Whose Turn Is It?

I have been trapped in my office for the last week, finishing the line and content edits of my twentieth novel. Yup, 20th. I’ve been so consumed with it that I’ve lost track of days and hours and, for a minute, I was ready to email the Scribes to see who had dropped the ball on posting this week.

Well. Guess what?

It’s me.

Yup. This week is my turn to post and this is what happens when you use up all your words in the final stages of a book. You have no more space in your head for other things. It even took me fifteen minutes to write a four line email to my editor because I had to keep correcting it again and again. At the end I said, “I have no idea if any of this makes sense because I’m out of words.”

But, this morning, I finished the edits. It is done. The final draft is ready.

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All I have left to do is write the acknowledgements and format it so it’s all pretty and polished for ebooks and print editions and it’s done.

When I finished the first draft of Hexed and I realized it was my 20th completed novel I couldn’t help but do the math. Not counting some of the novellas I’ve written, just these 20 books, I’ve written somewhere in the ballpark of 1.75 million words in the last six years. If I include the novellas and short stories, I think I’m pushing 2 million.

That’s a lot of words, guys. I’m kinda tired, to be honest.

It’s strange too, because when I’m not writing, when I’m between books/projects, I feel guilty for not writing. I’m actually working on book 21 as we speak as a flash-fiction series for my Patreons right now. Seriously. And there’s nothing to feel guilty about! That’s a career’s worth of books in 6 years for Pete’s sake!

I think it has a lot to do with the shift we’ve seen in the publication market in the last 3-5 years. Readers don’t want to wait 12-18 months for sequels and writers really feel the pressure. I know I do. Of course, this is my full time job right now so I feel the pressure to write write write even more. But… I need a break.

I’ve said that before and allowed myself some time off, but not enough, honestly. I’ll give myself a couple of weeks and then I’m right back at it. But I think this time, I need some real, substantial time off. I’ll keep working with my Patreon posts because I need to, but my husband and I are taking our first real vacation in ten years exactly one month from today. So I’m going to take this month to try to decompress. I want to be rested for the vacation so I can enjoy it and not be exhausted. When we get back, it’ll be the start of October, and you guys know how much I love that time of year. I think I’ll be ready to write something new, something spooky, something fun.

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Cover and Title Reveal!

So, I am very nearly done with the eighth installment of my Urban Fantasy series: The Matilda Kavanagh Novels.

One of my most hated favorite things about books is figuring out the titles. Seriously though, they’re hard, but once you figure out the title, it’s awesome. Seven titles in, all being one word and a magical reference, I was stumped on this one. Until, suddenly, it hit me. I wasn’t sure until I did a mock up of the cover, and then seeing it? Yeah, I knew that was the title.

I’ve kept things pretty uniform with this series, creating a brand for it if you will, so once you get this far into a series you start to worry you’ve push it too far. Over done it and now it’s all starting to blur together like the same cover again and again. Some people may see it that way, but I think I’ve managed to keep them individual enough and I still dig em.

Anyway. I hope you guys like it, and if you’re a Matilda Kavanagh reader, the release date will be 9/5/17–just two months away! If you’re looking for a new series to binge, might I suggest this one? *end shameless plug*

Hexed

Pre-order links:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

English Majors Unite!

The other day there was a bit of a kerfuffle on Twitter. I know, quelle surprise!

A very successful writer was asked for a bit of advice from a young fan as a new English Major.

The writer’s response? English Major = “Do you want fries with that?”

I mean.

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She told the fan to get a degree in something that would get them a lucrative job and write on the side.

Yeah. Sure. Some people totally do that. But to completely belittle the fan’s already chosen path while also tearing down the service industry? REALLY?

You won’t be surprised to find out that I, myself, was an English Major. I have a loverly BA in English with a concentration on Creative Writing. A major I created myself because it didn’t exist at my school at the time. I was very lucky that my adviser was also the department chair at the time so getting it approved wasn’t quite the battle it could have been.

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I am damn proud of my degree. I have both dyslexia and dyscalculia. Believe me, getting dyslexia under control has been much easier than my dsycalculia–there was no way I was going to be a math or science or business major. But guess what? As a self-published writer, I am running my own business. My husband also runs his own business, but I also help with that. I run the office for both of us. And my degree helped me, believe it or not.

English degrees teach you critical thinking, creative solutions, and so much more.

Now, do you need an English Degree to be a writer? Of course not. I know many writers who are also something else. Writing isn’t paying the bills just yet for them. But it might some day.

Did I need an English Degree to be a writer? To be a good one, yes.

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I can say with a little confidence that I had “raw talent” when I was younger. When I got to be creative with my English assignments, I always did well. I actually remember my senior English AP teacher writing “I can’t wait to see what happens next!” on a paper I turned in. It was an amazing feeling. I really thought I could write. I thought I was a good story teller.

Then I went to college.

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I had professors who were published novelists and playwrights and poets.

And they let me know raw talent wasn’t enough then and it wouldn’t be enough in the future. They tore my papers apart. I had one professor (the aforementioned adviser) who knew I was turning in the first drafts of papers and would automatically deduct a full letter grade because of it. I went to him, demanding to know why I kept getting B’s on my papers and he told me. He told me even if the paper was an A on the first try, that just told him the second try would be that much better.

My poetry was ridiculous. It was flowery and vague, like I didn’t want my reader to know what I was talking about. My professor shredded my poems until I learned to paint a damn picture that he could see.

I am the writer I am today because of the lessons those professors gave me. It was well worth the time and money. Maybe I would have gotten to that point as an English Minor, or just taking a couple of classes for fun, who knows? But I know being an English Major changed my life and I am damn grateful for it.

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Do you need to be an English Major to be a successful writer? Of course not. Or maybe you do. None of us are the same. Some of us need the instruction, some of us don’t. Some of us will write a NYT bestseller in our 20s and others will do so in their golden years. You are special and different and need to decide what is right for you. Don’t let some random person–even if they are a NYT bestseller themselves–tell you what is the right path for you.

Oh, by the way, I was a waitress all through college. It was the most thankless, degrading job I’ve ever had and I worked in insurance after college. Never tear down the service industry. Customers are assholes and service industry people are overworked and treated like shit every day. Everyone should have to wait tables on Mother’s day, or run a cashier over the holidays. People would be far, far nicer and learn some damn manners.

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Now. Thanks to that English degree, I’m putting out my 16th novel (under this name), and it is up for pre-order now! If you were a fan of my Ash & Ruin Trilogy, this is a companion novel, maybe you’d like to take a peek?

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Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Kobo Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | ibooks

 

Doppelgängers

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Mirror, mirror

Picture this: you’re standing in front of the mirror, brushing your teeth. Your reflection stares placidly back. A whistle from the kitchen startles you–you turn to look into the kitchen, and you see the noise is just the kettle going off. You turn your gaze back to the mirror, and in that instant, out of the corner of your eye, you are certain that your reflection has not moved. You lock eyes with yourself, but your reflection seems suddenly wrong. Are your eyes really so dark? Your chin so sharp?

But no. You tell yourself you’re just being stupid. Of course that’s what your reflection looks like–it’s you, after all. Isn’t it?

Maybe. Or maybe it’s your doppelgänger.

Although the German word doppelgänger, translating literally to “double-goer,” is a relatively recent addition to the vernacular, the concept of an alter-ego or shadow self appears frequently in the mythology and folk-lore of many world cultures. Although a physical lookalike or double of the person in question, a doppelgänger often takes the role of a darker counterpart to the self. In many cultures, it is said that to catch a glimpse of one’s doppelgänger is a harbinger of bad luck, and potentially an omen of one’s own death.

How They Met Themselves, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
How They Met Themselves,
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

In ancient Egyptian mythology, the ka was a tangible “spirit double” possessing the same memories and feelings as the physical counterpart. In some myths, the shadow double could be manipulated to perform tasks or duties while acting as their physical counterpart. In Norse mythology, a vardøger was a spirit predecessor, a shadowy double preceding a living person in location or activity, resulting in witnesses seeing or hearing a person before they actually arrived. And in Celtic mythology, a fetch was an exact, spectral double of a person, whose appearance was ominous in nature, often foretelling a person’s imminent death. The fetch could also act as a psychopomp, stealing away the soul of their living double and transporting them to the realm of the dead.

The concept of a dark double appears frequently in literature and pop culture as well. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “William Wilson” explores the idea of a doppelgängers with a reversal on the traditional “evil twin” story–one of the doubles is amoral and debauched, yet his wicked schemes are always being unmasked by his virtuous identical. Charlie Chaplin’s seminal film “The Great Dictator” also explores the idea of evil twins, where Chaplin plays both the good, simple barber and the megalomaniacal, Hitler-esque dictator. Even the modern show “The Vampire Diaries” has a doppelgänger story-line; Elena Gilbert’s vampire double Katerina is everything spice to Elena’s nice. Katerina is sexy where Elena is pretty, violent where Elena is gentle, and traitorous where Elena is loyal.

But why is the doppelgänger myth so prevalent in folklore and modern culture? What makes us so frightened of our shadowy doubles?

Myself, my shadow self
Myself, my shadow self

In Jungian psychology, the “shadow self” refers to the unconscious or less desirable aspects of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. In other words, the shadow self is a vehicle and receptacle for our deepest secrets and darkest fears, living in the darkest corners of our souls. And, no matter how much we reject them, these dark doubles are ultimately our own worst selves reflected back at us.

Perhaps the myth of the doppelgänger arose from this sense of shadow and darkness lurking within everyone. We are our own evil twins, spectral doubles confined to one body. Perhaps that is why, when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a darkened mirror or a pane of glass, we feel unsettled, reverberating with the echoes of familiarity and yet, unfamiliarity.

Perhaps, in the end, we are all haunted by the ghosts of ourselves.

Do you have a favorite doppelgänger or evil twin story? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

My Newest Addiction

You know what I just did?

I just hit ‘refresh’ on my kdp page. That acronym stands for Kindle Direct Publishing, and it’s one of the sites my co-writer Irene Preston and I used to self-publish our newest release, Vespers. And you know what?

That page is POWER!

It gives us instantaneous feedback, both on the number of units sold (like, how many since midnight last night, for example) and how much we’ve earned in royalties. None of this “dropping your book in a black hole” thing, like when you’re working with a publisher. A couple of the Spellbound Scribes – Shauna and Nicole, in particular – have some (or lots of) experience with self-publishing, but this if my first rodeo.

And I really, really like it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good things about working with a publisher. There’s less cash outlay, and most of them have a much bigger promotional reach. That said, Irene and I are doing okay with our promotional efforts so far, and while we won’t be making the USA Today bestseller list, we’re pretty happy with the sales we’re getting. (We’re also working our butts off, and we have been for the last few months. Please don’t think self-publishing is some kind of point-and-shoot game.)

The thing is, when you sign a contract with a publisher and your book is released, the only way you can tell how it’s selling is by watching the Amazon sales rank. There are a few services – novelrank.com is one I’ve used – that can give you a ball-park figure for how many books you’ve sold, but I haven’t found them to be particularly accurate. If there are better ways of making a guestimate, I haven’t found them, and the thing about kdp is, it’s easy. Just, you know, hit refresh.

See? I sold a book while I was typing that last paragraph.

The other thing is, most publishers only pay royalties every three to six months, so having a snapshot that updates with every sale is very reassuring. Yes, we’re selling books, and yes, we’re earning back the money we spent on editor, cover art, and promo. It’s all right there on the kdp page.

I’m not going to give up on submitting books to publishers, because there are definite benefits. Ideally, though, I want to build a career doing a combination of traditional and self-publishing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go hit ‘refresh’…

(lol!)

 

And since I brought it up, here’s some more info about Vespers...

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Blurb

Thaddeus Dupont has had over eighty years to forget…

The vampire spends his nights chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and ruthlessly disciplines those unnatural urges he’s vowed never again to indulge. He is at the command of the White Monks, who summon him at will to destroy demons. In return, the monks provide for his sustenance and promise the return of his immortal soul.

Sarasija Mishra’s most compelling job qualification might be his type O blood…

The 22-year-old college grad just moved across the country to work for some recluse he can’t even find on the internet. Sounds sketchy, but the salary is awesome and he can’t afford to be picky.  On arrival he discovers a few details his contract neglected to mention, like the alligator-infested swamp, the demon attacks, and the nature of his employer’s “special diet”. A smart guy would leave, but after one look into Dupont’s mesmerizing eyes, Sarasija can’t seem to walk away. Too bad his boss expected “Sara” to be a girl.

Falling in love is hard at any age…

The vampire can’t fight his hungers forever, especially since Sara’s brought him light, laughter and a very masculine heat. After yielding to temptation, Thaddeus must make a choice.  Killing demons may save his soul, but keeping the faith will cost him his heart.

Vespers is a complete novel with no cliffhanger. It can be enjoyed as a standalone or read as the first book in the Hours of the Night series.

 

You can pick up a copy here…

Amazon | ARe | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | More Stores

And if you’re really inspired, check out THIS LINK for reviews and guest blog posts.

Thanks!

New Release + Cover Reveal + Giveaway!

This has been one of the busiest weeks of my life! Between the day job and the family and the new release last Monday and the cover reveal for my upcoming release, it’s been just crazy. For the most part, though, it’s good stuff – well, accept for the barfing German Shepherd yesterday – so I can’t really complain.

Or at least I try not to.

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At any rate, I’m going to start with some info about the anthology that released last Monday. My story is called Change of Heart, and it’s a female/trans-female love story.

The germ of the idea for Change of Heart came from a scholarly article I read about Dr. James Barry, a 19th century British military surgeon. He was incredibly gifted, accomplished, and known for being rude, and after he died, the serving-woman who prepared his body discovered he was a woman.

His story has been claimed by feminists, and more recently by students of trans history. It’s impossible to know how Dr. Barry viewed himself – as a highly intelligent woman who did what was necessary to practice medicine at a time when women were forbidden to do so, or as a man who happened to have a different biology. Either way, Dr. Barry fascinates me. There are very few records of trans people from before the 1970s, and I wanted to explore how it might have been to live with that kind of secret. We’d agreed to set all our stories in New Orleans, and since few US cities have a more colorful history, I basically just picked a year and went with it. I hope I captured something of the time and place, and I hope you enjoy my sweet and spicy little story.

 

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Here’s the blurb…

Momma says a body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.

If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.

Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.

I’ve read a few of the stories in the anthology, and they’re all pretty good. Some paranormal, some contemporary, with a range of heat from relatively sweet (like mine!) to whips & belts of the BDSM variety. If you’re interested in checking the anthology out, here’s some links…

Amazon US| Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

 

And now…

Irene Preston and I have been sitting on our hands for the last few weeks.

Sitting. On. Our. Hands.

Because we’ve had the cover for Vespers and we weren’t allowed to show it off till after the cover reveal. But now it’s revealed and HERE IT IS!!!

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Choosing a favorite cover from amongst my books is sorta like choosing a favorite child, but…

No it’s not. This is my favorite cover so far. It’s pretty damned perfect in capturing the vibe of the story, and I might have a bit of a crush on Hooded Dude. Here’s a bit more information about Vespers

Thaddeus Dupont has had over eighty years to forget…

The vampire spends his nights chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and ruthlessly disciplines those unnatural urges he’s vowed never again to indulge. He is at the command of the White Monks, who summon him at will to destroy demons. In return, the monks provide for his sustenance and promise the return of his immortal soul.

Sarasija Mishra’s most compelling job qualification might be his type O blood…

The 22-year-old college grad just moved across the country to work for some recluse he can’t even find on the internet. Sounds sketchy, but the salary is awesome and he can’t afford to be picky. On arrival he discovers a few details his contract neglected to mention, like the alligator-infested swamp, the demon attacks, and the nature of his employer’s “special diet”. A smart guy would leave, but after one look into Dupont’s mesmerizing eyes, Sarasija can’t seem to walk away. Too bad his boss expected “Sara” to be a girl.

Falling in love is hard at any age…

The vampire can’t fight his hungers forever, especially since Sara’s brought him light, laughter and a very masculine heat. After yielding to temptation, Thaddeus must make a choice. Killing demons may save his soul, but keeping the faith will cost him his heart.

Working with Irene on this story has been a fantastic experience. You may be thinking I’m just blowing smoke to promote a book, but truly, tossing the words back and forth and learning how another writer works was tremendously satisfying.

And FUN!

We’ve got Vespers at a reduced preorder price of $0.99, so if you’re interested, click on over…

Amazon     –     Barnes and Noble     –      ARe     –      iBooks     –     Kobo

 

Giveaway

And finally, I promised you a giveaway, so here it is. For the chance to win a $25 gift card PLUS 7 (seven!) paranormal romances by authors like Alexis Hall, Claire Cray, and Jax Garren. Click HERE to get to my website where you’ll find the rafflecopter thingy to enter. The books in the prize package are SO COOL.

So that’s what’s going on in my life? What’s up with you? 🙂 I promise next post won’t be quite so me-me-me-me-me. It’s just been an exciting week.

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Why yes, this *is* the dog who was barfing. He’s much better now, thank goodness!

10 Writing Facts About Shauna

(Originally posted on my blog)

My friend and fellow Scribe, Lyra, posted about this over on her blog, and I thought, “Hey! Cool idea!” So I stole it am doing it too.

Writing is a strange vocation. You’re in a world with hundreds of thousands of others, but it also feels totally isolated – especially for a self-pubber – so it’s good to see how other people work or deal with it. Maybe you need some suggestions on how to make things work for you and seeing into other people’s process can help with that. It did for me when I was first starting out.

So here are ten things I do while writing.

1. I am an entirely different writer today than when I was when I first started out writing. When I first started, I was a panster. I just sat down and blindly wrote, figuring out the story as I went. I knew what the end was, I just had to figure out how to get there. Now I outline. When I first started, if I outlined, I lost the momentum, the urgency to tell the story, because, basically, I already did. Now I need a road map. But it’s like a road trip – I know my final destination and I know the pit stops on the way, but anything can happen while I’m there. I will occasionally write off the cuff still, but I have more focus than I did before.

2. I use music to write. If I’m starting a brand new project, I give myself a couple of hours before I begin to get a soundtrack going. I do use songs with lyrics because they really help me. I can write and not consciously pay attention to lyrics, but they’ll propel me into the mood I want for the book and/or scene, like subliminal messages. If I’m writing a series, I’ll just keep building on the same playlist until I have an epic soundtrack. This works for me because, if I’m not in the mood or the right headspace to write, I can turn on that soundtrack and like a Pavlov’s Law, I will suddenly be able to get into the mood of the story.

3. Sometimes my soundtracks fail me. Sometimes you gotta switch it up. If a book has been tension filled and I’m coming to a big battle or bloody scene sometimes I need to switch to actual soundtracks to get me through. I have a backup playlist that is just full of music from movies and video games with no lyrics that really drive me through intense, physical scenes.

4. If there’s a fight scene in a book, I have choreographed it in real life with my husband. I’m very lucky to have my husband as a resource at my beck and call. He is a trained fighter and a lifetime martial artist and a self-defense instructor. So, often, I’ll think of a scene and then grab my husband and work it out down to the last gory detail so I know it’s real and not just a movie fight.

5. For me, the hardest part is the rough draft. People hate editing, hate revising, but for me it’s getting that first draft done. Which is why I tend to “fast draft” – get big word counts done so I can get it done faster. It’s also why I outline. Editing and revising are easy to me because the hard part is done. Every milestone is great until I realize how far I am from the end.

6. I pinterest to keep track of what my characters look like. I have a lot of series going at once and that means a huge cast of characters to keep track of. So I will start boards with pics of celebs and other people so I can keep them all straight. It also helps me make sure no new character sounds like they look like another character.

7. If a book/series is particularly hard to figure out, I talk it out. So many books have been resolved while I was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, sipping coffee, while I talk AT my husband. He will offer suggestions, but often, my mind is racing and I’m watching the book unfold in my head and I’m talking out loud for the benefit of hearing it and committing it to memory. Also, I want to hear another human being tell me how awesome that idea is.

8. I used to say “write every day” but I don’t anymore. That phrase is so misleading, especially to new writers. I am a full time writer. I write 4-6 days a week depending on how well the sessions have gone. To me, that is writing every day. Yes, even with a day off. And then when the first draft is over, I take a break. Sometimes just a week, sometimes much more, depending on what I need. To me that is writing every day, but when you hear that phrase, it makes people think, to be a “real” writer they have to be writing 365 days a year and that’s just not true.

9. I don’t disconnect from the internet when I write. Some people need that, but I couldn’t focus if I knew I couldn’t take a break if I needed it. It’s like in school, when the clock is on the wall in the back and you weren’t supposed to look at it. That drove me nuts. If I write a few hundred and then want to check Twitter, I do. Sometimes I’ll bang out two thousand words without breaking stride, but I know I can take a break, so it helps. It’s all about figuring out what works for you.

10. It took me a long time to figure out what works for me to be a full time writer. My music, a set time of day that I write almost every day, a cup of coffee or a bottle of water, an outline, these work for me. But you know what? Even if I don’t have all these things, I sit down and write, or edit, or revise, whatever stage I’m at in a project, I get it done because this is what I want to do with my life.