Renovations 2020: Zombie Blog

(Apologies to blog subscribers who got spammed when I started restoring posts—I did not expect republishing stuff from 2015 to trigger emails. The only way to stop that was to unsubscribe everybody, so you should resubscribe if you want future updates. There’s a widget for that in the right sidebar, which probably moves to the bottom when viewed on a phone.)

Mistakes were made in 2019. The cover hustle is moving back to the walled garden, where the people who take 30% of the sale price aggressively promote the products being sold so we all actually get paid. I don’t yet know if I’ll bother asking The Bad Place to remove the premades posted there, but they can have them for now.

MOVING ON

I’m on good terms with one of my former agents. When we exchanged holiday tidings last month, we talked about books, per usual, because that’s our sole common interest. I whined about being unable to find a specific type of book that I want to read and cannot believe isn’t a whole thriving genre. He asked many questions about what, specifically, I want to read, and when I was done describing it, he said, “Sounds great. Write it.”

So… I’ve accidentally-yet-successfully pitched a series to an agent, but my “retirement” issues are still fully in effect. My personal responsibilities make it impossible to waste time doing work I might get paid for several years from now. (Even if the agent loves it, there’s no guarantee a publisher would be interested. Writing without a contract in hand can usually be filed forever under Unpaid Labor.)

I expected him to say, “That’s too bad. I’m going to put out a call that I’m looking for it so a bunch of other people will write it.” I did not expect him to say, “Let me look into getting you some grant money so you can breathe a little bit.”

There were a couple of secret societies that required a professional referral from Mr. Agent, but the work of the application process otherwise falls on me. Same “work I’m unlikely to ever be paid for” problem, so I’m limiting my applications rather than carpetbombing in the manner recommended by grant-getting gurus who apparently have a great deal of free time. All the grants on my list together (if I won them) wouldn’t constitute a living wage for a year, but the goal is only to breathe a little bit so I can write something.

Point being (finally!), I’m restoring much of the site’s old writing content and prolonging the death throes of my unpaid* writing career on the off chance someone with the power to resurrect it looks me up during the next six months or so.

Don’t get all excited about a new book I remain financially unable to write at this time, but feel free to enjoy the greatest blog hits of the past four years.


*I continue ghostwriting memoirs and merch tie-ins, which pay like writing is a real job. Highly recommend! 

Someone Asked: Post-Release Edition

From the mailbag:

Q1: Did you learn anything while writing this book?

A1: It’s too soon to call it “learned,” but I did have a realization in the postproduction period (too late to apply to this book, but maybe next time).

In real life, I over-explain as much as possible, hoping to be thorough and eliminate followup questions. I’m an anxious introvert, so I script and rehearse that explanation until I think I’ve got every angle covered, and then I blank and panic if asked something off-script (including challenging questions like “What’s your name?”). Therefore, my goal is to answer every question before there’s a need to ask it.

My last two books have been between 130,000 and 140,000 words. For comparison purposes, average length for standalone romance used to be 100,000, and it seems to be trending down toward 80,000 recently as production speed gets prioritized. So 130,000 is quite lengthy, and that’s after cutting a whole subplot and leaving out 20 scenes I loved but couldn’t squeeze into the story’s timeline. Keeping it to a mere 130,000 was restraint—I could easily have gone an extra 50,000.

I’ve always known much over 100,000 words is too long, but my realization (which I will tell you now that I’ve OVER-EXPLAINED!) is that I overwrite because of that real-life tendency. If there’s a tangent in a story, I am compelled to go down it and explore every nook and cranny so you know I didn’t overlook anything and I WAS THOROUGH, so there’s no need to question me about what lies down that path.

The problem is that most of those tangents don’t serve the story, only my neuroses. A better use of my time would be finding ways to eliminate those tangents so there’s nothing about which to say “Hey, you overlooked this and weren’t THOROUGH,” thus freeing us all to concentrate on the important parts of the story.

I’ve already gotten myself into a “Gah! This is 50 pounds of plot in a 5-pound bag!” situation with my current plot-storming, but I have to remind myself this is the exploratory phase, when tangents are possibilities, not pitfalls. The point of plotting is to arrive at focus for the writing portion of the program, and until the map is drawn with nice, clean lines connecting the milestones along the best route, I’m allowed to roam far and wide in search of hidden treasure.

Q2: Whatcha writing next?

A2: I’m still deep in the “maybe this is a stupid idea and I shouldn’t pursue it” woods, so I don’t want to tell you something that might no longer be true by tomorrow.

While banging ideas together, a major character-defining event in the heroine’s backstory (which was the entire reason she popped into my mind) has broken off and gotten tossed, and without that backstory event, a subplot I’d already mapped all the way through no longer applies and has to go, and a family relationship affected by that event and the theme I planned to use based on that relationship no longer apply, which makes the story I thought I would be writing yesterday unrecognizable today. Something better will come from the changes (ideas that break the first time you handle them are too flimsy to see the light of day and need to be replaced with stronger material), but at this stage, the story could turn into almost anything. It would be misleading to tell you much before I even arrive at an outline that makes sense.

This is why I advocate outlining/plotting/whatever you want to call forethought in the writing process. Every idea seems great in isolation, but the instant you start putting them together, they don’t fit in the designated spots, they break, they’re ugly, and you’ve got a huge mess. Nobody likes abandoning a story they’ve put tens of thousands of words into, but forging ahead with that mess like nobody’s going to notice it’s a mess is doing a disservice to all parties involved. Forethought tells you up front, before you put weeks or months of writing into a doomed project, what’s absolutely not going to work so you can replace the weak parts with sturdy ones.

You’re unlikely to foresee every little stumbling block that will come up during the writing process, but they’ll be little stumbling blocks you can cope with rather than huge, story-breaking problems, all of which were slain during the planning phase.

Q3: Do you do anything to celebrate finishing a book?

A3: Usually, being able to move on is its own reward (I often liken getting out of a book to getting out of a bad relationship—he’ll never get a comeuppance for doing me wrong and I’ll never get back a dime of the money he “borrowed,” so I’m only hurting myself by dwelling on it), but this book was such a grueling experience, I got a writing ring to commemorate not quitting a thousand times.

Turtle Ring, allegedly diamonds.

Yes, those are turtles. Because I’m slow, get it? I’m also quite comfortable in the safety of my shell, and I’m hard on the outside and squishy inside, so I am basically a turtle.

I have a question. WHEN DID MY HANDS GET SO SHRIVELLY? The one time that camera takes a half-clear photo, it has to be of my elephantine skin.

You might even say my pachy-dermis. *ba-dum-TISH*

(I’m not sorry. If I were a fairy tale princess, my heart would go to the suitor with the best terrible puns—the Kryptonite of word nerds. And turtles.)


If you want to know anything else, deposit questions in the comments.

My Writing Manifesto

Several years ago, I had a publishing experience that was so wretched, I said, “Fuck it. I hate writing. I quit.” I did quit, but I slowly came to realize what I hate is publishing. In fact, I love writing, I’m miserable without it, and breaking up was a dreadful mistake. But before we got back together, I insisted on setting some boundaries defining who I am and who I want to be (and don’t want to be) as a writer, as well as matters on which I will never again compromise. Sometimes I add to this writing manifesto, but mostly I simply review its message to keep me focused and on course.

This post is a version of that manifesto edited for public consumption. (My own version omits all the backstory I’ve already heard.) These are things you can reliably expect from me as a writer because they’re promises I’ve made to myself that are rooted in principles or simple facts that won’t change. I can’t promise you’ll like my books, but I can provide the geological survey of the bedrock upon which they’re all constructed so you have a general idea whether you’ll at least feel safe setting foot inside one.

Writing Manifesto graphic

1. I’ve been reading romance almost as long as I’ve been able to read because I was desperate for words and that’s what was available in the house. It’s a narrative form I know and love, not one I jumped into in hopes of making a quick buck. Sometimes I stray and write other things for a while, but I always come back. Romance is a huge field and there are certainly parts of it that irritate and frustrate me, but I have a deep and abiding respect for the genre as a whole.

2. The promise of Happily Ever After is honored here, but it will never take the form of a marriage-and-babies epilogue because I hate those. There may or may not be a marriage proposal—as the child of a miserable marriage, I feel no urge to push the myth of matrimony = happiness, but if those particular characters are into it, I won’t deny it to them. “Happiness” will be defined by what makes the characters happy, not dictated by prevailing public opinion about what happiness MUST look like.

3. My life has been rather Dickensian, as have the lives of everyone near and dear to me, and my profession for a couple of decades was helping people in similar straits. Trauma and its effects are what I know best, and that knowledge is reflected in my stories. Because the midst of acute trauma is a terrible place to make life-altering decisions (such as who to spend the rest of your life with), the characters’ trauma will be in the past with some degree of subsequent healing, but they will still exhibit side effects. While the love of a good partner will help them cope with the residual damage, it will not “cure” them because that’s not how any of this works. Scars are permanent.

4. Angst may be my jam, but I also believe laughter is crucial for happiness. No matter how grim their circumstances may be, my characters will make each other laugh and smile and have fun as often as they can to push back the darkness.

5. I believe liking one another is crucial for happiness. Even characters who begin as “enemies” should, at the very least, have respect for a worthy adversary so they have a foundation of something other than animosity to build on. Every couple will end up friends as well as lovers.

6. There will be profanity. My preferred intensity level doesn’t lend itself well to a G-rated vocabulary.

7. There will be sex. I use sex scenes the same way I use every other scene—to develop characters and forward plots. (See here and here for more of my thoughts on this.) They’re not meant to be skipped any more than an argument scene or a declaration-of-love scene is, and I am not responsible for any confusion that results from dereliction of reading duty.

8. I write one couple per book. I will never drag out one couple’s romance arc for more than one book.

9. I loathe sequel bait. Currently, this isn’t an issue because all of my books are completely standalone, but even when I do a series, every word will be relevant to the book in which it appears, not an advertising gimmick to sell future books.

10. I write long. I recently tested if this is still true by trying to outline a novella because I thought it would be nice to have one on standby in case another novel takes 18 months to finish, and the plot grew and grew and grew until it has to be a novel itself. I can’t fit all this angst, playtime, friendship, sex, and swearing into a dinky little story.

11. Aggressive, possessive, jealous control freaks with hair-trigger boners are abusive, not romantic, not heroic, and you won’t find them as protagonists in my books.

12. Dereliction of duty will not be portrayed as “romantic.” A person who abandons commitments in favor of “love” can’t be trusted to honor love-related commitments, either. When pleasure and responsibility come into conflict, grownups aren’t motivated by selfishness.

13. Much more often than not, my heroes will announce “I AM READY FOR TRUE LOVE” while my heroines take the “no thanks, I’m good” position. I know I’m not the only one who watched a woman work a full-time job and then come home to full responsibility for parenting and household upkeep. Consequently, I demand to see proof a man is a value-add and an equal partner, not an additional burden on my hardworking heroine, so the hero had better make himself useful to her in exchange for what he wants from her.

14. I have aphantasia, which means my “mind’s eye” is blind. (This is by far the best account of an experience like mine.) When given a prompt of “beach,” you may picture surf and sand and sunbathers; I have words for sand, shells, waves, sharks, pelican shit, dead fish, lifeguard stations, medical waste, banana hammocks, and a thousand other things that might be found at a beach, but I picture nothing except what’s physically in front of my eyeballs at the time. My imagination is just fine; it simply specializes in conceptualization with words rather than visualization with pictures. When I encounter blocks of description while reading, I skip them because there’s no meaning for me—I read for what’s happening and what people are feeling, not what color the drapes are. Accordingly, when I write, I tend to avoid description because I simply don’t care. I know most readers do care, and I try to find ways to add relevant description that won’t make me scream. My editor knows this is a weakness of mine and encourages me to add more when she gets her say, but there’s only so much filler (as I perceive it) I’m willing to insert. If you like lush, vivid descriptions that paint a photorealistic painting for you, you took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. If I write “beach” or “kitchen” or “kindergarten classroom” and you’re able to supply a reasonable facsimile of those settings without a lot of further support from me, we might get along okay. If there’s something uniquely significant about the setting (as in THIS THING HERE WILL BE PLOT RELEVANT LATER), I’ll let you know, but in most cases, your personal experience or a generic Hollywood set will do the job a million times better than this uncaring writer would.

15. I will not write by committee. I spent 17 years being told what to write and how to write it and even what I would be allowed to write, and although being a team player kept me steadily employed, it gave me a backlist of books I can’t fucking stand because they’re full of other people’s cowardice, lack of imagination, and mistakes. Going forward, any failures in my books will be all mine.

16. I will not write another book I’m not excited about. Sooner or later, every book tortures me. It’s not worth going through that for anything less than love. Trends and “requests” and feelings of obligation will only produce more books that I can’t fucking stand. There’s a huge difference between a book that doesn’t live up to my impossibly grand expectations and a book I’m ashamed to be associated with. I’d rather not write at all than write more of the latter.

17. I am now the master of my own writing, and I accept the consequences that accompany that responsibility.

18. I don’t Google myself, so if you have something to say about my books, don’t let the thought that I might see it (I won’t) inhibit you. You’re safe from this author butting into your discussions. On the flip side, if there’s something you want me to know about, you have to bring it directly to my attention because I won’t come across it in the wild.

Great Googley Moogley!

Previously on Distribution of Our Lives, the aggregator I’d been using to get into Google Play announced it was closing its doors and left me in the cold to die.

I trudged door to door, pleading at each, “Please, kind sir, won’t you allow me to warm myself by your Google-accessing hearth?”

Many doors closed in my face with a curt, “There is no Google access here, girl.”

Others opened as wide as lascivious leers, accompanied by unseemly terms.

“Payment in bitcoin? I am not that kind of girl, sir!”

Bitter weeks passed, and the ember of hope faded to cold ash. As I abandoned my dreams, I heard the thunder of approaching hooves and resolved myself to ending my despair via trampling. I closed my eyes, held my final breath, and waited for oblivion to fold me in its numbing embrace.

The hoofbeats slowed to a stop beside me. A labored snort heated my frozen cheek.

I opened my eyes and looked up, up, up at the mighty white steed beside me, atop which sat—could it be?—Prince Google himself! His lips were stern, but his eyes were kind as he extended his hand. “I will take you in, child. You will never know cold again, and I vow to pay you for your labors in currency recognized by your utility company.”

I gladly accepted his hand, the warmth of which melted the ice from my fingers and my heart. He lifted me onto the saddle before him, wrapped his multicolored cloak about me, and carried me with haste to his wondrous castle filled with books, music, moving pictures, and strange applications, where we lived happily ever after.

(Can you believe some displaced beggars just got their invitations by email? Pfffft.)

In other words, Google Play is now included in my distribution lineup for maximum availability, and links sitewide have been updated accordingly!

Amazon (AU | CA)  |   Apple  |   Barnes & Noble  |   Google Play  |   Kobo  |   Smashwords

Growing Wide (And Not Just in the Hips)

Well, November is off to a screaming start. *twitch* After much agonizing, formatting, uploading, metadataing, waiting, giving up on certain entities because of the waiting, resorting to other means, and linking (so much linking), I am finally pleased to announce the successful embiggening of my sales platform to most sellers. My books are now available at Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords in addition to Amazon, will be trickling down to too many tiny sellers for me to keep track of (so… much… linking…), and can be acquired by ebook-friendly libraries if you tell them, “Psst. Hey. I want to read this.”

In the unlikely event someone of your acquaintance has said, “Ooh, I’d love to read her books, but I don’t buy from Amazon,” feel free to pass along this important and wonderful news at your discretion.

Unfortunately, the distributor I was using just for Google Play access announced it is closing its doors, and other options for entry to GP are limited, so that’s off the table for now. Sorry, Google fans. (I got in direct with Google as of November 18! Books are uploaded! Will have another linking binge when they go live!)

To conclude the linking frenzy, here are my author pages at a manageable number of sellers (alphabetical order, indicative of neither favoritism nor benefit to me):

Amazon  (AU  •  CA) *  |  Apple  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Google Play  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

* Thanks to an anonymous Aussie who clicked a link and got sent into nothingness, I was reminded the link to my official author page on Amazon won’t work in Australia and Canada (because they don’t have official author pages), so I’ve added special links for y’all. Book-specific links sitewide will route everybody to the appropriate store, but the general Amazon author page is valid only for the US, UK, France, Germany, and India storefronts. Sorry for the inconvenience. I sincerely hope things will be smoother going forward.

Status Report

“How did he call her a noxious weed and not get a drill bit in the larynx?”

About two minutes ago, I finished handwriting the rough draft of New Book (code named The Duchess and the Enchilada).

There is a LOT of work to be done (starting with typing 332 handwritten pages…), but it is now officially A Tangible Thing rather than a nebulous intention that exists only inside my imagination. Were I so inclined, I could put it in someone’s hands and say, “Look what I made!”

(I am many, many drafts away from such an inclination, but my editor has been forewarned.)

I don’t keep good records of writing milestones, but I feel like I was at a similar point last year with WCAD. So I’m going to go out on a scrawny, rotten limb and predict this one will be published at a similar time, somewhere around November 1.

You can sign up for new-release notification in the event you’d like to be notified when the new release becomes available. (That’s all it’s for. After the “verifying you weren’t signed up against your will” email, you’ll hear from me once a year, tops.)

Now I sense the spectre of my old nemesis, Dreadline, glaring at me like the Eye of Sauron.

Anybody have any superstitious anti-jinx rituals to share in the comments? Asking for a friend.

New beginning, new blog

WCAD is the first novel I’ve written since 2010. Five years is an eternity in writer years. Some writers can crank out twenty books in that time. That represents a whole career worth of books for most other writers. However you measure it, it’s a long time to be away.

It was a learning period for me. Most relevant here, I relearned storytelling on a foundation of “wow, this is good” and “I wish this book wasn’t on my Kindle so I could throw it against a wall” as opposed to the old “you can’t do that” and “you will do it this way or you will send back your advance and starve” school from which I last graduated. I’ve gotten closer than I’ve ever been to writing what I want to write. For the first time since the first time I had a book published (the only previous book I wrote off the leash), I’m not embarrassed by the final product. When I emerge from the mandatory post-release depressive episode, I might go so far as to say I’m proud of WCAD, but I can tell you already, lack of shame is a huge evolutionary leap for me as a writer.

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