Blog posts

Every cloud

This weekend has been nice. Low-key, home alone, and best of all: not sick as fuck.

I made myself retrospect a little too much, though. I was cruising Netflix, looking for something to watch, when I found a good movie. Silver Linings Playbook. Excellent flick, great acting….and maybe a little too real.

Being bipolar, I feel this movie on a visceral level. No, I’m not quite like Pat. Or Tiffany. Not really. I’ve never been hospitalized for my emotional state, never been that far off. But yeah, I’ve missed work over my mental state before. I’ve obsessed over failed relationships, I’ve written nutball letters/texts/emails to my exes, I’ve been the “backup.” I’ve slept around because my depression had me down, or because my mania had me horny. I’ve quit taking my meds more than once. So maybe I’m bits of Pat and Tiffany. I’m Piffany.

I’ve been doing okay for a while now. Well, mostly okay. I mean, I get depressed sometimes. I get manic. I’ve been on an embroidery kick this weekend, and I’m pretty sure it’s not completely deadline-induced. I’m probably manic. I mean, I’m tearing through these embroidery projects, stopping briefly to eat or go to the bathroom or take a catnap. But mainly I’ve been embroidering. To the point of dry skin and calluses on my fingertips.

The whole Pat thing happened to my brother a few years ago. Not the beating-a-man-almost-to-death thing, but the bad ending to a bad relationship that ultimately resulted in him being committed. I won’t go into it too much here, because it’s his story not mine, but it was scary to watch.

It was even scarier knowing that our great-grandfather died of psychosis. “Exhaustion in the progression of psychosis”–that was the CoD on his death certificate. He was so fucking crazy it killed him.

Since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before my brother was, I always assumed that was my eventual fate. Then my brother got diagnosed, and combined with his substance abuse issues he’s way worse off than me. He had his psychotic break in his mid-40s….the same age good ol’ Great-Granddad was when he died.

My brother didn’t die. We’ve got better meds now, better tech, better treatments. But guess what? This year I turn 40. Now, like I said, I’m not as bad off as my brother. So I’m not necessarily on a timeline here. The past doesn’t have to repeat itself. Maybe my brother’s incident was the repetition, and I’ll be passed over. Like the Christian thing. I dunno–I’m not the religious type. But maybe I don’t have to dread my mid-40s. Maybe I don’t have to go go go, to push myself so much, to worry about whether or not I’ll make it long enough to do the things I want to get done.

I want to finish my sci-fi series. I want to finish the collaboration I’m working on. I want to learn more about making garb and clothes and embroidery and get good enough at researching it all to become a Laurel. I want to learn more rapier techniques and practice enough to be good at them. And I want to lose this weight I’ve gained. I want so many things, and I think the back of my brain is telling me “You’ve got a few years left. Five, six max. You need to hurry up. You need to get your shit together while you have the mental capacity to do it.”

I gotta get that out of the back of my head. I gotta tell myself that there’s no deadline to insanity, that it’s not written. It’s not predestined. I don’t have to go crazy. I can stay sane, stay mostly stable, stay me.

I also have a secret weapon: my husband. Even if I do go crazy, I have him to keep me alive, to keep me from going so far down the hole that I can’t crawl back up.

That’s it. That’s my silver lining. That’s my ace in the hole.

Five or six years. I pass that, and I win. I beat history.

In the Stars

Well, that successfully jacked up my day.

Every author wants 5-star reviews, right? I mean, that’s the goal, isn’t it? Well, not like this it’s not.

Let me back it up a bit. As an author, I try to get my books into a select group of readers’ hands ahead of release, so they can read and review it. The process is called ARC (Advanced Review Copy) reading, and when it works, it works well. When it doesn’t work, however, the whole thing comes crashing down.

From my mood, you’d think I got a one-star review, but that’s not the case. I got that coveted 5-star from an ARC reader. Yeah. But at what price?

This reviewer posted the entire plot, including spoilers and twists, in her review. That’s right. No “Spoiler Alert,” no warning, just straight-up posted the plot. Posted MAJOR spoilers. Right out in the open on Amazon. And I have no recourse, no action I can take at this time. The only option I’m given is “Report Abuse,” and though I feel violated by this “review,” there was no actual abuse in it. Maybe literary abuse??

I’m beyond livid. I’m so pissed I could scream. I won’t, but I could.

My trust in the ARC process, in the review process as a whole, is broken. I wanted to believe I could trust the ARC readers to review with some modicum of intelligence, but this–this has shaken me.

What happens if another reviewer slips through who doesn’t understand how fundamentally harmful it is to the author to post spoilers like this? What if it’s someone I can’t conveniently message on Facebook to request an edit? What if a random reader, not an ARC reader but just a well-meaning reader, reviews something like this? I shudder at the thought.

I have to step back from this. Maybe today’s work day will distract me enough, or maybe I can occupy my mind in other ways until I’m less raw. Regardless, until this reviewer sees the message I sent, there’s nothing I can do. Even then, she could get angry at me for complaining about the spoilers and leave it up there. Or she could change it to one star out of spite.

I’ll take the one star if it means the spoilers go away.

A picture’s worth 50000 words

Look at the pretty new covers! Yeah, yeah, I’m behind on Hell’s Rejects, but look! Shiny and new!

Why the new covers when the trilogy isn’t even done yet, you ask? Well, it’s about marketing…and my severe lack of skill at such. You see, I didn’t do any market research about cover design when I made the original covers for the Hell on Earth trilogy. No, I just made “pretty” covers to match with the covers for the Bargains Struck trilogy–which also got no research. In other words, though I made unique and beautiful covers, I did not make unique and beautiful paranormal romance covers. Nope. I made … well, I’m not sure what genre of covers I made. Something that didn’t fit, I guess.

What does that mean for Bargains Struck and every shared-world cover I’ve made in that universe? You guessed it: new covers.

I got the Bargains Struck covers down, but next up is a slew of novella covers for shared-world books that are going into box sets in the coming years. Yep. I got some work ahead of me.

I’ll get back to Hell’s Rejects in a few minutes. Really. I will. I just had to type up a quick blog post as my “cover reveal” post. Handy, dandy, and efficient. This will post to Twitter and Facebook, after which I can easily share elsewhere. Yay, automation!

Here’s a quick look at the six covers as they are now:

Are they perfect? They are perfect for my skill level, I’ll say that. But they’re not $200 covers. They’re more like $20 covers. And that’s okay. Because they’re mine, and they make me happy. I can’t wait to order the four that have paperbacks out for my “Shelf of Narcissism” behind me in the living room. 😉

Now that that’s been said, it’s time to get back to work on Hell’s Rejects before I have to kick my own ass for slacking off.

Peen-alizing myself for procrastination

Why is there a miniature squishy peen on my laptop keyboard? Funny story…

The thing is, I have been floundering with my writing lately. I try, and I’ll have bursts of inspiration, but overall, I’m stuck. I can eke out about 1300-1600 words in one day each week, but if I’m to make my goal deadline and word count, I’ll have to step it up to make that my daily amount–and that’s not coming to me right now.

My WIP is currently in the hands of a fellow author who’s going to read it for critique and helpful hints. I hope I won’t have too much to go back and fix, but I also hope to get some good pointers for the flow and direction of the story after she’s done with it.

The good news? My early twist to the story caught her off-guard, so that’s a plus. It had the desired emotional response/impact, so score one for me. Now let’s hope the rest of the story holds up as well.

Could I still be writing while she reads? Yes, but that poses its own problems. If she has helpful hints or good plot ideas, I might have to undo everything new I write. Is that just an excuse, though? Eh, probably. I need to get off my butt and get inspired. Hence the peen.

Yes, I have a squishy penis jiggling on my laptop as I type. Since I’m writing high-heat reverse harem romance, I figure a little inspo couldn’t hurt. Besides, it’s kinda funny to watch it wiggle with each letter.

I’m going to get back on track. I’m going to push for the finale of this book. I’m going to finish. On time, at the desired minimum word count, so help me Gods.

It’s time to kick my own ass into gear and get my tail typing.

My books aren’t going to sell themselves. I have to write them to get them to sell. I have to write them, edit them, revise them, format them, and publish them. I have to get shit moving. If I need Percy the Peen sitting out in the open for that to happen, then so be it. Is Percy a good Peen name? I don’t know, but it’s what came to me. Might as well use it.

Percy the Peen. Inspiring and motivating since 2021.

Behind the times

Some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue. Today? Today I feel more like the statue.

I woke up, as usual, super early. I spent a couple of hours putzing around, then I started to get super sleepy. Kept dozing off on the couch, so I took my Adderall and made some coffee…and promptly zonked out again. I tried to force myself to drink the stuff to hopefully wake up, but yet again, I kept falling asleep.

Why does any of this matter? Because I had planned on getting some serious writing in this morning, and this drowsiness is word-blocking me something fierce.

I still theoretically could finish my draft on time, but not if I can’t pick it up soon. With my current word count goal and deadline, I have to write 1100+ words per day, on average, to finish on time. Sounds like a small amount, but when I’ve been averaging 0-300 words most mornings, it’s problematic. This draft is fighting me, and though I’m 77% done and on track story-wise, I worry.

I’ll get past this narcoleptic block, but I have to focus. If I want to be a full-time author, I need to be able to break past things like this. If a book gets delayed, that’s less income, right? Just like I can’t be falling asleep at the day job, I have to try to stay awake for this “job”–regardless of whether or not I currently am full-time at it. I have to take this as seriously as I want to be taken.

I can do this. I just have to focus. Stay awake. Get ahead.

Eleven days left to finish my draft. 1134 words per day to meet my ideal minimum word count goal.

Focus. Focus.

Stay awake.

Get ahead.

Maybe the weekend will give me the boost I need…

Drowning in Nothingness

I don’t think I’ve ever been this terrified in my short author career.

I have a deadline coming up. Now, theoretically, I have given myself until the end of February to finish. It’s just the fourth, and I’m 62% through my draft. But I have been stuck for longer than I have been in a long time, and it’s scary to think I might let myself down.

Things were going great. I was on a fucking roll during my month of quarantine for my husband’s COVID and my subsequent infection. I thought for sure I was set. I was so far ahead, there was no way I’d get behind again. Tricksy manic brain. Tricksy little bitch indeed.

It’s gotten to the point of panic and avoidance. I panic because I fear I won’t finish by the date I need to upload the preorder file. I avoid because I don’t know what the next words are. I’d rather scroll Facebook endlessly in misery than open that file and stare at the words that are already there, mocking me because they refuse to reveal their secrets. What’s going to happen next? I sure as fuck don’t know.

Let me amend: I know what’s going to happen in the next chapter. But only because I took someone’s advice to write out of order. Now I have the start of a chapter staring back at me, wondering how the characters got there because I haven’t written that part yet.

So I go back to the “current” chapter. And stare at that last, haunting paragraph. The one where the words stopped.

It doesn’t help me that my sales of my previous books have all tapered off. No new reviews, no new sales, just the occasional person who reads one of my books on Kindle Unlimited and then goes off to other things, never to read the rest of the trilogy–or anything else I’ve written.

What’s the fucking point? Am I writing only for myself at this point? Is there anyone who gives a flying fuck if I finish? Is there anyone who would even notice if I didn’t release book two or three of Hell on Earth?

I don’t even know anymore. I have a handful of people who I know like my writing, but otherwise? I’m flying blind. I can’t seem to wrangle reviews out of ARC readers, I can’t get friends and family to review–outside of the few known “fans” in my friend circle–and it’s all getting to be a bit much. I don’t know how other authors do it. How the fuck do they get so many people to read, review, recommend, repeat?? I don’t understand it!

My Impostor Syndrome game is strong right now. I feel like a fake, a pretender, a phony-ass nobody.

Who is “AJ Mullican, USA Today Best-selling Author,” anyway? Why should anyone care?

I can’t answer that. I mean, she’s a certified ophthalmic assistant. She’s a wife. She’s a daughter, sister. She’s a cat mom. She’s a so-so artist. And as a writer? Who the fuck is she?

I don’t know anymore. I’ve lost my fucking mojo, and it’s driving me mad.

This is what Coronapocalypse has done to me. It raised me up to unrealistic heights, and now that I’ve returned to the reality of my day job life, I’ve fallen farther than ever before. I can’t write anymore. I can’t think. I just go through the motions, hoping I’ll eventually break past this stupid block but fearing that I never will.

My life has been reduced to an Austin Powers meme.

The really sad part? The truly inhumane part of all this?

I can’t even cry about it. My mind is so fucking broken that I can’t cry out of frustration, out of fear, out of sadness, not for anything. Am I even fucking human anymore? Is this some fucked-up side effect of COVID? Or am I just so fucking beyond saving that I can’t even wallow in self pity properly?

I don’t know anymore.

I just don’t know.

And it terrifies me.

Hell’s Hunters Mystery Box Giveaway!!

Do you like prizes? Signed paperbacks? Swag? Well, then, do I have good news for you!

Now to February 9, 2021, I’m hosting a giveaway through Rafflecopter for a “Mystery Box” of goodies, just for following me on a few social media links! The giveaway is totally free, and the best part is you get a free signed copy of Hell’s Hunters if you win!

I’ve been working in secret on some fun swag and prizes for months now in preparation for this giveaway, and I can’t wait to get it all together for one lucky winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Just click on the link above and get to following. 🙂

I’m super excited for this release, and I can’t wait for y’all to see what Cherry and the Hunter brothers are up to! It’s been a blast going back to the world of Nowhere, North Carolina, where the ley lines are plentiful and the doorway to Hell is just down the road a piece. 😉 Here’s the blurbage:

Cherry Hunter thought life as a newly-changed wolf shifter with five hot shifter brothers as her mates was complicated enough. Little did she know what would be in store for her when the tall, dark-skinned stranger entered the bar where she worked.

Now, with a demon Prince’s pleas ringing in her ears, she has to convince her mates to take up the cause and help stop a literal Hell on Earth from coming.

The Hunters thought they were the biggest predators in Nowhere, but they’re about to find out that there are bigger, more dangerous monsters lurking in the tiny nexus town.

This paranormal reverse harem novel is intended for mature audiences.

As a bonus, I’m making the precursor to the Hell on Earth trilogy, Dealing with Demons, FREE on Kindle from February 9 through the 13th! That’s right, you can download the book prior to Hell on Earth for FREE February 9 through the 13th–even if you don’t have a Kindle Unlimited subscription!

So let’s see…. Free Kindle copy of Dealing with Demons, and a giveaway that includes a free paperback of Hell’s Hunters? Yes, please!

I’m still hard at work on book 2 in the Hell on Earth trilogy, which will be out March 16! More to come on that book as time gets closer to release. 🙂

Obstinate Characters, Fickle Muse

It’s funny, but also true. Sometimes, the characters take on minds of their own, and they want what they want regardless of the mood you’re in.

The problem is, I can’t write when I’m not jiving with the same mood as the characters. Right now, I’m sure my main character’s harem is knee deep in blue balls as I struggle to figure out what they’re going to do next. LOL

I’m sure I’ll beat my way past this block and get the scene written, but it’s frustrating when the characters insist on doing something you’re not in the mood to write. I mean, they couldn’t just … talk? Y’know, discuss the plot and move it that way. Except this is where the story’s going, and it’s where I have to follow.

I’ve learned a long time ago that beating my characters into submission does nothing for the narrative. If they say a certain type of scene is needed, they generally know what they’re talking about. I mean, they’re the ones “living” it, right? So if anyone’s going to know what’s what, it’ll be them.

I just wish they’d clue me in ahead of time.

While I’ll be glad to be out of this dreaded quarantine, I’ll miss my writing time. It’s back to the early mornings before work for me soon, and that means my progress will slow considerably. I’ve tried to adjust my goals and deadlines accordingly, but it’s still a matter of “Can I do this once I go back to work?”

Won’t be a choice, though. It’s gonna be write or die, as it were, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to lie down and quit without a fight. I’ll get this done–you bet your ass I wll–but it might take me longer than I had hoped.

At least I’m ahead. I had been aiming to have Hell’s Hunters to my editor two days ago, but it’s already formatted and uploaded for the preorder. Yep, I’m a full two weeks plus ahead of schedule, and that means the second Hell on Earth book, Hell’s Rejects, is well ahead of schedule too. I mean, I had been hoping to start it around this time, but I’m already almost halfway through. If today goes well–and my characters start to behave–I might end up halfway before the day is out.

Time will tell. Right now, time’s telling me I’d better get my ass moving if I’m going to get this shit done.

Let’s see if my characters behave better now that I’ve given them some cool-down time.

Positively Quarantined

Yep. It got me. The ‘Rona.

Last week, I was diagnosed with good ol’ COVID-19, right at the tail end of my quarantine period. I thought I would be in the clear, but just two days shy of being released from quarantine I developed sinus congestion, full body aches, severe fatigue, and a cough.

The cough didn’t last long, and thankfully neither did the body aches, but the sinus ick and fatigue are hanging in there, and I had a brief bout of weird but interesting sudden loss of taste and smell. Otherwise, I’ve felt almost normal. It’s odd, having this virus that’s caused so much worldwide panic and destruction but feeling so…me. I know I should be counting my blessings that, as an immunocompromised patient, I am doing as well as I am, and while I count my blessings, I also lament that I was just days away from getting the vaccine, thus weeks away from being more resistant to this whole mess.

Is this the way I wanted to get more writing time? NO! I would ideally have been back at work by now, but nooooooo, I had to contract the virus and end up stuck at home for even longer. Ugh! Talk about a mixed blessing. Now I have, let’s see, eleven more days of essentially uninterrupted writing. Wish that correlated to paid days of writing, but nope. Not for me.

Since I’m well ahead on the Hell on Earth trilogy, I’m trying to look on the bright side. I might–might–even finish Book 2, Hell’s Rejects, before I go back to work. If I can pull that miracle off, it’ll give me nearly three months to write Book 3. Weird how life works.

The only problem with this quarantine/virus is I don’t have the energy to push the marketing aspect like I should. Every time I even think about contacting Facebook groups or other outlets for some screen time, I just can’t summon the energy to do it. I just stare at the laptop, get disgusted with my lack of motivation, and dive back into my WIP to hide. If I could just push past that, I’d probably sell more copies!

Part of my hesitation stems from not knowing where I’ll be, work-wise, when the first Hell on Earth book releases. Will I be back full time? Probably, but if so, what will my schedule be? It’s not like I can check the computer at work, because, y’know, quarantine. Hell, they probably don’t know what my schedule will be. After all, I have to test negative before I can come back. And while I feel fine-ish now, who knows how I’ll feel in a week and a half?

Oh, well. Better to be thankful for what I can do and forget the things I can’t. Onwards and upwards with the WIP, and I’ll see how I feel the next couple of weeks!

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!