Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Publishing

Writing Frenzy

It used to be that I considered myself lucky if I could finish a novel within a month. A couple of them have taken me over a year. With a backlog of some 20+ story ideas, it felt like I was never going to have the slightest chance of getting caught up. Even with story structure and outlines, I still couldn’t seem to improve my writing pace, and felt as though I was continually falling farther and farther behind.

Then I came across The Story Equation by Susan May Warren. What a total game-changer! It highlighted aspects of story structure and outlining that I hadn’t really been clear on before, and presented the buildup of tension in a story in a completely new way.

In two days, I outlined 5 novels.

It was right around that time that a friend and fellow author, Gianni Holmes, threw down the challenge to write a novel (approximately 50k words) in ten days. It began as a purely personal goal on her part, since that was the amount of time she was looking forward to having away from her day job. (Keep in mind, this amazing lady has managed to self-publish something like a dozen books in the space of a year, all while working full time!) I saw the challenge, and as we were already part of a Facebook group who were pushing to try writing 12 Books in 12 Months, I figured, what the hell. I’d give it a shot just to see how close I could get. I honestly wasn’t sure I could finish within ten days, especially when it came to starting a new book in a whole new series, but it was definitely worth a try.

I finished in nine. Book 1 in a new, upcoming series, The House of Denmer, reached just shy of 50k words, all within nine days.

Then we started a Facebook group so we could repeat the challenge, and I turned right back around and did it again with another new project (Simon: A Transitivity Novella) and finished that one in six days.

With that done, I started on Book 2 of The House of Denmer … and ran into a snag. At the start of Day 3, I got the Blue Screen of Death, and had to go without my laptop for a few days. But once I got it back? Three more solid days of work, and that book was done, too. 50k in five days.

And then again, with Second Act: A Matchmakers Novella (coming soon!). 45k in nine days.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt the next round of the #10DayNovelChallenge, getting a start on Book 3 in The House of Denmer, which will ultimately be a five-book series. Following that will be a seven-book YA fantasy series, and if I can keep up this pace, every one of them might actually be written by the end of the year.

Susan May Warren, I could kiss you!

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

It’s About Time

I learned very quickly, when diving in to create a fictional world, that the process was a lot more work than I’d anticipated. Though free of the restrictions of continuing to write within the confines of the real world (like I did with the Lethean Trilogy), I had far more work cut out for me than simple matters of research. Making up everything from the gods to the creation of the world to the development of various races and countries–which meant determining how different people looked, spoke, behaved, dressed; what they ate, what they valued; what technology or customs they had; etc–was both thrilling and exhausting. For the most part, I managed to keep it all in my head, but as my world grew, and more stories began to take shape, I wound up with notes scattered across dozens of files, which I was constantly having to seek out and reference to make sure I was getting the details right.

What I should have been doing all along, right from the start, was building a Series Bible, keeping everything in one spot, nice and neat and organized. Of course, I didn’t run into an obvious need to do so until I began editing the next Treble and the Lost Boys book and realized I’d run into a pretty glaring timeline issue.

Between Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8), Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), and the three Treble books, I had five books on my hands with tightly overlapping events, and discovered that some of those events were turning out to be a whole year off.

So I stopped writing entirely, went back to The Prisoner, the first book in the Shifting Isles world, and starting reading. I took meticulous notes of every single day that was mentioned, how much time was indicated to have passed between different events, who was where, any mentions of what time of year it happened to be, any references to past events and how long ago they were said to be, any mentions of how old a particular character was, etc. At the same time, I started building one big Series Bible file, multiple spreadsheets to consolidate information about the gods, companies, addresses, magic spells, phrases, and–of course–characters.

Almost four months later, and after having gone through the 13 Shifting Isles world novels currently in print (as well as a handful of short stories), I discovered several more timeline issues.

Some were relatively minor: events being described as happening on the same day when they were really supposed to stretch out over two. Some were more interesting, like one week in Blindsighted that somehow contained 9 days instead of 6. The worst timeline discrepancy came with the Matchmakers Trilogy. Randomly throwing out that some particular thing or another happened such-and-such years ago is all well and good until you actually start pinning down dates for things and find out that the thing happening such-and-such years ago is a temporal impossibility when compared to other historical occurrences that were mentioned.

So I corrected, adjusted, edited. Hells, I wanted to do a series relaunch / second-edition-with-bonus-content launch anyway, so now, when that does happen, not only will I be able to put out the stories with corrected timeline flow, I’ll also be able to better develop extra bonus content, as well as appendices for the novels.

Like timeline notes, for instance, showcasing major events and their dates.

Or family trees for my characters (I had a good laugh when I started fleshing out a tree for Officer Benash, and realized the man ultimately had six wives/partners as well as ten children before he died (to say nothing of all the grandchildren and so on), when all the while, in my head, I just saw him as the man who loved Vorena and fathered Saira).

Or finally make some progress (and corrections) on the Wiki I started building a few months back and had to set aside in favor of other, more pressing matters. With a dozen spreadsheets and notes on something like 260 characters, that’s going to be an ambitious project in and of itself.

Or…maps. But that’s a fun topic for another time… ūüėČ

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

#CoverReveal And other news…

Cover reveal day! Huzzah! I’m so excited to finally share the cover for my upcoming release…

But we’ll get to that. ūüėČ First, a little general news and commentary in the way of fictional worldbuilding.

There’s so much that goes into a book that a reader never sees. Not just the seemingly-endless hours of plotting, organizing, writing, and editing, but all the little nit-picky details that may not even show up in a book but a writer needs to know. For instance, character family trees. Or timelines.

Both of which have been tormenting me lately.

I posted previously that, thanks to an idea from a devoted reader, I was adjusting a few stories to accommodate a change in character descendants which–though a lot of work–turned out to make the future of the series even better, giving a pivotal character a bit more scope when it comes time to tell his story. Once I started charting out the tree to bring various branches together to create this character, however, I nearly ran into a problem: marrying cousins.

Thankfully, with a little more work, I was able to avoid that (sort of: it’s more like marrying second [or was it third?] cousins instead of first), but keeping track of and untangling the various branches to make sure I’d actually gotten it right nearly overloaded my brain. I finally had to print the whole thing out and pin it up on the wall in my office, just to be sure.

And, I must say, seeing that posted really brought my little fictional world to life in a whole new way.

The even more daunting project facing me, though, is the timeline. So far, I’ve been going along giving a few things concrete dates, but mostly keeping events pretty general. And until recently, that worked just fine. Until I came upon five books (two in my main series, and three in an upcoming trilogy that run alongside those two) that all have connected characters, as well as events that all happen within a few years of one another.

And as I went to edit an upcoming book, I realized several details were a whole year off.

Probably something the average reader would never be able to catch on to since there aren’t many actual dates referenced in the stories themselves, but I’m picky when it comes to that kind of stuff, so I had to fix it. At least I was able to keep the details on already-published books as they are, and just adjust the timelines in the upcoming books to match it.

But then it occurred to me that I’ll eventually be writing books that take place prior to my main series, fleshing out key events that have been referred to and hinted at throughout the series. Which means I need to pin down actual dates for those things so I don’t accidentally write them in the wrong season. Or the wrong year.

So all writing is now on hold as I go back through all my¬†Shifting Isles books (all nine currently out in that series, as well as the¬†Matchmakers trilogy and the upcoming¬†Treble and the Lost Boys trilogy) so I can pinpoint exact dates for everything. Overkill? Possibly. But at least, that way, I won’t ever hit a snag like this again. And it’ll be better to do it now rather than after my series timeline stretches another five books into the future.

Normally I enjoy reading my own books, but…ugh. This is going to be tedious. Worth it, but tedious. Then again, knowing me, chances are I’ll wind up with some huge insight or inspiration for the rest of the series or offshoots of it along the way.

In the midst of all this, I’m also (very slowly but surely) trying to put together a wiki for the Shifting Isles world. That’s going to be a process and a half by itself, but it’s kinda fun seeing it come together, having all those little linked pages, showing how things connect.

But, enough of all that. Time for the really exciting news of the day: the cover of my next release!

Ta-da!

I’ve never done a proper cover reveal before, and I’ve been sitting on this one for almost two months. Thank gods this day finally came, because not being able to share it was driving me insane!

Ice on Fire is the first book in a new m/m romance trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys, set in my fictional world of the Shifting Isles. The cover design is by Dana Leah at Designs by Dana.

You can add the book to your To Read shelf on Goodreads, and the book is up for pre-order on Amazon in Kindle format (paperback will be available on release day, April 27th).

The book is approximately 100,000 words / 340 pages.

BLURB:

Zac Cinder is on the verge of making his dream come true. His punk rock band, Inferno, might have a shot at an audition for a record deal. Fame and fortune would mean he could finally help his parents. They’d raised eight kids in a loving household while barely scraping by, so Zac is determined to give back in any way he can.

Keeping Inferno together, though, means keeping his biggest secret. His bigoted bandmates would drop him in an instant if they found out Zac was gay.

Then he meets Adrian Frost, and Zac can’t resist the shy man. Adrian gives up everything to be with Zac, but Zac can’t bring himself to do the same. He doesn’t want to lose Adrian, but he can’t give up Inferno, either. Not when he’s so close to realizing his dream.

When one cruel decision rips Adrian from his life, Zac will have to decide if ambition is worth the price of the greatest happiness he’s ever known.

(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)

WARNING: Contains scenes of self-harm that may be disturbing for some readers.

 

And now to sit back and (not so patiently) wait for release day…

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

When the Grass Isn’t As Green As You Imagined

It’s strange to look back at this post from eight months ago and recall how starry-eyed I was at the time. Back then, just two months into my experiment at¬†being a full-time writer, I thought I was truly living the dream: no alarm clocks, no bosses, no desk to be chained to and customers to satisfy for ten hours a day, six days a week. I was free to write and do whatever else I wanted, all on my own schedule. I relaxed. I read a lot. My chiropractor marveled at the improvement in my back now that my shoulders weren’t constantly up in my ears from the stress of the day job. And, of course, I got a lot of writing done. It was the kind of life that every writer talks about wanting if they haven’t achieved already. And I wanted it. I wanted it for years, but never took the leap until I managed to find a way to make it a financially-viable lifestyle, even if only temporarily. I took the leap, and for a while, I couldn’t be happier.

Now? Heh. Different story.

I’m not saying I regret taking the opportunity. Not by a longshot! It was the best decision I ever made. It gave me the final push to leave the day job where I’d worked for 17 years, something I’d been chickening out of for way too long. It gave me the chance to start transitioning with hormone therapy away from the prying eyes of customers, coworkers, and vendors¬†who had known me for nearly two decades (which, as it turns out, was not nearly as big a concern as I imagined, but, you know,¬†hindsight and all that). Overall, it forced me to take the biggest, scariest risk of my life. Not have a job? Was I mad?!?! Sure, selling my house gave me plenty of savings to live off of, but there’s just something comforting about having a regular paycheck coming in, no matter how much of a cushion you have.

Mostly, it gave me the opportunity to write without having to steal moments in and around the day job. Granted, the whole point of leaving the day job was so I’d actually have time to market my books in addition to writing them, and I wound up doing very little marketing. Still, I got a lot more writing done than ever before. I thought I’d finally get my series release dates back on schedule.

So what’s the problem? I am SO FUCKING BORED.

I never get bored. Never. I’ve always wondered at people who complain they’re bored, because that has never been a problem for me. Until now. Even writing has become boring, which is the last thing I want. Writing was my passion. It was the thing I stumbled upon in my darkest moments, and out of trauma came this beautiful, perfect thing, this sense of purpose, this meaning for living. I’d envied people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I never had that until I fell into writing.

So the last thing I wanted was for my passion to start feeling like a job.

Now, you’d think that would have been a given. Writing full-time? That makes it a job. But it didn’t feel like that. It felt like an adventure, an escape from the trap of a 9-5 (rather, a 7:30 to 5:30), a chance to play at being retired, in a way, while also pursuing the thing I loved. Except…writing was my passion because it was also my escape from reality. It gave me an outlet to deal with my trauma, but it also gave me a place to disappear to at the end of the day. My little fantasy world was my safe, happy place where I could go on adventures and meet new people and experience new and exciting things, all without having to leave the house. After dealing with the harsh realities of providing customer service to the general public (ugh) all day, my writing was a necessary relief.

And now it’s lost that element. It’s no longer an escape since it’s now my entire life. My whole day revolves around writing, so it’s turning my passion into work, my escape into a job. It’s no longer magical and exciting. I find myself desperately grasping for new project ideas just for the sake of keeping the passion alive when I’ve already got fifteen other projects stacked up behind me, needing to get done but going ignored because they now feel like work rather than a mystery to uncover.

Now I find myself facing the prospect of having to go out and get a part-time job, just for the sake of having something else to do, some reason to leave the house, some grounding sense of reality in hopes that writing can become a beloved escape again.

I honestly don’t know how some people do it. While still working full-time, I thought there was nothing that could beat this kind of lifestyle. No alarm clocks? No bosses or customers to please? Sounds like a deal! But now that I’ve gotten to experience it, going fully unemployed to pursue a dream leaves some things to be desired. To the writers who can do this full-time for years on end without losing their spark, I salute you. I don’t know how you do it, and though I thought this would be the perfect lifestyle for an introvert such as myself, I’m not sure I envy you any longer. Guess I’m just not cut out for being unemployed. I need to be active. I need to be useful.

But not back to my old day job. If I ever have to sit at a desk and answer phones all day again, I’m going to¬†go insane.

Shifting Isles

Five Stages of Hitting the Right Plot

A lesson I’ve learned the hard way, more than once (twice, in fact, on one book alone [Broken (Shifting Isles series,¬†Book 4)], once on another, and it’s happening again with one of my current works-in-progress, Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, Book 3)).

You’ve got your story idea, your character profiles, your outline. You’re feeling good, ready to write. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way, little details that need to be researched or fleshed out or filled in, but you can worry about all that later. Hells, for all you know, those little bits might take the story in a new direction you didn’t anticipate and make it even better.

So you sit down to write.

At first, everything is great. You knock out a few thousand words. Then the same on the next day. And the day after that. You grin to yourself, seeing your word count climb.

Then your pace slows. Your daily word counts go down. You stare at the screen trying to decide what to write more often than actually putting your fingers to the keys. You find yourself distracted by other, more interesting things. Maybe even not-so-interesting things, like chores. And you rush off to engage in those other things because sitting any longer at that computer, seeing no new words appear, is getting tedious.

You check your outline. You know what you want to write next, right?

So you keep trying.

DENIAL: It’s all fine. Everything is fine. If I just keep chipping away at it, I’ll eventually get past whatever this slump is, and the book will get done. Doesn’t matter that the outline isn’t really working as well as I thought it might, and that the characters aren’t developing quite the way I imagined. It’s fine. Totally fine.

And you keep trying, forcing yourself to sit at that computer and make words happen, even when they’re not starting to feel right. On that note…

ANGER: Why the hells are these words not feeling right? I outlined this damned book, didn’t I? So why isn’t it coming together? Why is the story falling flat? Why aren’t the characters shaping up the way I imagined? What the hells is going on?

Insert rage-quit and storm away, glaring at the computer from a distance while you go about doing other things.

But you still have a book to write, so you sit down and try again.

BARGAINING: Alright, if I can sit down and get 5,000 words today, and tomorrow, and the next day, until the whole thing is finally done, I can have [insert reward here]. Or, if I can just get this book done, I can finally move on to that other one that I’ve been really itching to get to.

So you try, but you’re still having to force the words out. It’s just not flowing. There’s still something wrong, and you know exactly what it is–the truth has been taunting you from the beginning–but you can’t seem to make yourself say it without slipping into…

DEPRESSION: Oh, gods. This is hopeless. The plot is wrong, and the character arcs aren’t quite right, and fixing it isn’t going to be just a matter of going back through the 50,000 words I’ve already written and just doing some scene editing. It’s going to mean deleting almost all of those 50,000 words (half a novel!) and starting over. I can’t do it. I just can’t. Losing all that progress? Seeing my word count drop back from 50,000 to zero? *goes to hide in a dark corner and cry*

But then, finally, comes the moment when you’re left with no other choice. For the sake of your sanity, for the sake of the story, for the sake of ever getting another word written ever again, you hit the final stage.

ACCEPTANCE: [Ctrl-A] [Backspace] *sigh*

Word count: 0

Rewrite outline. Fix character arcs. And start again.

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Living the Dream

Well, I finally did it. I left the day job. For almost two months now, I have technically been a full-time writer.

Technically. As in, not 100% accurate. Besides the fact that I do still go in to the office a couple hours each week (hey, those accounts aren’t going to reconcile themselves), I also haven’t actually been…well, you know…writing.

At least, I wasn’t for the first several weeks. Instead of writing, I found myself sleeping in, watching films, reading (oh my gods, so much reading), playing games on my phone, and generally avoiding the world. If it hadn’t been for paying bills at the office and the desperate urge to hit the gym each night, I probably wouldn’t have left the house at all.

And I was depressed. SO FUCKING DEPRESSED. Which totally threw me off. I would sit on my couch, staring out the window, with absolutely no motivation to do anything whatsoever, and wonder, “What the hells is wrong with me? I’ve finally got what I wanted. I’m away from the day job. I’m home. I have all this time on my hands, and I could be writing, and I should be happy, but I’m not. WHY?!?!”

Quite simple, really. Change is a bitch.

Yeah, I got what I wanted, but even so, it was change. Pure and simple. And my brain does not like change.

I felt completely lost without the routine I’ve held for the past 17 years. Spend that many years getting up at 5 am, getting to work at 7, working straight through until at least 5 pm, then going home and doing it all over again the next day…yeah, it’s hard to train the mind out of needing that schedule. My brain and body expected one thing, and suddenly I’d thrown something else entirely at them, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

So I spent the first few weeks of full-time authorhood doing abso-fucking-lutely nothing.

And in some ways, it was GLORIOUS.

I’ve complained for years that I had no time to really live because I was always working. But now? Now I can do anything. I can go see things I’ve never seen. I can spend time with people I never had time for before. I can go to the market on a Tuesday! Not strictly on Sundays, but a Tuesday! I can walk down to my favorite restaurant and enjoy a plate of strawberry-and-cream-cheese French toast while I write…on any day of the week! I know this probably all sounds so simple and silly, but it absolutely blows my mind.

(Seriously. Don’t become a workaholic. It’s soooo bad for you.)

Still, that transition was rough, and I had a hard time understanding why. One of my CrossFit coaches put it best: “It’s like you’ve been deep-sea diving for the past 17 years, and now you’re coming up for air. Going through decompression is going to take time.”

Brilliant, that.

So, I rode out the transition, learned to stop hating myself for not getting anything done, and allowed myself to just enjoy the downtime. Now, I’m well into the next book. Not as far along as I’d hoped I’d be at this point in the year, but I’m finally making good progress, and having all these days stretched out in front of me that can be filled with nothing but writing — or whatever I want — is making the future look bright.

At this point, Addiction (Shifting Isles, Book 7) is about halfway done, and should be released within the next few months. After that, I’ll be diving into Blind Love (Book 8) and Libertas (Book 9) before taking another side-step like I did with the Matchmakers trilogy and throwing myself headlong into another m/m romance project, which will run alongside Shifting Isles books 8 and 9. Beyond those…well, too many other books to count. I swear, the ideas just won’t stop coming. (Speaking of which, I’ve also submitted a short story to the Agorist Writer’s Workshop 2017¬†fantasy anthology. Still waiting to hear if my story was accepted, but if it is, it’ll be one small¬†part of the whole Shifting Isles experience. But¬†more on that later…)¬†And I finally have time to pursue them.

This can’t last forever. I know that. Unless the stars align and I somehow manage to become well-known enough that I can sell enough books to pay my bills, I know I’ll eventually have to go back to work. The money in my savings won’t just magically stay there. But, in the meantime, I’m going to embrace this chance I’ve given myself. I could have played it safe. Stayed at the day job. But then, I could die tomorrow and regret not having taken this chance while I could. And the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the idea that this was absolutely the right step for me.

Scary? Yes. Risky? Absolutely. But so worth it. I’m throwing everything on the line to pursue my dream, my passion. Will I succeed? Well, technically speaking, I already have.

I’m not a bestseller, and probably won’t ever be, but I’ve rearranged my life in order to be a full-time writer, and that in itself is the greatest gift I could have imagined.

News

Moving, Like a Novel

Everything I own now exists in a 10’x10′ storage space, and I’m seriously freaking out.

When I first set things in motion to become a full-time writer (see this post from September 22nd of this year), I had no idea what a rollercoaster of a ride I was in for. Selling a house is a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait, so much more than I was prepared to handle. The constant rush to get each step done, then the anxious waiting by the phone to find out when the next step finally gets to happen (when they say ‘waiting by the phone for a guy to call’, I’m pretty sure this isn’t what they meant, but that’s all I’ve been doing lately).

All things considered, this has been a relatively easy process (especially when I compare it to the three-times-delayed escrow when I bought the house, not to mention some of the horror stories you hear about people trying to buy or sell homes), but it still did a number on my emotions and my mental well-being. I broke down and lost it a few times. I can’t even think about writing. I actually even forgot I had my endocrinology consultation coming up so I can finally start hormone therapy — and considering how impatient I’ve been this year for that to finally happen…yeah, I guess there just wasn’t enough room in my brain.

But, as I said, in general, things have gone smoothly. Got an offer on the house¬†within a week of listing it, no repairs requested, buyer’s financing already in order. Check, check, check, done. Right now, there remain just three days until close of escrow (*knock on wood*), and I’m waiting for that next step.

I can’t wait to find a place, get moved in, settled back down, and move on with my life. This whole process of moving has felt…

Well, a lot like writing a book.

I¬†started out with this overall plan [idea for a story], and try to figure out the best way to go about it.¬†I’m excited, but when I try to start packing [writing], the sheer amount of work ahead of¬†me seems so bloody overwhelming. I have to pack up an entire house [write 100,000 words]?!?! Am I insane? There’s no way. It’s too much.

So I procrastinated, and hemmed and hawed, and delayed, not wanting to even grab that first box [write that first chapter], because it just seemed like so much work.

But, eventually, I got started, and packed up one whole room [wrote a whole chapter], and started feeling good about the whole thing. Yeah, I can do this. Just one book, cup, plate, blanket [chapter] at a time.

Then I get distracted, as boxes pile up around me [disconnected scenes stack up in a Word file], and can’t focus on what I’m packing because I’m thinking about how much else there is to do [how many more scenes there are to write], what I need to leave out for daily use¬†[a scene I want to edit], and all the while wonder if I’ll be able to get everything actually packed up and moved out [be able to get a whole story written cohesively].

Ultimately, more procrastination happened, mostly in the form of reading when I should have been packing [reading when I should have been writing…gee, yeah, that never happens], and the mental weight of all the work left to be done, all the stuff yet to be packed [all the scenes yet to be written] was just too much, until I finally got up and got started. And once I got started packing [writing scenes], I couldn’t stop until it was all pretty much done, all the main stuff packed [all the important scenes written], and all that remained were those last few things you just don’t know how to pack, or those last few things that you find yourself stuffing into whatever box they’ll fit in [writing those last few minor scenes that tie the important ones together].

Then…finally…it’s done. The house is packed [the book is written], and everything is moved out, so all that remains is cleaning [editing].

Ugh. Cleaning [editing]. Not my favorite thing. That’s my chore for tonight (or, tomorrow night, if I’m feeling like procrastinating again, especially after working my ass off all weekend to get everything moved into storage). And after all this, once I’m moved into a place and finally get to leave my job and write full time, I think I might actually look forward to editing, for¬†a change, even though it’s the most tedious part of the job.

Because it’ll mean I’m writing full-time. And that right there is the dream.

But there are still a few steps to go. House to clean [editing], escrow to close [uploading that final text], an apartment to find [designing a book cover], moving in [getting that final proof copy], settling down [proofing the final version and having it all be real], and moving on with my life [clicking Approve and having a book go up for sale]. So much to do, and my life feels like it’s been pulled apart and turned upside down, but it’ll all be worth it.

I’ll be a full-time writer. Holy shit. I can’t wait!

News, Publishing

Box Jumps Make Me Cry

I swear this does relate to writing. No, really. I promise. Just stick with me here.

box-jumps<–You see this? This, right here, has become a tool of torture. The CrossFit box. Evil, evil, horrid thing. This assemblage of wood has become the bane of my existence, and a metaphor for my entire life right now.

When I first joined the local CrossFit gym back in February (CFPR Family ftw!), I was watching all these amazing athletes jumping up onto boxes, utterly fascinated and envious that they could do such a thing. At the time, I was a total exercise newbie and lacked the strength, coordination, and confidence to try this whole jumping-up-onto-a-box thing, and was firmly stuck in Step-Up Land. Then, one day, I finally managed a box jump. Just a 12″ tall box, but I was stoked. I’d done it. I’d done a box jump.

After that, I LOVED box jumps. They were fun. Exciting. I could do them! Soon, I was adding weight plates on top of that little 12″ box, doing a little bit higher jump, and then a little bit higher. One day, I was going to finally Rx that thing, I could feel it.

Then, it all came crashing down. Almost literally. We were doing burpee box jumps, and partway through the workout, I got so tired that I kept slipping every time I tried to jump. After that, my confidence tanked, and I couldn’t fathom ever getting 15″ off the ground again.

Why? I’d done this. Lots of times. I knew I could do it. But suddenly I couldn’t. I got so pissed off at myself that I punched the wall and almost quit the workout. As it was, my workout time was pathetic because I kept having to walk it off between jumps, just to get my head back in the game.

A few days later, I was determined to get back on the horse, and stayed late after a workout to try the dreaded box jumps again. I jumped and jumped and jumped, and ultimately managed to work my way up to 18″. I was stoked! Only problem was, there was no time pressure. So once there was, once box jumps came up again in a scheduled workout, I froze. I couldn’t do it again. I stared at that damned box and just. Couldn’t. Jump.

Now, any time box jumps show up on a posted workout, I freak. I try to psych myself up for it, and it doesn’t work. I even tried modifying back down to a 12″ box, and couldn’t even do that. 12″! That’s barely a hop off the ground. But my head kept telling me it was impossible. So I keep giving up and walking out.

It doesn’t help that my mental state is not brilliant right now, and my attitude toward box jumps is pretty much my attitude to my whole life at the moment.

In the process of selling my house so that I can afford to leave my day job and try to be a full-time writer, the excitement is tapering off and the reality is setting in. I’m actually going to have to leave my house. Logically, I knew that, but now it’s becoming real, instead of just a plan. I’m going to have to leave this home that I made for myself, and try to find that same sense of home and sanctuary elsewhere.

This house got me through the roughest time of my life. It was my escape from the world, my sanctuary, the place I could run away to when things got to be too much. It was the thing I needed while I was dealing with my parents divorcing, getting used to having a stepmother, and of course going through all the mental trauma of having been raped. Tied to the latter, it was also the place where I started writing. It was in that second bedroom, on my little, rickety student desk, that I opened up my laptop and started writing out the most vivid of my rape memories just to get it out of my head. That one scene turned into a novel, which turned into three novels, which turned into…

Well, now it’s spun entirely out of control, and I have more novel ideas in my head than I know what to do with, and it gave me something I’m passionate about and want to do with my life — something I was sorely lacking all through my school days.

And I’m giving up this house just so I can leave my job (that is how badly I hate my work).

But now that it’s real, now that it’s actually happening, now that my house is in escrow and I have the next few weeks to find an apartment and pack up and move and try to get used to a new space, I feel stuck.

I’ve done box jumps, but now I feel like I can’t do them.

I’ve done apartment living, but now it feels impossible.

I’ve done moving, but now it seems like too much to handle.

And I’ve done writing. Lots and lots of writing. But, right now, I can’t write a thing. At all. It just won’t come. And there are days when I feel like I might never write again.

I know that’s not true. Reason tells me that once I’m moved and settled in, I’ll get into a routine and a new comfort zone, and once the day job is behind me, I’ll have a clear head with which to write. I know that there’s just so much else going on right now that my brain doesn’t have much room for writing. I know all that. But I still have this dreaded sense that I’ll never write again.

Just like I have this dreaded sense that I won’t find home again.

Just like I have this sense I’ll never do a box jump again.

News, Publishing

Going Galt (Sort Of)

Well, it only took me ten years, but I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally started the ball rolling that will get me away from my day job so that I can be…

Yep. A FULL TIME WRITER.

Oh my gods. Holy shit. This is officially the scariest thing I’ve ever done, you just don’t even know. But will it be worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.

See, I’m one of those people who is so comfortable in the familiar that it becomes a ball and chain, stopping me from going after what I really want because it would mean saying goodbye to safety and familiarity and embracing risk. That’s why I’ve been at my day job for over 16 years now, and spent the past 10 years trying to find the balls to leave, but wound up chickening out each time I tried.

At first, before I had writing, I couldn’t make myself leave because it would mean trying to get another job. That’s something I’ve never had to do. How pathetic is that? Both jobs I’ve ever had were handed to me. The first was a case of: “Hey, you’re 17 now, time for some life experience. Go work part-time for the family business.” Aaaaaand 16 years later, I’m still here. The other job was simply: “Hey, you’re a good, reliable worker. Come work for us.” That job only lasted a year, and I was still at my other job the whole time, as well, but it didn’t teach me anything about how to get a job.

Thirty-three years old and I have no idea how to apply for a job, how to interview, how to submit a resume. I’ve just never had to do it.

But once I had writing to give me the sort of life fulfillment that my day job never did, I kept thinking it would be wonderful to get to the point that I was selling enough books every year to cover my expenses so I could afford to leave my job. I’m nowhere near that, and may never be, so I thought I was stuck here. Forever.

Not that it’s a bad job, per se. It’s a familiar place, with good people, and the conditions are nice, but…

Oh, but.

I’m a major introvert, and have a high sensitivity to sensory input, so working 10 hours straight, 6 days a week, in an environment where there is lots of noise and people’s voices and phones ringing and so much busyness that it’s often hard to get a bathroom or lunch break…

Let’s just say: major brain overload.

After dealing with that all day — and especially now, when the general public think it’s acceptable to treat customer service people like slaves — I’d get home and just do NOTHING because I was completely out of batteries. I’d lock the door, close the curtains, shut off my phone, and pretend the world didn’t exist for a couple hours.

It wasn’t enough.

It’s finally gotten to the point that I’m having a hard time being pleasant to customers. I caught myself almost mouthing off to one, which was so not cool. I finally hit the breaking point that made me realize I simply can’t do this job anymore. Besides that, I want my father to be my father and not my boss. I feel like I’ve lost my father in a way because he’s my boss for so many hours during the week that I have no energy left on the weekend to interact with him, let alone the rest of my family.

And when I really started thinking about it, I realized: if I were to die tomorrow, I’d feel like my life was a waste.

Going along, day after day, in a job I hate, and only staying because it’s safe and familiar…what kind of life is that?

So, after a whole lot of brainstorming, I figured out how to finally afford to leave my day job. It may be temporary, and I may completely fail, but I have to try. There’s no two ways about it. I have to try, just to say I tried. I have to at least attempt to pursue my dream of a writing career, and not having to be at the office every day will certainly go a long way to helping that.

Not having to get up at 5 every morning? Not having to sit at a desk all day and be bombarded with ringing phones and chatty people? Not having to miss meals and skip bathroom breaks because the phones won’t stop ringing and people insist on me dropping everything to research a repair estimate for them right this minute? Not having to go home each night exhausted to the point that I have no social life and never get to have free time to do anything other than chores on the weekends?

WHERE. DO. I. SIGN. UP.

So, *knock on wood*, plans are in place. Between selling my house and training a replacement for my job, I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next few (?) months, which means I’m getting no writing done in the meantime, but once it’s all said and done? Once I’ve got a financial buffer under me and no office hours to keep?

Writing all day? Being able to have a life? Being technically unemployed yet able to call myself (for a little while, at least) a full-time writer? HELL. YES.

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

What Matters Most

So, a funny thing happened on the way to this post. I was all geared up to go into some serious ranting. So much ranting. All the ranting. I had a whole list of people who needed to be eviscerated in print and I was ready to rip into them.

From the guy who got pissed at me because I couldn’t tell him why another business across town wasn’t answering their phones (Seriously? Am I fucking omniscient?) to the SJW morons who don’t know a thing about economics (Hello? Supply and Demand is called a law for a reason, and do you know what happens when you mess with natural laws? That’s right. Bad stuff.), from the woman who let her children run rampant around my office while I was trying to answer the phones and couldn’t hear a damned thing (Discipline, anyone?) to images.duckduckgo.comthe people who get pissed at me for not wanting to work late or on the weekend even after I’ve told them I’ve already been stuck in the office over 60 hours this week and I’m exhausted and can no longer think straight (Apparently I’m supposed to be a robot just because I work in customer service?), from the guy who threw a fit because we charged him for a service he agreed to, signed for, and we performed while he proceeded to tell us we were thieves and must be raking in the dough (What part of ‚ÄúWe actually lose money on this service‚ÄĚ did he honestly not understand?) to the guy at the parts store who had no fucking clue how to do his job and I wound up doing it for him over the phone (Seriously, what are they teaching kids these days? Nothing?), from the people who assume I’m a Democrat just because I’m trans to the people who assume I’m a Republican just because I shootback gadsend flagpractically run a small business in a conservative town (Actually, if you want to know, I’m neither. I’m anarcho-capitalist, the best of both worlds. I’m more economically conservative than the conservatives and more socially liberal than the liberals.), from‚Ķ

Well, you get the idea.

Lots of people. So many people. I had a whole list of people who were two second away from getting punched in the dick. Possibly even myself (even though I don’t have one‚Ķyet) because all the noise and stupidity of the day had gone well beyond the limits of my high sensitivity (yes, apparently, it’s a thing ‚Äď complete mental overload, and boy have I got it) and I was quickly turning into an asshole. Hence, the desire to punch dicks.

So violent, right? Like, so much violence. All the violence. There was going to be blood. So much blood. All the blood.

Alright, so maybe I’ve been reading a bit too much TJ Klune lately‚Ķ

Anyway, moving along.

So I was in a fully misanthropic state of mind, ready to go on a rage-blind rant, because my life, when I got a phone call.

Let me back up a bit, first.

A few months ago, the outside sales rep for one of our suppliers came in for one of his usual visits. He brought along a representative from one of their manufacturers. This representative (read: Completely Stereotypical Salesman) proceeded to give his little presentation, all the while spewing obligatory compliments and flashing cheesy grins like any Completely Stereotypical Salesman would do. Since I have a little ad propped up on the counter for my first book, BookCoverImageThe Prisoner, he of course had to filter into his sales pitch some gushing remarks about how wonderful it was that I was a writer and self-published and how proud I ought to be of myself. I’ve had lots of salesmen behave exactly like this when they come into the shop, and it always falls flat. No matter how much they gush, it’s obvious they don’t mean a word of it. So I did the polite smile-and-nod thing like I always do in this situation, just knowing he was spewing bullshit (shows what I know), and the conversation went on.

At the end, just as he’s about to walk out the door, he turns back and pulls out his wallet, saying he wants to support a budding author and buy my book.

Now, I was pretty sure he wasn’t actually going to read it, but‚Ķhells, a sale is a sale, so I sold him a book and he left.

Then, yesterday, completely out of the blue, I get a phone call.

‚ÄúYou probably don’t remember me, but I was in there with Larry‚Ķbought your book‚Ķfinally got a chance to read it‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

I was just starting to get a vague memory of who the guy was when he completely bowled me over.

‚ÄúI just‚Ķwow. This book ‚Ķ It’s absolutely amazing. Like, I couldn’t put it down. I just totally got all the relationships between the characters and the tragedy of the guy feeling like he failed his son and how the woman died and it all just worked and‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

Jaw, meet floor.

‚ÄúPlease tell me there’s another book out because I have to have more.‚ÄĚ

Jaw now permanently married to floor.

The phone call left me giddy and grinning and, quite frankly, a little bit stunned.

And it made me realize a few things.

One, I did exactly what I accuse so many other people of doing: categorizing a person into a particular box just because of a particular trait. I should have known better, and I was wrong.

Two, all that ranting stuff, in the long run, doesn’t really matter. Yeah, stupidity and ignorance and rudeness pisses me off, but life is too damned short to be angry. Why let myself get sucked into those moments when I’ve got moments like this to revel in? Why let myself get mired in despair over the fact that this country is never going to be free and people as a whole are never going to understand how things work (though I keep trying to educate them even when I know better), when I could be enjoying what life I have while I have it? Why dwell on all the negative when I’ve got so much beauty in my life because of fiction?

Three, it made me remember just how great a story The Prisoner is. Not trying to be an egomaniac when I say that, but just reflecting the reactions to it that I’ve gotten over the past year since its release. The response to it, though small so far, has been overwhelming in its intensity. People who read the story call me at work to tell me how much the book meant to them, how great the story was, how much they want more. And it reminds me just how much I loved that story, how much I enjoyed writing it, how many emotions it invoked as I wrote it. The Prisoner is a great story, and I’d forgotten that.

I think I’ve pushed myself so intently on always getting to the next step, the next book, that I’ve lost track of the depth of feeling I originally experienced when I started the series. I got that back somewhat with the Matchmakers trilogy, even if those books did get me completely off-track, but when I try to think of continuing the Shifting Isles series, I get bored, to be honest. I’d lost my love of the series because I’d lost track of the beauty of the stories that I first clung to when the series started.

MatchmakersThat probably has a lot to do with why I got so far off my writing schedule when the idea for Matchmakers came along. The stories in Matchmakers just called to me in a way that the main Shifting Isles series no longer was, because I’d lost touch with the feeling that The Prisoner gave me, the feeling that carried me through to S.P.I.R.I.T. Division (S.I. Book 2) and Return to Tanas (S.I. Book 3), but started to slip away with Broken (S.I. Book 4) and The Five-Hour Wife (S.I. Book 5).

Clearly, I need to dive back into The Prisoner, reconnect with it, and get that feeling back. No wonder I didn’t feel as excited about books 4 and 5 as I did with the first three, nor as excited as I felt about Matchmakers (hells, those three novels went from Idea to Published in just about five months, so if that doesn’t scream passion and excitement, I don’t know what does). Outside of Matchmakers, I lost track of the emotion, the story, the experience. I need to reacquaint myself with those stories and those characters, or the next books are going to suffer, and neither I nor my readers will be happy.

So the next book, Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) will probably be even later coming out than planned, even though I’ve already pushed back the release date, but I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to dive back into the world, and instead of rushed and forced, it’s going to be good. It’s going to get to people the way The Prisoner does.

Because The Prisoner is a great fucking story. And I need to remember that.