I’ve Kept My Promise About Patreon

If you remember, I posted that I was giving Patreon another go and I promised I was going to be better about posting there and making it worth your while to become a patron of mine.

Well, I think I’ve done a fairly good job about it.

There are some exclusive fiction posts that only patrons can read and I’ve started adding some flash fiction for everyone. Yes, that means these posts are available to anyone to read, without pledging any money.

The flash fiction I’m working on right now is a novella set in the Ash and Ruin universe, which, believe me, was difficult to get into the mood for after the week we’ve had. But I’m pushing through! Fiction is where we find escape and help to deal with the real world around us. So I keep writing.

Supernatural, prophet, Chuck

Anyway.

I hope you’ll check it out, check out the reward levels I have set up for patrons. If you become just a $1 a month patron, you will be included in the acknowledgements of my upcoming book, the seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel! If you sign up for a higher amount, you’ll get some awesome, tangible rewards!

Check it out here.

YSO: The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Been Given

In college I took Creative Writing: Poetry. It was a junior level class, but I took it as a freshman, because obviously I was a fantastic writer who knew everything and would ace upper level classes.

Our first assignment was to write a poem. Any poem. Any form. Any subject. No direction or limitations whatsoever.

So I wrote my poem. It was amazing and poetic. The best poetry that ever poeted.

When the prof returned my poem it had a huge “YSO” written across it in red ink. No grade, no comments. Just YSO. Lots of poems in the classroom had this strange notation on them.

The professor, an old Irish poet, grinned back at us and asked how many people had YSO written on their paper. Most of the hands went up.

“Years ago,” he said, “I assigned this same assignment to another class, just like this one. And one of my students couldn’t think of anything to write about. Eventually, he went to his window in the middle of the night to try to think of something, anything to write. And then he saw it. A full moon, bright in the night sky, and he was inspired. So, he set down to write his poem about the full moon, bright in the night sky.”

We all waited as he paused, taking in our faces.

“And the first line of the poem read: ‘Yon sailing orb!'”

And we all burst out laughing.

Dr. Ledbetter looked at us and said, “Sometimes the moon is just the damn moon.”

So when we ever wrote something so over the top, so difficult to understand, so ridiculous that it made him laugh or shake his head (when that WASN’T the reaction you wanted), he would write YSO on our work.

Because sometimes the moon is just the damn moon.

 

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Finally finish your first book: I know how to write a book!

Finish books 2 and 3: Yep. I got this! I know the process and all the secrets! How I write a book is how you write a book! Ask me and I’ll tell you because I know how to do it.

Reach 2/3 mark on book 4: Oh crap. My process isn’t working. I have to change how I do this. There was a secret I didn’t know before now.

Complete a series: Okay. Now I know all the secrets. Not only can I write a book, but I can finish a story. I know all.

Start writing 17th novel: I know nothing.

I know, seems strange, that on my 17th novel I’ve come to a point where I admit that I don’t know how to write a book. I mean, obviously I’ve done it a few times now, but things are just never the same.

Most of my books have taken me between 60 and 90 days to write the first draft. There are some of those books between 1 and 16 that I wrote in under 30 days.  But those are the ones where I am on fire and everything is clicking and I’m cranking out 4-6k words a day.

Words a day. Now that’s a phrase that freaks people out. We often hear the phrase “Real writers write every day.” I get this phrase, I really do. I applied it to my process for the bulk of my career, but I don’t take it quite as literally as many others do. For me, writing every day means 5-6 days a week that I’m drafting the first draft. That does not mean writing 8 hours a day. It means writing until I’ve reached a goal or I’ve come to a natural stopping point for the day. Sometimes that’s just 1 hour. Sometimes it’s 5. Depends on the book, the scene, and the day. And I do allow for 1 or 2 days off, like any “regular” job, you wouldn’t be there 7 days a week.

But this book, the 17th, has been so different for me.

I feel like Sisyphus and that rock is getting harder and harder to push uphill.

When I was first starting out, writing books 1-3 and the first 2/3rds of book 4, I never outlined. Then I hit a wall and had no idea where to go. So I loosely outlined the end of the fourth book and learned that I could, and maybe even should, outline a story before writing it. As a young writer, I couldn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, feeling like I’d already done it. So it took time and practice, but now I need an outline to help me get from A to Z.

So every day that I plan to write, I review my outline and get my daily goal, be it 1k words, 2k or 5k. Some days are hard and I may only get 500 words, but I get something.

But this book. This book. I want to write this book. I like my characters and their heartbreaking story. It’s a new world with new faces and a new story. I want to get to the end of it. But I started writing this book at the beginning of January and I’m only halfway through. I don’t even have a complete outline because it has been such a difficult story to figure out.

I take a week off from writing at a time. Some weeks I only write 2 or 3 days.  And I’m not even getting huge word goals when I do write.

This book is taking so much out of me.

But just like with my 4th book, I’ve learned to adapt to it. I have other projects going on at the same time that need attention, so I’m not just sitting around. But I’m telling myself not to feel guilty. I am working on it. I am always thinking about it. I even had a plot knot unravel itself the other day that will help  me expand the outline when I come to the end of it.

So what’s the point? The point is, none of us hold all the secrets. Processes will work for you until they don’t. You just gotta be able to roll with that and figure out how to carve a new key to unlock the next secret.  Even if you’ve written off the idea of something, like outlining vs. pantsing or writing every day vs. taking days off, try it if you’re stuck. It might be the thing that gets you unstuck.

Back from the holidays

I am typing! This is amazing. I know, if you follow me, the idea that I’m typing shouldn’t be a big surprise or cause for celebration, but today it is.

On New Years Day I took a tumble.

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Okay, it wasn’t a tumble. It was an OMFGIAMFALLINGHOLYCRAP fall. It was a fall that I was lucky to stand up from. It was a fall that I was lucky not to have a broken arm or cracked skull from. But it wasn’t a fall that left me unscathed.

My hubs works from home just like me, and he had an intake interview with a couple of potential new clients who wanted to meet on New Years Day. When you work for yourself, holidays are not the same as they are for many other people, kinda like working retail. So of course we said, “yes! Come on over!” And we started cleaning the house and grounds, putting the holiday back in the boxes and making the place presentable for new people.

One of the things that had to be done was retying one of our sun sails over our outdoor space. We’d taken it down when there were 60mph wind gusts the other week. So I climbed up on our pick-nick table to reach for the rope and tie the thing off. Now, the key to surviving anything like this is to watch where you’re stepping.

I did not.

I ran out of table.

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Unfortunately, I already had hold of the rope in my right hand when my foot stepped onto the nothingness. When you stumble you instinctively grip whatever you’re holding. Sadly, I hadn’t started to anchor the rope, so it was a just loose and happy to let me fall and slide my hand down the braided fibers.

I fell off the table, my leg going between the table and bench, to bounce off and land flat on my back on the cement pavers our table is centered on. It was fast and slow all at once. I don’t remember hitting the bench (though the massive bruises and swelling prove I did), but I remember having a moment to think, “You’re going to land on your back in a second,” when I hit the bench. I managed to pull my arms in and tuck my chin before I hit the ground. If I’d flung out my hands to break my fall I’d’ve broken something. If I hadn’t tucked my chin, I’d’ve cracked my head on the cement.

My husband rushed to me as I lay there telling him I was okay, just needed a second. The funny thing was, I had no idea there was something wrong with my hand. I lay there, giving my mind a moment to think about my body and listen for cues that something was wrong, but nothing screamed back with pain.

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So I sat up and laughed for a second.

Then I saw my hand. My right hand. My dominate hand.

I said, “Hey, look at my thumb. It looks weird.” I said that because it didn’t hurt. Yet. The rope had burned my palm and ripped off some skin, making it look like a puncture wound. But my thumb. Oh holy gods, my thumb. Between the knuckle and my palm I’d ripped off so much skin that I could see the vein that runs through your thumb just below the last layer of skin. If I’d taken that layer, I’d’ve been in the ER.

Because I looked at my palm and thumb, the shock wore off and the pain set in. My hand was on fire. It truly was a full burn from the rope. My hand shook and I finally cried, panicked and freaked out over what my hand looked like. And I started babbling about not being able to write today or finishing the beautiful scarf I was knitting for myself. These are the crazy, panicked things you say when you hurt yourself.

So, here I am, Monday morning, able to type and it is awesome. I promised myself, whether my outline was done or not, I was starting the New Project today, so the idea that I wouldn’t be able to added to my panic and tears. But it’s cloudy and rain is on the way and I can move my fingers and I can hit the space bar with my thumb without causing searing pain. Who knows, I might be knitting by the end of the week.

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So happy new year my loves! I survived and will have new words!

P.S.

I have one slot left for January for a new Critique project. If you’d like to steal that spot, please email me at shaunagranger82@gmail.com – you can always sign up for a Feb or March slot, but hurry, I only take a couple each month. Check out my critique page to learn more about what I do.

Release Day: Cursed

Today is a release day for me. It’s the fifth book in my Matilda Kavanagh Novels, Cursed. That’s kind of an appropriate title.

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I work really hard for each book I write, there’s no question in my mind about that. I know some people might think because I can get 2-3 titles published a year I’m probably just churning out some formulaic trite, but I really do try to make each book different from the others. And, since I write Paranormal Fantasy, that’s not always easy. Since I write full time and self-publish I don’t have to go through the hurry up and wait process a lot of traditionally published authors do. You may have to wait 12-18 months for a sequel, but that doesn’t mean it took a writer that long to get the story written. Luckily for me, I write my first draft, snag a spot on my editor’s schedule, she focuses on my book for a couple of weeks, ripping it apart, then get’s it back to me. Once I go through her edits, I send it back for one last proofread from fresh eyes, then it’s ready to go.

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Well, not really. While it’s away in an editor’s hands I’m working on the cover if I’m doing it myself. For my Mattie books, I have done all my own covers. They aren’t so complicated that I can’t work my own magic on them. And of course there is the horrible couple of days I spend formatting the books for eprint and paperback. That’s the worst part.

But I digress. Being self-published is difficult in more ways that one. One of the biggest ways is feeling like you’re celebrating all on your own. It’s awesome that we can do pre-orders now because, at the very least, you can see ahead of time that other people are excited for your book to come out too. But once the day comes, you’re kind of struck with a sense of… “so what?” It’s like there should be some ticker tape parade for you, but there’s not. Or flower deliveries or a flood of notes congratulating you because, damnit that was a hard book to write! But really, it’s more waking up, shuffling to the coffee pot, checking your email, making sure the book is live and doing fine and then getting back to work.

I titled Cursed before I even knew what the story was going to be about. I thought it would make a cool title, so I made a note of it over a year ago so I wouldn’t forget. Then, as I was outlining this book, I knew that was the title for this one. And boy was I spot on.

Cursed is a summer read. It’s a story about our main characters getting away for a long weekend in wine country to recharge but, of course, things go horribly wrong. To research this book, I packed my hubs and dogs up in our car and drove to the same location I was basing the book to have a look around (and a few glasses of wine, you know, research and all) and figure out where this book would be set.

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That day was awesome. It was beautiful and picturesque and I found the perfect winery to base Wyvern Wines on. So thrilled it all worked out.

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Then a few weeks later, in the middle of the book, we’d been a little stressed and my husband got an afternoon off. He asked me if I wanted to play hooky and drive back up, just the two of us for the afternoon and check out the little town the wineries were by. Of course I did! More research!

It was a horrible mistake. It was cool in our part of the world, but a good 20 degrees hotter up there, so I dressed entirely wrong with knee-high boots. The town, as it turns out, shuts down for a few hours between lunch and dinner so our food choices were limited and would be my downfall. We picked this cute sandwich shop and sat outside in the lovely sunshine to enjoy lunch before strolling the picturesque street and the little shops and wine tasting rooms.

It was all fine for a little while, until it wasn’t. We were in the first tasting room and I was so, so hot. I almost laid down on the marble counter top when the girl helping us wasn’t looking. I thought it was my boots and I was just over-heated because my hubs was fine. But after that first stop, we walked outside and I just couldn’t. All I wanted was to get to the car and take off my boots and crank up the AC. I just felt off.

So we left. We made the 2 hour drive home and I struggled to stay awake. It was like my body was shutting down. When we got home, I remember something came up in the office I just had to do, but now I couldn’t tell you what. I just remember taking care of it for about 20 mins before walking out to my hubs and telling him something was wrong and then I threw up for the first time.

Food poisoning.

I’ve never had food poisoning before. I know this because now I’ve truly had it. I would spend the next 72 hours in bed, in pain, unable to eat lest I threw it all up again and again, sipping 7-Up, sleeping to escape the pain in my legs, with a 103* fever. All for a damn sandwich. I’ve said in the past, “I don’t think such-and-such  agreed with me.” I will never say that again. Until you’ve had real food poisoning, you just don’t know. But through that, I had a little chuckle that I was writing a book called “Cursed” because, right then, that’s exactly how I felt.

So see? I suffer for my work, even if I don’t mean to, no matter how fast or easily you may think I write. So, please, buy my books, read them, leave a quick review – even if you didn’t like them.

If you’ve read this far, cheers dear reader! If you take anything away from this, know how much authors give to their books and return the favor with a review. Yep, I’m saying that again. My Mattie books get pre-orders every time I put a new one up, but there are not the reviews to prove it. I need those reviews like I needed 7-Up to get me through those 72 hours.

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10 Writing Facts About Me!

My friend 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.

The Importance of Good Alpha/Beta/Critique Readers

When you first start out writing, it’s incredibly difficult to let go of your pages and let someone else read them. Even a trusted friend or mate, the idea of someone else reading your work is so terrifying, it is probably the main reason so many people never pursue publishing. And it’s a sad thing.

Husband puts tiny faces on the bottoms of pages depicting his reaction to what he's reading and as a marker of how far he is.

Husband puts tiny faces on the bottoms of pages depicting his reaction to what he’s reading and as a marker of how far he is.

When I first started out, I held back my work as well, never wanting people to read it until it was totally polished and perfect. Yeah, I know, impossible. That’s why writers always tell people, don’t read your old work because you’ll want to fix it. There comes a point where you have to accept that something is done or just never finish.

But I have to say, it is having trusted beta readers and Critique partners, that has given me the courage and confidence to put my work out into the world for mass consumption – even though it is still terrifying! When people tell me they’re writing, or they’ve finished a project and don’t know what to do next, I ask, “Have you let someone else read it and give you feedback?” Often that answer is either met with complete shock and terror or a common answer of, “Yes, my spouse/mom/girlfriend/boyfriend/bff read it and they loved it!”

I mean, that’s great, but is your spouse/mom/girlfriend/boyfriend/bff a writer? Or an editor? Or anything to do with the writing world? Oftentimes, not. And oftentimes that spouse/mom/girlfriend/boyfriend/bff wants to love it to support you, or can’t see the errors because they love you, or don’t want to hurt your feelings so there is a tiny chance they’re lying to you.

Don’t get me wrong, if your spouse/mom/girlfriend/boyfriend/bff is in the creative world, or if they have a skill set that is imperative to your work so you need their insights, then yeah, let them read and critique. But they have to critique. They have to be honest with you. And you have to take that honesty.

Honesty. And then we talked about how to make it possible.

Honesty. And then we talked about how to make it possible.

My husband reads all my work. Mostly just to support me as my spouse and so that, when people ask him about my work, he can answer intelligently and I really appreciate that. But he is my Alpha Reader for the ASH AND RUIN TRILOGY. Why? Because he has many skill sets that are essential to the plot of the book, the fight scenes, the survival aspects, and the weaponry used in the books, that gives him the qualifications to critique the book for me and give me feedback, constructive criticism, and help to make it correct and better before I send it off to my beta readers to critique the book as a whole. For my other books, he helps me with fight scenes, but that doesn’t make him an alpha or beta reader for those.

What do my betas/CPs do for me? They help me make the book stronger. They tell me what works in the book, what they loved, what made them laugh or cry. Then they tell me what didn’t work for them, and why. Where my story might’ve gone off the rails and didn’t make sense. They tell me when I left a plot thread hanging, so what the hell happened with character x? They ask questions so I know that other readers will have those same questions and I won’t have the luxury to answer them so I need to fix it.

That little line made my whole day.

That little line made my whole day.

Having readers look at your work, give you honest feedback, and opinions on what to do to make it better, is not a slight against your genius. It is an opportunity to make your work shine, if you’re willing to take it. Now, believe me, if you have a reader who just tears you down, without giving you any praise, even tiny things to hold on to, it’ll break your spirit. So you have to find the right balance in your team of readers. Yes, team. One ain’t gonna cut it. I like to have three betas, and I like for all three to be different kinds of people. It really helps you weed out personal taste responses and know when things are really working or not in a general sense.

But the way you make that happen is by being open and honest with your readers as well. Ask them what kind of Beta/CP are they. Do they like to do reader reaction with in-text notes as they go? Or do they like to read the whole thing and then type photo 2up a critique letter with generalized reaction but comments on core things that stuck out to them? Or maybe they like to do a bit of both? I, myself, like to put reader reaction notes in the document itself so that I can make sure I don’t forget something I wanted to bring up later. And I like to put little “lols!” and “Good line!” comments when something gets me. But then I like to give the writer a short letter at the end, recapping and maybe making broader comments on issues I found, or illustrating things they did particularly well.

So let go of that baby. There is no way to know your book is ready for the masses or an agent to see if you don’t let someone who isn’t emotionally connected to it read it and tell you what they think. Even if they hate it, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. The best thing about writing, is that you can always rewrite, but you gotta do it before you hit “publish” or burn bridges with agents because you sent pages prematurely. Have faith! Have courage! Build your team!

And, if you want to be someone’s beta, keep these things in mind. Constructive criticism doesn’t mean ripping someone to shreds. People need to know they did do some things well. We are not in the business of crushing dreams. The pie is big enough for everyone to have a slice.

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Remembering to Reward Yourself

When you work for yourself, you don’t get awards or bonuses or raises for your hard work. No boss is coming into your cubicle to say thank you and give you a gift certificate to Starbucks for that report that stole a piece of your soul. There’s no promotion hanging in front of you like a carrot that you can’t wait to take a bite out of.

tumblr_n94ef3odT21s2peono1_500As an author (especially a self-published author) there’s no one else to reward you for your accomplishments. It’s you. Just you. Sure, your partner or friends might give you flowers and bagels when you publish a book and, believe me, those little gestures mean the world because it reminds you that other people recognize what you’re trying to do. But you have to remember to reward yourself.

People often forget to take care of themselves. It’s easy to do things for other people, it’s easy to spend money on someone else. I get so excited to buy people the perfect present and watch them open it, especially if it’s unexpected. But doing that for yourself? It’s hard. It feels selfish and frivolous, maybe even a little desperate? But it’s not. It’s not any of those things.

When you work a 9-5 job (really 8-6) there are people holding you accountable and chances to move up in the company or at least get raises and bonuses, so why then, when you’re on your own, would you feel badly to reward yourself?

When I finish a book, I reward myself. When I publish a book, I reward myself. These rewards don’t have to be anything crazy and extravagant (though, there’s nothing wrong with that either), just something that I can treasure and later can look at and say, “Oh, I got that when I finished World of Ash.” “Oh, that was when I published the last of the Elemental Series.” It’s a memory as much as a reward.10348444_855653917792682_3923520702654342654_n

Personally, I love trips to my local comic book store, Hypno Comics, and I love perusing the toys. It’s a small thing, less than $15, but these little things sit on  my desk and make me smile. When I found them, I clutched them in my hands and squeeeeed over them.

And I happen to be a bit of a shoe horse. I love to be barefoot more than anything, but I adore shoes and boots, and when I published Time of Ruin I spotted a pair of gorgeous grey (fake) suede boots. They fit like a dream and were on sale (less than $40!) but I was putting them back, talking myself out of them, until my husband reminded me I hadn’t rewarded myself for publishing TOR.

image (11)And in the next five minutes they were purchased. Yeah, it’s still averaging in the 80’s right now and I won’t be able to wear them for another month or so, but I have them and I love them and I deserved them.

You deserve a reward. Even just dinner out at your favorite restaurant (that is my normal reward for finishing the first draft of a book)!

Go, order your favorite glass of wine and toast to your accomplishment. We’re always talking about refilling the well to keep going, well remembering to congratulate yourself is part of that too. You did something amazing, you deserve recognition, do something nice for yourself. Here’s to you and to me and to everyone who needs a little reward.

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Creative People and Depression

(I both did not want to write this post, and couldn’t not write it…)

I don’t talk about celebrity suicides very often, let alone blog about them, but I was incredibly surprised by my reaction to the passing of Robin Williams. Often, with suicides, I’m left feeling kind of angry. I don’t apologize for that because it doesn’t mean I’m not also sad. But I feel so badly for the people left behind and the people who have to clean up the mess. Just the other week a friend of mine watched a woman commit suicide by train and it devastated him. It was a total stranger, but he had to bear witness to it. He saw the moment in her eyes when she might’ve put the gun down or not taken the pills, but it was a train barreling down on her and it was too late. Later I heard about the kids nearby who saw it, about the crew that had to clean her off the tracks, the conductor who couldn’t stop the train in time. This is why I get angry.

But when I heard about Robin Williams I was just so, so sad. It didn’t take me long to figure out what it was though. Robin Williams was completely wrapped up in my childhood, just like anyone my age, because of Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji and Ferngully (I have but one claw, but beware! Damn I have to watch that movie again). Then, when I was a teen, I found Dead Poets Society and he gave us The Birdcage and Good Will Hunting. And that’s just a drop in the bucket. But those are the ones that stuck with me and the ones I still watch on a regular basis.

I can’t count how many times I watched, rewound, and watched again “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” from Aladdin.

Robin Williams was part of my childhood and now he’s gone. I feel like part of my childhood is gone.

When I heard the news it hit me like a punch in the gut. My throat swelled and, when I went to Twitter to express my feelings, I found it full of the exact same reaction from nearly 90% of my Twitter feed. And you know why? Because I follow mostly writers, readers, artists, and the occasional celebrity. Creative people.

When I heard that he had been suffering from depression it didn’t surprise me at all. I remember I just sort of nodded and said, “Sure.”

I know a lot of creative people and I can honestly say that a good majority of them suffer from some sort of depression, anxiety disorder, or social disorder. This is common among my people. Even though we’re always smiling for fans or readers, even though we’re always striving to put something creative into the world, even if we are as successful as we always hoped we’d be, we are often suffering. David Wong, over at Cracked.com, put it better than I could in this post.

O Captain, my Captain, I hardly knew how much you meant to me.

Depression runs in my family. It’s like any other genetic trait that can be passed down. I am very lucky that mine is no where near as severe as it is with other members of my family. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts since I was a teenager. And every day, even on my “blue days,” I am grateful that my fear of death was greater, louder, than the depression making me think those black thoughts. But the key word is “lucky.”

Famous Tracy (@tracyvwilson) on Twitter said it quite well, in my opinion, yesterday: When someone dies of cancer, the refrain is “fuck cancer.” But when someone dies of depression, it’s “get help.” Well. Fuck depression. And in that same vein, when someone survives cancer, “they beat it” or “they won their battle.” I am lucky enough that today my depression is quite minimal. I mentioned my “blue days,” those are the days when my depression slowly sneaks up on me, like a monster in the water below me, wraps a tentacle around my ankle and pulls me down. I recognize it now. I have the ability to talk about it and tell my husband what is going on. Not everyone can do this. Much like cancer, depression is different and special for everyone.

A lot of people are telling others to seek help if they’re suffering depression. That seems so easy. And maybe that’ll help someone, but it won’t help everyone. Robin Williams proves that depression doesn’t discriminate by success or how strong of a support group you might have. We even know now that he was seeking help for his depression before it got the best of him. I don’t know what the right thing to do is. Be there for someone who needs it, yes. Share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, yes (1-800-273-8255). Be there before the depression, during it, after it, yes. If you have depression, seek the help you need, yes. All of this, but sometimes it’s not enough and that’s the sad truth.

It’s been a lifetime since I had those thoughts, I am literally twice the age I was when I thought about it. The things I would have missed out on. Just that thought brings me to tears again. And I know my life is worth something. The first time a reader reached out to me to thank me for my books because they helped them escape a dark time in their life — to know that I’ve helped people without even realizing it — how could I miss out on that? Yes, there are MANY other things besides that (not the least of which are my husband and my writing career), but sometimes knowing you’re important outside of your own little universe can be life-altering.

But Robin knew how loved he was, is still. He knew. But Depression lies. Depression is a cruel, conniving, convincing bastard. Don’t let it win. Argue. Fight. Rail with all your strength. Find something that will help you win the battle because you are important. There is only one you in this whole messed up world and there is someone, somewhere, who needs you in it. We will never hear your YAWP, you will never find your verse, if you let it win.

The world is a little quieter, there is a little less laughter, and I will miss someone who never knew who I was, but was important to me.

Fuck depression.

My Writing Process

Happy Monday everyone!

I’ve been tagged in the writing process blog hop by my friend, S.K. Falls. You can check out her gif-awesome post here!

I went a little more wordy for mine. So sorry. Tl;dr version: I like to write sprint.

Full version:

Many of you know I churn out a pretty high word count average per day. When I sit down to write I average 2,000-5,000 words. I don’t like to say pages because a page of narrative compared to a page of dialogue is so different that some days you’ll get 4-8 pages and others 10-15 depending on how much dialogue you wrote.

So, how do I do it? Since I started writing the Elemental Series I stopped treating writing like a hobby. That is the biggest question you need to ask yourself: Is writing a hobby for you? If it isn’t, if you plan to someday quit that day job and become a fulltime writer then you need to treat your writing like a job. I wrote the first three rough drafts of the first three books in the Elemental Series while working a full time job. I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, get 2-5k words a day during that time, but I forced myself to get 1k words, five days a week.

Because I was in the habit of writing 1k words a day (which averages out to 4 pages if you’re curious), when I lost my job due to the economy crash, it wasn’t difficult for me to demand more words of myself every day.

Now I’m a fulltime writer so of course I need to get a much larger word count. Yes, the house needs to be cleaned, the laundry needs doing, the dogs need walking, food needs cooking, time spent with my husband needs spending. All of that needs to be done, but you do all of that with a day job, right? Why make excuses to keep from writing? All of those things will still get done after you’ve allowed yourself time to write. Treat it like a job. If you called in sick every day to any other job, you’d eventually get fired, right? Right.

But how do I get that much written in a day, that’s the other question. I do not sit at my desk and write nonstop until I reach my word goal for the day. If I did, I would never get the numbers I get. Instead I carve out my words in chunks. There are a few different ways to do this, you just gotta figure out what works best for you.

I am very active on Twitter and like to have it open while I’m writing. I use it to report how much I’ve written and tell people I’m writing so if there’s someone else writing at that moment, they know they aren’t alone. It’s good to have a writing community.

When I first started this practice a popular challenge was #1k1hr – which means you’re committing to writing for one straight hour to get 1,000 words. This is cool, but it doesn’t always work for me. One straight hour, never looking away, never giving myself a tiny break, gets to me. Like a cat with a laser pointer, I can’t focus.

I sprint. I write for 15 mins straight, or 20 minutes or 30. I never go longer than 30 without a break. In 15 mins I can write about 400-500 words. In 20 I can write 500-800 words. And in 30 I almost always break the 1k mark and average 900-1300 words. But if you ask me to write for one hour straight I won’t get much more than 1k because I slow down and want to do other things. Or I think, “no pressure, I still have like 38 mins. I’ll get more… oh, look! Pinterest! Hey, what was that song I wanted to know the lyrics to?” It’s too much! Could you run as fast as you could for a whole hour? Do you think by the 40 min mark you’d be running just as fast as you were at the 15 min mark? Probably not. I look at writing the same way.

I sprint, usually with some writer friends, for a short block of time, then look away from the document. I check my email, twitter, stats, whatever. I take a 5-15 min break and then go again. But even if you only take a 5 min break, it will make a huge difference.

Also, when I start a new project, I allow myself a day to figure out the beginnings of a soundtrack and compile at least an hour’s worth of songs on a playlist on Spotify. And I’ll let myself play on Pinterest with a muse-board for the book. I might pin pics of people/celebs that look like my characters for inspiration. Or, if I know what city the book is set in (or at least what kind of city), I’ll pin pictures of locations or structures to refer to later. It all helps in setting the mood. I by no means have to do this to write, but it helps. To this day there are songs that I will always associate with specific characters or scenes within my books, or even one particular song could encapsulate the feeling of a whole book for me and when I hear it, I’m right back in that book in my head.

Some luxuries help. Sometimes the perfect cuppa will help. Sometimes doing my hair and makeup will help. Sometimes changing clothes or staying in my pjs will help. Sometimes I don’t need anything but my outline, my soundtrack, and my desk.

Oh yeah, I started out as a pantser. My first 3.5 books were all pantsed, but when I hit the half mark on book 4, I couldn’t finish it without an outline. Now, I have a much easier time writing if I take the time to write a loose outline for the book. See? There are many factors. But sprinting. It’s all in the sprints for me to get my words done.

That’s my big secret!

Figure out what works for you and do it. It doesn’t matter what you have to do to write, so long as you actually write.