Inside and Out

Smiling means you’re okay, right? Being still and quiet means everything’s fine…right? Except when it’s not okay, when it’s not fine.

Oftentimes, for someone with chronic anxiety attacks (in this example, we’ll use me), the outside does not match the inside.

Let’s take right now. I’m sitting here at my laptop, outwardly calm as can be, but inside? Inside, a storm rages. Inside, my heart races. My chest hurts. My mind is in turmoil. Inside, my gut roils with might-bes or could-have-beens or even won’t-ever-happen-but-the-idea-of-it-coming-to-be-terrifies-mes. Inside, I wanna puke. I wanna do something to rid myself of this torture…but aside from taking my anti-anxiety med (which I already did–hours ago), there’s nothing to do…nothing beneficial, anyway. Trying not to think about it isn’t working, trying to distract myself with other activities to keep my mind occupied isn’t working, and y’know what else isn’t working?

Me.

Yeah, I called out. I rarely call out from work, even if I’m not feeling the greatest, but after forcing myself to work through dozens of these attacks, I realized this morning that I just can’t today. I can’t torture myself by dragging my ass into work and sludging through potentially eight or more hours of this nightmare.

Could I put on a “happy face” for the patients? Probably. But that’s not going to take away the inside problem. The core of the issue. All it’s going to do is escalate to the point of–well, I don’t really want to think where it’ll end up if I keep pushing myself.

I kinda want to cut. Just a little, just enough to bleed and release some of this tension. I’m not gonna. But I want to. I think if I pushed myself today, I might have done just that.

Tomorrow morning, when they open, I’ll probably call my psychiatrist. See if there’s anything that can be done that I’m not already doing. New treatment, maybe? Change of meds? I don’t know. Something.

What brought on this epiphany of self-preservation? What made me break my cycle of just grinning and bearing it and dying a little more inside each time? I think maybe it was the realization that yes, I am killing a piece of myself each time I do that. Each time I put on the happy face (or at least the “I’ll be okay” mask) and trudge on through those doors into eight hours of manic panic.

Not to mention, panic + surgical mask that’s a little claustrophobic + hectic work environment = AAAAAAAAHHH!!!! (<– That’s a scream of terror, btw.)

I don’t plan on doing this often. Calling out, I mean. I have no control–yet–over the panic attacks. They come when they come, and they last how long they last. Going on five or six hours now, if anyone’s keeping count. And it’s barely eight a.m.

Maybe my doc will have some ideas tomorrow. I’m almost half tempted to listen to the CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) crap that I’ve discounted in the past. Y’know, the ol’ “think happy thoughts and you’ll be happy” shtick. I’m still quite skeptical when it comes to that, but desperate times call for crackpot measures sometimes.

Gonna take some time to sit and embroider for a while. Maybe the repetitive, mindless activity will calm me. If not, at least I’ll be sitting still and not raising my already-skyrocketed heart rate.

Why I only use my initials for my “pen name”… and why it’s the only pen name I’ll ever use

”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Let’s talk pen names, shall we? Some authors don’t have one. Some have several. Me? I technically have a “pen name,” though it’s just my initials instead of my full name, so it’s still my name. I use it because it’s a smidge more professional-sounding, and because it gives my author “persona” a slight delineation from my normal self. Otherwise, though, I don’t really hide who I am when it comes to my writing. I am me, and AJ is me, and that’s that.

Now, as a multi-genre author, that can be a sticky wicket. I mean, the whole reason some authors use different pen names is to delineate the genre they’re writing in. One name for YA, one for romance, hell, sometimes one for each subgenre of romance. Me? I don’t write YA–period. I just can’t be bothered to censor myself that much. LOL It sounds crude, but my characters are adults, and they speak like adults. They’re mostly younger adults, so yeah, they curse and use inappropriate phrasing and what have you. They’re also often in rather adult situations, and I’m not talking about voting or drinking alcohol. Dystopian sci-fi, paranormal romance, rom-com, I don’t care what it is, odds are my books are going to have sex in them. Graphic sex. Anatomically-correct sex. Sometimes violent sex, sometimes sweet sex, often dirty sex. Sorry, pearl-clutchers, but I rarely fade to black.

Now, since I established this from the get-go with Whispers of Death, I’m not too worried about it. I mean, if you can get past the scenes in Whispers of Death, you’ll do just fine with my other books. For the most part…Let’s just say I don’t shy away from any aspect of sex, good or bad.

Most of the sex I write is good, but sometimes the sex is harsh. That’s life; take it or leave it. I’m not going to apologize for it.

Now, sex aside, let’s say I randomly decided to write, oh, a modern-day psychological thriller. No supernatural/paranormal stuff, no sci-fi aspects, just plain ol’ everyday thriller. Am I going to spend hours picking the perfect pen name to go with that? No! I’m just going to keep on truckin’ and get the story down. Who has time for the pen name shenanigans when the Muse has spoken?

I get that, for some authors, they’re afraid of stalkers and the like. They don’t want their real names “outed,” or maybe they don’t want their friends and family to know the kind of stuff they write. Okay. That’s fine–for them. For me? I am who I am as an author, and I’m not going to back down from that. If I get a stalker (ha-ha, like that’s gonna happen), I’ll take the necessary legal measures and move on with life. As for my friends and family? Hell, they’re some of my most staunch supporters! They’ll purchase my new books before any “fans” who don’t know me, regardless of the amount of sex or whatever other content is in there.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned convenience, and I’ve mentioned the sex, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of my pen name: deep down, at my core, I’m a narcissist. I want my name on all of my work. I want people to know that I wrote X, and that I’m damn proud to have written X, and what better way than to slap my own name on it and let it loose upon the world?

So there’s my story. I am me, I am AJ, and I am not going to become anyone else for the sake of censorship, genre, or anything else. If that pseudonym stuff works for other authors, cool. As for me, I’m gonna stay me.

Wide Open

Well, I’m not sure what kind of effect this will have on sales/etc, but I’ve decided to go “wide” with all my self-published books. What does this mean? It means instead of only being available on Amazon, they’ll be up for purchase (or preorder) on Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Wal-Mart (Kobo) as well.

Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve heard a lot of good things for authors about “going wide.” Also, I’d like to get my books seen by a wider audience. If that means breaking out of my safe little Amazon bubble, then so be it.

As a consequence, however, I have to take my stuff out of the Kindle Unlimited program–which means, for Pact with the Pack, I had to pull the preorder on Amazon. Which means, I lost my preorder privileges on Amazon for, like, a year. Which sucks, but I didn’t want to wait until September to implement this if possible. So, for those two loyal souls who have already preordered, I’m sorry; you’ll have to order again when it goes live. You’ll be refunded and stuff but yeah, it won’t go live on Amazon until it actually goes live-live.

I had to email Amazon to try to get the other two self-published titles, Whispers of Death and The Mage Asylum Trilogy, removed from KU (they’re both in until mid-August or mid-September right now). If I can, they’ll be available on Nook and Kobo soonish. If not, then it’ll be the middle of next month/September, respectively.

I’m still going forward with my writing. I’m still going to do a mix of traditional/small-pub and self-pub. But I’m finding a new way to go about it. And to be honest, I wasn’t getting many page reads on KU, so I don’t think people were purchasing/reading on there anyway. Kind of a waste to keep them exclusive to Amazon when I’m not seeing the return on that.

I’ll keep up with updates here and on social media as they come across. So, for now, be patient with me. I’m trying to do things on my own (with the help of a very supportive author community I’ve fallen into) as much as I can, and this will help me, I think.

Here goes nothing!

Regressive Progression (Or, I can’t stop playing with graphics apps when I should be writing)

Pact with the Pack is at the editor, and it’s up for preorder (release date September 15). So why is the second in the series, Fed by the Fae, sitting stagnant?

It might be that I’m just burned out after churning out three novellas and a novel in such a short time frame for me. Or, it might be that I’m a tad distracted. I’ve been making promotional graphics and cover designs instead of writing, you see, and I think I’m hooked.

Pretty, right? Catchy? But it is not working on Fed by the Fae, which, from looking at the tracker I have set up on StoryOrigin, is only 68% complete. That means I have a full third of the story left to go, and I have no idea where it’s going. Ugh.

I’ve written 612 words in the past week. Week. I just can’t focus. It sucks, because I really want to get this trilogy out this year. Then I can move on to other projects that I have lined up–of which there are plenty to choose from!

I’m hoping I can get in gear soon. Maybe I’m just at a weird place in the plot, and that’s what’s stalling me. I’m hoping it’s not outside stressors that are dragging me down, because I don’t need that mess.

Been a hot minute since I last made a blog post here, too. Just haven’t been “in the mood.” Maybe I’m depressed. I didn’t think I was, but who knows? Maybe my emotions are swinging downward and I need to boost them back up. So….maybe the fact that I’m writing this post now means I’m on the way back?

Oh! I also did a little pick-me-up thing today! Check these out:

Hubs and I got coordinating Gallifreyan tattoos (my name on him, his name on me)! We’d planned to get them as our 6th anniversary present to each other–last year–but it didn’t happen until today. Gods, I love getting a fresh tattoo! Makes me feel great. Now I’m on number forty-something-and-one. Maybe fifty by now? I dunno. Guess I’ll have to take the time to sit and count…one of these days. 😉

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to aim for more writing before the hubby wakes up. I’m going to get as much as I can get down, good or bad, so I have something more to work with. I think I had a semi-decent start with those 612 words yesterday during my lunch break, but I gotta get up the motivation to open that file back up and type.

Off to Market

Publishing is fun. Creating stories, creating people and situations and entire worlds, winding stories together, weaving words….

The business side of publishing, however, sucks.

Okay, maybe there are some business-minded types who enjoy that side of publishing. I, however, am not one of those types. I know how to tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook…but managing the media accounts, interacting with my followers, and garnering new followers? Yeah, I suck at that. Then, on top of all that, you have to maneuver social media while you write your next piece! What the actual hell??

For instance, I just spent the last half hour recording a reading of my new pre-order for an indie art/author show. I could have been writing, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to get the first few pages out there in the wild for others to hear.

I still have other marketing-ish things to do this morning as well. There’s the list-aiming box set that I’m part of…gotta get some fresh promo material made up for a new wave of social media posting, plus find some newsletter swaps for the next month or so. Then there’s my new release from last month, which hasn’t gotten much love lately. Oh, and of course, my new pre-order. Gotta market that, too. Sheesh!

Also have the day job today. Can’t forget that.

I keep telling myself that one of these days I’ll have it all down. I just wish that day would come sooner.

Future’s Tense

Is this really what it’s come to? Are egotistical, bull-headed celebrities the only choices we’re going to be left with?

First, it was the whole sexist-orange-bastard-ruling-the-country scenario that somehow came to be. Then, just when I thought the joke was over, it kept getting worse. Now, with the coming of the Age of the Apocalypse (a.k.a. the shit show that is 2020 A.D.), we’ve got another megalomaniacal rich boy who thinks he can run things. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse than the hell we’ve been living the past 3 1/2 years.

Many of you might not know that the premise of the Council in Abnormal came directly from the Clown-in-Chief. When I was picturing the Old U.S. of the future, I tried to theorize what type of government we might end up with, if things kept along the path they’re on right now. I got to thinking, “What if these rich assholes just keep taking over? What if rich ends up equaling powerful? What if rich equals ruling class?” Thus, the governing oligarchical Council was born.

What’s an oligarchy? Well, good ol’ Miriam Webster has it all laid out for you:

Definition of oligarchy

1: government by the few
The corporation is ruled by oligarchy.
2: a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes
a military oligarchy was established in the country
alsoa group exercising such control
An oligarchy ruled the nation.
3: an organization under oligarchic control
That country is an oligarchy.

Okay, so #3 is kind of one of those definitions-that-use-the-word-in-the-definition, but you get my (and Miriam Webster’s) drift. Small, corrupt group in charge. That’s the Council, and that’s where my mind saw the 2016 election fiasco leading us.

Fast-forward almost four years, and look: another rich idiot wants to take charge. Still just one person, right? Except for some strange reason, Elon Musk is backing him. That’s a slippery slope, because Musk has shittons of money, and he could easily be pulling good ol’ Mr. West’s strings. If that happens, we have a couple of things potentially happening: a second money-driven rule, and a merging of technology and government that could easily lead to a Council-type situation.

It’s like they’re writing the prequel for me.

Do I really think West could win? If you’d asked me four plus years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face. Now? Now, I worry.

For almost four full years now, I’ve been ashamed to be an American. I used to take at least a little bit of pride in my country, a little bit of patriotism, but now? Holy shit, now I wish I had the resources to go buy a private island and create my own little sovereign nation. I couldn’t do much worse, right? I mean, as long as I had electricity, internet access, and Amazon delivery, I’d be golden.

Dreams such as that are fleeting and unattainable, however. I’m stuck here in this back-asswards nation, living in some fucked-up reality show where we’re pretty sure there are hidden cameras but we can’t find them, and where we half expect Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell us we’ve been Punk’d.

Hell, most of us probably are praying that we’ve been Punk’d.

Will this new development become story fodder? Abso-fucking-lutely. I’m not letting a gem like this slip out of my grubby little mitts. My Abnormal prequel story, which has yet to be written, now is churning away in the back of my brain, plots swirling about. I almost wish I hadn’t “jumped forward” as far in time as I did with Abnormal, because I can see the dystopian future rising much faster than my original “timetable” had it. I can still make it work, though. Just gotta get it all straight in the ol’ noggin.

I’m not super hopeful for the future. In fact, aside from trying to predict how the future world of Abnormal came to be, I really don’t want to think about it too much, at least not in a national or global sense. Let me have my little microcosm of AJ’s Future and keep The Big Picture out of my mind.

Unless, that is, I’m plotting…

Progression on multiple fronts

So, while Fed by the Fae is still stalled (for the most part), I did make progress on several other projects this morning, and, though minor progress, it’s got my creative gears in motion.

Recently, I was invited to a Facebook group for authors interested in participating in themed box sets. I’ve been in a few boxed sets so far, and they’ve been fun, so I joined to see what all the hubbub was about.

I’m now signed up for nine box sets, only one of which I already have a story for. That means eight novellas to write! Good thing they’re spread out between now and late 2022. Lol I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me, because though novellas don’t take me as long to write as novels, I still have to do all the work.

My little OCD self has already designed covers for the eight unwritten novellas, (the ninth will be an excerpt from Abnormal, with just the first 14 chapters), and I’ve gotten 6 out of 8 started on the planning stage of things. I’ve got a title for each of them as well, so once I get to each novella’s “turn” in the lineup, I’ll be good to go!

Now, all this added work doesn’t mean the Abnormal series is gone by the wayside. No, as soon as I’m done with the Bargains Struck paranormal romance trilogy, I’m going to get back to Book 4 and start that sucker going. I might even end up being one of those authors who has multiple works-in-progress going at once. I may need to become one of those authors, because I keep taking on more and more and more! LOL

Maybe that’s what Fed by the Fae needs–a little break while I dive into something else. Maybe I’ll start Book 3 of Bargains Struck, or maybe I’ll get Abnormal Book 4 going, then go back to FbtF. We’ll see.

I’m excited that I have made progress (even though it’s not on the story I most want to finish). Creativity can be a fickle bitch, so I’m extremely grateful for what little creative energy I can summon in this crazy time.

You’ll definitely be seeing more of my writing in the next couple of years, that much is certain. Most will be paranormal romance, but there will be a prequel novella to Abnormal in among the others, which will have little to no romance in it. That one’s setting up for the Abnormalverse, and though it’s one of the two I haven’t started planning yet, I’ll get to it soon enough.

In order to get organized with my newly-busy author self (and in preparation for the SCA eventually opening back up for events on the weekends), I ordered a bigger planner from Amazon. This one’s standard letter-sized paper, with bigger areas for writing down events/deadlines/notes/etc. Plus, I couldn’t resist the cover:

LOL It certainly fits my transition from pantser to plantser!

Here’s to a great, productive couple of years coming up, and to many more!

Mindset

Okay. I’ve gotten a few hundred words written in the past week. That’s my worst word count rate in probably close to six months, if not more, and it worries me.

I have a lot on my writing plate, between the trilogy I’m currently working on, the ongoing Abnormal series, and the multitude of novellas I’ve signed up to put into anthologies. With all of that, it’s a miracle that I’ve got any creative energy left! I have to keep on trucking, though, and I have to find my pace again.

I’m close to a breakthrough on my current active WIP, but it’s that almost-there-but-not-quite/evasive kind of close. I know what needs to happen, but not the words to get me there.

I wish I could blame it on returning to the workforce, but to be honest, it started a little before that. Maybe I burned myself out on the wolf shifter RH novel I churned out in a little over a month…or maybe it’s just my frame of mind. Either way, I need to get back to it.

Little distractions are hindering me more than they should, too. For instance, I often find myself in a semi-fugue state, scrolling Facebook mindlessly for hours without realizing that I’ve stopped interacting with my WIP–and with reality. That nasty little habit has to be stopped, or at least mitigated somehow, because it’s not helping anything progress.

There! I just fucking did it again! I swear, I was focused on making this blog post, but next thing I know, I’ve been on Facebook for ten minutes. Ugh.

Maybe once I get the planner I ordered in the mail (should be here Wednesday) I’ll be in a better frame of mind because I’ll be better organized. I’ve found that I need some kind of structure when I’m writing, even though I started as a freeballing pantser. I guess this pantser-turned-plantser is evolving and mutating into a hybrid, a pantser with planner tendencies.

Guess I should quit bitching and chase down this ghost of a plot bunny that might get me back on track.

To the Google!

Back to the grind with lots on my mind

As I sit and try to mentally prepare to get ready for starting my fourth week back at work after the five weeks of doctor-ordered quarantine, I find my mind full of a swirling mass of stuff, muddled and heavy.

First off, my new release, The Mage Asylum Trilogy, started off strong the day I put it up for preorder, as you can see below:

Into the top 50 of the paranormal erotica new releases within hours of the preorder going live. That quickly slid down–but the next morning, I had been bumped by other releases–but I have the evidence that it was there. I managed to get 19 copies sold the first day it was live (most preorders), and I’ve had some say they want to order the physical book. I jacked things up with the release, though, because I didn’t realize that Amazon wouldn’t let me put the paperback up for preorder, so I ended up with a clusterfuck mess of “Oh, shit, the paperback is live now but the ebook won’t be live for weeks! I’d better adjust the ebook live date and–oh, for fuck’s sake, now I have to change the date of the release day party I’d planned, plus change ALL my promo stuff, plus….” Yeah. It was a hot mess.

Then, in the midst of that whole fiasco (along with now being back at work), the pace has picked up with one of the two USA Today Bestseller List-aiming box sets I’m part of. I had to suddenly get X number of preorders from X retailers and set up at least one newsletter swap for our “push day” (not the release day, but a day when our publisher has decided to make a push for more sales/contacts/exposure). Add another thought to the swirling mass in my head.

Oh, and speaking of box sets…..Yeah, I kinda signed up for three more of them. None of the new ones are list-aiming, and none are due before July of 2021, but that adds three works-in-progress to my ever-growing list. There are two more sets that I want to join, but my wallet says “NO!” You see, if you’re not in the publishing world you may not know, but these sets are generally not free to join. It’s not a huge amount, but each author has to pay a buy-in upon acceptance into the set to help pay for production costs. Cover design, formatting, ads, that kind of stuff. It’s perfectly reasonable–and it adds up. I can’t add the two new sets I want to join, which makes me sad, but I have to stop myself at some point, I guess. I suppose I could go ahead and plan stories based on the theme, to release on my ownsome, but….No. Better stop myself now.

Work is work is work. Stress weighs on my shoulders for 7-8 hours a day, and then I get home and spend the next couple of hours before bedtime shrugging that weight off. I spend the weekend decompressing, then come Monday I’m back to it all over again.

I’m still plugging away at Book 2 of the Bargains Struck trilogy I’m working on. Book 2 is slow going, partially because of the abrupt halt in speed from being back at work. No more long, languid writing days at home; now I have to ration my time again, and that has an effect on the creative flow.

The one aspect of my life that still remains quiet is the SCA side of things. I have done some clothing adjustments during this quarantine/social distancing/no in-person events time, but not as much as I delusionally told myself I would. I have two dresses resized and taken in to my new, smaller frame, both embroidered, and one tunic top with new trim sewn onto it (that still needs to be taken in). Perhaps I’ll work harder at those and let Book 2 sit in time-out for a while. Maybe that’s what it needs.

Let’s see, what else? Father’s Day is coming up; gotta find a gift idea. (Dad usually doesn’t have much that he needs/wants, so that’ll be fun.) Sister’s birthday is next month, too, though that might be easier to find something for.

I guess that’s about it. My brain can’t find anything else at the moment, anyway.

I’ll get back on track. I know this is Week Four back at work, so I should theoretically be back on track by now, but give me a break: I’m not used to five weeks of peace followed by a rapid-fire reintroduction to the workforce.

Soon things will settle down. I’ll be okay. I’ll survive.

It’s what I do.

Life spins me right round, baby, right round

Oh, great. It’s that time again.

My mind is racing. Heart’s pounding. Everything’s on fast-forward and slo-mo at the same time.

Hello, Mania. We meet again.

I think I caught it quick this time. I took something (that is prescribed for me to take during the day) to calm me down before I go crazy at work today. Can’t be manic like this and then go into a busy doctor’s office to work 7+ hours. That doesn’t jive–it’s a recipe for an hours-long anxiety attack for sure.

Did I miss a dose of something? Don’t think so. I think I just got excited at a writing breakthrough, and my mind rode the wave past the breaking point. I’m still on that damn wave, and it’s quickly growing into a tsunami of emotional energy.

I might call my doctor tomorrow morning before work. See what he recommends. I mean, I’ve been noticing more of these manic episodes slamming into me lately, so it’s probably a good idea to call him, even though it’s a month before my next appointment. Besides, I’ve been on the same antidepressant for years and years; maybe it’s time for a change.

On the plus side, I had a writing breakthrough this weekend! I’m now a little more than a third of the way through the current WIP of import (powered through ~4200 words over the course of about a day and a half), with a growing list of “gonna write”s piling up. I’ve tentatively joined two more boxed sets, one of which will have a story that takes place in the Abnormalverse, and I’m almost halfway through the Bargains Struck series’s first drafts.

I’m excited for The Mage Asylum‘s release next month, too. Twenty-three days, people! I’ve gotten giveaways set up for it, as well as games and stuff for the virtual release day party. I don’t expect the party to be well-“attended,” but I’m hoping the people who do show up have some fun.

Part of my mental backlash could be the release of tension from my unemployment for the three weeks I was without work or pay finally coming in. It was a huge weight off my shoulders, so with my spirit being so much lighter, it probably contributed to the new emotional state I’m in right now.

Still over half an hour until I have to leave for work. That means this bursting-at-the-seams feeling has a little more time to cool down after that pill. Good.

Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to do to distract myself from the feeling until then. I’m all ready for work, just have to kill time.

I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of that Spoon Theory deal right now. You know the one. Here’s the quick and dirty Google/Wikipedia search definition, in case you didn’t know: “The spoon theory or spoon metaphor is a disability metaphor, a neologism used to explain the reduced amount of mental and physical energy available for activities of living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness.”

Basically, people are given a set amount of “spoons” with which to cope with shit, and when you run out of “spoons,” you run out of energy. I was chatting with a friend the other day, and I joked that I have three of those little sugar serving spoons for tea, and that’s it. She agreed, and she said that I use them for work, home, writing. Well, shit. What about mental health? Physical health? Non-work/writing/home-related activities? No wonder I was so tired when the SCA was having activities; I had used up my spoons and was running on empty all the time.

I gotta find a place to purchase more spoons. Or trade mine in for bigger ones. Something.

Anyone got any old spoons around they’re not using?