Zombies, Kicks & Giggles

The not-so wise words of Adrienne Lecter

Category: ramble (page 1 of 2)

Burnout / My Publishing History

aka Why Unity (GF#6) was released in April 2017 rather than September 2016.

This is not a sob story. This is actually a story of empowerment. If you ever wondered how I got into publishing or what is up with that gap in the release dates of my books (probably only if you were already a fan and waiting for the next one) here goes:

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories. There exist tapes when my father recorded me, sitting in the kitchen, telling the story of what one of my favorite plushy toys had done that day. At first, my parents thought that I was simply telling what I had done, but no. Even at four years old, my mind was making shit up in a semi coherent way.

We got our first computer in 1995. On April 6, 1996 I started writing my first book. Before that, I was writing Star Wars fanfic in pencil on a legal pad. I still have those gems. I didn’t know what fanfic was back then. The book I started was original fiction, mostly. 99%. Before you laugh, that book back then ended up being four or five parts long, over 1500 pages printed out. Yes, I was the weird girl who wrote books in her free time and then handed the printouts to her friends to read. I think in the end I was the only one ever surprised I’d become a writer. That book will, one day, be rewritten. It was epic fantasy, but think more Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings. Had a mean body count going on and some nasty intrigues. In my first year of university when I met someone from my high school class, he was surprised I was studying molecular biology rather than literature. Pretty much the only time I didn’t write was in university when I didn’t have any brainpower left.

Fast-forward a decade or so. I’d fallen in with some lovely ladies who loved to read smutty fanfic. In hindsight, I can’t really say why I ended up writing for that specific fandom. I really didn’t like the original books, and even the drive to write something that built on the potential they hadn’t fulfilled doesn’t make that much sense. I managed to get a decent readership who liked my somewhat subversive stance toward the books. I ended up pissing a LOT of people off when I wrote a wonderful twisty thriller and turned their favorite hero into a real monster. That right there should have been the moment for me to realize, romance? Not my strong suit. Alas, I had a platform, and back in those days, a lot of the writers were turning their stories into books. One reader was running an independent e-zine and she published my very first short story in Fall of 2013. That one still has in the author description that I am trying to get an agent and find a publisher. Ha, good ol’ times. She asked me if I’d looked into self-publishing. I hadn’t. I did. You could say, the rest is history.

In February 2014 I found out that, otherwise really backwards Austria had the legal framework in place for self-published authors, including social security. On May 2, 2014 I officially became a self-published author, registering with our equivalent of the IRS. In August 2014 I released my very first novel. It was one of those converted, albeit completely rewritten stories that held only parts of the fanfic, and nothing of the already far, far removed books. That’s one of the reasons why it didn’t sell. Well, it did sell, and for a debut Indie author I made quite the splash, but only for the first month. I told myself this was just the beginning of a life-long career. I was living my dream! I was also broke without a job. This was my meal ticket!

Or not. I watched as sales dwindled, the book never really took off. I’d spent the entire time between publishing that short story and the release of the first book reading every scrap of information about publishing and writing books. I also wrote two books: that first one, and what you now know as Incubation. I decided to go with romance as it was the option where I already had a bit of a platform. I wasn’t wrong. Those first 720 books or so I sold that first month were amazing, but there was no followup. So I converted that other story, the much more popular, twisted one, and released some short stories in-between. It bombed. OMG did it bomb. It earned its investment back but not much more. And remember, compared to a trad. published author who gets an advance, even if it’s a small one, I was funding all this out of my very shallow pockets. Then in March 2015 I released the sequel to the first book. It made some sales but only a bit above breaking even. This right there was my dream dying, and dying a horribly slow death. It was all I’d ever wanted, but not enough.

The smart thing would have been to learn my lesson, get a day job to stave off the existential crisis of the decade, and continue writing in the evenings, but I couldn’t. I HAD to make it! This was the thing for me! But why, oh why, weren’t my books selling? They were so hard to write! I loved the smut, I loved the characters, but damnit, you try writing 400 pages with a plot that fits on a single page!

Then I remembered that I had this other story that I started for NaNoWriMo 2013, finished in February 2014, but didn’t choose as my first book to publish. I already knew that it wouldn’t appeal to my “audience,” but seeing as I didn’t really have one that could sustain me and I was incapable of grabbing new readers’ attention, I decided to go for it. It was a mess. It was a biotech thriller that I loved, with characters I couldn’t let go but I was incapable of writing a second book. I only had the beginning and one pivotal scene about 30% in, a little like the very end of True Lies where Bree and Nate would come for Gabriel Greene to beat some extra information out of him. It was a spy thriller. It didn’t work. Fun fact: that first book ended with Nate in prison, the Ice Queen dead, and Andrej teaching Bree how to become a super spy so together they could break Nate out of prison. Ah, the hilarity.

I don’t remember what made me consider changing the plot from them saving the world to watching it burn. I read a lot of zombie fiction at the time, mostly because Bobby Adair had been on a self-publishing podcast and talked about his books, and I picked them up and devoured them, and that was it for me. I hadn’t seen more than the first 5 minutes of the first TWD episode by then so that wasn’t it. But zombies… and that day, in late winter 2015, saved my sanity.

So back to the drawing board! It only took me about a week to map out the entire Green Fields series, all six books. Yes, I knew about Sam, and Greene, and Taggard and Bucky, when I went back in and tore the first book apart so it would make sense. That was in April 2015. In May, I wrote Outbreak, plus a good chunk of Escalation. Talk about books that are hard to write. I was on FIRE! The very experience of telling the story was amazing. Like nothing I’d ever done before. Being high on pain meds might have helped at times. I forgot about all the misery my now non-existent sales on the other books were causing. I talked to my editor, she was happy to work on whatever I came up with, and she was the first who was super excited about the new story. I got a cover, I set up my website and new accounts, got all my ducks in a row. And on August 26, 2015 I jumped the gun and released Incubation. I told my old audience but I knew there would be next to no crossover. There was a thread of a love story in there but it wasn’t about the central couple, who, for all intents and purposes, weren’t a couple until late in the second book, and it would take book four for them to have a real, strong, unbreakable bond. It was her story alone, and really, I could have easily ditched Nate and substituted him with a few other characters lending a hand sometimes. And zombies!

The book sold 30 copies or so in September. It had no release spike, it made no splash. It was 99 cents and nobody wanted to read it. I refused to be crushed because I loved the story too much. It was the thing for me, I just knew it. And it was good. It just needed some exposure. It hadn’t found an audience yet. And I had 2 more books almost ready in the series, no reason to fret or panic.

Of course I was panicking, but I’d by then read enough success stories to know that my first round in this arena was weird in all its many ways. You don’t normally splash and burn, no, it starts slow and then it gets better and better and better. Patience. So I petered along, wrote the 3rd of the romance series and released it on October 23. Bit of a splash but happy fans, and that was good. Not amazing, not great, but I still prefer happy fans over money. Which I needed, desperately, because now I was feeding two bottomless holes that needed editing, covers, and promotion. I wanted to release Outbreak later, but then just couldn’t take it anymore, and on October 29, 2015, the second Green Fields book saw the light of day. And for good measure, I set the first to free for five days because sales really couldn’t get any worse.

And that’s when the magic happens.

There were downloads. And there were sales. The entire series took off, even when the first was back out of free, and I increased the price to the $2.99 it still is regularly today. The sales graphs looked exactly like they should, a slow, steady increase. The sale ranks were getting better every day. I started to get reviews, and reader feedback, and I just knew: this is it.

I hate leaving things unfinished, and I was getting torn apart for not releasing the second part of the twisted thriller in almost a year now. And the romance trilogy needed a 4th book to tie it all up. I didn’t really want to write them, I wanted to write more books that sold–and came from my very soul, not my “this could sell, maybe” stupid brain. I wasn’t stupid. I knew that one factor was the quick release schedule for the new series that made amazon’s algorithms kick in and push it like crazy. So I decided to make a pact with myself: work yourself to the bone until you’ve made it. Two books could be a fluke. An entire series, not so much. I had no money for vacation, I had no other obligations, so why not switch to 60-80 hour work weeks, kick the living shit out of myself and write until my fingers bleed? I had nothing to lose but everything to gain.

So that’s what I did. I wrote, proofread, continued to learn so, so much about publishing and marketing and stuff. I also had to do a lot more on social media, and killed off what remained of my social life. Predictably, the 2nd part of the thriller bombed when it was released on December 19, 2015, but I didn’t really care about that anymore. I’d written the second half of that book in the first week of November, “winning” NaNoWriMo on day 5 or 7. It was done. Writing my last romance book made me hate myself, the story, the characters, pretty much everything except the readers who I knew I couldn’t disappoint. That came out on February 10, 2016, and by then the first day sales spike wasn’t visible anymore in my overall graph because Escalation, the 3rd Green Fields books had come out in early January, and the series continued it’s very steep rise to the top of the post-apocalyptic & dystopia genres. It was another box checked, a last obligation fulfilled, now I was free to go play in the mud and continue to murder people.

You can’t imagine how crazy that time was. Going from watching my bank account being ready to commit suicide to earning enough that I decided to book my ticket for the London Book Fair so I could meet other people in the industry and maybe brag a little with my numbers. Numbers that kept rising every day. New readers that were discovering–and loving!–my books, every day. Making actual money with my books, first enough to say I made minimum wage had I paid myself, then start to build small cushions. Of course I had the numbers–raw sales data, money made, books sold and borrowed in KU–but it all didn’t really sink in until much later. I wrote Extinction, book 4, in a little more time than the others, but, come on! That book’s one happy acid trip for every writer, with all the great vibes and the wonderfully crushing cliffhanger at the end. To this day I think it’s the heart of the series. And it was full of all the good things that were happening to me at the time. I released it in April, just in time for the book fair so that my numbers were great. Also, audiobooks! I had the 2nd and 3rd to proof-listen by then, and they were all financed by the ebook sales! I couldn’t have sunk thousands of dollars into anything just half a year ago, and now my books were financing their own alternate income streams! I was finally living the dream, and it was glorious!

You have read enough of my stories to know there’s a “but” coming, right? Indeed it is. I like to imagine that through winter and spring of 2016, I was running like the Roadrunner, a huge cloud of dust in my wake. As I finished GF#4 and started on GF#5, that dust of cloud caught fire. Not in the “oh, she’s one fire, she’s killing it!” way but the “this is all burning to the ground” kind. I was burning the candle at both ends, deliberately, knowingly; I loved it–but I should have realized that I couldn’t sustain that speed for much longer. By April, I’d already made more money that year than ever from my books, and it would have been enough to get me well into 2017, but I couldn’t slow down. I couldn’t stop.

And Resurgence, GF#5, was not an easy book to write to start with.

I’ve learned since that it’s often around that time in a writer’s career that they feel confident enough to embrace the dark side of themselves, their shadow selves, if you will, and dive even deeper into the story, write the really raw, gritty things that make a book unforgettable. I wrote a lot of that into that book. A lot of myself; if you’ve been following my other blog posts for a while, you know that the mood landscape of my brain can get interesting at times. I pretty much did a soul strip for that book and wrote way, way too close to myself into it. I think I also needed to do it for myself, but it mostly made sense for the story. I was also starting to flag–bad diet, no exercise, no social interaction, constant stress, no sleep–and I made a promise to myself that once the book was out, I would take a break. Not before, I couldn’t do that. I’d foolishly let myself be pinned down on a release date, and I had to make that. I kept that same work schedule up through our five day lake vacation, thinking wonderful holiday thoughts like, if I only swim for 20 minutes I can sooner get back to editing; or if we don’t take a drive at sunset, my favorite time of day, I can get back to editing. Writing the book was hard enough and I got blocked several times. Editing it was hell, but somehow I made it. The book came out on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

I know, because that’s the day I slammed into a wall going 200 miles an hour, and I did not rebound.

Releases are always harrowing, for most writers, but this one was the worst. I was so glad the book was out. I was so happy I hadn’t disappointed anyone with being late. There was a lot of buzz, and to this day, the book got the best sales rank I’ve ever managed on amazon, #512 in overall kindle books. Only 511 other ebooks had sold more that day, including bestsellers, more successful people, people who’d been in the industry forever and had huge publishing houses behind them. I was too numb to really celebrate that. Readers were ecstatic. I think I managed to pretend like I was, too, but it was impossibly hard. First feedback came in and it was great… until one of the people who’d been fawning all over my silly ass for weeks left me a 2-star review, purposefully on the US site rather than his native UK store to stress how displeased he was. Silly girl writer, how does she even think anyone would be distressed about a miscarriage?! That was the last straw. The straw that broke the camel’s back. And that for the book I’d poured so much of myself into. Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes negative reviews but once you’ve been a writer for a while, you learn to handle and ignore them. I wasn’t handling anything. I was empty. I was raw. I was done.

The only thing I did in July was do accounting. Not a single word written. Nada. I had some accounting to catch up to because my single-page spreadsheet from before wasn’t cutting it anymore, not with now actually sitting on a pile of money that needed to be, well, accounted (for). And by August, I was ready to start typing again, but it wasn’t really writing. I was still empty, and there was nothing I could do about it except despair, which as you can imagine helps a lot. I’d foolishly expected my insane ride to continue so I’d promised the next book for September. That was not going to happen, and that crushed me.

Things picked up a little in September, when we spent a week at the beach, also financed by my books because now I was more than just breaking even. I should have been over the moon (and I kind of was) as end of August I got the royalties from the release month of June, and boy, that was a lot of money. If I ignored taxes and social security, that month alone would have covered all my yearly costs. I should have been laughing non-stop and shouting my joy from the rooftops. Well, at least I spent a week lazing at the beach, inhaling books, enjoying a last borrowed week of summer that we’d actually not had that year as it was raining constantly. It was a first step of recovery, an important new beginning, but just that.

I won’t bore you with the details of what comes next. It took me a few months to get back in the saddle. Months where I was confronted with nice “fans” who had nothing better to do than tear me apart on my facebook page because they wanted the next book, and yesterday, and I dared to please ask them to take that question to the other thread, not the one where I tried to find a name for the blog I’d planned to start. I kid you not. I’m not a fucking retail worker, you moron, the least I deserve is a smidgen of respect. Obviously, I was wrong, and this continued into January of this year, until I pulled everything from the page expect the release news of book #5. I wasn’t ready to quit, but I was a breath away from quitting social media. I was going through a really, really bad time, and that wasn’t helping.

In December 2016, my grandma died. That was the first day I wrote over 5000 words in a day since spring. She was my last living relative of that generation, and I’m still crying as I type this. Sometimes I think I needed to be numb with grief to be able to stop being numb from burning out. Much more likely, my creative well had been filling, slowly, drop by drop, since June, and around that time it was finally fool enough that I could dive back in and pick up where I had left off. For all those reasons together, and some other factors, I didn’t get that much done in January 2017, but in February I finished Unity in one week, and the book was released on April 4. The book was much harder to write than I’d expected, after four books that had pretty much written themselves. Books that tie off things usually are, I knew that before, but I forgot. But I did it. And all of you were still there, waiting, and you fell on it like the lovely piranhas that you are, made it a huge success just as if it had come out in September rather than a full 7 months late, and things have been going well ever since. Not on their own, mind you, but because I’ve learned my lesson.

Financially, that 10 month break was a disaster, of course, but I made enough before that to cushion the blow, and since releasing the 7th book in late August, amazon has forgiven me for my transgression and the algorithms are treating me decently again. 2017 was a good year, particularly for only 2 releases and a short story collection.

Looking back, I’m still damn proud of myself. I published 8 full-length novels in 10 months. I turned from a nobody romance writer into a somewhat less-nobody zombie apocalypse writer. I’ve now successfully established myself and made a living for two consecutive years doing what I love. And I love it again, even the parts I really don’t like doing. I also try very hard to take better care of myself. I make sure to eat things that are actually good for my body, I exercise regularly, and try to keep up a semblance of a social life. In fact, whenever I have the choice, should I work or should I exercise or socialize, I force myself to choose the non-work option. Yes, that means my books take more time to write now. It also means, hopefully, that I won’t lose months at a time where I can’t do anything. And I mean anything. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even watch TV. It should have been the summer of my life, and it’s one black hole in my memory now (thankfully!). I’m not doing this to myself again. And you know what? I don’t think I’ll have to. Of course, things will throw me for a loop again in the future, but looking back, November was my perfect month. I wrote a shit ton of words, I made smart decisions about the book (that it needs to be split, and requires some extra scenes), I worked out regularly and cleaned up my diet. I now sleep a lot, and when I wake up I’m more often than not a functioning human being. If I keep that up, I could easily publish 4 books, maybe even 6 if they’re shorter (they won’t be. I can’t do short books). And all that without being overworked, stressed, and pretty much on the verge of going insane.

Recovery took me over a year, and I’m still feeling the last dregs of it today. I never want to go there again. I’m better than this. Don’t get me wrong, I still insist that it was necessary, and you likely wouldn’t be reading my books otherwise, but, damn. I think I stripped off a few months of my lifespan this way. I know you’re a great, supportive bunch. Actually, you’re the best readers in the world! I hope that, reading this, some of my weirder reactions make sense, and that you don’t frown when you see that I take time off to recoup or hog the left lane in my gym’s pool. Yes, it’s time I spend away from the keyboard, but it’s also time necessary to reset the clock, let the creative pool refill. They say you can’t create something out of nothing, and that “something” required is time. I listen to podcasts while I swim so technically, I’m still working, planning my next marketing move or what else to do to keep my strong, healthy business as in Indie author and publisher going. I’ve also dropped a bra and pants size in the last months, which is as awesome (yay!) as daunting (no more perfectly fitting comfy bra and jeans!). Also, bulking up in my shoulders and upper back, which I like, and is amazing for someone who spends way too much time hunched over a keyboard. More importantly, I feel relaxed and balanced, and a healthy mind can much more easily craft stories and cope with the insanity that is life. I know this was a long one but I guess I needed to tell you my story. Thanks for being a good sport and reading to the very end! If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments. At the moment, the facebook fan group works best for that, also because, again, you guys are amazing!! Couldn’t have done all this without you. Because if my journey as a writer taught me something, it’s that without you, I’d be nothing. And I’ll forever be grateful to everyone who helped me make my dream come true.

In response to Kindle Unlimited

I know I have a lot of interactive readers but I didn’t expect my little blog post about KU to be met with such a (positive) response! So here’s what I feel was missing from the previous post:

Thank you all so much! I can’t tell you how blessed I feel for having all of you as my readers! (and I’m saying that as a person who’s not very religious). I know that part of my success is due to Kindle Unlimited, but it took your response to hammer down just how important it is. Please let me explain.

As an Indie writer in particular, it’s so easy to get lost in the numbers. This is my job. I don’t have any other source of income. I need to consider this as a business. Until, say, 2009, anything on writing you would find was craft related. Don’t get me wrong, craft and talent are important–when you write the book. But my work isn’t done there: I need to publish it, market it, and make damn sure that my bottom line is a solid one. Most information I research about Indie publishing is on the business side because that’s where solid information is available, compiled by other Indies who’ve done the work, crunched the numbers, and are happy to share.

But what is way more important than sales, borrows, conversion rate, expenses, and business strategies are you: the readers.

Of course, this is not an entirely altruistic endeavor–you know I make money from KU the same as from sales. But if there is a way how I can help readers, even if it might come at a possible disadvantage for myself, I will always go for that, and KU seems to be a Godsend for so many of you. Trust me, I know how it is when you have to decide between bare necessities (like food and clothes) and luxury goods (like books). I’ve been there, and in many ways, you were my salvation, because you grabbed my books and devoured them, loved them, left reviews and recommended them to your friends and random strangers on the internet–and thus not just made my career as a writer take off, but turned it into a valid job. Without you, I’d be nothing! Or at least not a successful full-time writer.

I read a lot myself–not as much as I used to, but still enough to leave a dent in my budget. My reading habits over the last decade have changed a lot; I barely buy paperbacks anymore, mostly for non-fiction. I’ve always loved to read series, and now most of what is published, particularly by Indies, are series. Yay! Who doesn’t love to know there are five more books when you’ve practically inhaled the first? And the idea that I can read as many books of that series as I want for just ten bucks a month in KU is amazing! Knowing that the writer makes a pretty penny from that as well, even better!! But my point is, where I am in life, I could afford to buy all the books I want to read. I might hesitate on some, though–and if they are in KU, I won’t, because I don’t stand to lose anything if I borrow that book and find out 20% in that I don’t like it. But many readers don’t have the option of deciding whether they want to buy a book, because buying is just not an option for them.

That’s where KU comes in. For voracious readers with (limited) budgets it’s a much-needed respite. Sure, there are libraries, but libraries need to pay for books as well, and, let’s face it, why would they take a chance on a random Indie? If you have KU, you can bypass any middlemen and get your favorite escape from reality almost straight from the author, no limits, little restrictions. It might just be the only way for the reader to get that book.

I think that because of so many reasons, like all that business talk, so many authors lose sight of this. Not because they are greedy or cold-hearted, but because nobody told them. Maybe I’m in a special position. From what I see all over author groups on the internet, most writers don’t have so many readers taking advantage of KU. Maybe if I made less than 40% of my income from KU, I’d decide to drop out as well and try my luck elsewhere, but I feel like this would be a tremendous disservice to you all. 60-80% of my income is from KU; that means, 6 to 8 out of 10 readers read in KU. I don’t want to piss off 6 to 8 out of 10 of my readers, and even less, let them down and disappoint them.

Of course, this is still my business and I need to protect my income, but, come on: even if the KU payout fluctuates with every month, KU borrows usually do a lot for sale ranks and discoverability beyond being a separate stream of income. I get options like offering my books for free to boost sales on the others in the series, or discount them but retain a higher royalty rate. Amazon is one of the leading businesses that crunch data and develop business strategies based on machine learning. If they think KU works this way–and the last iteration changed almost nothing, making it seem like a balanced, working system now–with all the data they collect from every single reader and author, I’d say, let’s trust them to keep making money! After all, of every book I sell, they get 30%, and seeing as the KU payout matches my sale royalties, that must be working for them as well. It also works for millions of readers, so… win / win, right?

Long story short: thank you all so much!! Also, for giving me this insight, so that when next someone tells me I’m short-sighted and don’t have a business strategy, I can tell them, on the contrary: I like to put my readers first and give them the opportunity to read my books that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. It may not work like this for everyone, but it works for you, my readers, and I’m eternally grateful for that. You rock!

A few words about Kindle Unlimited

If you’ve read my books, there’s a big chance that you are, or have been, a subscriber of Kindle Unlimited, amazon’s ebook flatrate program. I just checked my stats: I’m making 2.4x as much in KU as from direct sales, and I know that some of you love my books so much that you’ve bought them after borrowing them in KU, so the balance might be closer to 3x. And I’m mostly very happy about that! (I’m always ecstatic about a sale after a borrow, that’s out of the question. That means I get paid twice. So if you have a KU subscription and you want to help out a poor, struggling Indie author, borrow and read first, then buy!)

For those not in the know, or who would love a look behind the curtain, this is how KU works:

  1. Unlike with a book that is “for sale,” you don’t get to set the price. In KU, you get paid per “pages” read, although a “page” is less than a normal ebook or paperback page. The value of a page read is determined by how much money is in the KU pot (calculated from the fees you pay for the subscription, and sometimes something extra amazon ads to it), divided by how many pages were read in that month. It’s usually between $0.0040 – $0.0055. Yes, you read that right. I get less or about half a cent per page that you read.
  2. Now, amazon encourages us to price our books between $2.99 and $5.99 or something like that, and for most of my books, on a full read-through in KU I get about as much royalties as for a book that’s for sale at 3-4 bucks. If you check my amazon page, all my books are priced in that range. So, technically, I don’t miss out on money, provided I write a book that’s long enough, and you devour it until the very last page.
  3. KU has a huge advantage, and it’s exactly that where I see the program’s strength: no risk for the reader. You borrow a book for free, you either like it and read it, or you don’t so you hand it back after 5 pages. The author gets a whooping 2 cents for your trouble, and you haven’t lost anything except 5 minutes of your time, if that. It’s great to be discovered as a new author, and it’s a valid option for books you like to read but not necessarily keep or read again, or if your budget only allows for three books but you like to read 20 each month.

This all sounds good, doesn’t it? So why are some authors very anti-KU to the point of calling everyone who is in it a hack and only in it for the short run, not as a writer for life?

  1. You have to be exclusive with amazon for your ebooks, so no can do for iBooks / iTunes, kobo, nook, and all the other vendors. That’s the real downside that the few perks we get really don’t make up for. It’s also a no-go for many well-established authors that already have readers across all platforms.
  2. As I said, you don’t set the price. If you write shorter books, KU payouts will be less than the $2.99 that are very reasonable for a 300 page book. With short stories, it’s even worse. When KU started, it used to be that if 10% of a book were read, you’d get a fixed share of about $1.30. For short fiction, that was amazing as the alternative was a price at $0.99, which gets us 35 cents in royalties. 1.30 vs 0.35? You bet that a lot of short story authors were furious when KU changed to the page read system. Us long novel authors? We finally felt treated fairly, or as fairly as a system like that can be.
  3. The payout varies from month to month, and it used to be higher than it is right now. I was lucky; after the release of GF#7: Affliction, I had two of my strongest months in September and October, and the payout was higher than it used to be over the summer. The payout has dropped by about 20% since they changed to the page read system, and for some authors, that’s not acceptable. To me, it seems like amazon simply needed time and data to set the payout right, and I’d rather take a 20% cut on a system that is calibrated now and is sustainable for the future without amazon having to heavily support it, rather than no cut but KU will be history as of next year. Call me jaded, but for my 140k book that is for sale at $3.99 I still get the same cut from KU, so what’s the problem? Do I want to make more money? Always!! But it’s fair, and I’m happy with it.
  4. KU conditions have changed from one moment to the next in the past. They can, and will, change again in the future. It’s a bit of a gamble, and as a risk-averse being I’m not always happy about that aspect.
  5. Some people generally don’t like amazon as it’s the biggest player in the market.
  6. Some people think their books deserve more than three bucks in royalties, and they won’t get that in KU.
  7. It works much better for fiction than non-fiction, also because non-fiction tends to sell at a higher price for shorter page counts. Then again, I like reading how-to books in KU first to test them, then buy them, maybe even in paperback, to keep them.

The biggest gripe most non-KU authors have with KU is that you’re technically not independent, and that you’re exclusive. I agree with both points, but it’s getting really old that whenever I listen to an Indie publishing podcast, I get called an idiot for being in KU with every single of my books. No, I don’t like not having extra readers outside of the amazon ecosystem, damnit! And no, I don’t plan this to be my business strategy for the next 30 years, but I’m sure that if amazon ruins KU, all the other distributors will welcome us former KU authors with open arms and sweet deals. Why? Money!

Also: because the reader wants it. 2.4x, remember? I’d piss off over 2/3 of my readers if I dropped out of KU tomorrow.

I already said so above, but I feel the need to stress this again: some people just don’t have the money to splurge on books, paying $9.99 or more for every book they pick up, $25 for hardcovers. Sure, we all have our absolute favorite writers that we want to keep on our shelf in the living room. But if you read a book a day, or even a book a week, that can get pricey quickly. We writers all want more money, sure, but I’m very happy that there’s a system in place that lets me get my books in front of readers without them having to decide, book or dinner?

And even if you aren’t short on cash, I love to write long series. At the moment, the complete Green Fields series will set you back something like $32 if you buy it. I get a lot of readers who binge that in a week or two, and it IS an investment, even if every single book is pretty cheap, also for their page count and the amount of time you spend reading them. When I’m done, it will be closer to $50. That’s several months of Netflix. That’s a blu-ray box set of your favorite show. That’s a nice dinner, or two IMAX movie tickets. One of the biggest gripes the publishing industry has at the moment is that people have so many other entertainment options. Well, maybe offering them all the content they want to consume for ten bucks a month might make your lame, old books suddenly very interesting and competitive?

Where does that leave me? At the moment, I’m pretty stoked to be in KU. People still discover my books and inhale them in one sitting. That’s one of the most amazing things for any author out there. Also, I get paid, which is nice, too. If I could change one thing, it would be the exclusivity clause. I don’t think anyone already getting their books from amazon would suddenly switch to iTunes or B&N, but it would be nice to tap into those audiences that steer clear of amazon for whatever reasons.
So next time you see another article on the web about how badly amazon treats us, and that KU is killing authors? Maybe read it with a grain, or entire sack, of salt. It’s not a perfect system but for some of us, it’s a fair, balanced alternative. Nobody is forced to be in KU, and it doesn’t work for every genre, every type of book, or every author. But if you, as a reader, like KU, don’t hesitate to use it! Borrow all the books you like, read them, recommend them to your friends! Never feel like you’re hurting us authors, because you’re not. If you really like a book and want to keep it, buy it after you’ve sampled it in KU, because it might not be in the program when you want to pick it up at a later date for a second go. Also, we only get paid once for you reading it, not for every time you borrow and re-read. The payout isn’t huge, but royalties for a 0.99 book aren’t, either, and you need to sell a shit load of $2.99 books to pay the rent every month as well.

update:
I wrote a follow-up article here that you might want to read as well.

NaNoWriMo 2017 roundup + update on GF#8

So I “won” NaNoWriMo yesterday at officially 50,188 words. Never mind what the site is saying, validation always screws with the final word count. I take mine from Scrivener every day so it’s a good benchmark. Did a great job, I’d say, as I almost, accidentally, finished a book! Now how did that happen?!

Let me explain. As you probably know (or read in my facebook fan group) I’ve been slogging my way through the 8th Green Fields book. The plan was to finish it in September October for NaNoWriMo, but when I finally got to what felt like the halfway point of the plot and I was shy of 100k words, I realized I might have miscalculated. I also wrote the perfect last line last week and thought, so sad, I’m not done with the book, but this would have been the perfect light cliffhanger ending!

Also factoring in that last week I only wrote 6k words (which on a good day I can do within said good day easily) I should have realized that something was going on. My subconscious has a habit of slowing me down when something’s not quite right (which in 9 times out of 10 is the reason why I get writer’s block, which really is “you wrote yourself into a corner and need to fix this” block). I guess the problem was, what I WAS writing worked well, so I didn’t see the issue.

I’m right now at 110.9k words for the novel, with about 5k of that over the mark where the book will end. I have a list of five scenes that I want to add to / introduce to the book, something that I’ve NEVER done until now. So yay, learning something new on book #15, or something like that. Being a writer can be very fascinating (and scary!) sometimes!
Looking over what I’ve written, it feels like a solid plot, but because I thought I had to pack it all into one book, I think I took a few too many shortcuts. It feels to me like I hewed my way with a machete through high grass without ever pausing or taking the chance and exploring something appearing along the way. Those are usually the best parts of the book so I really shouldn’t skimp on them…

I still think that my original idea is a solid one, and it would have made a solid book, but seeing as no one was angry with me for splitting the book when I asked, I think I can take a hint. Fact is, since that week in early 2015 when I had a massive boost of creativity that ended up turning a stand-alone biotech thriller into a 6-part zombie apocalypse series, I haven’t really had to go back to the drawing board and play around with plot arcs. When book #5 came out and readers wanted more, it was easy to leave some questions unanswered and add some foreshadowing, so #7 was a wrap when I sat down to write it. If you’ve read it already, you know that, like book #2, it has a very road trip like feel to it, and that’s pretty easy to write. You just check off boxes, and each of those boxes ends up being a part in the book about the same amount of words, usually 10-20k.

Book #8 (and now #9) doesn’t work like that. For starters, I wrote an extra 35k in the beginning that wasn’t planned, yet it just happened. I started writing just after finishing the first draft edits of #7 and sending that to my editor and the beta readers, and until I got everything back from them, I wrote the first half of the book, including that unplanned chunk. The opening chapter was supposed to be what ended up being chapter 10 or 11 now. It’s a great opening chapter, don’t get me wrong, but not the right first chapter if you consider how #7 ended. Because unlike every other book, #8 needed to start with what happens an hour after the end of Affliction. The day after. The week after. No spoilers here from me, but I think you would have all killed me if I’d just hashed over the next five weeks and confined what happened to a paragraph of reflection. Seriously, what writer can pass up 35k words of emotional and physical anguish!?

Well, not this writer, it seems. And so the “issues” started.

Everything I write usually runs long. Just ask my high school teachers. What ended up being Incubation, the first book in the series, at just over 90k words, used to be a 40k novella concept. Two of my books have gone to almost 150k words, which is 1.5x of what I’m always aiming for. Only the first stayed below that. It’s like once I’m writing, I need more words than I plan, and my plan for #8 was very tight, and very crammed. Oh well. So now you get to have two books, one coming out soon, the other likely in early spring, and I get paid twice. The horror, really!

So will it be two shorter books? Hell, no. #8 will likely clock in at 120k, just like #7, Affliction. And while right now I can delude myself into thinking that #9 won’t be as long, I’m not holding my breath there. That book will have a pretty heavy climax of about 50k realistically (I thought I could do it in 10. Ha!), with a beginning round-up section that’s 35k, I’d say, and I need connective tissue between those, so another 15k, plus the end, which will be around 10-20k… so about 120k again. Sounds legit! Now for real. Come to think of it, on the writing and structure part #9 is starting to feel a but like Resurgence, book #5–that ended up at 140+k. Damnit!

Have I mentioned I make most of my money with Kindle Unlimited, and I get paid by pages read for that? So actually, writing more means moar monayy! Bring it on!

Oh, right, I’m the one who has to do the writing. Never mind.

So what’s on my agenda for the rest of the week? I’m almost done proofreading my first draft, as it is. I will finish that today and type in all the changes (5-10 per page, printed in double space, 8pt font. Yes, I’m crazy, and apparently have a paper saving fetish). I have my short list of content additions that I will work on after that. One scene gets a massive addition, another some elaboration, and then some extra, mostly conversation stuff in a few strategic places. I definitely told Bree’s story in this book, but she’s not an island, and the other characters deserve some time on screen as well. Today I’m tired as hell as I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, and tomorrow I have some social obligations that involve great company and booze (plus, I really need a haircut!) so that will cut into my productivity, but I will have this wrapped up soon. I think. As I said, I normally don’t go back in and add stuff. All my foreshadowing is already in the book. I usually do that in a way that feels like throwing little balls of plot forward so my future self can then catch and unravel them, or continue to throw them forward. What’s missing from this book are non-essential things, but things that carry the very soul of the book. Details that make it feel more real, bits of research I was so excited about when I discovered it so I decided it needs to go into the book. Since I don’t have an agent, publisher, or developmental editor that tell me no, not essential so it needs to be cut, you’ll get your extra 15% soulful content! And, who knows? It might be those extra scenes that turn out to be the starting point of yet one more plot ball getting lobbed into future books. Yes, I plan my plot, but sometimes connections develop that surprise me as I write them. I believe that’s the secret of a plot that keeps readers on their toes. Have a good, solid foundation, but be prepared to catch a random ball that ends up fitting perfectly.

Damn, I need more sleep because that mental image just made sense to me.

So maybe you’ll get a book this year after all. If not, you’ll get it in January, and starting next week, I’ll work on the next one so that it will be out sooner rather than later. After all, I’m smack in the middle of the story and my head is in the right place. Gotta use that momentum!

Week 4 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Actual words: 49,139
Words to go: 861

Ah, yeah, so much for daily blogging. Just didn’t really feel like it last week. Got some writing done but not really a lot, just over 6,000 words for the entire week (although I had 2 days of zero words, and one with a glorious 164); I got some quality editing time in, though, which means I’m maybe two days behind in editing, which is amazing. That means that the day I finish writing will likely be the day I plug in the final edits for the first draft and the manuscript can go to the editor without a week or two of delay. Also had some admin stuff to do. I told you a while ago that, sadly, writing only accounts for part of what I do. This week I also had the (dubious) joy of crunching my 2017 sales numbers so my accountant could tell me how much more to invest to fully use the tax deductibles I’m allowed. The Austrian tax system is a wonderful maze of regulations and exceptions; that’s why I have an accountant. I can easily keep my books myself, but she’s the one who then works her magic and ends up with much more favorable conditions. In 2017 I will have made about 50% of what I raked in the year before, which, all things considered, is still amazing. But it’s still 50% less books sold and read, and don’t we all prefer those jumps to go up rather than down?

Extrapolating from that, I also did some thinking, then research in how to better those numbers for 2018. Not losing months at a time to writer’s block and soul crushing depression is a phenomenal idea, don’t you think? I think so, too! So far my November project of trying to be more healthy (ease up on my demands of myself, exercise regularly, eat healthy) is really working well. I swam over 5.5 hours last week, in four sessions of 1, 1, 1.6 and 2 hours. Yes, you read that right, on Saturday I swam for 120 minutes, and half of that was at full speed. Diet’s not that cleaned up yet so I’m not really losing fat but I’m slowly bulking up, which feels really weird sometimes but pretty much what I’ve been living with for most of my life (yes, just like you can have skinny fat people who don’t move at all, you can have healthy chunksters who are way fitter than most skinny people, and except for the strain on their joints because of their weight they pretty much lead a very healthy life). Thighs, butt, shoulders, obliques, and arms are def. feeling the burn. Which is also the reason why I constantly have partly numb fingers, only for once not the last three but the first. Pinkie and ring finger, sometimes middle, too, going numb I’m used to from carpal tunnel syndrome. The other side (thumb, index, middle finger) are from what you might have experienced if you ever smacked your elbow hard, and tennis players often have to fight with. With swimming breaststroke, I also have way more tension on the muscles all around my elbow which then push down on the ulnar and median nerve, and, tata! Number fingers. I know way more about the anatomy of the hand / arm than I ever wanted to know, but it’s been this way for way longer than my most recent books. I had a lot of issues with my fingers when I was still working in the lab, so the RSI issues of typing all day long have actually been a respite of sorts. Damn swimming, now screwing with my fingers as well! (please read that in a “get off my lawn!” voice.). I have no intention of stopping or slowing down unless this becomes a permanent issue.

I also want to do more with advertising next year, so now I have to get some copywriting expertise for that. I swear, the skills I had to acquire since I decided to become an Indie writer are enough to fill an entire CV, and that’s part of the fun. While time-consuming sometimes, that’s also a very comforting idea. If I ever couldn’t hack it as a full-time writer anymore, I could always get a few certifications and make money using said newly acquired skills. Maybe it’s because I’m Austrian and we don’t really brag a lot with our accomplishments, or it’s because lots about writing feels so natural to me that it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, but I think I’m doing a good job so far. Marketing and promotions is something I don’t really do a lot, so might be interesting to explore that for real. I have 14 books out with 4 possible ad “starters” and some extra that I can easily get up there to use, so I’m going to spend some time (and money) trying to make more money with as little effort as possible. She said, fully knowing that she was about to lose nights to numbers crunching, but I actually like spreadsheets, so no harm done. I also got a yearly subscription to SkillShare to have some nice videos to watch in the background and maybe learn a thing or two as well, and intend to put some extra time into honing my craft soon, too.

But first, finish this damn book!
It’s not looking so good for a 2017 release of GF#8. I’ve made great progress this month, 49k of progress, so far, but considering the book keeps expanding, I really would need to rush it to completion this week, and there’s no guarantee I could even pull that off and it would be good, so I’m not trying. I didn’t go into a hypomanic phase like I thought I would so steady as she goes is what’s happening. I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough as I’m waffling around, but that’s in my head. Again, 1/3 of the book I already wrote this month, that’s a lot even for someone who can write a shitton of words within a few days. And while I’m annoyed that it’s not going on huge leaps and bounds, I’m very stoked about the steady progress as that’s much easier to maintain. Plus swim, and read, and learn, and actually enjoy social, human interactions. I know you all want the book yesterday, but a few of the changes that came along because I took a little more time are making it better. Not saying that the books that I wrote quicker would have been better if I’d taken more time. I think every story has to be told at its genuine, unique speed, and for this one I need a little more time. And also, because it’s 1/3 longer than planned! Damnit. You’ll get to read the reasons for that in the book’s author note where I can spoil at will.

Going to do me some book writing now so I can spend the evening with copywriting and marketing shit. Ugh. Maybe more writing in the p.m. after all. Yeah, that sounds much better!

Day 17 & 18 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 28,333 / 30.000
Actual words: 0
Overall words: 43,006

Took the weekend off, pretty much (might add Sunday, too). Two hours in dental appointment hell was enough. Friday / Saturday we were watching the new Punisher series on Netflix, now on Sunday the last season of Longmire. Already November might become my most productive month of the year, won’t hurt to recharge the creative well in the middle, take a breath, and dive back in on Monday.

A few words about inspiration, and why Netflix did everything right with the Punisher.

I haven’t read the comics so I can’t say how accurate they were in portraying Frank Castle, but I’ve seen the two movies, and loved him in the 2nd Daredevil season. I’ve so far enjoyed all of the Netflix Marvel shows, even Iron Fist (although the bungled a lot there). My favorites are still the first Daredevil season, Jessica Jones, and the Defenders. I may have a huge crush on Mrs. Semi-Functioning Alcoholic. I might even lose the shows more than the movies, although the last Thor movie was amazeballs. The shows are great because they have more time to develop and explore the characters, and that’s where the Punisher was strongest, for me. Don’t get me wrong, he was great in DD2 already, but now we really got to dive into his head, see through his eyes, taste his frustration that was so visceral that, really, his dreams were the worst for me. The whole first episode was the perfect way to set the stage, and they really hit the street running from there. Could it have been done in 10 rather than 13 episodes? Sure, but I feel like it was the right decision to take the time for some extra side plots.

The show’s getting crucified in the media over here because, oh noes, how dare anyone still produce anything with a strong, hard, unforgiving male lead? I wonder if they saw all the episodes because there’s so much more to Castle, and his friendship with Micro, than just the general premise. Sure, they threw some nice punches to both the left and right, without getting overly moralizing, which would have ruined the narrative. I also feel like stressing that I had a few moments while watching where I went all, “Oh, no, I just wrote that!! People will think I’m ripping off the show with my next book!” (Well, not really, but having gotten inspired). I also feel like most of you will appreciate the show for what it is, and what they did with it.  Great characters. Great narrative. Also, the fact that one reviewer decried that there was no real villain is IMHO a string point for the show. It was neither black nor white but all about the gray in between. and that’s where I feel characters truly shine. Not-so-good people doing shitty things that then conflict with their moral code and kick off a cascade of shit that they then have to deal with, and that pushed them so beyond their limits that they cannot win, because even revenge won’t make up for what they lost? Yes, please!

In short, watching the Punisher was very inspiring for me.

See, the thing about inspiration is, it’s not a concrete thing like, say, food. Among any sort of creatives, there this idea of “refilling the creative well,” that you can’t create something from nothing. Goes hand in hand with the fact that a lot of writers, after finishing a novel and pouring everything they have into it, they feel empty. Sometimes I’m able to avoid that stage but it hits me eventually, or catches up with me (finishing the novel is okay, but usually, publishing it where it hits me). So I gotta refill, like everyone else. Reading books is a great way to do that, only that often, I just can’t because my mind won’t stay on task long enough when I’m this empty. I’ve recently heard another writer say she goes on “artist dates” with herself, like visiting a museum or art gallery. Don’t get me wrong, I like museums, but I’m generally not very inspired by them. that likely says a lot about me, and what I’m made up from. But watching a great movie, or TV show, or maybe even a documentary might spawn an entire new series in my head. Or a character. A setting. It might reinforce my decisions about how to handle a plot point, or make me realize that I went in a wrong direction with something.

So while that might seem contraindicative to some, I refuse to feel bad about spending a good portion of my evenings and weekends in front of the TV. Plus, I’m a storyteller. Pacing is important to any story, and movies and TV shows do pacing really well if they’re worth watching. We writers can all learn a thing or two from that. Sure, reading books is great for learning how to write well, but they’re not the only option.

Day 13 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 21,667
Actual words: 3,038
Overall words: 35,206

I’m writing this at night as tomorrow morning I’m meeting with a writer friend of mine (still squeeing every time I say this!). If you want to check out her books, she writes urban fantasy / paranormal romance, and her second book is out on Wednesday! Book #1 White, #2 Black! She even got mentioned in the Chicago Tribune because of some really amazing background stuff going on. Hashtag famous people I know. Why I mention this? Well, because I’m having a phenomenal antisocial streak right now and why not share that with semi random people on the internet?

The thing is, when I feel really down, I often hide from the world. I can’t even stand to work from my office because I can’t stand the idea of running into anyone, or not being able to crawl into bed at home. I can take my laptop with me to bed, so might even get some writing done. But no people! What’s happening right now is different. I don’t like to interact with people. So sorry if you’re one of the people I regularly talk to, or are waiting for a comment or email response. I just don’t feel like talking to anyone. Someone at the gym, who I coincidentally spent my last two long training sessions with at the pool, said “bye” when she left the changing room ahead of me today. I barely managed to croak out a reply. It’s really that bad. I try to explain this to people who I regularly interact with but I feel like most don’t get just how bad this can get. I feel good right now. Normal good, not 120% extra good, but I’m def. not depressed at the moment. I write, a lot. So no real apparent cause for turning into a true Viennese, right? Well, with moderate grumpy levels. We can be way worse than this.

Why? Why is my mind behaving like this?

I have two explanations. One is mental (ha!), the other writing related.

Let’s look at the writing related one first. The book will be running long, but I’m in the second half now where a lot of action happens, and I love writing these parts. I really do. I feel like I’m submerged in the creative flow right now. I recently got the question again how much I am like Bree. Right now I often like I AM her. My mind won’t shut up when I step away from the computer. Either I write, or I intensely think through what I will be writing next. It’s a stop-and-go but non-stop, kinda. Yes, that’s also a hypomania thing, but I always get that at the ending of a book. It’s like the story needs to be finished. I couldn’t stop now if I tried. Might still be a week or two until I actually finish, but it’s happening right now. And when my mind is pretty much locked inside a fiction character’s mind, there’s not much outside socializing for Adrienne going on, now, is there?

The other explanation is something that occurred to me as I was walking back from the gym today to get some more writing done before leaving for home. I’ve spent the last months in a bad state, where I pretty much spent entire days loathing myself. For being stupid, for being lazy, for finding excuses, for not even trying, for writing shit stories, for not writing better stories, for not writing in a genre that sells better, for not being happier about my stories–you name it. The darkest side of depression is that a lot of people really dig deep into hating themselves, and they are way harsher than they’d be with anyone else. Guess what that accomplishes? They feel even worse. But I pulled through and now that’s behind me (well, most of it) and I’m much more enthusiastic about what I do and feel good about it. I’ve put myself through the emotional meat grinder, and now I need a little time with myself. You know, to pat myself on the back, forgive myself, hug myself, feel good about feeling better, maybe be a little proud I made it through moderately okay, things like that. I think that time’s really needed, and deserved. Right now there’s no space inside of me for anyone else, or their concerns. So while I would like to be there for others, reach out, connect, catch up… I can’t do that yet. Maybe in a day or two. Maybe next week. When I’m ready, I will be happy to. But not now.

Now, I need to be selfish, and get this fucking book out of my head before Bree is driving me insane!

Day 11 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 18,333
Actual words: 2,018
Overall words: 30,184

So, I usually type these posts on the mornings after the day, but for several reasons, the first half I do on Saturday evening; the rest is Sunday morning. As I write this, I haven’t actually written anything yet, and it’s already 8pm, about time I get some words done. What I have done today, besides catch up on TV, is swimming for two hours. Consecutive, and I wasn’t just paddling around. I really pushed myself, and then just kept on going… listening to podcasts, not some upbeat music that kept me going. That I went to the gym in itself is remarkably, been 4x this week so I really could have stayed home. But after last month’s downtime, I decided that I won’t be using the old “I’d rather work than work out” excuse, because I need to take care of myself first to be able to keep doing what I love. So I swam, for 2 hours, and felt really good about it. Only the second time I ever did this. Later realized that it might not have been the brightest idea when I wash shaking so hard that I almost couldn’t put on my underwear, and still had a 30 min drive home, though the rain, around the woods of Vienna, where a deer running across the street almost smashed into the car in front of me.

Anyway, why am I telling you this, except to brag (just a little bit. To some people I just want to say, hey, I look like a manatee, might as well swim like one, too!)? As I was driving, and musing my way through this blog post to come, I wanted to say something like, doing fine right now, which is awesome. You saw my mind in a bad place a few days ago, this is me doing better, yay! While really, I just wanted to write… so I figured I should add, see, this is “normal” for me, not the start of a hypomanic phase… when I’m so full of energy that I swim for two hours and feel like I could write through the night… yeah. You guessed it. Need a few more days like this but today was def. NOT a normal day! Plus, I feel amazing! Like, really, really good. I’m happy, shit that keeps going on around me doesn’t bother me (compared to my mind sinking into it to the point where it’s an endless cycle of misery and self-loathing. Today I’m like, nah, not going this, moving on, got bigger fish to fry!). I wish I should take a biochemical imprint of my mind from today, label it “preset awesome,” and reload it when I feel myself slipping once more. Because this? This, right now, is just… awesome. I know I overuse that word and it makes me sound way dumber than I am, but I feel awesome. I also feel like the book I’m writing is really good and you all will love it, I don’t care that it might have pacing issues… actually, I don’t think it has pacing issues. Because after how Affliction ended, I’m sure you want to know what happens 2 hours later. And the next day. And a week down the line. So what, I could cut the first 35k or 7 chapters and start the book the way I had intended it to, but really, I was writing those words when I was in my last super productive phase, they flowed, and when I did the first proofread, they didn’t drag. Who complains about an extra 100-140 pages (that are interesting. And awesome!) that you get with the rest of the book, for free? In KU more pages mean more money, so it’s not bad for me, on the contrary. And for the USD 3.99 that the book retails, I feel like you deserve a little extra without having to download the novella from my website. And OMG my mind is DEF. running in more than normal speed, which I feel because after 2 hours of swimming, my fingers are still a little weird and my back muscles def. hurt, so yay! Don’t care. Have fiction to write and people to kill. Soon.

Life is beautiful right now. And amazing. And I’m happy, which after the last weeks I really needed. I’m also happy because the book is progressing well, I’m taking care of myself and even feeding myself well, and we found a good solution for our next summer vacation after not being 100% happy with what we did the last 2 years. Was great, was mostly born out of me going from broke to not-so-broke-anymore, but it’s time for a change. Also slept for 8 hours last night, that was nice, even though I woke up with a killer headache. And while the ghost of my last depressive episode is still very fresh on my mind (and in my Bullet Journal. I even stopped doing a monthly tracker for my exercise because it was so depressing to go that almost completely blank. And my word count was abysmal. Yes, I don’t need to catalogue my mood to know I’ve had a few bad weeks, I can simply look at what has been going on.) After seeing the last dregs of that, welcome to the swing side of the insanity that my brain produces. And why so many people who are bipolar don’t want to take mood stabilizers. Depression is hell. And if that’s all you get, please, go get help, because nobody deserves to suffer like this. But what I’m on right now? I don’t want to lose this. I want to keep holding on to this all the time. In fact, everyone should have some of this, every single day in their amazing lives!! Getting a little concerned about the racing thoughts here, maybe I should lay off the Pepsi max, but I only have 1.5 bottles left so that will have taken care of itself by tomorrow. Very important I told you that, I’m sure your life is so much richer knowing this. Welcome to my brain on hypomania. I’m so glad I’m type 2, because full-blown mania really must be feeling like you’re going insane. I just feel really energetic, like a dog right before a walk, barking, jumping, running circles, ready to be OUT!! Time to get off the blog and into crushing that daily word count (while my guy starts reading the first 17 chapters of said book to let me know if I’m right in that the beginning is good, and this is not just my “I’m large than life awesome!” brain weirdness telling me shit again and making me incapable of judging what I write. Everyone should have an alpha reader like that, particularly if they can’t trust their own judgment half of the time.)

And now for the Sunday part:

(side note: Still feeling good, and didn’t get much sleep yet jumped out of bed at 7am. Seems like I’m all caught up on my sleep backlog.)

Because I’ve been promising it in the past and haven’t delivered it yet, and it came up in the facebook group: A few words about the process of writing a book. Grab some coffee or tea, this is going to be a longer post (writing it while doing some nice Sunday morning TV binging. Hey, I need to watch TV as it’s inspiring. Seriously. I know, best job in the world, right?)

Concept and outline: hours to decades
The very beginning of any story, and the part that’s the least precise. I’ve outlined stories in days, like the short story in the recent anthology. I’ve started writing on an epic fantasy story when I was 13 (up until graduating from high school), and I’m still turning that over and over in my head to one day be able to do it justice. Not sure I will ever get to that. Maybe once my backlist makes enough so I don’t need a release every few months to be able to pay the bills. There’s no rhyme or reason to this part of the process as it just happens in my mind. I’m always plotting one story or another up there. Brushing my teeth, waiting for the train (and often, the consecutive train ride as well), you name it. It’s the part that feels the most natural to me, and what’s impossible to explain, really. I do the most thinking of the recent project that I’m writing, but sometimes, I love to switch it up. Only takes me about an hour or so if I make bigger changes to rearrange an entire book. It happens!

Writing the book: 1-4 months, usually – 35-40%
This is the part you know I do, or I presume that’s the case, but the actual writing part takes up less than 50% of my time, with some light rewrites. That’s pretty much me spewing out words that should form a cohesive story. Transcribing the movie that I’ve built in my head and fine-tuned to the point where I can write it. Plus some additions, minus some points that are redundant. I write in a linear fashion, so if I change something, it usually affects only the parts not yet written.

Proofreading & editing: 25%
I write a moderately clean first draft, with maybe 1-5 things that need changing on each page. Some of the cleanup I do right in my Scrivener file, but I find more issues when I print it out, in 8 pt. font, 1.5 spaced, on paper, and then go over it with colored markers. Never red because that reminds me too much of school, I favor light blues, or recently, orange ink. I also proofread and edit on my iPad. Once the draft is cleaned up, it goes to my editor (two rounds) and beta readers. That part takes about a month. After all those rounds of making changes, I use the text-to-speech tool of my mac to read the entire book to me again. That’s painful, but is awesome for finding homonyms and things the reading mind, even in editing mode, skips over. All in all, I probably go through the text somewhere between six to ten times. That’s not that I’m more or less a pro, have deadlines, trust in my writing, and know what I’m doing. It used to be way worse. My first first novel had four entire drafts and three completely different versions. Now it’s usually one version with only very few variations.
I spend at least 2 weeks just editing, one after the draft is done, and one directly before publications. Least favorite part of the process. I try to do some of it while I’m still writing, just to make that a little more bearable.
Once the audiobook is ready, I need about 2-5 days to listen through it all so I can tell my narrator/producer if there are any changes to be made so I can approve it. Depending on how things are, that means an entire week.

Post-production, layout, stats, accounting: 10%
Books might look like just text, but really, you need to format them. You need a cover, and even if you don’t do that yourself, you spend hours going back and forth with your cover artist. You need to check your stats and track something, at the very least your expenses. All that can eat hours at a time, maybe even days. I’m running a business, I can’t just play all the time. It takes me a few hours to do the ebook formatting, about 3x as much for the paperback. I really like doing that, and usually watch YouTube on the side to keep my brain from powering down.

Marketing, social media, research: 20-25%
I don’t count hanging out with you guys on facebook in the group, or writing these blog posts. That’s my free time. I’m not a heavy marketer, but even so, there are things that need to be done. Even more so, I need to know what works for others, so I spend a substantial time listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and being active in writer forums. The podcasts I now listen to while I swim, so that was six hours this week. Usually it’s around 2-4 (I sometimes hop into the pool without wanting to be bothered by anything). Marketing needs to be tailored to each individual author, series, and book, so even if I get a good idea what someone else did, I still need to test, implement changes, crunch numbers, you name it. I spent over half a year learning how to self-publish before I uploaded my very first book to Amazon, and I still need to put hours into that process each month. You can’t just take a word file, slap on an MS Paint marquee cover, and expect it to sell.

Not giving up: what remains up to 100%
Not much, but sometimes, simply restraining your ambitions and not giving up when something doesn’t work out is work as well.

To sum this all up, I LOVE being a writer. I strongly believe it’s what I’m meant to do. I love this job, but in the end, it IS a job, not just a hobby or something I spend a lot of time with. I work somewhere between 50-70 hours a week, and that’s not counting a lot of extra stuff like reading books on craft, or doing story-related research. That’s kind of part of the writing process. I don’t do all of it every day; there are weeks where I just write, and do minimal other stuff, but accounting, stat tracking, and lining up promos is something I can’t really ignore for long or it will bite me in the ass. I now have systems that work for me, and I try to keep it all afloat so I don’t get bogged down in anything for long that isn’t writing. Like editing. Which I hate, with the vengeance of a thousand hells. But I won’t release a book that’s not the best it can be, and that takes time, so even with all the outside help I now get, I still need to put in those two weeks minimum. I refuse to be one of the writers that hurl out books that are “just good enough,” and accept a 10-20% docking in ratings for all the mistakes that could be avoided with a little more time spent weeding them out. Are there still errors in my books? Yes, and they drive me insane, but there’s no real way to get them all out. Also, I refuse to do lengthier rewrites of already published novels because you’ve read them. You might love exactly the part I’d cull down, and I never want to disappoint you like that. My time is better spent making the next book better than the ones that came before, so that’s what I do. I go back and correct typos if someone tells me about them, and I don’t forget. Which can be an issue sometimes, but I usually correct my master files the day I get a notice, and eventually, that shows up in the published versions as well.

I’m not telling you this to discourage you from becoming a writer yourself. Actually, now is a great time to be a writer, or start being one. A decade ago, all you could do was hope that an agent and publisher would take a chance on you, which always is a years-long process. Now you can teach yourself how to do all the many things you need to do to publish a book, work with freelancers to do the things you cannot do yourself (everyone needs an editor / proofreader. You cannot do a complete self-edit. At the very least, you need someone who tells you if your vision actually works, even if you managed to get the grammar perfect on your own. Which you likely won’t because the brain reads what it knows is there, not what you actually typed) and then release it into the world. All you need then is luck, and the right marketing tools so people will find your book. It doesn’t happen on its own, sadly, although Amazon helps a lot once the algos see that you try to grease them. Then it’s up to the readers to love it, share it, or ignore it. For a single book, all the extra work really isn’t worth it, but right now I have 14 books out there that have vastly different sale numbers but are doing a good job keeping me in business. I definitely plan on adding a shitton more in the next decades. Because this is what I love, and I’m blessed to be able to do it for a living, but it sure isn’t just a passion, or something I do when it strikes my fancy. It may not be a nine-ti-five job, but it requires that I do the work, put in the hours, and get shit done. Some weeks that’s more writing. Some weeks that’s trying to find out how to best position my books on the market and pull in new readers. Some weeks that’s creating brand new worlds in my head. It’s the ideal job for me because it allows me to schedule my own downtimes and work around things that I cannot exactly influence. There’s always something I can do, even if I can’t write. Because writing is only part of what I do, even if it’s the part I love the most. So if you see a writer spending a lot of time on social media, don’t tell them to quit because they should be writing. Chances are, they are hungering for all the human interaction they didn’t get because they just spent ten consecutive hours churning out words. Or they do it while they watch movies for research. Or to make sure their audience is happy and slobbering for the next book. Being a writer is more like a lifestyle than a job, really. Best thing in the world!

Day 10 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 16,667
Actual words: 1,850
Overall words: 28,166

It was a short writing day, ending up just under 1.5 hours as I had to order that fridge. Yes, the fridge is an important part of this week! Should get here next week so I can now keep my milk almost right next to my desk. #priorities. It will also help with keeping lunch food fresh, which is the real reason I’m getting it, but the “it’s all about the coffee!” excuse fits better to us writerly caffeine addicts.

Day was short because we spent the afternoon and evening at the spa / thermal bath. We had a coupon. You wouldn’t believe how much of my travel and vacation time is justified with “we had a coupon.” For a time, it was the only way to afford things, now it’s become a part of justifying taking time off. Like, “look, it’s so cheap, it would be a crime not to buy the coupon at 50% off!”, and then of course we have to use it, because we can’t let it go to waste. Booking online counts as coupons, right?!

Anyway, I digress. I printed out the last six chapters I’d written but because I snored my way through part of the time I didn’t sweat in the sauna or soak in the hot pool, I only got around five pages proofread. Which is more than I’ve managed in the past. And technically, it wasn’t supposed to be a productive work afternoon. We had planned to go there two weeks ago but with my mind still curled up in itself we postponed the trip, as in the past I’ve seen that if I’m not well, being forced to “relax” for 7-10 hours just makes it even worse, while it’s a prime recharging opportunity when I’m doing okay. I was a bit miffed that I couldn’t finish writing the scene I was smack in the middle off when we had to leave at noon, but I’ll get to that today. No biggie. And I did beat the daily NaNo required words, just wish I could have continued my 5+k streak.

Brief “discussion” topic: How to write a novel – pantser vs. plotter
If you haven’t heard those terms yet, there are two main camps most writers flock into–those that write intricate outlines, sometimes up to 100 pages for a 300 page novel, and those that do no outlining whatsoever and write “by the seat of their pants.”
I’ve for a long time considered myself not a plotter as I don’t write my outlines down. But I’m definitely not a pantser. I need to know where my story is going, and once I know, I fill out as many details as possible in my head before I sit down and write it. So, yeah, I’m a plotter, 99%. But really, it doesn’t matter how you write, only that you write and finish a novel that, to the reader, is a good, cohesive story. I flounder the moment I lose my outline. Most often when I’m blocked and it’s not because my mind is running haywire, it’s because something with the outline is amiss. Often, what looked good in my head, when translated, makes no sense–contradiction, timeline issues, or just plain “Character X would never do that!” moments. While I do outline, I often have fuzzy parts in between the crystal clear scenes, and that’s where it’s easy to get lost.
Or, as happened this very week, as I write, out of nowhere, something happens that wasn’t planned. A three-sentence conversation turns into a chapter-long verbal battle, big reveals jump onto the stage out of nowhere, fixed details become fluid and realign–and it all makes way more sense in the end than I had planned before. Not all, but some of the “oh, this why Y and Z happened” moments in my books were written this way. I didn’t plan them, but of course I know a lot more background information about the world, and what happened off-plot, than I can write. Plus, my subconscious knows 1000x as much. And, sometimes, when I know that at the 80% point of the story this and that will come to the light and I need to foreshadow things now, my subconscious pulls the trigger and either drags up the supposed main plot out into the open, or comes up with something even better. Feel free to guess what turning points in the story surprised me in the past books, and which were planned years in advance.

I love when things like that happen, because usually, they are very important, good scenes that add a lot to the background of the characters and keep the story fresh, but they do tend to drive me insane, because then I need to reshape the path that was almost set in stone already. Writing, however you do it, is always pure creativity. But I’m not someone who relies on spurts of creativity, and sometimes, they really mess with me and the story. Then again, my first draft doesn’t really need editing (as in, add scenes or entire plot lines, cut half of the chapters) but mostly proofreading to make sure details are okay, and those damn typos and misused words are corrected. I know several writers who say their first draft is barely the skeleton of the book, entirely unfit for public consumption, and the real creative work lies in their second and third pass as they add the details and put it all in the right order. I think because I basically transcribe the movie I’ve put together before I write, my process is always linear, and comes with few variations. But that’s only one way to write a novel, and there are thousand other way to do so. Just so you know why I despair when someone tells me that it should all be spontaneous and creative. Nope, not my MO. This is how almost main characters get killed.

Day 5 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 8,333
Actual words: 1,357
Overall words: 8,795

Writing this on Monday morning so please excuse my lack of enthusiasm. Monday started well (for a Monday) but when the second thing you see is that people who don’t know you talk trash about you where you can’t defend yourself, that’s kind of a bummer. First thing was the news about Sutherland Springs, and that sure puts everything else into perspective. I generally don’t comment on things that go on over there because as a non-US citizen I feel like maybe I would do good not to place judgment on things that don’t directly concern me, but of course my heart is with the people affected. Quite the way to start the week.

So, yesterday. Right now I feel like an old diesel engine that’s not quite starting. I was super motivated (and for once not sleep deprived) in the morning when I was typing the blog post, then enjoyed a great breakfast and some nice TV–Sunday is Outlander time! Still can’t believe I got my guy hooked on the show as well, but might be that he’s hooked on my constant commentary. Loved the books, and love the show! and caught up on Supernatural and Scandal. And then… down, down, down my mood and motivation went, until I was a tightly coiled bundle of misery, frustration, and general “meh.” First, I wanted to go swimming to try to get rid of it (because that worked so well on Friday), but didn’t make it out of the house. Then I had the idea to head out for a walk, but my phone had died because I hadn’t charged it up and I need white noise music when I walk and plot. To explain, I needed something to go over the next few scenes in the book so I could write it. Next, I tried to play some Diablo 3 on the PS4, but the season had ended and I felt terribly demotivated to keep working on my Necromancer, so meh again. Plus, D3 kills my fingers, and they are acting up right now (thanks carpal tunnel syndrome!) anyway so no D3 for me. Does that sound drab and frustrating to you yet? Hell yeah it was.

I ended up playing Skyrim for an hour (okay, two hours) which was surprisingly easy on my hands, but a bit upsetting on my stomach. Fun fact (I know, I have so many of those!): I played Skyrim for 5 days straight once until I not only saw it in my sleep but now get queasy very easily when I play it again! Yay me!

I hate being such a Debbie Downer at the moment but that’s my life right now! It got better when I got the keyboard again at 11pm and wrote those 1,357 words. Very fitting, Bree wasn’t in the best mood, either. But since the end of book #7 she hasn’t really had much reason to be super chipper. And if you’re thinking I project my own meh at my characters, it’s usually the other way round.

Let’s talk a bit about empathy, shall we? Because that’s kind of connected to being bipolar, maybe, or not. You ask me, I’m not a psychologist, and I still believe I know better what is going on inside my head than someone who has to rely on my frustrated, stunted explanations, so bear with me. So, last week I already said I have bipolar type 2. I should maybe explain, because a lot of this I’ve only found out myself in the past year, and I’ve always been very interested in mental health issues (and serial killers), not just because some of it might affect me. BTW, don’t care at all for “suffering from.” I’m not suffering. I mean, yeah, sometimes I am, but I feel like the suffering is worse with chocolate cravings. You probably know bipolar as “manic depressive,” the old moniker. There are several kinds, and atypical cases as well (yay!) but I’m 99% sure I’m type 2. Type 1 is the classic up-and-down of mania and depression. Mania might sound fun but it really isn’t. I can’t say myself, I’ve never had a manic episode. I THOUGHT once I had had one but turns out, as type 2 I only have hypomanic episodes that are elevated states, but not going-nuts-overdrive elevated. I was close once, and I often feel like I’m borderline insane, so please, allow me the insensitive remarks. Type 2 in most people (and me) is usually prolonged major depressive phases with interspersed hypomanic episodes. But hey, you can have manic episodes inside depressive phases, did you know that? Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

For the longest time, I thought I had depression. Which is technically true, but it’s not the end of it for me. Also, I love statements like, “depression can, sometimes, be cured, but bipolar is a chronic illness that you’re stuck with for life.” Because it’s caused by weird brain chemistry, and while you can screw with that using medication, you can’t make it go away completely. Thumbs up for life sentences!

I’m not sure I’d want to be cured if that was possible. Like many people who are bipolar 2, I love my hypomanic episodes. During the first one that I can actually pinpoint, I wrote Outbreak, GF#2! Over 117k words in a month, including ending book #1 and starting book #3. I’ve never had a month like that. It was amazing! The second phase I had this summer, roughly between end of June to early August. Wrote not as much but quite a lot. It was nice. I felt really good! I want that to happen again! Creative brain on 150% is fun. And weird, but I like weird. I define myself with “weird.” Who needs normal when you can be weird?

Last time I only slowed down, afterwards. This time I felt myself crashing, and September and October have been… let’s call it a struggle, but that sounds too active, as I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. Lots of things all came together, and it’s never easy to find reasons when there really are none. Many writers crash when they finish a book / publish it as they put so much effort into it that they end up a little “empty” once it’s out in the world. That happened. Had some unforeseen issues with other people, and because I can no longer claim that I’m not Nate, you can guess how that went down. Fun fact, when we were watching Mindhunter and Dr. Carr was explaining how the serial killers often justified their drive and needs, I felt like I could relate… a lot. It’s moments like this that make you feel really comfortable in your skin.

Anyway, back on target. Just like in August, even before Affliction hit the shelves, I felt myself crashing, sloooowly but surely, I’ve felt my mood pick up for the past two weeks or so. One would expect that to be a soft, slow curve, but no. It’s more like a series of false starts, hence the engine metaphor. I’m good for a few hours, and then I’m not. Like everyone else, of course triggers also work with me. Give me chocolate and I will be happy! Tell me someone is talking shit about me, and I’m down! But my mood in general, overall, isn’t dependent on anything, and that’s what drives me mad. Maybe literally. Bipolar people do get hospitalized sometimes. I hate inconsistency. I’m an inconsistent writer. Yay! But today is Monday, and I woke up being glad that it was Monday, because weekdays mean routine, and if there’s one thing that helps me get my mind straight, it’s routine.

6am: get up. Just kidding.

7am: get up. Have breakfast. Or not. I hate showering in the mornings so I try to avoid it like the plague. One more reason to hit the gym in the afternoon and wash my hair after it gets dunked in chlorine: no need to shower 16 hours later.

8am: leave the house, or if I work from home, hit the computer for some YouTube R&R.

9am: Office time! Or work time when I’m working from home or a coffee shop.

11:30-12:30: Somewhere in there’s a 30 mins lunch break.

2pm: Hit the gym! Swimming mostly right now but I love lifting weights, too.

4:30pm: Drive back home!

7pm-ish: When motivated, hit the keyboard again. Might run as late as 2am, because who needs sleep?

6am, after crawling into bed at 2am: I hate the world! Unless I’m in a hypomanic episode, because then, four hours of sleep are fine, so let’s conquer the world!!

Or something like that. Technically, it makes no sense for me to have a schedule as I’m a self-employed full-time writer and except for meetings and doctor’s appointments I don’t even need to keep daylight hours. I sometimes don’t. But routine really helps my mind when it’s not doing well. Blocks of time in particular. It’s agonizing to spend 8 consecutive hours not doing anything productive. It might sound fun to you if you’re blessed with a healthy mind but work a job that drags often, but not so much when you, technically, could do whatever you want… except that you can’t. That’s why I love my 3-part writing day, mornings, afternoons, and evenings. There’s a good chance that at least in one of those blocks I actually do write. Right now that’s evenings. In my day, I have about 12-14 hours of potential writing time. On those days where I write more than 10k words (that’s 40+ pages, so you can relate) I use up most of that time. Of course it’s frustrating when I only manage 500 words, considering how much time was “wasted,” but eh, I’ll take the 500 if that’s all I get! 2 more pages than I had the day before.

I’m sorry that this is so over the place and disorganized, but THIS is how my brain is when it’s not at 120%. Or a 100%. Right now I feel like I’m clocking in at 80-90%. That’s enough for writing. I live and breathe the story that’s in my head, don’t need that much brain power to transcribe it. Which is awesome, or else I couldn’t hack it as a writer. Surprisingly, that shuts down my inner critic (In writing, not when I can’t write) so it’s often the better parts of a book, pure creative voice. But focusing is hard sometimes. Human interaction harder still, even more so when you can never forget to pretend like you’re a fully functioning human being when really, you don’t feel like one at the moment.

So empathy, right! Forgot about that. One of the newest tidbits of information about being bipolar is that many are really strong empathizers. Like, feeling physical discomfort because someone else is miserable kind of strong. I immediately discounted that because, let’s face it, your girl here isn’t really empathetic…

Except that maybe I am. I’m shitty at showing empathy, that’s true. But my parents’ divorce and how my mom was incapable of handling the emotional side of it at first sent me into years of… I’m not even sure I can describe that as depression, because what I felt for the past two months doesn’t hold a candle to that. I certainly came out as a different person at the other end, when I managed to claw my way back out of that hole. Minus a lot of friends, or people I thought were friends but clearly weren’t, because where were they when I was barely more than a husk of my former self? Having their own issues of course, issues I can’t empathize with. Cat chasing its tail, you see?

Fun fact: It’s amazing when people tell you that you can come talk to them when you need help. Guess what you can’t do when you’re down? Reach out! Nobody’s to blame.

I do feel strong emotions, often. Books and movies do that to me. For instance, I can’t stand nice, happy endings, particularly in romance (that’s why I usually read the soul crushing, dark romance, that maybe 2% of writers can pull off. Not the everything is fine, just a hitch in the road, now it’s even better kind. That I cannot stand. Or relate to.) I like tragic endings and turns. Maybe because that causes emotions inside of me that I can relate to better. I don’t know. The older I get, the more I bawl at emotional endings. Service dog sitting at his marine handler’s grave? Floodgates. But that NCIS episode even got Gibbs teary-eyed, I feel no shame. But I have been thinking over the past few days, and I realized that yes, I easily feel physically ill in connection to emotions, and not my own, so I seem to be empathizing.

It’s a journey. And sometimes not one I’m happy to be on, but hey, it’s my life, and I kind of am determined to make the best of it. Like write these stories that I’m so damn proud of, and meet people who read them and really dig them. That’s amazing. That also helps with the bad days. Not immediately, but I’ve learned to go by averages and over-alls, because that counts in the end. I’m kind of tempted to delete this endless ramble here, but hey, maybe you understand better now why, sometimes, I just seem weird, and sometimes, I’m really not in a good place. Swimming helps, even if maybe not at the moment. I don’t think it’s because of the endorphin / dopamine high that exercise causes, but because it’s calm, and constant, whether I listen to podcasts or just my own breathing and splashing. Kind of like an hour of physical white noise to normalize it all. To center myself. To not care about all the bullshit that doesn’t need to concern me. What do I care if someone foul-mouths me or my books? Peanuts. Less so, because I actually like peanut butter. Insignificant piece of gravel. Even if it’s an entire heap, it doesn’t need to land on and bury me. I have bigger fish to fry. Like a damn amazing last 1/3 of a book that I’m maybe 10 pages away from starting into. And a next book that has Bree firing on all cylinders from start to finish. And an idea for the one after that starts with so much wonderful annoyance (that’s unavoidable) to just make me cackle with manic glee. And three more new series I need to set up, write, and publish. And so, so, so much more after that.

In a way, I feel like that new, changed person I was talking about before has so, so much to live for that happier, old me never did. I am actually glad for the shit my mind has put me through, and still is, because it irregularly balls up my entire life like a piece of paper, and when I flatten that out again, it has changes into something new, exciting, interesting. Sure, the crunching part is painful, and the being-balled-up stage is hell, but it passes, and once it’s over, I can breathe freely again, and the air has never been sweeter. I don’t need to conquer my demons. I just have to hang in there, pull through, and everything is right with the world again. Someone left me a wonderful comment here last week, saying that she believed that the reason why I’m capable of writing what I write is because my brain is wired as it is, which might just give me a certain edge. Maybe that’s true. I prefer to think of myself as a literary genius instead. Just kidding. Or am I? Hm. Please read that last part in Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson voice, please. Gosh, I love Deadpool.

If you need a takeaway message from this, it’s this: don’t judge me, or anyone else, on one single happenstance. That’s not (all) I am. Don’t pity me, please, but do continue to buy my books! I’m not lying when I say that I am a very complicated woman. I herd three people in my head: the good, the bad, and the writer. It’s the composite that matters. Or just the books that I put out. I’m okay with that as well. But yes, I am a sum of all my parts, and that’s not always pretty. I care about the bullshit, even if I don’t want to, because the bad part of me thrives on that and loves to endlessly display to me, over and over, and over again, because where would be the fun in not dragging myself down? The good is an eternal optimist that sees the best in people, and while often disappointed, she usually shrugs it all off within minutes. She’s the daredevil that made me believe in myself so I could start publishing. She’s the one who rolls her eyes at stupid haters and only has one answer for them: Who cares? And then there’s the writer who tries very hard to make a living while those two yahoos constantly fight over who gets to drive the clown car. Really. Move over. I have a book a write so people can tell me how awesome I am again!

I probably shouldn’t post this, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I think that all of us have our moments where we can’t handle shit. Maybe, knowing that you’re not alone helps. I don’t know. I also spent 1.5 hrs typing this so, yeah. Read it! Feel free to comment. Or just write me a private message if you prefer that. I have 14 hours a day that I cannot completely fill with productive writing, anyway, so I’m happy to give you a few minutes, always.

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