Blog posts

Did anyone catch the number of that train??

I had trouble figuring out which project to work on after work tonight, so I made a list of what I need to get done this week…..and I have paralyzed myself with the sheer amount of work I have to get done!

It feels like I got run over by a freight train, and I have no clue where to start. There’s the draft of Fed by the Fae that needs to be finished ASAP, the line edits for Pact with the Pack that need to be done, the recording to do tomorrow for the GoIndieNow channel, the takeover of the Askew Ever After social media outlets this Saturday, the second, LIVE GoIndieNow stream Sunday, and, oh, yeah, my freaking day job…which has an added meeting this week that I’m dreading.

The day job stuff, at least, I can’t do outside of work, so there’s that. But where to begin on all the other stuff??? I have to get at least 471 words a day written on Fed by the Fae through the end of the month to make my latest deadline; the line edits should be quick, but they require more concentration than I have in me right now; I have to prepare for the discussion on the recording tomorrow; I need to make up graphics and think up things to share/do for the takeover; and I’m sure there’s something I should be doing for the live stream, but my fried brain can’t think of what.

I don’t know when life got so overwhelming, but it took me off-guard. So much to do in so little time, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m kinda freaking out about it a little bit.

The little daydreamer corner of my brain wishes the writing-marketing-promotion stuff was all I had to worry about. Even when I’m at the day job, all the little writing-related things I have to do are bubbling in the back of my brain, nagging at me.

Too bad I suck at selling books. If I could just sell enough to make a semi-decent income, I could drop to part time. Or quit. But that’s a pipe dream of epic proportions, one that’s completely out of reach.

In times like these, despair hovers just below the surface. Am I destined to be less-than-mediocre? Will I ever find my footing?

I don’t doubt my writing ability; that’s solid. It’s the business side of it that scares the shit out of me, and that’s the side that I can’t afford to get help with. I can barely afford the bare bones things. I used birthday money to get business cards printed and to get some stickers made as promotional materials. I used some of it to send out giveaway prizes that I hadn’t set aside shipping money for yet. I should have used more of that money to set up ads in various places, but aside from a couple small Facebook ads, I’ve never done that, and the thought of it is daunting. So I ordered a lighter with my logo on it instead. Because damnit, it was my birthday money. I wanted to get something for me with it somewhere along the line.

(I mean, c’mon…with a tagline like “Words that ignite,” why wouldn’t I want a custom lighter?)

Of course, there’s also the two list-aiming box sets I’m in. The heat is rising on both of them as one nears release and the other struggles to gain ground. I had been hopeful that I would be able to get that coveted “USA Today Bestselling Author” title with one or both of these, but that feels like it’s slipping through my fingertips.

“Failure” might be too strong a word for how I feel about my writing career, but it’s inching closer and closer to that.

Maybe it’s partly Coronapocalypse. Maybe this whole pandemic insanity has just fucked the economy that bad. Maybe it’ll pick back up after a vaccine is found and the cases start dropping–or maybe it won’t. Maybe I’m destined to stay in my dead-end job, with no hope of advancement and less hope of escape.

Should I add “search Indeed for something else” to my ever-growing list of “shit I gotta get done”? I don’t know. All I know is this: the one thing I really want to do, the on thing I had a taste of during my quarantine, isn’t enough to sustain me. It’s not enough to get me where I need to be, and that means slaving away, hating myself a little more each weekday, taking more anti-anxiety meds just to make it through the days, trudging in to the office and counting the hours/minutes/seconds until I can clock out and go the fuck home.

Well, this post has rambled on to a worse train wreck than the GIF I posted at the start of it! I’m glad I have this informal writing outlet to counterbalance the more structured creative writing projects I’ve got going on. Maybe I need to use this outlet more often!

It’s dinner time, anyway. Then some TV to unwind. Then time to crash like the proverbial freight trains.

One year away from the answer to life, the universe, and everything

Well, it may not be a milestone year, but it’s my birthday yet again! Forty-one years today, and I don’t feel too bad about it.

Have I accomplished everything I’ve wanted in life? Well, no, but I’m not done living. Have I accomplished more than I thought I would? Absolutely! I never thought I’d really be an international bestselling author. I never thought I’d have as many books and novellas published as I do now. I never thought I’d be traditionally published. All of those are great accomplishments, and not too shabby for finding my calling late in life. Sure, I’m struggling with the marketing aspect of it all, but I’m clawing myself up tooth & nail to get out there and get known.

Did I meet my self-imposed deadline for Fed by the Fae‘s draft? Um…no…but I’m okay with that. I’ve been pushing myself too hard on that, and I need to slow my roll and figure out where things are going there.

I work a half day today, and I have a doctor’s appointment (that reminds me, I need to verify if that’s a phone appointment or if I have to go in…), but I still plan on treating myself to something nice with the birthday money my in-laws gave me, as well as hanging with my family for dinner. A nice, chill day, for the most part.

I suppose I could fluff this post with introspection on the last 41 years. I could wax philosophic on how I’ve grown as a person and all that jazz.

Or I could just say “Happy birthday to me” and leave it at that. LOL

Have a great day, everyone! I’m hoping to have a good one myself. 🙂

Time off from being off

Okay, remember my plan to get some writing done this weekend? Y’know, so I can get my draft finished by Tuesday?

Yeahhhhhh… That didn’t happen.

I’m not upset, though. I’ve had a fun weekend so far. My husband and I took Friday off, we had a leisurely start on our trip to Tucson to visit with friends. We did some window shopping (and some regular shopping), and then we stopped at our friends’ house. A nice dinner out (socially responsibly, of course), and some drinks before bed.

Then yesterday I slept in so much that I didn’t have any time to really get into writing before we went on an adventure to the mall for arts and crafts (with wine).

I painted a sugar skull style design on it. Took me HOURS, but I had a load of fun, and I’m so grateful that my friend recommended the place (and paid for my art time and my drink). Here’s the result:

Not perfect, but I’m happy with how it turned out, so that puppy’s going on my wall when we get home.

There was some more shopping (and unnecessary spending of money), but again, it was fun. We came back to our friends’ house, bummed around, had an amazing dinner, and swam in their pool for a bit before playing a card game and having dessert.

So, was this weekend wasted? I don’t think so. In a couple of hours we’ll go run some errands, then it’s home again for laundry and stuff before we go back to work Monday, but overall I think this weekend getaway was a good thing for my mental health. I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time.

So what if I don’t finish my draft Tuesday? I’m enjoying my pre-birthday time, and that’s what matters.

I just gotta remember to let myself be me sometimes.

Deadly Lines

Quarantine is a double-edged blade, it seems.

When I was stuck home, off-work and ordered to “avoid human contact,” my writing was on fire. I knocked out three novellas and a full novel in those five weeks, plus started another novel. Now that I’ve been back to work a couple of months, though…

…I’m still on that second novel, with a little under 10k words left to my 50k draft goal. *Sigh*

Muses can be damned inconvenient. I’ve reset my self-imposed deadline twice now, and each time it ticks closer, rather than pushing to meet, it I freeze and shove it in the corner of my mind. Not productive, that’s for sure.

Part of it is the fact that I am, indeed, back to almost full-time day job work, so that’s 30+ hours less of productive time during the week. When I was stuck at home, I used my ~8 hours of “work” time on weekdays to write. I’ve got a time keeper app that I used to “clock in” and “clock out” every time I started or stopped working on writing. I limited myself to eight hours a day max because my husband was upset that I was spending so much time writing, so out of respect for his concerns I cut reigned it in and did other things when he was off the clock. (My husband works from home, so there was no way to write only when he wasn’t around, except for my usual few stolen hours in the early morning while he sleeps.)

Part of it is just plain writer’s block. It’s like the floodgates were open so long that I drained the levy, and now I’ve gotta wait for a few good monsoon rains to refill it before I siphon off again. Which sucks, but I’ve tried damn near every method that’s been thrown at me to break through, and still I feel like I’m having to physically wrestle this damn draft out of my mind.

I’ve got a three-day weekend this weekend–taking an extra day today in honor of my upcoming birthday–but I’ll be visiting with friends for much of it, so there goes that time. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll be glad to see them and hang out. I just know it’s that much less time that I can spend on this draft.

Despite all this block, I’m still determined to draft, edit, revise, and publish all three novels in this trilogy before the end of the year. Things are looking hairy for the 3rd installment, given that I’ve only gotten 541 tentative words written on that one, but I don’t want to give up. I want to get this writing going, get productive, to push myself and achieve all that I’ve set out to do in the coming years.

Deadlines suck. They’re stressful and maddening, yet I have to set myself some structure if I’m going to do this author thing on a more regular basis.

Will I ever be able to be a full-time author? At this rate, no…but if I can find the magic formula for maintaining focus while working full-time and having a marriage and socially-responsible social life, then maybe, just maybe, I can have the career I want, not just the one I fell into.

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.