Mrrgh. The clavicle of Texas is currently enjoying a barometric pressure change at the moment with the promise of thunderstorms tomorrow. I’m not sure if the fact that I currently feel like hammered poo is related to this, or to the possibility that I may be sick (feeling feverish and I ache all over, but grass pollen is super high at the moment and I feel like that during a bad allergy attack as well).
Mind you, I still got 1100 words written on To My Muse and whomped up a draft cover for something, but to be honest I just kinda want to crawl back into bed and watch jewelry making videos. I’d show you the draft cover, but it really is just a draft. Better to wait until it’s all neat and pretty.
Not flame out — that’s a different blog post. But burnout is a real thing, especially for writers who have to hit deadline after deadline in quick succession and then wind up wanting to set their writing device on fire.
Or is that just me? Maybe it’s just me. See, I spent the last four months of 2017 pretty much glued to my computer cranking out Lady of Thorns and Red Robin and the Huntsman, plus getting work done on Cross Current. After I uploaded Red Robin to Amazon on December 15, my brain said, “Okay, you’re done for the year. No writing until January 1. I mean it.”
And Lord, the idea appealed. So I actually enjoyed my Christmas/New Year break because I wasn’t getting up and immediately chaining myself to my writing desk. I cleaned, made cookies and fruitcake, and even dug out an old afghan project that I’d started in 2013 and worked on it while watching movies and TV shows. Bliss.
But then January rolled around and I started work on my first conteporary romcom, To My Muse … and ran into a problem. I couldn’t make myself stick to working the way I had with my other still. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was writing a romcom instead of a SF/fantasy/paranormal romance. I didn’t think so because I was enjoying what I was doing, but man, I just did not want to nail my butt to a chair anymore.
At that point I remembered that I had promised my BFF’s husband that I would make him a sterling silver and turquoise bracelet in memory of his grandmother. I headed out to the garage on a relatively warm day in February and set out the things I would need to make this piece, and promptly realized that 1) I’d never bezel set a stone before, 2) I needed some twisted wire and black guilder’s wax, and 3) I also didn’t know how to rivet leather for the wristband part.
Research time. So I went off and watched videos on bezel creation and setting (Thank you, Online Jewelry Academy and Professor John Ahr!), and wound up making these for practice:
To my surprise, a friend saw the first one and insisted on buying it. I didn’t like how I’d folded over the bezel wall or set the loops on the second one, so I reset it. A friend then bought THAT one. Wow.
Confident that I now had the hang of bezel making down, I got to work on the turquoise bracelet piece. If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty well.
But THEN I thought, “Well, hey, I have this nifty piece of Picasso marble that would make a great pendant, and I should try and set that. Ooh, and I can cut out the Stark sigil in back and call it Winterfell.” So I did.
A third friend saw it and bought it. Whoa.
At this point I realized that I was looking at a ginormous Amex bill at the beginning of March because I had paid for two website renewals and a membership to a local romance con. Since I’d already sold three pendants, I thought I would keep making more and hopefully sell them so that I could pay off said Amex bill (BTW, the blue aventurine and tiger’s eye pendants are still available at my Etsy store. The etched brass pendant was my first attempt at salt water etching, and will be going to a friend’s daughter as a “magic” amulet).
Suddenly it was March and I realized I hadn’t done any serious writing since late January. And my writing brain was starting to get itchy. So I got back to work on To My Muse and started the third novella in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl this week, and man, that felt good.
So, yeah, sometimes I need to take a little break from the writing, especially if I’ve been pushing myself for months at a time. But I promise you, I’ll always come back to it. And I may have some pretty sparklies to offer as well.
As you know (Bob), I spent Thursday and Friday writing a 13,500 word novella for an antho call. Luckily I was pretty solid on the story idea so I was able to nail my butt to the chair and crank it out in record time. Polished it and sent it in to Evernight, and all is well.
The antho call was for stories about the ultimate bad boys — criminals, killers, what have you — who completely disregard the law but are utterly loyal to their women (or men, depending on their orientation). So I wrote a story about a Southern hitman named Colton Jackson who is hired to kill a Dallas lawyer. Problem is, the lawyer’s secretary Ria Guzman walks in at the wrong moment and catches Colton red-handed. Ria and Colton had an immediate, powerful attraction to each other when he first came into the office posing as a client and he doesn’t really want to kill her, so he essentially kidnaps her, takes her to her apartment, and everything boils over. There’s passionate sex, trains going into tunnels, fireworks, etc. Colton then learns that he was set up to kill Ria (which would have seriously pissed off her powerful gang leader brother and put a price on his own head) and has to dispatch the threat, although there are loose ends that could lead to more stories about these two, I dunno. At the end of the story she has to disappear, so he takes her back to Louisiana with him.
This, however, is where it gets weird. I don’t know if it’s because I was completely immersed in the story for two days, to the point where I could very clearly see the law office, her apartment, and both Colton and Ria in my mind, but right now I have the oddest feeling that Colton and Ria are actually in Colton’s apartment in Shreveport right now making dinner and talking about what they need to get her new identity set up, and whether she really wants to go back to work as a secretary (he wants her to stay home but she’s independent and wants a job). It’s like I put so much mental energy and effort into them, I somehow made them real.
And yes, I know they’re not really real. At least, I hope not. But man, the brain is a weird, weird organ.
Yay, just finished Shifter Woods: Howl and sent it off to the betas to read. It’s only 23,000 words so I should be able to polish it this week, get the cover finalized over the weekend (I am SO happy to be using this one male model that I’ve been lusting after since Empress of Storms), put everything together and have it up on Amazon by next Tuesday.
And since I don’t remember if I explained the concept behind this one, Howl is the MF coyote shifter story, to be followed by its MM bear shifter companion piece Shifter Woods: Roar. There will be two more novellas set in the same world (Claw and Scream, respectively), after which I’ll compile them all into an ebook box set and a print version.
In the meantime, back to work on Uncertainty Principle I go!
SC: Sooooo … you’ve been getting kinda whiny on social media about your book sales. You know, nobody likes to be guilted into buying stuff.
Me: *sigh* Yes, I know. I won’t do that anymore. And I wasn’t trying to guilt people. I was just trying to get some word of mouth going.
Me: Oh, bite me. I already feel bad about it. I’m just going to shut up and write more books. If I can.
SC: Melodramatic cliffhanger much?
Me: God, you’re a bitch.
SC: You should know. Okay, fine, why “if I can?”
Me: Because my damn laptop is over eight years old and my desktop is over nine years old. Both of them are failing, and I really need to buy new ones before they completely die on me.
SC: Tell me you’re backing up.
Me: Religiously and onto multiple devices. But backups aren’t going to be of any use if I don’t have hardware to run them on.
SC: So why didn’t you just say that your computers are crapping out and you need to buy new ones?
Me: Well, hell, Chuck Wendig just did something like that for his vet bills and people jumped all over his ass. And I’m no Chuck Wendig.
SC: Verily, that is true.
Me: Also, it didn’t occur to me.
SC: Jesus. You’re telling me that saying, “Hey, folks, my antique computers are on the verge of joining the choir eternal so please buy my books so that I can get new ones and keep writing” didn’t occur to you, but “Oh, jeez, my books aren’t selling, woe is me” did?
Me: Fuck you.
SC: Not anatomically possible but an amusing suggestion nonetheless. Why are you in such a bad mood, anyway?
Me: Because I’m cleaning. I hate cleaning. I always wind up drenched in sweat and covered in cat hair. But it has to be done.
SC: You could be writing–
Me: YES I KNOW THAT BUT WE LIVE WITH FIVE CATS AND RANDY TREES OUTSIDE AND I HAVE TO VACUUM IF I WANT TO CONTINUE BREATHING, OKAY?
SC: Yeesh. Okay. But you’re going to be taking breaks, right?
SC: Okay, then. You can work on one of your WIPs during your breaks. See? That was easy.
Me: I–you– *incoherent with rage*
SC: Do you want a new laptop and desktop?
Me: *grinds teeth and goes back to dusting*
It occurred to me earlier today that I’ve been working professionally in the writing dodge (and by professionally I mean people have given me money in exchange for my words) for about twenty-two years, now. My writing career can legally drink, if not rent a car. Which is probably for the best, if you think about it.
So while I may bitch and moan about sales at times, in retrospect I’m actually pretty happy with where I’ve gotten to at this point. Between my SF and romance names (by the way, you all DO know that I write science fiction and urban fantasy as Melanie Fletcher, right?) I have seven full-length novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and twenty-six short stories to my credit. That’s not bad at all, especially since I’ll be bringing out at least another three novels this year as well as more novellas and short stories.
And not only have I been publishing, but I’ve been gifted with a fiercely devoted band of readers (you know who you are, and you are all in the will), plus I’ve been getting critical attention for my work. Night Owl Reviews just did an interview with me, and the lovely and talented Cynthia Sax will also have an interview on Degree of Resistance up on her website soon. So, yeah, I’ve actually done pretty well in my career so far (take that, Imposter Syndrome!).
Fabulous, I hear you say, but why are you babbling at us about this? Well, 1) because I can, and 2) it helps to work out what I’m going to do next. This year I’ve decided to concentrate on leveling up to the next professional step; namely, increasing my readership, shooting for a USA Today bestseller list slot, and maybe even winning an award or two (although I’m reminded of the fact that Sir Terry Pratchett, he of the insanely successful and brilliant Discworld series, never won anything until late in his career. People rarely take humor with the seriousness it deserves. But I digress). And the best way to do all that is to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep entertaining folks, which, yeah, just twist my arm already.
Did I mention that you’re all cruel but beautiful, and I love you oodles for reading my stuff? Because I do.
I honestly don’t know where this weekend went to. Well, no, I do — it went into sending out copies of Degree of Resistance to my beta readers, finalizing the cover for DoR, setting up pre-sales at Amazon (available here if you’re of a mind to pick it up for 99¢ before it goes up to $3.99 on release day), cleaning my utter sty of an office (whereupon I discovered that one of my furry darlings peed in my office closet, which required me to move everything off the floor so that I could attend the stain with the portable rug cleaner and some Nature’s Miracle, whee…), doing laundry, attending a meeting at the local Democrats office, having coffee with one of my beta readers who reassured me that she was enjoying the story so far (and she will tell me if I’m screwing up), adding DoR here to the Bookshelf, creating ads and doing promo on social media, and formatting the DoR ebook. I’m going to hold off on doing the print version until I have all of the other edits done, but in the meantime I can get the print version of Palace of Scoundrels finally done and published, which would be nice seeing as it was released in, oh, late October.
Yeah, well, we were kind of busy around that time.
Anyhoo, yeah, the weekend kinda got away from me and I still need to put all the laundry away, pay bills, and finish cleaning the office (aren’t you envious of my glamorous life?). But by God I’m going to hit the ground running tomorrow, especially since I don’t have to start Round Three of edits on DoR until Wednesday (I swear to God I actually have a schedule this time), and that means I can continue to edit the alternate history mystery starring Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll that’s been languishing on my hard drive for the last three years and get it ready for release on 2/28.
Two books released in one month. Yeah, I like the sound of that.
So I’m working on Palace of Scoundrels (Two Thrones #2) and Matthias is not having a good time. His ally Tomas Villiers, Duke of Kelles and fearsome guardian of the Ypresian North Border, has fallen in love with and kindasorta kidnapped Lady Sibeal LeClerq, daughter of Henrietta LeClerq, Countess of Lierde (also a powerful Terra magistra and owner of the most fertile farmlands in Ypres).
Un petit problem — Sibeal has already been betrothed to Lord Clement Reynard, heir of the Earl of Leuwen (a rather recently ennobled family, and filthy rich). Clement was originally betrothed to Sibeal’s older sister Amelie, but they had a dreadful argument and Amelie broke the betrothal and refuses to take him back. The countess offered the Reynards Sibeal instead, and she was accepted. But Sibeal is in love with Villiers and doesn’t want to marry Reynard. Unfortunately, her mother laid a sterility spell on her and refuses to lift it unless Sibeal marries Reynard, and both Villiers and Sibeal really want children.
So they toss this in Matthias’s lap to sort out, which gives both him and me a headache (there’s a reason why I don’t usually write political intrigue). I was complaining to the brilliant and talented Michelle Muenzler that I had no idea why the Countess was so all-fired to marry one of her daughters off to the Reynards but it had to be important. Glorious woman that she is, she promptly said, “It’s not her pushing this. The Earl has something on the Countess, something major that could ruin her reputation and endanger her lands, and he wants to marry his son into her (major noble) family or he spills the beans.”
Et voila, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and I knew the Earl of Leuwen’s motivation and how this whole mess got started. More importantly, I think I know how to resolve it entertainingly. Now I just have to add a touch more flesh to the problem in Hellas (there’s a reason why I’m calling this Palace of Scoundrels, you know), and I have a complete book. Whee!
Oh, while I’m on the topic of political intrigue and thrones, something has recently come to my attention and I need to swear on the head of Barbara Cartland that I had never seen NOR read Game of Thrones until this July. I’m saying this now because I’m currently on book three and thinking, “Fuck, they have a young queen called Dany and I have a young queen called Danaë. And the Hound calls Sansa “little bird.” And there’s a divine entity called Lys — FUCK. They’re going to think I’m ripping off GoT.” All I can say in my defense is that European history, language, and terminology are being called upon lavishly by both myself and George R.R. Martin, and sometimes there’s going to be overlap. But from this point onward I will do my utmost to stay as far away from the terms of Westeros as possible.
Palace of Scoundrels (Empress sequel) – 1,645 words since I spent a fair amount of time outlining the thing. Nonetheless I’m hoping to have this done by RT — I would like to have it out and available, but that may not be possible. We’ll see.
Behind the Iron Cross – 76,039 words and I’m storming into Act Three as we speak. This one is gonna take mega editing, though.
Cross Current (Olympic Cove #4) – 3,538 words, and I came up with a refinement for my main character that is extremely organic and effective AND makes the story more diverse.
“Do No Harm” (Dark Captive antho entry for Evernight) – 1,520 words. This is the one I really have to focus on since the deadline is March 15th. It’s also the most difficult of the bunch because, well, here’s the antho description:
Dark Captive will be a collection of dark erotic romance stories featuring alpha men with fierce sexual appetites. They’ll stop at nothing to get what they want. And they have their sights on one man. Possessive and bold, these heroes give their conquests exactly what they crave—to be taken … to be owned. Any resistance offered will be tested, but in the end love rules.
So, dubcon with a romance and HEA/HFN. Kinda hard to do that effectively in less than 25K words, but I think I found a way to make it work.
I’m also trying to catch up on some desperately needed housework in my spare time, but I think I’m breaking down and paying for a professional spring cleaning of the place after I get back from RT. My blue collar South Side soul is screaming blue murder at this, but my professional writer brain is saying, “You can spend time cleaning or you can spend time writing. Which is more productive and satisfying to you? Plus if you hire a service you’re pumping money into the economy, and you can give them mega tips to shut up that screeching soul of yours.” Works for me.
Because DAMN, I woke up productive today. Got the car safety inspection knocked out at the same time as the oil change, stopped off at Sprouts and got healthy stuff for lunch and dinner, came home and balanced my checkbook, filed all unfiled personal and business receipts in preparation for tax work this week, paid all the bills including the mortgage, filed THAT paperwork, and put away all the swag bag makings and cleaned off my design desk (granted, my office still needs to be cleaned, dusted, and vacuumed, but I figure I can do that tomorrow). I even have laundry from Wild Wicked Weekend churning through the machines and posted a thank you in the FB group for the awesome organizers and attendees.
In other words, it’s amazing what happens when your perimenopausal uterus eventually gets its shit in gear and generates a period, which means that all the excess water you’ve been storing like a good little camel finally, FINALLY begins to drain away. And yes, that’s TMI, but I’ve had serious-ass cankles going on since the 21st, look like Ms. Michelin Man in all the pics from the weekend, and had to keep taking naps so that I didn’t wind up snoozing on one of the ballroom tables. The human uterus is proof positive that there is no Divine Engineer because no tech worth their salt would come up with an organ that wreaks this much havoc on the rest of the body.
Anyway, yeah, feeling better and am working up a plan of attack for the rest of the week which will include much writing, getting the taxes ready for our lovely accountant, and as much cleaning as I can handle without falling over and crying. Onward to March!
(Oh, and yes, I watched the Oscars last night. Stunning wins by Mark Rylance and Brie Larson, mystifying win by Sam Smith, and I absolutely loved all the snarking going on.)