16 Jun

Someone Asked: ETA on the next book

Q: You said [alarming thing], and now I’m worried there might not even be a next book. Will there be, and if so, when can we expect it?

A: I’m currently 23,000 words into the rough draft of another contemporary. Judging by the position of the Act I/II break, I guesstimate the full rough draft will run about 56,000 words, so I’m pretty well into it and committed. (Full sentences are a rare sight in my rough drafts, so 56,000 will easily become a standard 100,000-word novel after revision.) If the guesstimate is close and if I maintain current production speed (either of which might not be the case), I might be finished with the rough draft before the end of July. If revisions went fabulously well after that (which they might not), a late 2018 release might be doable in November or December. That’s a lot of ifs and mights, but there is definitely one more book coming.

After that? Depends. I’m sick about how badly Silent Song tanked on release. 1/12 the preorders of 10KH and 2% of the month-one revenue and downhill from there is… not sustainable as a business. If only the people who gave 10KH a 5-star rating on Goodreads had bought it during the first two weeks at the discount price, it wouldn’t have been a good release, but I wouldn’t be thinking about pulling the plug right now. Sadly for me, the interest just isn’t there, even among readers who have historically liked my writing. If something doesn’t change dramatically by the end of the year, I’m done with contemporary romance and probably self-publishing in general. Despite the scar tissue from the last time traditional publishing burned me, it’s looking like the best bad option at this point. I’ve already reached out to a former agent to see if he or anyone at his agency might be interested in a side project that as of now is only in the outline stage, and if anyone wants to nibble, I’ll be devoting myself to that. Since trad pub deadlines are bruising, I won’t have time to dick around with no-reward contemporary romance as a hobby, even in the unlikely event I felt masochistic.

So… good news/bad news. I’m going to finish this current book regardless of whether anyone wants to read it, but after that, I’m not going to continue sinking time and money into books I can’t sell. The market has spoken, it’s currently telling me to fuck off, and I’m not betting the few pennies left in my self-publishing account that the market’s affections toward me will improve in the next six months. It is welcome to make me eat those words, but I’m planning for the future like that’s an impossibility.

This isn’t a “poor me, save me” whine. I’m well aware that there are things I could do to improve the situation but won’t for various reasons. I’ve known for 20 years publishing is not a kind, supportive mother, and every year she punches a little harder, so this is not a devastating surprise to me. I’m going to be just fine because I duck and weave like I’ve been dodging hits since birth. I’m just making it known, as a courtesy, what can probably be expected from the future, based on current unfavorable data.

10 May

Someone Asked: Grimdark Edition

Mailbag questions:

Q1: Why did it take 18 months to write Silent Song?

A1: Because 2017 was a trash fire.

I spent much of the year trying to save the world. It was late September before I backed away from that pursuit because it wasn’t doing a damn bit of good in the grand scheme of things and my personal biz was suffering while I exhausted myself playing superhero. I wasn’t able to focus on writing until the last quarter of the year, and it shows in the production timeline.

I completely missed March due to a medication side effect that made me sleep 20 hours a day (and my 4 upright hours weren’t even consecutive), so not one word was written then. In all fairness, few other verbs occurred during that month.

I wrote 100,000 words of porn because that’s quick, thought-free money. (That’s not a dig against erotica or erotic romance writers. I used PORN for a reason.) That writing took away from novel writing, but the novel couldn’t be written and published in 5,000-word chunks every week or so and I have bills to pay, so the porn won the battle for my time.

Although I had a rough draft of the novel by the end of May, which is typical for me, it was a really, really fucked-up rough draft that obviously ignored its fomenting problems in favor of being able to say it was finished. (Have I mentioned I don’t do well with deadlines?) It had to be rewritten basically from scratch. So really, May→May = 1 year, right on schedule.

In summary, 2017 was a bad year all around, and I will conveniently erase it from my memory, along with much of my childhood.

The next book shouldn’t take that long because I’ve learned valuable lessons about how far my time and below-average energy reserves don’t stretch and will limit my extracurricular activities accordingly.

Q2: Why isn’t Silent Song in KU?

A2: Because Saturn is leaving my something-or-other and making me take principled stands that are going to ruin my life. (The horrorscope said “change your life for the better,” but it obviously doesn’t know how publishing works.)

I know romance power readers love KU. If you’re reading a book a day for $10/month, I understand the allure.

On the publisher side of the Amazon middleman, however, an alarming number of people, even when they think they’re cheerleading for KU, talk about the program like they’re in an abusive marriage—“they hit me again,” “I’m being punished for what someone else did,” “I can’t afford to leave,” “it will be just as bad with anyone else,” “the odds of dying are greater if I leave.” There are definite benefits to being in that relationship, but the drawbacks finally outweighed the benefits for me, and I reached the point where I would rather die than stay. At the moment, comparing current launch numbers to previous releases, it looks like I’m going to get that wish! Fortunately, I have a sweet write-for-hire gig that has nothing to do with Amazon and can almost afford to have my romance career murdered. It’s worth it to be out of the daily uproar about what new fuckery is happening on that side of the fence.

I regret losing readers who borrow rather than buy, but freedom comes at a cost and principles demand sacrifice.

At least I had the decency not to start a series in KU and then take it away from you before it was finished!

08 May

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.

08 Feb

Someone Asked: Reading Habits

Q: The only romances I ever see you reading on Goodreads are historicals. Are you planning to write one?

A: I used to do that in a past writing life, and I can state with certainty I have no intention of doing so again. I have absolutely no interest in the history part of historical romances, which is a good way to piss off a large portion of the readership thereof, so I’m not going to venture into their realm.

The appeal of reading historicals for me (other than nostalgia — I grew up on a diet of Lindsey and Woodiwiss) is probably the lack of phones and internet, to be honest. If someone wanted to disturb your privacy, they had to bestir themselves to write and post a letter or travel to face you.

Imagine how much more civil discourse would be if screaming idiots had to travel hundreds of miles to deliver their abuse within distance of being physically harmed by yourself or your second, as opposed to flinging their shit consequence-free on the internet. And no telemarketers! Nobody checking their texts in the middle of a date!

Bliss!

I do read some contemporary and paranormal romance and some fantasy, thrillers, and horror. (I’m reading The Strain currently.) It depends what kind of mood I’m in, what’s unread on my Kindle, and how much I want to risk being influenced writing wise. There’s at least one book I’m actively avoiding because I don’t want to compare it to my story in progress (for better or worse…), but Guillermo isn’t going to butt into my rough draft and urge me to do as he does, and Loretta Chase isn’t going to tempt me to slap couture hats and gowns on my characters.

Also, my author Goodreads isn’t super reflective of my reading reality, so take anything you see there with a shake of salt. (My unprofessional reader account has thousands of books with more variety and actual opinions attached.)

05 Feb

Someone Asked: Obstacles

Q: What is your biggest writing obstacle?

A: Perfectionism and self-loathing doubt, which are not unrelated.

I want the words to come out DONE. If a scene (or a sentence) isn’t going to be perfect, recording the wrong words feels like a waste of time. I’ve been doing this for 20+ years and still struggle with the known fact that the whole story has to exist before good decisions can be made about what’s truly important, what’s missing, what doesn’t belong, what needs to change to strengthen the story.

I waste a lot of time on my mission to not waste time. It’s stupid to agonize over the description of an eyebrow when the entire chapter it’s in might not survive, but I’ll do it anyway and then feel the need to defend it (dammit, I worked hard on that!) even when it doesn’t belong, which never serves the story.

Next Book has been particularly rough because the first chapter reads like one from a finished book, and Chapter 2 is word vomit. I felt really skilled… and then I made that page break and forgot how to do everything. Objectively, I’m aware the solution to the problem lies beyond Chapter 2, but instead of banging out a placeholder to bridge the gap and powering forward to the part that will tell me what Chapter 2 must accomplish that it currently isn’t, I wasted an embarrassing amount of time guessing and wallowing in despair.

“Honey, get some therapy.”

Had it. Look, this is part of my process. I have to be demolished every time to build something new or it will just be the same old shit with a fresh coat of paint. I wish the process was faster, but for some weird reason, I persist in battling against my destruction, even when I know it’s inevitable and ultimately for the best.

Fortunately, I’m now sufficiently torn down to move forward with construction. There’s garbage all over the site, but I’m working around it. Chapter 2 is finally behind me, and a rough draft that exists is an achievable goal.

Obstacle circumvented until next time.