work desk, with her bed and her favorite toy right beside me, and I just can’t stand it.

But what did my mind automatically do? It threw the problem at my characters. In the midst of all the crying I did (and thank the gods, I apparently actually can cry!), I started writing a new scene that involved a character suddenly losing his dog the same way.

I felt like a bit of a fool at first, thinking the whole mental exercise was highly inappropriate, but after a few days of thinking it over, I simply had to get it down on my computer.

The problem automatically went to my go-to characters, Will and Alex. They’ve been with me from the very beginning of my writing experience, and someday they will actually see existence in print (in I: An Unconventional Love Story), but for now, they’re sort of this ever-present conscience and motivator and emotion dump for all things I can’t figure out on my own. I’ve probably sounded like a crazy person over the years, talking about Will and Alex as though they’re real people, but it’s simply what I have to do just to cope sometimes. To each, his own, right?

So I dumped the grief on my characters, wrote out the scenes, and instantly felt better. The pain was more manageable, the grief less debilitating. It was a way to channel the pain, acknowledge it, and honor the memories all at once.

And now I’ve also got a new element to tie into the J.A. Wood series, since Will and Alex make appearances in those books as well…

Yeah. My entire world pretty much revolves around my stories, if you couldn’t tell. There are days I’m really not sure how I even keep it all straight in my head. Now if only Will and Alex could kick my ass a little bit and get me back on track with Shifting Isles Book 4…