Party crashers and other fun

It’s day four of the new year, and I’m on a roll!

That’s right, Hell’s Hunters is going to be that hot. 😉 I finished the draft two weeks ahead of schedule, which means I got Hell’s Rejects started early. I’m excited to be ahead, but I know it’s only because I’ve been on quarantine. (Don’t worry, I was exposed but do not have COVID.)

I’m about 8500 words in on Hell’s Rejects, and so far it’s going great. I’ve got a good pace going, and even with distractions like Facebook and such, I think I might get a good head start before I go back to work Wednesday. I’m really enjoying the story, though part of it is turning in a direction I hadn’t expected. But hey, no one’s died–yet. *cue maniacal laughter*

Quarantine has been … strange. I can’t sleep in the same room as my husband, can’t get within six feet of him in our own home, and the cats didn’t know what to think at first. Now, though, they’ve adjusted to us being in different rooms, so they’re in for a rude awakening when I move all my stuff back to where it belongs and close the door on the guest room again. Bye-bye, half-of-the-bed-for-each-cat. Now they have to squeeze in by our feet again. LOL

I don’t know if it’s psychosomatic, but because of the quarantine and my subsequent cancellation of my infusion appointment tomorrow, my joints are extra angry this morning. I think they know I should be getting my med soon, but alas, won’t be for a little while yet. Probably another week, if they have an opening, or maybe more–I won’t know until the office opens and I can get ahold of someone.

Taking a brief writing break to get my newsletter together and do some other stuff, then I’ll dive back in.

Here’s to the new year, and here’s hoping I manage to keep on schedule!

2021 on the Horizon

It’s that time! Year-in-review / plans for the upcoming year post. 😉

My 2020 ups:

  • I started the year with hope. Writing was going well, things were looking up, etc.
  • Hit the USAT bestseller list with one of my novellas in an anthology!!
  • Wrote and published three more novellas and three new novels
  • Started another trilogy, with plans for releasing early next year
  • Began implementing a plan of attack for writing projects to help me keep organized

My 2020 downs:

  • … You know what? I’m not gonna list ’em. Why bother? They’re not what I should focus on.

My plans for 2021:

  • Finish writing, editing, and publishing my Hell on Earth trilogy
  • Finish writing at least one Abnormalverse novel, and hopefully help my publisher with the release of the second Abnormal book (they’re trying, I’m told, but the pandemic has ground their gears to a shuddering halt)
  • Write the half-dozen novellas I have planned for box sets, including an Abnormalverse prequel novella as well as a prequel novella set in the Nowhere, North Carolina universe and another with the potential to become the first in a series
  • Improve my marketing practices for my books
  • And whatever else comes my way

I know what you’re thinking: These are all writing-related goals and notes here. What about the other aspects of your life?

Here’s the thing: I’ve been having trouble separating the aspects of my life that exist outside of writing, and I think my first step in achieving that separation is to stop melding them all into one blog of verbal vomit that I unleash when I can’t seem to sort myself out. I need to make this blog more positive, or at least focus more on one thing (writing) as opposed to spewing whatever thoughts come to mind.

What does that mean for this blog? It may end up being more quiet than before, like it has been the past several months. I may make more of an effort to give writing-related updates, though, so it may become more active–who knows? I’m kind of doing a cleansing of sorts, a restart, so even I don’t have full knowledge of how this is going to work.

It’s going to be a year of change, but I hope for the good. I hope that my stats on Amazon will continue to rise, that my books will sell, my fanbase will grow, and I’ll be able to take what I learn from other, more successful authors and apply it to what I do.

Here’s to another year older, wiser, and happier!

Christmas in Quarantine

It’s Christmas day, and in all my 41 Christmases this will be the first where it’s just me and my husband the entire day. Oh, sure, Mom, Dad, and my siblings will come up to the back porch to get their presents, and they’ll bring some dinner by for us to eat, but no coming inside.

Not until our COVID tests come back, that is.

Yep. Hubs wasn’t feeling well, so he got tested. I got tested because I had some sinus congestion (turns out I have a sinus infection that I thought was just allergies). We have a day or two on his test results, two to four on mine. Fun.

I hope we’re both negative, of course, and I hope we get our results in time for me to go back to work Tuesday. Until then, however, it’s homeward bound for me.

I’ve slowly been playing catch-up on Hell’s Hunters, but it’s not going as smoothly as I’d hoped. Still, this weekend I should be able to get more written and whittle away at that word count goal of mine. My hope is that I finish the manuscript and the initial revision/edits by the middle of January.

At least I have the internet to communicate with those I can’t see in person. It sucks that I can’t leave the house to visit anyone, but them’s the breaks during a pandemic, I guess.

I hope everyone who reads this is doing well, and I hope your Christmas is a normalized as possible during this time.

Mental Blocks and Ticking Clocks

Is is time for my neuropsych eval yet? ‘Cause I’m kinda floundering here, and nothing much seems to be helping.

Yeah, I have a pending neuropsychology evaluation in a month and a half. A month and a half of wonder what, if anything, is truly wrong with me, or if I’m just a spacehead.

I’m not looking forward to the almost-inevitable change or increase in meds. I mean, if I’m having true “memory problems” and not just spacing from some benign, innocent reason, that’s disturbing. Don’t really want to find out I’ve got some serious neurological deficits going on here.

At the same time, I almost do want it to be something serious. A reason for why I can’t remember basic things, or why I can’t focus on tasks that I need to do. Slap a diagnosis on it, tell me what to do to treat it, and get on with life. Right? Or maybe it won’t be that simple. Maybe even with a codable ICD-10 diagnosis I’ll still be a flake.

One thing that won’t be “fixed” by the eval: my current writer’s block frustrations. I have deadlines, and a whole book due to upload February 5th. Seems like plenty of time, but that’s not taking into account time to finish, send off to the editor, receive the edits, and fix the problems the editor finds. That needs to be done before the upload, so my actual deadline is a few weeks prior to the upload deadline. Fun.

Then, of course, while the book’s at the editor, I’ve gotta get cracking on the sequel, which is due for upload March 12th. Yeah, I set myself up for this. I wanted to play around with Kindle Direct Publishing’s new series feature, so of course I set the release dates for my Hell on Earth trilogy back-to-back. I didn’t leave myself much wiggle room for getting stuck, so I’ve gotta break out of this funk fast, or I’ll be screwed. I’m 33% into what I’m planning on being a 70k word book, with two more to write right after. Yeah. Fuck.

Because of my troubles with memory and focus lately, I’ve backed out of several anthologies I had previously signed up for, which is a bummer. I wanted to get those stories written, but for now I’ll have to pick and choose which ones I sit down and write and which ones I shelve for possible later consideration. I just can’t churn out at the rate I’d been hoping for, and it would be career suicide to even try at this point.

That’s right, I said “career.” I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in the medical field. I don’t even necessarily want to spend the rest of my life in a “day job.” I want to write, to use an app on my phone to log my hours and set a writing schedule and be productive and successful. I’m a long, long, long, long way off from that, though, mental blocks or no, so I guess it’s a nonissue right now. I’m stuck where I’m at, and I can’t get out any time soon.

Not that I’m necessarily treated badly at the day job. For the most part, my coworkers are great, and I know I’m valued. Still, it’s not what I want to do for a living.

I have to quit sucking at marketing my books and bust past these blocks if I’m gonna achieve what I want before retirement, though. I might just have to end up writing in spurts, here and there, until I hit the golden 65 (or, more realistically, whatever age my body just fucking gives up) and can pull from my 401K while I dream up new worlds.

That reality there scares me. The inevitable slow decay of my sanity as I toil away in a dull, uncreative job that doesn’t allow me the time and dedication to give to my writing that I so desperately want to give it. I have to survive, I have a husband and a home and a car and bills that have to be paid, and none of that will be funded by my writing as it currently stands. I have to get better at it, or I have to leave it as a pipe dream, a bucket list item to pursue when a day job no longer is feasible.

The truly sad thing about all this? I’ve almost lost my ability to cry about it. I’ve just grown so numb to my situation that I just can’t even have a good cry, not even when I’m feeling my lowest. It almost seems like I can only cry when directly confronted with my failures as a human being by someone else. Me? I know myself. I know I’ve failed time and time again. Confronting myself doesn’t evoke anything other than disgust. No tears. Bone dry.

I’m trying to look up. To see hope in the future. I mean, I’ve got plans for creating my own swag/merchandise. I’ve got plans for this current trilogy, plus a few novellas in the same universe, plus another series down the line, plus the Abnormalverse is still very much a thing, even if it’s kind of set to the side while production on Book 2 is still halted. Lots of pluses, but my brain sees only negatives.

Time alone with my thoughts just makes it worse. When I can’t focus to write, I end up falling down a rabbit hole of introspection, which is a dangerous thing. Thinking can lead to feeling, which can lead to any number of tragedies. Depends on what the feels are, and sadly, I can’t predict what they will be.

It’s times like these–times when my mental health wavers–that I remember my great-grandfather. I’ve seen his death certificate. “Exhaustion in the progression of psychosis.” In that era, he could’ve had any of a number of mental illnesses, including the same bipolar disorder that plagues me. Is that all that’s wrong? Am I just bipolar, or is there something else lurking beneath? Will the bipolar disorder lead to an exhausting psychosis, or will it just swing back up to “semi-normal” for a while, teetering on the edge of insanity?

Maybe in a month and a half I’ll find out.

Maybe.

If I last that long.

Are you ready for Hell on Earth?

Hell on Earth has officially begun! Well, in my head at least. In my head, and on my computer.

I started Hell’s Hunters less than a week ago, and I’m already over 10,000 words in. I’m hitting a good stride, and I love the flow so far. I even went so far as to set the trilogy up for preorder a little early! (Books 1 and 3 are available for preorder, but there’s some technical difficult with Book 2 being stuck in a certain part of the process, so I have to wait to hear back from customer support on how to fix that.)

I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me if I’m to make the preorder dates I put in, but I’m confident that I can do it. I just have to focus. Focus, and fix Book 2’s technical issue.

It’s exciting to “see” the established characters from the Bargains Struck trilogy through each others’ eyes. Cherry, an only child, is baffled by Elena and Callie’s sisterly dynamic, though they’re just acting the same as they did in Dealing with Demons. I kinda love experiencing my own characters through the other characters’ perspectives.

It would help if I’d stop getting distracted. LOL I just fugued out for a minute and was playing with graphics instead of, y’know, working on the story. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, but sometimes I wonder. LOL

I’m excited to bring my readers back to Nowhere, North Carolina, for this apocalyptic event!

Ravenous

I’d like to say I’ve just been hungry.

I’d like to say I can stop any time I want.

But who am I kidding?

I eat because I’m home alone.

I eat because I’m bored.

I eat because I’m frustrated.

I eat because I’m depressed.

I eat because I don’t know what the fuck I want to eat.

I eat for every reason except hunger.

I’m not hungry.

I’m actually quite over full.

I still eat.

I can’t even claim that I’m trying to stick to keto anymore,

Because my low-carb quantities are not so low.

I ate a whole carton of low-carb ice cream in under a day.

Because I wanted something sweet.

Because I wanted something cold when I was hot.

Because I wanted something.

I don’t know what my soul is ravenous for.

I don’t know what will fill it.

Not cheese.

Or eggs.

Or coffee.

Or pickles.

Or peanut butter.

Nothing.

No food can fill this void.

But what can?

Maybe if I find the answer,

I’ll be able to stop.

But until then,

I guess I’ll just keep eating.

Switching Gears

For the past six months or so, it’s been a slew of romances for me, writing-wise. I have churned out three novellas and three novels, all romance…and now that I’m back to the Abnormalverse, I’m finding it hard to get back in the dystopian/sci-fi frame of mind.

Example one: I almost wrote a detailed sex scene in the first chapter. Okay for a romance sequel, sure, but for characters in the middle of a dystopian war? Yeah, no. Had to go back and rework that chapter, plus add in at least one more, before I can let sexy fun times happen.

Example two: I’m skipping over important details and such when it comes to the war, which is not good. Yes, it’s good to have character development, but I also need to set the scene for why the characters in question need to develop.

I’ll get back into it. I’ll get back my voice. I just have to focus.

Problem is, sneaky depression and anxiety are creeping up and choking me at the moment. They come hot on the heels of my manic completion of Dealing with Demons, and they suck. I can’t seem to motivate myself to really buckle down on this new WIP.

Remember the cool barometer my word count tracker made for DWD? Well, check out this WIP’s tracker:

Yeah, I had a couple okay days once I finally got started, but…..yep. See that flatline there? Or the spattering of days where I got less than 400 words in? Yeah. That’s the depression and anxiety.

I’m hoping the work-related anxiety eases up a bit after next week. I’m still “in charge” for six more weekdays–well, five, I guess, since I have an off day next week–then the real clinic manager is back from maternity leave. I. Cannot. WAIT. I’m so exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m just fucking drained.

Life-related anxiety probably won’t settle down for a couple of weeks still, too. I have some diagnostic testing to get done next week. Probably nothing major, but there’s that nagging “What if” part in the back of my brain that won’t shut the fuck up. Seriously, brain. Stop.

The good thing in all this is I have some great accountability partners, and hopefully this weekend we can do some international Zooming and get some progress on our collective works-in-progress. We’re all stuck to some degree, and we hope that by encouraging each other we can get unstuck. Or something. Anyway, it’s good comraderie. (My computer is telling me I misspelled that word. I don’t care if I did.)

Clare, Eli, and Harper had better get their acts together soon. I have words to write and stories to tell.

I write to halt the demons in my head

I write when life is boring

I write when life is tough

I write when my emotions are soaring

I write when I can’t feel enough

I write to escape the daily grind

I write to vacate reality

I write to immerse inside my mind

I write to maintain my sanity

I write for all these reasons and more

I write to fill my soul

I write because my real life’s a bore

I write to play a role

With words I can be anyone

With words I can be someone else

With words I can be all and no one

With words I can find my true self

With words I can dismiss the bad in life

With words I can enhance the good

With words I can let things pass me by

With words I can temper my mood

With words I can build such high towers

With words I can dig such deep holes

With words I can summon great powers

With words I can other minds mold

When I write, all the things have more meaning

When I write, I don’t feel quite so dense

When I write, I find strength even when leaning

When I write, all my muscles unclench

When I write, the world falls away

When I write, a new world begins

When I write, I can have my own way

When I write, I banish all sins

When I write, I build and I form

When I write, I create from the void

When I write, I abandon the norm

When I write, I feel overjoyed

I wish I could write every day

I wish I could write all night long

I wish I could write for the pay

I wish I could write to right wrongs

I wish I could write all my feelings

I wish I could write all my words

I wish I could write to bring healing

I wish I could write and be heard

I wish I could write for a living

I wish I could write for my bread

I wish I could write what is missing

I wish I could write ’til I’m dead

Giving a Voice to My Characters…and Others’

Well, I have officially auditioned for my first narrator job. It’s with my publishing company, but not for one of my titles…yet.

My good friend and fellow author Angelique Jordonna enjoyed my live read of the first few minutes of her first novel DANI that she asked me to audition. She actually asked a few times. Okay–a lot. She bugged me until I finally did it.

If it works out with DANI, I might venture into narrating my own novels. But which one to start with? I could always start with WHISPERS OF DEATH, but I have so many now! Maybe I’ll start with PACT WITH THE PACK, to kick off the HELL ON EARTH series that’s starting next year. What? You haven’t heard about HELL ON EARTH? That’s okay–you will. 😉

FED BY THE FAE releases tomorrow, and I’m both excited and anxious. The preorder numbers have been low in comparison to my last two releases, but I also have been kind of slacking on promotion. I’ll have to ramp things up for DEALING WITH DEMONS, the third BARGAINS STRUCK book, which ties all three books together in the end and leads into HELL ON EARTH.

Yes, being the cover fanatic that I am, I’ve already designed the covers for all three HELL ON EARTH books! You guys are in for a steamy, action-packed, wild-as-fuck ride in this trilogy. And, of course, as with the BARGAINS STRUCK books, they are all reverse harem stories.

Before that, however, I need to finish the fourth ABNORMAL book, which I started last week. DEAD CITIES RISING is the follow-up to FIGHT THE LIGHT, which has been accepted by RhetAskew Publishing but not been through edits yet. I’m a rebel, though, a wild card, and I’m gonna just write the next book before I see what changes the publisher wants on Book 3. LOL!

I hope hope HOPE that ESCAPING THE LIGHT gets released this year, but the signs are not good. 🙁 Apparently the editor assigned to get the manuscript formatted has been, er, tending to other things. In other words, she took on a job with a publisher but is prioritizing her own personal clients’ work, despite the fact that I am, technically, a client of hers through RA. Kinda annoyed, especially when I see her hawking her services in multiple author groups, but I keep my mouth shut. That’s not going to help matters, I’m sure, if I pitch a fit.

Well, I guess I should get myself ready for either writing or making up graphics for release day or….something productive. LOL

Tricksy Brainses

“No shit, there I was…”

…That’s how some tales start, and that’s kinda how this one begins. I finally had a day off from work to finish my latest draft, a whole day with few interruptions and near-total focus. When I cranked out almost 20% of a novel in just over twenty-four hours, I just assumed it was the lack of Day Job Stress that attributed to my productivity. I figured hey, I get a day off and my Muse can breathe!

Guess what?

It wasn’t necessarily the Muse.

Nope. That tricksy brain of mine was on overdrive, deep in a bout of mania that’s probably been ongoing for months, if I take the time to step back and assess my symptoms.

Yeah, my brain tricked me again. Made me think I was doing well, that I was hanging on okay, that I was getting by. But alas, my brain lied, and, after a visit this morning with my psychiatrist, I have to up one of my meds and see if that helps.

I should’ve known. The endless nights with five hours of broken sleep (or fewer), the almost-daily panic attacks, the way I churned out three novels in less time than it usually takes me to muddle through half of one–all the signs were there. My brain just played a little game of keep-away with the symptoms, distracting me with that mania-fueled euphoria to convince me I was really okay and not in the full throes of an episode.

Not that I was euphoric the whole time. No, you see, with bipolar disorder, you can sometimes get “mixed” episodes. That means you get all the revving up of the mania combined with the crushing depression, simultaneously! Isn’t that grand?

It’s too bad I cleared out the final graph of my word counts for my latest project before I wrote this, because it was basically a literal graphic depiction of my mental health over the course of the past couple of months. The picture was fascinating. I’ll show you a partial picture, a screenshot taken before I finished the draft, but sadly, I don’t have a picture of the FINAL graph, the one where I typed over 11,000 words in a little more than a day. Take a look at my assessment of my mental state over time:

It’s kind of fascinating, from a psychological and academic standpoint. Looking at the graph through analytical eyes, I can actually visually see the points where I was either too depressed to write or too exhausted from my day job’s stress–or both at once. I can also see the points where I was hyperproductive, where I’d power through whole chapters in a single bound and then some. It’s cool, in a creepy way. It’s like, my writing productivity can be almost a barometer for my mental health.

Might be worth making a note of this for later. Y’know, snap a screenshot of my graph every so often to see if I’m mentally stable or all over the place. If I was a more scientific or intellectual person, I might conduct a self-study.

A few days ago, October 10, was World Mental Health Day. You’d think with all the memes and posts about it coming across my various social media feeds, I would’ve figured things out sooner. Maybe with my new “mental health meter,” I can “see” episodes coming sooner and mitigate the damage.

The brain can be a tricky thing. It plays games with you, makes you think you’re doing okay when maybe you’re really not.

Pay attention to your mental health, folks. Don’t let something this massive sneak by when you can do something about it.