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.

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.

Listing in the right direction

Well, the numbers are in, and so is the official “verdict”: Wicked Souls: A Limited Edition Reverse Harem Romance Collection has made the USA Today Bestseller List!

What does that mean for yours truly and the Abnormalverse? Well, a couple of things, actually…

First off, I get bragging rights. I mean, yeah, I was one of dozens of authors in the anthology, but still–USA Today Best-seller over here!! Check out that beautiful Facebook frame on my profile picture:

I earned that! I’m still blown away by it, but yeah, that’s me!

Another thing about this list accomplishment: the Abnormalverse now has a USA Today Best-selling story in it. Fuck yes!

Oh, and the best part? We at Wicked Souls made motherfucking history with this set! How is that, you ask? Well, we just happen to be the first-ever completely reverse harem anthology to make the list. First. Ever. Let that sink in. Not only did we do the thing for the first time, but the hope is that we’ve paved the way for other reverse harem authors and sets to get up there and hit that high note.

Did I maybe log onto my computer almost the second I got home and add “USA Today Best-selling Author” to every single solitary cover file I’ve got on my laptop? You bet your sweet ass I did! Did I post in numerous social media outlets about it? Fuck yeah I did! Am I done adding that USAT accolade to all the things? Nope. Not yet. There’s still my Amazon author profile, Goodreads, Bookbub….I’ve got my work cut out for me!

It looks damn sexy on those covers, too….Just check this out:

*Sigh* So, so pretty.

That reminds me, I gotta hop on over to Amazon and update some covers in the system…

I’ll be giddy as fuck for a while over this! Lol

Laying it on thick

There are people you consider friends. There are people who are more acquaintances.

Then there are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the “friends” who will publicly shame you on social media for not accepting their hashtag “challenge.”

Just tagging me in that post is a form of bullying, of laying on the peer pressure to achieve your desired agenda.

Well guess what?

I ain’t playing that game.

That’s right. I’m not going to post this ridiculous hashtag because someone decided to tag me in their post. What do I have to prove, anyway? And WHY did this person decide I needed to prove it? Are they trying to insinuate that if I don’t do their challenge then I’m automatically a terrible person? Because I’ll tell you, regardless of my personal political, moral, or ethical stance, my primary reaction to being pressured into something, to being pushed, is to push back.

I won’t post the hashtag. Not here, not on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I have nothing to prove. If you think that lowly of me, then you clearly don’t know me.

I’m trying not to let my knee-jerk anger goad me into something more heated than this post. I want to call out the bully, to share the shame, but I won’t. I simply untagged myself and hid it from my timeline.

I have had a bad day. The last thing I need is to be accused, directly or not, of being a bad person on top of my shitty day.

I’m not posting that hashtag. Make of it what you will.

I didn’t ask for the tag. I never have asked to be dragged into political agendas.

You can claim it’s a human rights issue, you can claim whatever you want, but pressuring and shaming people to elicit a desired response is damn near as despicable as the one they’re condemning. (And that’s saying a LOT.)

Aiming High

Well, here goes nothing!

Today’s the release of the first list-aiming box set I’ve participated in. I’m excited, but nervous, but excited…but also nervous.

What is a “list-aiming” set, you ask? Well, it’s simple: a bunch of authors get together, write stories around a central theme, and then they put it on a long pre-order and promote the ever-living hell out of it in the hopes of selling enough copies to make the USA Today Bestseller List.

What does that take? A few things: at least 5,000 Amazon sales, and at least 500 sales in at least two different non-Amazon platforms.

Are we there? Not yet. But it just released today, and there are tons of marketing dollars in the works promoting this puppy, as well as authors galore, and a few personal assistants. From what I understand, the first week after release is crucial to the success of the set.

This set opportunity kind of fell into my lap. The editor-in-chief at RhetAskew, my publisher for the Abnormal series, joined the set, and she thought the theme–All Hallow’s Eve reverse harem–fit with the now-dubbed Abnormalverse. She wanted to co-write a novella with me that takes place in the Abnormalverse to put in the set, and thus Witching Hour: The Stroke of Three was born!

Witching Hour is just one of more than thirty stories in the Wicked Souls anthology, but it’s one that I’m proud of. It was my first foray into reverse harem (hell, it was the first I’d ever heard of reverse harem!), and it was the beginning of an expansion of the Abnormalverse beyond just the core series.

My only issue is that, due to COVID, RhetAskew has had a lot of slow-downs in production, which means that Escaping the Light, the second Abnormal novel, is delayed…and Witching Hour takes place after the events in ETL.

Cue facepalm.

Okay, so Witching Hour has some spoilers in it…Oops. By the time I realized ETL wasn’t being released until later this year at the earliest (possibly next year), it was pretty much too late to do a total rewrite. It is what it is, I guess. I mean, I don’t blame RhetAskew, because they’re a small publisher and they have limited resources to work with. It’s just gonna be spoiler-y.

Speaking of spoilers, I suppose I could include a little teaser here….Y’know, a little incentive to click on the Wicked Souls link and help a sister out, right? 😉

Here goes:

Vinnie’s in tears as he tries again. “Please, Ky. Let me take it. Sam and Hal can fix you up, and I’ll take this to Eli. I’ll get it there, I promise; I won’t dump it somewhere in the desert. I’ll get it to Eli or die trying.”

“No! I don’t want you to die, Vin.” It’s my turn to cry, but I’m not sure which pain is worse: the physical pain from my injuries, or the emotional pain at the thought of Vinnie sacrificing himself for me.

There’s rustling and rattling going on while Vin and I argue, and I don’t realize it’s the sounds of Hal rifling through the medkit until he injects me with something.

…[What was that?]… I ask. …[What did you give me?]…

“It’s anesthetic,” he says aloud. “Carol’s trying, but she’s not alive; her telepathy is as ethereal as the rest of her.”

My muscles release some of the tension they’ve been holding; I struggle to maintain my grip on the stasis pod. Vinnie takes my wrist and tugs, but he’s too distraught to break my hold. We end up tangled together on the ground, broken and sobbing, and I wish I could tell him it’s going to be okay.

It’s not going to be okay, though. I’ve failed. We’ll never make it to Eli in time now. There’s only one thing left for me to do.

I open my eyes and look up at the desert night sky above me. Even with the light of the full moon, the stars are visible. No clouds or smog out here to obstruct my view. I take slow, deep breaths until I think I’m stable enough to move.

“Vin,” I say, “get out of here. Take Sam and Hal and go.”

“I’m trying. You won’t let go of the pod.”

I try to keep my voice firm but soft. “I didn’t say ‘take the pod and go.’ I said to take the others and go.”

Want to know what’s going on? Buy the Wicked Souls anthology now, for just 99 cents, and get reading!

T-Minus 30 minutes and counting

Well, here goes. In half an hour (give or take a few minutes), I’ll be on my way to the day job to be “in charge” for the next six to eight weeks while the new clinic manager is on maternity leave.

“Dread” seems too mild a word for what I feel. I mean, I know we have a good, hard-working team for the most part, but I just have this uneasy feeling that something major will go wrong at some point. Something I will have to handle, something that will crack my facade of competence.

On top of that, I’m starting a new rheumatology treatment tomorrow. Infusions, which will be an hour long, in a location that’s an hour and a half from where I live and work, and, yeah, I’ll have to drive straight to work from these infusions when I’m done. One tomorrow, one two weeks after that, then either monthly or every two months depending on how things go, I guess. Eight o’clock check in times each time, to ensure that I can still make it to the office in time to get some work done.

Some say change is good, but this seems excessive. I mean, new work routines on top of new treatments on top of all the things I’ve already got going on…It’s gonna be a lot.

My hope is that I maintain my sanity throughout this time. I think if I can just hold on through the maternity leave, I can tough out most anything that’s thrown at me. Or something. Regardless, a lot is riding on my ability to handle this time.

Will I be able to keep up with writing during this time? Maybe. Will I be able to keep to my self-imposed deadlines? Gods, I hope so. I have been having a tendency to nudge my deadlines back a week or two at a time when I get stuck, and I know that’s going to bite me in the ass sooner rather than later. At least I’m 1/3 of the way through the latest novel, with one more novel after, then it’s a string of novellas that I’ve got lined up. Those tend to go rather quickly.

I have a couple of embroidery commissions in the works, plus at least one for-fun project, but none of those have 100% set timelines yet (and one doesn’t even have a design or materials yet). So I am putting the stitching on a back burner until A – I have my latest deadline met (or beaten) or B – One of the embroidery deadlines moves up before one or more of the writing WIPs.

I’m enjoying my current WIP, but I’ll be glad to have it done next month and be back to the Abnormalverse. I think I’ll reread the second and third books to refresh me, plus all my copious notes for Book 4, before I dive back in. I want to be sure I don’t write in someone who’s dead or magically reattach a vaporized limb or something stupid like that. Continuity is a thing, after all.

Well, time to finish getting ready. Off I go into the wild.

Let’s hope I don’t get eaten.

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen…

Some people just don’t have the time to sit down and read. Some people prefer to hear the story read to them in an entertaining manner. Whatever the reason, coming soon-ish (like, early 2021, I’d say), I’ll be starting production on turning my self-published books into audiobooks!

Why so long a wait? Well, for one thing, I have to learn how to edit the stuff I record. LOL But also, I’m going to be taking on extra responsibilities at work for the next two months that will take up a lot of my time (not to mention add to my stress), and I want to give this project the proper time and dedication. I won’t start recording in earnest until Thanksgiving weekend at the earliest, and I’m giving myself at least a month or two to figure out how to edit my oopsies.

Yep, you read that right: I’m going to be doing the narration! If it works out, I might even do a few for my publisher. I’ve already been given the offer to audition for the next two Abnormalverse audiobooks, as well as another title from my publisher.

There will definitely be a learning curve. Thanks to the live readings and video recordings of readings that I’ve been doing lately, I am better at reading my writing out loud. I don’t rush it like I did the first few times I did live readings, and though I still stammer and stutter and occasionally stumble over my words, that can be edited out.

I’m not sure which title I’ll start with. I was thinking of starting with Whispers of Death, as that was my first novel, but who knows? I might do a newer title instead. We’ll see.

I’m excited for this new potential creative outlet, but I’m also nervous about it. Near crippling social anxiety has made me leery of performing in front of people, but since I’ll be locked away in our guest bedroom for these recordings, I think I’ll do okay. I won’t even have to put on makeup!

I’ve got almost two whole months to get ready. To psych myself up.

I can do this!

The Big, Bad Wolves Are Coming…

Just two more days until Pact with the Pack is live!!

Okay, so maybe less than that for the paperback, depending on how fast or slow Amazon is with publishing it. LOL I realized that tomorrow was just going to be too crazy with work to spend the proper time formatting, so I went ahead and formatted/submitted the paperback version today. Not that people who buy the paperback will get to read it any sooner, but…..eh.

I’ve heard from a couple of ARC readers already, and so far, reviews are good. One author even went so far as to say that I made her feel like an amateur! I’m still kind of blown away by that one, but hey, take the compliment, right?

I can’t wait for the paperback to be approved, so I can order my author copies, some copies to sign, and some for giveaways/etc.

I don’t know why, but the excitement is real no matter how many books/novellas I put out. It’s like, I wrote this. This story came from inside me, and there are people out there who want to read it.

Blows me away every time.

I’ve got some final little things to get ready for the big release day “party” on Tuesday. I’m having a great group of authors do some hour-long takeover blocks in my Facebook group, Mullican’s Maniacs, and the lineup is pretty sweet. Check this list:

Some may be familiar names, some may be new to you, but they’re all great people, and that’s what matters. I’m super excited to see what they have in store! I’ll go head off to get my own posts ready…see y’all there!

Off-the-rails but still on track

As a creative type with bipolar disorder, I’m intimately familiar with the fluctuations in creative drive and inspiration. After spending months on hold with all things creative as my last book, Fed by the Fae, mocked me with its stalled state, I broke through my block and powered through to The End, and now I’m almost a quarter of the way through the next book, Dealing with Demons. If I can write a little over 1500 words a day through the end of the month (which really isn’t all that much), I’ll be on track to finish Dealing‘s first draft and move on to the draft of the fourth in the Abnormal series.

Except….

Now I’m back on an embroidery/garb kick. I want to make new Viking garb for myself and my husband, and I have a few things I want to embroider as well.

Oh, crap. Here comes the ADHD/bipolar whirlwind of flitting between different pinpoints of focus.

I really want to finish Dealing on time. I am determined to get these three books out by the end of the year, and with Pact with the Pack releasing a week from tomorrow and Fed by the Fae in temporary time out before primary edits and revisions, I’m on track to meet that goal.

But–but–but–there’s also a cup cover I’m planning to embroider and make for a friend. And a commission for another friend’s elevation. And I have been meaning to make another apron dress and underdress using some really nice fabric I have. And…

Damnit. Focus, AJ, focus!

I haven’t written anything yet today, but it’s still early. I have time to get my 1500+ words in, and since it’s a holiday that has my office closed, I have all day in which to write them. Hell, I might even pass 1500 and just write until I’m at a good stopping point. Or I might take a nap. Who knows?

I’ve also got a last-minute webcast to record. (It had previously been scheduled to record a couple weeks ago, but life happened. Long story.) I enjoy the webcasts, but it’s getting harder to fit them into my schedule. The ol’ day job still has me by the non-balls, after all, and that won’t change any time soon.

Well, I guess if I’m going to stay on track with anything, I need to stop blogging and get doing.

The Good, the Bad, and the Frustrating

The Good: I’m a chapter and a half away from finishing my latest WIP (maybe even a day or two before my 3rd self-imposed deadline!)…and I couldn’t be more relieved that things are turning out. I somehow wrote myself out of the mess I’d gotten myself (and my characters) into, and now it’s just a matter of tying things up and setting it aside to simmer before I go back and edit/revise before sending it to my official editor (good ol’ Mom) before MORE edits and revisions.

The Bad: Work is about to explode in the worst way, with one manager leaving and the new manager who’s taking over being gone for over two months–leaving me in charge during that time.

The Frustrating: When I found out about the outgoing manager’s departure, it was kind of a slap in the face, because unlike last time the position became available, I was given no opportunity to apply or interview for it. None. Zero. Passed right on over, do not pass Go, do not collect any career advancement, straight on to your normal daily life. Except for the taking over for the incoming manager’s maternity leave.

That part wouldn’t be so bad, except I was reassured multiple times that it would be a three week deal. I thought that sounded odd for maternity leave, but I don’t have kids, so what do I know? Then, after turning in a request for time off for a few days for my husband’s birthday and repeatedly checking the schedule to see if it had been approved, I discovered the actual duration of the maternity leave…which plows straight through hubby’s October birthday all the way until after Thanksgiving.

Couldn’t someone have said something when I turned in the request? Y’know, something along the lines of “Hey, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to be the supervisor during that time. We just can’t spare you.” That would’ve been better than the “Uh-huh” and blank stare that I received when I turned in my request. (I might mention that I turned in the request twice, but the first request I guess got lost or something? I don’t know; I know I filled it out and put it on the current manager’s desk a couple weeks ago, and I know I never was given anything stating that it was declined, but again, the days off were never put in the schedule…hence the re-request.)

I just don’t get it. Why drop the bombshell that I’ll be in charge but not be promoted, spend all that time reassuring me that I’ll have people around to help out when I am in charge for those three weeks, only to extend my time at the helm without saying anything and deny my request for time off without a word?

I’m trying to hold things together. Keep my wits about me, keep my emotions as level as possible. It’s going to be a tenuous two months, that’s for sure. Some days I’ve been barely holding on as-is, before all the changes. Now? Now I won’t have the “luxury” of calling out if my anxiety is through the roof and out of control. I’ll have to buck up and go on in. No mental health days for me. No chance for a breather. And no telling what other changes await when I go in today. Monday. The week after.

I’ll survive it–I think. But it’s going to be rough.