Blog posts

Back to the grind with lots on my mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s what I do.

Life spins me right round, baby, right round

Oh, great. It’s that time again.

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

Hello, Mania. We meet again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken Doll

The world is in chaos. The country is in shambles. People everywhere are rallying to their cause of choice. Lines are being drawn. Choices made. People are making a stand, for good or bad, for what they believe in.

Except for me.

It’s not that I don’t care about what’s going on. It’s not that I don’t have feelings one way or the other about what has happened and what continues to happen. But I just can’t seem to make myself care enough to take action.

This isn’t the first time the nation has been in outrage while I sit at the sidelines, silent. It probably won’t be the last. And it makes me wonder if something inside, some part of the human brain that makes such caring possible, isn’t a little broken.

I don’t feel to the depth that others do, especially not about matters that don’t directly affect me. It’s like I’m detached, separated from the reality that’s happening around me. Like an out-of-body experience. I’m there, but I’m not here. Or maybe I’m here but not there. I guess it all depends on where “here” is, and your frame of reference.

I’ve got friends who are going to protest tonight. They’re marching to the police station. They’re rallying. Bringing water and snacks and everything. Me? I’m going to go home from work and crash. Change out of my scrubs. Get on the couch. Open up my laptop. Cruise the internet, or maybe write. Who knows. But I just don’t have it in me to care enough to want to march for the cause.

Does that make me a bad person? Am I terrible for not wanting to go join them? Or is it just that broken part of me that can’t be fixed by normal means?

I may never know for sure. That little bit of doubt is enough to make me feel a little bit bad about it, but not to make me get up off my ass and affect change.

Maybe someday there will be a cause that will light that fire inside me. Maybe I’ll find the cause to rally behind.

Or maybe I’ll just always be broken.

Oversaturated

I’m not a political person. Really, I’m not. I’m a head-in-the-sand person. Duck and cover, hide away from the bad, and focus on the microcosm of my own little life.

It was depressing enough with all the COVID-19 bickering. Wear a mask, don’t make me wear a mask, non-mask-wearers are idiots, mask-wearers are sheeple, blah blah blah. Now, with the Floyd George tragedy and the resulting explosion of politically-motivated violence and rioting, even in my microcosm I can’t hide.

It’s everywhere. My Facebook feed is flooded with Black Lives Matter and “I kneel with them” interspersed with all sorts of horrendous news. COVID-19 spawned memes; this is spawning hate.

Now, you may think “Hey, I’m in favor of BLM! I support the cause! I’m protesting for peace!”

The rioting that’s going on nationwide is not peaceful.

The protesting that’s going on is not necessarily helpful, either. I mean, there was a gaggle of Gen Y’ers standing outside Wal-Mart the other day, holding up their signs of “No justice, no peace!” and chanting. A small-town Wal-Mart is where they chose to make their stand against the oppression of “the man.” Seriously? Let me guess: they were too chicken to protest outside the police station.

That’s who everyone’s really mad at, right? The cop that killed Floyd, and the way it was handled, and the media sensationalism that’s stoking the fires.

I’m just so tired of seeing it all. The COVID I could handle, because it’s something people couldn’t really “fight,” so they dealt how they could. I was lucky enough to have friends who are, for the most part, smart enough to see the reason behind the restrictions, and who actually listen to science. The few who argued or pushed their views got put in either a 30-day Facebook “snooze” or on a permanent unfollow, depending on the severity of annoyance. I won’t unfriend someone just because of their political views–unless they’re just really out there–but I’m also not going to subject myself to an endless feed of depression and anger when I have enough mental health issues going on already.

The problem? My friends are more vocal about BLM and the protests. More of the articles are being shared, more photos, more diatribes and outbursts. Facebook is no longer my “safe” place, my place to see memes and cute comics and funny anecdotes. I can’t snooze and unfollow everyone. Then I’d have no feed left. And there are some friends who, even when they’re being vocal about their views, I still want to see show up in my feed. So what am I going to do?

For now, I’ll vent here. I’ll type up my frustrations, then hide back in my little writing hole, where the worst of my current problems is how to start Chapter 7. I’ll scroll past the bad and share the funny and the good.

I go back to work today. I’m sure the patients will have their own strong views that they will probably share with or argue about with other patients–and possibly staff. My coworkers might have strong views. I might be going right back into another Facebook situation, only I won’t be able to snooze anyone.

My mind has been unsettled the past couple of days. There’s just too much.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t support oppressed minorities. I’m not saying I don’t think what happened to Floyd George is tragic and senseless. I’m not saying I in any way condone it. What I’m saying is, maybe we need something new. A separate media platform for politics, maybe? Better filters for the news feeds? I don’t know what the solution is. All I know is it’s not helping my mental state.

Back to reality, with goals set

Come Monday morning, I’m back to the land of the working. What does that mean for my writing? Well, it means I’m back to the early-a.m. writing sessions and sneaking moments on break or in the evenings to get some words in.

Pact with the Pack came to me hard and fast, less than a month for the first draft, but I’m only on Chapter 6 of Fed by the Fae, which means it’s going to take much, much longer. Dealing with Demons is in the early planning stages, but it, too, will have to be written in stolen moments. So why have I chosen this year as the deadline for all three to be completed? Maybe I’m a masochist. Maybe I’m dreaming. But maybe, just maybe, I believe I can do it.

I’m giving myself six months to finish drafting, revise, get someone to edit, revise some more, find some betas, format, and publish.

Six months. Half a year.

Can I do this? My usual turnaround for one novel (oh yeah, these are longer than the novellas for The Mage Asylum Trilogy) is one to two years, give or take. And I’m thinking I can pull off three in roughly half a year.

We’ll see. This is my accountability, though. This is me, telling the universe that I’m going to do this. This is me saying “Get off your ass and write, bitch!” Well, I mean, I’ll have to get on my ass to write, because I hate writing on my phone (unless I’m inspired and simply can’t get to my laptop), so writing standing up is a no-go.

Who knows, though? Maybe I’m getting better. Maybe I’ll get them done and be able to move on to the fourth Abnormal book. Maybe I’ll get that done, and move on to the next project, etc. I’ve got a bit of a list going….

Oh, that’s right…I also have Book 3 of Abnormal in the works. I mean, it’s in the publisher’s hands, so when that comes into play is up in the air, but yeah…I got a workload ahead of myself.

I think I can do this.

No.

I can do this.

Limbo

I’m trapped between two worlds, and I don’t know what more I can do to get out.

I asked my rheumatologist, who had taken me off work due to my autoimmune condition and COVID, if I could go back once the Stay At Home order was lifted. I called and left a message two weeks ago. I left a message the next day. And the next. And the next. Then it was the weekend, then that Monday through Friday I called again. No response, and no answer.

I tried again every day the next week. One of the days I got a person, who claimed they would message the doctor with my request and get back to me. No response.

Last Friday, I couldn’t even leave a voicemail because their box was full. I drove over an hour and a half to their office, went in, and asked if I could get an answer. I was told they’d put it on the doctor’s desk. I said I’d wait, and then I was told the doctor “didn’t have time to talk to me.” I said I’d still wait. I talked to the office manager. I was told I’d get a response maybe by the end of the day, maybe yesterday afternoon. (Monday was a holiday.)

Yesterday, my office still hadn’t gotten a response in the morning. I called their office right away, because it was early and I hoped to reach a person instead of a voicemail. I did get a person, and was told that it would be by the end of the day.

Around 3pm, I actually received a phone call from my doctor’s office! It was them calling to let me know that, before the doctor signs a release for me to go back to work, I must sign a waiver clearing her of liability should I contract COVID while at work. I had them fax it to my office, I went to work, and I signed and returned the fax.

Today, at about 9:20, my boss texted me to notify me that they still had NOT received the release that I can go back to work. An hour and a half (and nine unsuccessful phone calls) later, and no response, no answer.

Now, with the countdown to the cutoff for me to be able to work this afternoon ticking away, my inexplicable anxiety from early this morning now has an explanation. I should’ve known it was too simple. Just fax a waiver, and I’ll be able to work? Yeah, right.

I want to go back to work, but I can’t without that release. I want to talk to the doctor’s office to get them to fax it, but I can’t get an answer. I want to be able to stop panicking about money, because I also cannot get hold of a person–or even a voicemail–at the unemployment office.

Stuck in limbo, with no way out and no way back. I can’t undo the past five weeks of being off work, can’t go back to work, can’t do anything until I get a person on the phone.

I’m terrified of what might happen if I can’t go back to work. I’m terrified of what will happen if I can’t get through to unemployment to find out why I’m not getting paid. I’m terrified of what I might do if this madness continues.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get through before lunch time and be able to go in this afternoon. Maybe, if I’m less lucky, they’ll fax my release before the end of business today and I can go back tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll be stuck in limbo forever.

Chatty Cathy

So, as a writer, I tend to babble on about writing to anyone who will listen.

This sometimes results in me being really annoying…other times, it results in comedy gold.

Let me back up a bit. I was chatting with a friend online this morning, and she asked how my morning was going. Naturally, I answered with a brief description of what I’d written so far in my work in progress…and this was the resulting synopsis:

Eloquence at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.

I swear, in the context of the story, it makes sense.

It’s funny how different contexts and different venues of communication–say, chat versus narrative–take on different forms. I write in chat differently than I write in story, I write here in this blog differently than I write in either of those, etc. Communication is a strange beast indeed.

I suppose, as an author, I should consider using more professional grammar and syntax in my messages, but really, do my friends and relatives need to read chats that read like novels? Conversely, do my readers want to read novels that read like chats? Well, that one depends more on point of view, but I digress. Each avenue of writing has its own purpose, so I think it’s reasonable to treat each as a separate form of communication. Yes, it’s all writing, but a good writer can convey the same thought in multiple ways, with various depths of description and emotion.

Obviously, the chapters I described above are not that cut-and-dried. They’re not that cheesy (at least I hope not), and they’re not that outrageous. Within the context, it all fits.

I’ll figure out where “somewhere” is and what “stuff” is going to be done later… Today, I have housework and chores and general adulting to get to. Besides, I’ve spent several hours on writing already today, and I don’t want to obsess and spend all my time on one thing.

The Roads Taken

Life is fucking strange.

You make decisions every day that determine the direction your life will go. They could be innocent decisions like whether to have cheddar or Swiss on your sandwich. They could be momentous, like moving cross-country. Either way, every little decision, every choice, starts you on a path. It could be good, it could be bad, or it could kind of hopscotch between the two, never finding a middle ground.

On today’s episode of “AJ Has Been in Quarantine Too Damn Long,” we’ll reflect on choices and directions and how one little “yes” or “no” can build and shape an entire life.

I’ve had so many big and little decisions to make in my life, so many choices that could have gone one way or the other. I could have stayed in college the first time around (long story). I could have taken different classes in college. I could have moved to Phoenix. I could have stayed out on my own after my lease ran out with my first roommate. I could have never moved in with the guy to begin with. I could have stayed in Alabama when my family moved out west. I could have done a million things differently, but how would my life be now if I had…or hadn’t…made some of those decisions?

Yep, I’ve officially been in quarantine long enough to question almost every choice I’ve ever made in my entire life.

Do I regret any of them? Eh, some. Not the major ones, not really. But maybe a few tattoos would be different, or I’d have more of them, or I’d have kept certain piercings that I ended up taking out or gotten other ones I never had the nerve to get…little things.

One “no” cemented my decision to move away from Alabama for good. That “no” resulted in a series of “yeses” that put me on the path I am now. So strange that a little thing like yes or no can shape everything for the rest of ever. I’m glad I said that one no, though. It was worth it. I don’t think I’d have nearly as many friends. Maybe not any. Who knows?

There’s the tricksy part of this line of thinking: the What Ifs. What if I’d stayed? What if I’d taken Job X over Job Y? What if, what if, what if…?

Truth is, the What Ifs don’t mean shit. They’re in the past. Or maybe that’s the wrong way to put it. They’re in alternate presents that I can’t access, in realities that aren’t this one. Parallel universes and all that jazz. No-man’s lands.

Where am I going with all this introspection? I’m not sure. I haven’t decided yet. I could keep going down this rabbit hole and see Wonderland, or I could stay safe here at home and just dump these thoughts down the disposal and shred them before they do permanent damage. Alice sure as hell wasn’t the same after her trip, I bet. And even if I did go to Wonderland and see what the What Ifs might have had to offer, what then? There’s still nothing that can take me out of Now and put me Then. The physics for that to happen don’t exist yet. Or maybe they do, but only in theory.

Now I’m getting into a path of thought that’s above my pay grade. I’m not smart enough to figure out what it all means, or what it might have meant. All I know is, I’m here now, in the Now, and good or bad, that’s where I’m going to be until the next choice is made.

We’re b-a-a-a-ck!!

Guess what, everyone? Muses and Murderers Podcast is coming back!

We took some time off for life stuff and scheduling issues, but we’ve decided to reformat the show a smidge and let the guests work themselves out when we can. For now, we (author Angelique Jordonna and I) are going to spend an hour every week shooting shit about various writing/entertainment-related topics. Will we stay on-topic? Not likely. Will it be funny at least? We sure hope so!

Season 2, Episode 1 will be titled “Sex, Death, and Rock and Roll – Writing the Taboo.” In this episode, Angelique and I will discuss, well, writing all the nasty, naughty things that some writers might shy away from putting in their works. Why do some writers include things like sex and death while others avoid it? Is genre a factor? Age range? Should these things be factors? Tune in Sunday, May 10, to find out what we decided!

Angelique and I will record at least once a week, and I’ll post the edited recordings on Sundays. That’s the plan for now, at least. Seemed to work for S1, so we’ll continue with S2 airing on the same day (and I’ll try to edit and upload the episodes BEFORE I drop my fucking phone on the concrete floor).

If you have a topic you’d like for us to discuss or a question for us, you can go to the Muses and Murderers Podcast page on this site and message us through the page. (Facebook has this nifty thing where you can embed a Messenger link that connects the website with the Muses and Murderers Facebook page for messages! How cool is that?) One of us will see the message, and we’ll add your topic or question to our queue! 🙂

We’re so glad to be coming back and getting back into the swing of things with the podcast, and we can’t wait to see what topics y’all come up with for us to shoot the shit about!

On the Rise

Well, I’ve submitted Book 3 of the Abnormal series, Fight the Light, to the publisher. I banged out my Mage Asylum Trilogy and put it up for preorder. Now what should I do during my doctor-imposed quarantine for my own good??

Why, start on Book 4 of the Abnormal series, of course! It’s high time I started penning Dead Cities Rising, but there’s one teeny, tiny problem: I kinda did a crap job of plotting the outline for it, so I have to start over from scratch pretty much. Yeah, it was a pain in the ass, but I think that, after much brainstorming and arguing with my characters, I’m at a point where I can get back to redoing my outline with the newer, better plot, drawing up a nice little timeline (because I just now decided I have to have a timeline), and then I can take off with the wording!

Sometimes writing a book comes naturally, and sometimes, like with this one, you have to kind of beat it into submission. I’ve got new characters popping up, old characters who are fighting for the spotlight, and the usual crew just wanting to have a decent storyline.

It’s going to take hard work, but I can do it. Bonus for you readers, with the changes I’m making to my long-term plan for the series, the Abnormal series will now have six books instead of five! It’s like getting a bonus book! Lol

Now to get to that outline-that-insists-on-being-done-now. Pesky muses. They’ve been keeping me on my toes lately. Lol