The Roads Taken

Life is fucking strange.

You make decisions every day that determine the direction your life will go. They could be innocent decisions like whether to have cheddar or Swiss on your sandwich. They could be momentous, like moving cross-country. Either way, every little decision, every choice, starts you on a path. It could be good, it could be bad, or it could kind of hopscotch between the two, never finding a middle ground.

On today’s episode of “AJ Has Been in Quarantine Too Damn Long,” we’ll reflect on choices and directions and how one little “yes” or “no” can build and shape an entire life.

I’ve had so many big and little decisions to make in my life, so many choices that could have gone one way or the other. I could have stayed in college the first time around (long story). I could have taken different classes in college. I could have moved to Phoenix. I could have stayed out on my own after my lease ran out with my first roommate. I could have never moved in with the guy to begin with. I could have stayed in Alabama when my family moved out west. I could have done a million things differently, but how would my life be now if I had…or hadn’t…made some of those decisions?

Yep, I’ve officially been in quarantine long enough to question almost every choice I’ve ever made in my entire life.

Do I regret any of them? Eh, some. Not the major ones, not really. But maybe a few tattoos would be different, or I’d have more of them, or I’d have kept certain piercings that I ended up taking out or gotten other ones I never had the nerve to get…little things.

One “no” cemented my decision to move away from Alabama for good. That “no” resulted in a series of “yeses” that put me on the path I am now. So strange that a little thing like yes or no can shape everything for the rest of ever. I’m glad I said that one no, though. It was worth it. I don’t think I’d have nearly as many friends. Maybe not any. Who knows?

There’s the tricksy part of this line of thinking: the What Ifs. What if I’d stayed? What if I’d taken Job X over Job Y? What if, what if, what if…?

Truth is, the What Ifs don’t mean shit. They’re in the past. Or maybe that’s the wrong way to put it. They’re in alternate presents that I can’t access, in realities that aren’t this one. Parallel universes and all that jazz. No-man’s lands.

Where am I going with all this introspection? I’m not sure. I haven’t decided yet. I could keep going down this rabbit hole and see Wonderland, or I could stay safe here at home and just dump these thoughts down the disposal and shred them before they do permanent damage. Alice sure as hell wasn’t the same after her trip, I bet. And even if I did go to Wonderland and see what the What Ifs might have had to offer, what then? There’s still nothing that can take me out of Now and put me Then. The physics for that to happen don’t exist yet. Or maybe they do, but only in theory.

Now I’m getting into a path of thought that’s above my pay grade. I’m not smart enough to figure out what it all means, or what it might have meant. All I know is, I’m here now, in the Now, and good or bad, that’s where I’m going to be until the next choice is made.

We’re b-a-a-a-ck!!

Guess what, everyone? Muses and Murderers Podcast is coming back!

We took some time off for life stuff and scheduling issues, but we’ve decided to reformat the show a smidge and let the guests work themselves out when we can. For now, we (author Angelique Jordonna and I) are going to spend an hour every week shooting shit about various writing/entertainment-related topics. Will we stay on-topic? Not likely. Will it be funny at least? We sure hope so!

Season 2, Episode 1 will be titled “Sex, Death, and Rock and Roll – Writing the Taboo.” In this episode, Angelique and I will discuss, well, writing all the nasty, naughty things that some writers might shy away from putting in their works. Why do some writers include things like sex and death while others avoid it? Is genre a factor? Age range? Should these things be factors? Tune in Sunday, May 10, to find out what we decided!

Angelique and I will record at least once a week, and I’ll post the edited recordings on Sundays. That’s the plan for now, at least. Seemed to work for S1, so we’ll continue with S2 airing on the same day (and I’ll try to edit and upload the episodes BEFORE I drop my fucking phone on the concrete floor).

If you have a topic you’d like for us to discuss or a question for us, you can go to the Muses and Murderers Podcast page on this site and message us through the page. (Facebook has this nifty thing where you can embed a Messenger link that connects the website with the Muses and Murderers Facebook page for messages! How cool is that?) One of us will see the message, and we’ll add your topic or question to our queue! 🙂

We’re so glad to be coming back and getting back into the swing of things with the podcast, and we can’t wait to see what topics y’all come up with for us to shoot the shit about!

On the Rise

Well, I’ve submitted Book 3 of the Abnormal series, Fight the Light, to the publisher. I banged out my Mage Asylum Trilogy and put it up for preorder. Now what should I do during my doctor-imposed quarantine for my own good??

Why, start on Book 4 of the Abnormal series, of course! It’s high time I started penning Dead Cities Rising, but there’s one teeny, tiny problem: I kinda did a crap job of plotting the outline for it, so I have to start over from scratch pretty much. Yeah, it was a pain in the ass, but I think that, after much brainstorming and arguing with my characters, I’m at a point where I can get back to redoing my outline with the newer, better plot, drawing up a nice little timeline (because I just now decided I have to have a timeline), and then I can take off with the wording!

Sometimes writing a book comes naturally, and sometimes, like with this one, you have to kind of beat it into submission. I’ve got new characters popping up, old characters who are fighting for the spotlight, and the usual crew just wanting to have a decent storyline.

It’s going to take hard work, but I can do it. Bonus for you readers, with the changes I’m making to my long-term plan for the series, the Abnormal series will now have six books instead of five! It’s like getting a bonus book! Lol

Now to get to that outline-that-insists-on-being-done-now. Pesky muses. They’ve been keeping me on my toes lately. Lol

New Preorder from AJ Mullican!

*Enjoy three novellas for the price of one with this collected set!*

For enchantress Karrye Gibbons, being committed for nymphomania isn’t too bad. The facility is coed, at least, and offers plenty of eligible mages for her to choose from…until, that is, a patient is admitted who’s immune to her charms.

Enter Whittaker Franklin, an ex-military interrogator who happens to be an anti-mage. No magic can work within twenty feet of Whit, but that’s not going to stop Karrye. She’s determined to win him over, but when strange new therapies begin in the basement, things get complicated. Can Karrye and Whit find out what’s going on at Palmore’s and stop it before everything goes to hell?

Hey, everybody! Guess what I’ve been up to? 😉

That’s right, I have a hot new release for you! The Mage Asylum Trilogy is now available for Kindle preorder for just 99 cents! That means you get three steamy paranormal erotica novellas for the price of one.

This has been a two-month-long labor of love for me, and a bit of an obsession. While I’ve had help along the way in the form of advice from friends in the industry (and my mom’s awesome editing), this is, essentially, all me. From concept to cover design to formatting and publication, I threw my dumb ass headfirst into these books, and I can’t wait to see how they do.

I’ve done a preorder for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I noticed that, with Whispers of Death‘s cold release–and with no pre-marketing on my part–it did not do well. I had to put my first novel on a free promotion for a few days to get it up to #6 in one of its categories, and that was basically a one-off. It did well, and technically was a best-seller/Top 10 book for a nanosecond, but I want to see what I can accomplish if I apply the things I’ve learned over the past five years since.

I’m posting in genre readers’ groups on Facebook, I’m tweeting and Instagramming, I’m even going on TikTok (that’s a new one for me, so it’ll take some finagling to figure out what works and what doesn’t). I’ve updated the links and graphics on my website as well as in all my reader magnets on StoryOrigin, and I’m starting to go fishing for newsletter swaps.

Aside from getting impatient and not doing ARC copies for reviews, I think I’m doing okay so far. We’ll see what happens come July 1, when all the preorders translate to actual sales. So far? Well, less than 24 hours after the preorder link went live, I’m sitting at #506 in Paranormal Erotica in the Kindle Store….I have no frame of reference as to how good that is, however (how many Paranormal Erotica books are on Kindle right now, anyway??), but I’m going to keep on the positive. It’s only been half a day. Give it time.

Now get your tail clicking on that link above to preorder The Mage Asylum Trilogy! I mean, c’mon, only 99 cents to support a great author? Why wouldn’t you? 😉

Isolated in isolation

Most of my life, I’ve been pretty much a loner. Liked sitting by myself, doing my own thing. Occasionally hanging out with a few close friends.

So….Why in the bloody hells am I upset at being left out of something that I don’t want to do anyway?

I would’ve been better off never knowing said thing I’ve been left out of existed, really I would. I mean, I really have no interest in said thing, but just knowing that it exists and that no one, not one single, solitary friend thought to include me….That smarts.

It’s grade school all over again. And middle school. High school. College. It’s my life, trapped in an endless circle of exclusion. I’d thought I was past that, or at least past caring, but I guess not.

Sometimes, a little knowledge is a bad thing.

Then, come to find out my husband was one of the first people included and invited to do the thing. Knew all about it. Granted, he probably didn’t say anything to me about it because not only did he not want to do the thing, he probably knew I wouldn’t want to do it. Still…Ouch.

I shouldn’t take it personally. I know I shouldn’t. That doesn’t stop it from hurting, though.

It’s enough to make me question what I want to do after the quarantine/COVID/coronapocalypse is over. Do I want to go back to being social on the weekends? Is it even worth it? Maybe I should reconsider. Dive deeper into the stories I write. Write more stories. Who knows? Maybe this is my chance to break out. Become a full-time author. Live the dream.

Ah, there it is. The Dream. Full-circle again, back to the issue at hand.

My Dream got a little bit stomped on today. I’ll get over it, I suppose, but I’m going to probably sulk a bit about it. Have my own personal pity party. Feel bad for my poor, unwanted self.

I’ll get over it. Stand back up, brush myself off. Keep on moving. I won’t even say anything else about it, aside from this here post. I’m going to vent, hit “publish,” and leave this post for the archives. It’ll get buried by others, only to be found some day by a random fan going through my old posts. They’ll wonder what the hell I’m talking about.

Don’t mind me, random fan. I’m okay. I’ll be okay.

Just had to get it out.

Going boldly

So I’ve been working on a novella trilogy during all this social distancing stuff. It started as a paranormal romance series, but quarantine boredom being what it is, the stories are turning a little… steamy. Like, I’ve basically resigned myself to the fact that they’re going to end up being paranormal erotic romance novellas.

Is that really a bad thing, though? I mean, there’s a market for that kind of thing, possibly more so during these times of shut-in orders. Can’t go pick up someone you met on Tinder? That’s okay–pick up a spicy book instead!

I’m having fun with the stories, which is important, and I may even write more stories of the like later on. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to turn the Abnormalverse into an erotica zone; I’ll maybe write a couple scenes per book, but nothing like these. No, these take place in a different universe. A kinkier universe.

Despite my commitment to this series–I’ve even already got all three covers designed–I’m a little uncertain. I mean, writing something of this nature, I’m learning, is like baring yourself. Exposing yourself. And when those friends who love to support me go out and buy the books? What will they think of who I am as a person when they read what my characters do?

I am one hundred percent not like my characters.

Well, maybe I’m a little like them. In some aspects. But I’m definitely not as…uninhibited as they are. Not as free spirited.

I guess I’ll finish writing the trilogy, get it edited and polished and published, and let the chips fall where they may. Will I get teased? Oh, I’m sure someone will. But the main question is, do I care if they tease me?

We’ll find out the answer before the year is up!

Starting all over again?

Well, it’s another COVID-related off day, so today I’m working on a couple of things: I’m going to be researching and contacting authors, bloggers, and podcasts to potentially receive ARCs of ESCAPE THE LIGHT, but I’m also going to be heading into Book 2 of the Palmore’s Home for Wayward Mages trilogy. The first task is mostly just the tedium of research and typing up emails to the various persons.

My problem with the second task?

I don’t know where to begin.

I mean, I know where to begin, but I don’t know how. I have a few different ideas for the opening, but I can’t decide which has the most punch, the most draw for readers.

I originally wanted to mirror the opening of the first book, but now I’m not sure of the best way to make that work. I want to open on something interesting, but the scene I have so far is rather dull. Not suitable for an opening scene at all.

I know I’ll get it worked through eventually, but it’s the working that is the tricky part. Which characters (besides the main character) do I have present? What are they doing? What’s the exciting thing they’re saying or doing that hooks the reader and makes them want to keep reading? So many questions, so many options, and I just can’t make up my mind.

That’s the life of an author, I guess. You gotta start somewhere, and since I’m not the “write it out of order” type, I have to start at the beginning.

I’d better kick it into gear soon. I don’t want to end up releasing this trilogy/set next year!

ARC Readers Needed!!!

Hey, everyone! Guess what? It’s that time now! I’m eagerly awaiting the ARC file for ESCAPE THE LIGHT, the sequel to ABNORMAL!

What’s an ARC, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you…

ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy, and in the publishing world, they’re sent out ahead of a book’s release to get reviews and blurbs before launch. I’ve already gotten a few ARC readers lined up, but I need more!

For ten lucky readers of this blog who email me here, I’ll send an ARC copy once I’ve gotten it from the publisher! Don’t really want to be an ARC reader but know someone who would? Share this post link with them! Know of someone who has a book review blog or podcast? Send me their info so I can contact them!

ARC readers are so vital to a book’s success! They’re our little magic elves who go out into the world and whisper sweet nothings about our books to others. 🙂

What else does it mean that I’m looking for ARC readers now? Well, that means that ESCAPE THE LIGHT is that much closer to production and release!!!

You want some more good news? Book 3, FIGHT THE LIGHT, has been submitted to the publisher! That means I’m finally happy with the draft and ready to get the process started on that one.

Also in me news, I got the first draft of the first novella in my paranormal romance trilogy finished and off to a beta reader this week! Book 2 in that series is in the works already, and I hope to have the whole kit and kaboodle done and released before the year is out.

Stay tuned for more!

7 Months, Nearly 70 Lbs

It’ been a little over seven months since I started my keto diet lifestyle change. I started at 287.9 lbs. Now? Now I’m hovering around 217-219 lbs, meaning I have lost nearly 70 lbs!

For some frame-of-reference pics, I’m going to remind you of how I looked before I started. Here’s a photo that I posted in this blog before I started keto. I had forgotten I even took/posted it, but I was scrolling through my blog posts last night and came across it. This is me, at my heaviest, when I started to get truly scared that my weight would kill me:

The robe covers some of the blob, but trust me, I was miserable. It took a lot of courage to post this online, for anyone visiting this site to see, but it was necessary. I had to look at myself, really look at myself, to have that kick in the ass that I needed to get started on eating better.

The next photo is from today. I’m wearing the same tank top (but no robe) and kinda sitting in the same position, so it’s a roughly accurate depiction of the difference ~70 lbs can make:

Okay, so I’m not “there” yet. I’m still overweight, still obese even (I believe–I don’t know how to calculate BMI), but just look at the difference! It shows in my face for damn sure.

I’ve hit the dreaded plateau–been there for weeks, actually–but I’ve been given a plan of action for cutting back more and adjusting my diet to try to break past it. Maybe once coronapocalypse is over, I might even be able to get out and exercise somewhere. Regardless, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made these past 7 months, and I hope I can get down to a truly healthy weight…and stay there.

I’ve made several non-scale victories these past months. I can put on socks without getting out of breath. I can get in and out of the car without wheezing. I’m out of the “plus” sizes and into regular-sized jeans and leggings. I have more mobility and flexibility. More endurance. I can fit places I couldn’t before. Lol It’s easier to put on my shoes. I can fence again. All of these make me very happy. 🙂

This might end up being a two-blog-post kind of day, because I’ll also have some exciting news coming up later today that is totally non-weight related, so stay tuned! There could be more to come 😉

Busy, Busy Bee

(As someone who has been allergic to bee stings since she was a kid, let me tell you how hard it was finding a photo of a bee that wasn’t total nightmare fuel! Lol)

This quasi-quarantine life is strange. The past two weeks, I’ve been off Tuesday and Thursday, so I have mini-weekends sprinkled through the week. I almost wrote this post about my day yesterday/this morning as though it happened over an entire weekend and not just twenty-four hours. I’m still not sure how to handle not being at work four to five days a week, every week, for up to forty hours a week. This barely-hitting-twenty-hours stuff is a load, let me tell you. Not just economically/financially (and it’s VERY much a load financially), but mentally as well. I don’t know how to be at home every other day, with nothing on my plate outside the house.

Not to say that I haven’t been working when I’m not working. I’ve been doing some new embroidery projects, editing/revising Book 3 of the Abnormal series, outlining my new paranormal romance novella trilogy (getting ready to start the actual writing soon–maybe my next off day?), overhauling my website, arranging newsletter swaps with other authors, playing with photo editing apps on my phone, reading, planning on a live reading of Chapter 1 of ESCAPE THE LIGHT (Abnormal Book 2)…all this along with the usual housework and laundry and what have you. I did a little of all of the above between waking yesterday and waking today, and possibly a little more that I can’t quite remember just now.

Maybe that’s why it feels like two days passed, not just one. I’ve been busy. Yeah, most of this has occurred on ye olde couch, but still, it’s a lot for one person to do in one day.

Today will be another “normal” work day, so I have to switch gears again.

I’m much more concerned about the ramifications of this COVID-19 outbreak now than I was a couple weeks ago. (Was it two weeks? One? I don’t even know.) The reality of it is hitting closer and closer to home, and while I’m still not terribly scared of contracting the virus, I am scared of having services like phone or electricity cut off or getting behind on the mortgage. We’re having to rejigger the bills and triage what HAS to be paid right away and what can wait and what we can pay a little bit on…so much weight, so little relief from the strain.

But really, what do I have to complain about? I mean, just about everyone’s in the same boat–or worse–and there are those who are more social and outgoing than I who are suffering from the isolation. I, for one, can handle the mental fatigue of being stuck home alone whenever not at work, but I’ve got lots of friends who are not doing so well. Some people thrive on physical contact with others, on being surrounded by friends and family, on the connections between people. I may not be one of them, but it doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize. Empathize? Whichever. I always get those confused.

It’s all so surreal. Sometimes I almost forget that life has been upended for 95% of the population. Even those who aren’t sticking to quarantine/”social distancing” guidelines are affected in some way or other, whether it be the fact that some grocery items are scarce or that they’re having to work from home now if they’re not considered “essential.”

I’m “essential.” So I get to go in to work. Yay? I mean, I’m certainly grateful that I still have a job, that I can still work, but I’m tired. So, so tired, and not in a physical sense. Mentally, this is getting to me.

I theoretically have an appointment with my psychiatrist next week. Standard appointment, the usual three-month checkup, but I can’t recall if psychiatry was considered one of the “essential” healthcare fields, and even if it is, my doc may have just decided to self-quarantine and wait this whole fucking mess out.

I hope not, because I’ve been having problems dealing, and I just can’t tell anymore if it’s a bipolar thing, or part of coronapocalypse.