Author Archives: EarthGirly

Reluctant Godmother #2: Sneak Peek!

I am SO EXCITED to have something new worth sharing. I’ve been sick and dealing with a lot of personal stuff this year, so having a scene I like that makes me like this book is a really big deal. SO EXCITED!

I hope you enjoy this little sneak peek at what Tessa is up to in Book 2. 😀 😀 😀

—————————-
Nothing about Lucian Rosenau suggested he would find it difficult to deal with a peeping tom.
 
Lucian pulled a sleek wand from a pocket on the side of his suit pants. The handle was silver, the wand long and dark and polished to gleaming. Several jokes sprang to mind, and I immediately cursed Mueller silently for paving the road to the gutter so well. He pushed inside the room, motioning for me to stay at the door. He didn’t even bother with the doorknob to the bathroom; he simply flicked his wand and the door sprang open with a crash as it hit the wall behind it.
 
I expected to hear “Expelliarmus!” I was disappointed.
Lucian stepped inside the bathroom and returned a moment later. “Empty.”
 
Disbelieving, I frowned and squeezed around him to investigate, throwing back the shower curtain and testing the lock on the small window. “I’m not crazy,” I said, as much for my own benefit as his.
 
“Anything is possible in the land of magic, Miss Hargitay,” Lucian said. “Just because it’s empty now does not mean it was empty two seconds before I walked in. You need…” He waved his wand in a graceful arc, producing a jewel-tone rainbow that expanded to the edges of the whole hotel room. “It’s a simple protection spell.” His tone was deeply disapproving.
 
“I-I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I don’t know how to use magic…” It wasn’t a lie. I had done a lot with it already – even saved Denver from Ms. Zent’s sleeping curse, in a way – but I didn’t actually know a thing about using it.
 
“It isn’t your fault.” He smiled at me reassuringly, causing my breath to hitch in my throat. “Mallora should have taught it to you.”
 
An alarm blared inside me. The last thing I wanted was for Lucian to accuse my boss of failing to do her job. No doubt that would end in me no longer having one of the latter. “Oh, I’ve only been her assistant for about two days. This is really my first job-related activity.”
 
His dark eyes warmed. “Trial by fire. That is her style.” He ran his hand down my arm reassuringly. Speaking of fire… “You’re all right? No one will be able to get in here without your invitation now.”
 
I swallowed hard, and not out of fear. “Thank you. A-and I am.” I smiled.
 
“Good.”
 
We lingered in the doorway, my heart beating hard in my chest, for several long, breathless seconds. Then, at the same time, I said, “I should find my shoes,” and he said, “Well, I will see you at the presentation.” We laughed softly together.
 
He moved to the main door. I took a little hop toward him and said, “Thank you.”
 
“For what? Walking in the door of a lovely young woman’s hotel room? My pleasure.” The heat of his gaze curled up in my lower belly like a purring cat.
 
I cleared my throat. “For being in the right place at the right time.”
 
“Still my pleasure.” He smiled that Cary Grant-Rock Hudson-Clark Gable smile at me again, then nodded. “See you at the Lodge.”
 
I stood staring at the door after he left. Until a small, tinny voice drew my attention to the phone still clutched in my hand. “Mueller?” I said into it. “You’re still there?”
 
“Do yourself a favor,” he said without preamble. “This time, screw the guy.”
 
“I have a presentation to get to,” I said, pulling out my suitcase to find the comfortable loafers I had intended to wear.
 
“Yeah you do,” he smarmed.
 
“Call you later.”
 
“Not if he calls you first.”
 
“Shut up, Mueller.”
 
We hung up. I applied a couple strategic Band-aids and pulled on the loafers. Still new, still likely to give me blisters, but they didn’t make me want to chop off my feet. That was a significant improvement.
 
I was sorting through my messenger bag, ensuring I had everything I might need for the presentation and anything that came after it, when I heard a clank in the bathroom.
 
I looked up to find a man staring at me through the open bathroom door.
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Here Again

I’m sitting here, trying to work up the courage to write. It’s just Reluctant Godmother #2; certainly not scary-hard (though it is my first sequel, and that gives me mental discomfort). I’ve done my plotting work, so even though this particular scene is kind of up-in-the-air still, I know where I am and where I’m going. I wrote last week, and everything worked perfectly.

Yet here I sit, scared to start again. I can’t even make myself click over to Scrivener to look at the file. My stomach feels like river rapids – churning fast and chaotic around hard knots. My neck is tight. My shoulders already ache, partially from physical therapy yesterday and partially because I’m not on the right level with my desk. I’ve already added more air to the yoga ball that is my chair six times and I don’t want to keep fighting with it. I don’t want to fight with anything right now, when all my attention is taken by the fear.

What if it happens again?

I was sitting here three and a half months ago when I got light-headed and felt like I was going to pass out. Here, at this computer, in this corner, on this ball. For two weeks, every time I tried to write, the same thing happened. And then I came down with something that resembled a month-long stomach bug, and for which I still have no answers. For three months, I’ve seen doctor after doctor. Visited the ER more times than I can remember. Fought through raging torrents of anxiety and panic attacks as I felt like I was coming apart at the mental/emotional/physical seams. I let them run test after test and take vial after vial of blood.

I’m anemic now. Vitamin D deficient. I’m staring down future thyroid removal, possible problems getting pregnant when I want to, and yesterday they told me my blood pressure issues have caused my heart to start growing too thick. Important things to know, absolutely. I’m 36, which feels like too young for all that, but is also young enough to do something about it. To get out in front of it. I’m armed with newfound resilience, knowledge, and an understanding of my own weaknesses I didn’t have before.

But it all started here, on this ball, writing this story.

I don’t want to go through it again. I’m tensing against that light-headedness and the stomach pains that came after it before I even open the file.

How can I be a writer if I can’t write?

That question has plagued me for three months. The self-doubt that came with it was crushing. Enough to give up my goals. To cast aside the decade-plus of working toward them. It doesn’t matter how much willpower, dedication, or tenacity I summon up if my body just can’t do it. My bank account is empty, so there’s no making up for it with a new desk, chair, or some other contraption. The only resources I have at my disposal are contained in the same 10×10 room I’ve barely left these long, exhausting three months.

Still, I fought it. I sent the beginning of my side project to the muse it belongs to. That was terrifying in a completely different way–not least because I hadn’t ever actually told him he was my muse. Putting that envelope in the mail was a huge deal. I wish I could say I thrummed with fiery courage coursing through my veins…but I can’t. Instead, I spent the next three days feeling vaguely queasy and the size of Thumbelina.

And then one day, I was too weary to keep fighting. For three weeks, I questioned everything. Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to keep chasing something that causes me so much anxiety? Do I want to sit at the keys, day after day, doing the same thing for the same ineffectual purpose, losing a little bit more of my confidence and self-belief with every book release? Did I want to figure out how to be able to sit there that long at all? I let go of all the intentions, all the hopes, all the desires. I really didn’t know if I was going to pick them up again. I still don’t.

But here I am again, trying.

Showing up at the keys.

Terrified, but here. Again.

Because that is something I’m coming to understand about writers. Possibly about all artists in general…

We are like phoenixes. We burn, bright and shining, until we burn ourselves out. Maybe from working too hard or trying too long. Maybe from getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe from dreaming too big or putting too much of ourselves into our works. We flame out.

But those who believe, those with the courage and the desire and the need, brush off the ashes and try again.

I don’t know when I will finish RG2. Or how I’ll manage it. I don’t know what in the world I’m going to do with the limp strings of a career that’s never been fruitful.

But I do know that I’m here, sitting on this ball, writing this post.

No light-headedness. No stomach pains.

And for today, that’s enough.

Making Sense of the Mess

I keep trying – and failing – to write this silly book. I’ve never written a sequel before, so it’s new territory for me. Exciting, yes, but also daunting. The glorious rush of discovery as I flesh out the basics of the world and my main characters isn’t here. Instead, I’m faced with adding to the existing world, deepening character backgrounds, and complicating relationships. It’s…weird. Not bad…just…different. These are untried muscles I must learn to use on the fly.kimd of like being thrown out of a comfy nest and facing the on-rushing ground…

I finally managed to sit down and force myself to get the basic flow of the plot down. It looks like this: 


Still kind of a mess. The middle green section there is pretty much a lot of placeholders for actual scenes. Full of vagueries like “Rejects Summer” and “Fights magic with magic.” This was a problem with the first one, too. One of these days, I need to learn to nail down my scenes at this stage. But this is not that day! Then again, if I knew what magic she was going to do….well, that would just spoil the surprise for myself, wouldn’t it? And then where would the fun be?

NaNoWriMo Sneak Peek

I would say I’ve been hard at work on Reluctant Godmother #2, but that would be a lie. I’ve had too much crowding my brain this month to get much of anything done. But a little progress is still progress, so to celebrate crossing the 1/4 mark (please let it be the 1/4 mark…), here’s a (raw and unedited) sneak peek of what Tessa’s getting herself into this time!


   Forests are dangerous places.

With one hand on my cameras and the other stabilizing my bag, I quick-timed it as fast as I dared back up the deer path.

I was just crossing a clearing, my eyes focused straight ahead, when something tall caught my eye off to my right, at the long end of the clearing. Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look.

I looked.

It took me several seconds to make sense of what I was seeing. Partially because a blustery gust of approaching winter dried out my eyes, forcing me to blink to moisten and warm them. When I could see clearly, the rest of my confusion came from the incongruity of it all. It wasn’t a snake; it was a dress. And not just any dress. A ball gown. The puffy kind with tulle and chiffon and a breast-supporting bodice that hugged a slender, perfect hourglass figure. The woman’s skin seemed to glow with life, and I could feel the intensity of her blue eyes from thirty feet away. She lifted one delicate, petite hand and waved.

Alarm bells rang inside my head as my own hand rose to return the gesture of its own accord. My feet had stopped moving. My heart rate slowed. I could feel my whole body relax around me, even while my brain worked furiously to understand what was happening.

“Help me,” she called, though there was no urgency in her voice. “Please help me.”

Hell no! said my brain. Be right there! said my feet.

She moved toward me with a slow grace that made me feel like I was watching a Japanese horror flick. Strike that; that I was starring in a Japanese horror flick. People back home would be shouting at me to stop being an idiot, and I didn’t blame them. I was shouting at myself as fear rolled up my gullet like smoke signals from my stomach gremlin. Stop! Desist! Resist!

And just like that, I did.

My camera bag fell off my shoulder, landing on a rock with a metallic crunch. I winced and crouched beside it, gathering it up and prepping to bolt.

“Wait,” the woman-thing said, the creepy, dream-like quality in her voice vanishing. “You’re a woman?”

The pressure on my body, that dragging, drawing feeling that made me feel like I was a boat in a current with no sail or paddle, fell away. I peered at her cautiously, tilting my head in case she had a face like death. I needn’t have worried. She wasn’t horror walking. Nor was she as beautiful as she had seemed from afar. Up close, she was just…a woman. Like me.

Before I could move or say anything, she added, “In that coat I thought you were a burly lumberjack or something.” She crossed her arms over her bodice, her perfect figure now too-thin, her ribcage knobby beneath the stays.

I looked down at myself and muttered, “Oh. Awesome.”

She sniffed at me, her nose scenting the air like a hungry puppy. “You even smell like a man. Why is that?”

“Uh…beats me…” I slung my bag over my shoulder again and stood. “Who are you?” I wanted to ask what she was, but I felt like that might be unnecessarily rude and it seemed better not to piss off a woman who could make herself simultaneously angelic and creepy.

“Who, me?” She batted her eyelashes at me and tossed her hair. The movement showed me how limp the blonde locks really were. “I am Rohana, youth’s mistress. Lover of men and bringer of beauty. Who are you that look so mundane and yet can resist my call?”

“Tess,” I answered, dropping the ‘a’ for no definable reason. “Photographer.”

Her blue eyes – pale and watery now – widened as she clapped her knobbly hands together. “Ooh, is that one of those, those digitalis cameras? I love those! Mundanes are so clever. Here, this is my best side.” She fluffed her hair, placed her hand behind her head, and blew a kiss at me.

At the same moment, Mueller’s voice echoed through the trees. “Tessa? Where the hell are you?”

“Ooh!” Rohana squealed. “That’s why you smell like a man! You brought me one.” She sniffed at the air as the wind gusted again, leaving us downwind of where I thought Mueller’s voice originated. A sensual shiver coursed through her. “And he’s a virile one.

A second shiver. “You really shouldn’t have. It’s not even my birthday. Be a dear and call him here?” She giggled, and just like that, she was a fair maiden again, ready to head to a ball.

She began to glide across the clearing again. Apparently mannish thing that I was, I had no such facade to maintain. I surged to my feet, pressing my gear to my body tightly to enable me to run as fast as I dared on uneven ground. “Mueller!” I shouted, hearing my voice echo across the clearing. “Run!”

“Run to me, Mueller!” the echo shouted back. Except it wasn’t the echo. It was Rohana. With my voice. “Help me!”

I heard him crashing through the trees. Though I had no idea what sort of magical creature this woman was, I knew enough about fairytales to know a woman who could make herself beautiful at will gliding through the forest in a fancy dress was dangerous. I threw myself into her path, putting myself between her and my approaching friend.

“Wait!” I yelped. My hands fumbled with my cameras, selecting one at random. I lifted it to my eye just as she snarled, “No, not that one! The other one.”

Through the viewer of the antique camera, Rohana wasn’t beautiful. She wasn’t horrific, either. She was just…old. Like, insanely old. Like, walking, talking mummified princess old. The skin of her face was a mass of wrinkles held in place by what I could only guess were cobwebs. The skull beneath was well-defined, her high cheekbones protruding beneath sunken eyes and eyelids that drooped. Her mouth gaped, dark and terrifying, in a death smile. Beneath the tattered, dirty, ancient gown, her skeleton was just as obvious. She glided merely because her muscles could barely function.

Click went my camera.

The clearing erupted in a blood-curdling scream from that terrible mouth. “I said, not that one! Now I will have to kill you. Quickly, before your man gets here.” She advanced on me, her bones shaking precariously. “But don’t worry, sweetie. I’ll use your vitality to make sure he’s happy as he dies.” A tongue like a desiccated worm ran over her shriveled lips. “He’ll die of love. You, on the other hand…”

Her mouth formed an ‘o’ as she advanced on me. I retreated a step. Then another, lowering the camera with the slowness of shock and dread coursing through my own muscles. The plush, berry-red lips were open, her eyes locked on my mouth as she extended her delicate hands, reaching for me. To kiss me. To suck the life out of me.

 

 

Release Day: One Good Wand!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
It’s live!

I was going to write a big post about its challenges and rewards, but I’ll save that for another day. Right now, I’m too excited to do more than celebrate. I mean, this book was only 3.5 months later than anticipated–I’m getting better! ;D

2016-461-ebook-holly-henrikson-one-good-wand-book1

 

Tessa Hargitay’s life has all the makings of a perfect fairytale: A woman out of hope and out of luck; a perfect, blood-red rose; the return of a childhood crush as a handsome, charming prince-of-a-man.

Except for Tessa, it’s not your run-of-the-mill happily ever after. In fact, it’s not a fairytale ending at all. With one unwary signature, she finds herself caught up on the other side of the tale–the side full of responsibility and dire consequences, and none of the rewards.

Tricked into becoming a fairy godmother, she has one shot to save the people of Denver (and her mom) from a coma-inducing sleeping curse. Unfortunately, her mentor has vanished, the Fairy Folk are too wrapped up in red tape to be of use, and her only ally is a growly machine tech who’s as human as she is. With no training and only vague sayings to guide her, it’s a prickly briar path Tessa isn’t entirely sure she wants to take.

But then, if there’s anyone who could get Cinderella to Comic Con on time, it’s gotta be a geek with a magic wand, right?

(Available from Amazon. Free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers!)

End-of-Summer Update!

Whew! Summer blew by like a motorcycle driver really needing to pee. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t consider summer done yet. I mean, it’s only August 2nd, right? But my kiddo starts school really soon and that means one thing: I get my writing time back! (Okay, two things…I will also be depressed and miss him for the first week, and then get sick the second or third. So three things… Ah, parenthood – the art of one thing leading to another…) I’m trying hard to settle back into a normal routine, one that gives me ample time to percolate, but it’s tricky.

I attempted to release the first book in my new Reluctant Godmother series back at the beginning of July. And then for pretty much the whole of July. :/ I just wasn’t ready to finish it. Or maybe I should say the book wasn’t ready… One of the two! Now that I’m back home and able to think with my professional brain instead of Summer Brain (“Let’s go to the beach! No, the park! Or just veg! Let’s do NOTHING! Wheeeeeee!”), I am better equipped to figure out the changes I wanted to make. Especially since I got back to my outline for the sequel. summerize

Summer Brain is clearly not a solid decision-maker, ’cause it was really a no-brainer.

So now I have to finish up the major editing pass of the second half, figure out what to put where the removed subplot was, and then do a clean-up pass. It’s not common for me to change character names in my stories – for me, their names are part of who they are. But I changed…four? I think. Four names in this book. So now I have to do the resulting work to make sure there aren’t residual nicknames and such. (Speaking of which, I know I saw a wayward “Em” in there while reading to my sister on our cross-country trip to move her from the East Coast to the Rockies…there. Better.) This is the absolute messiest book I’ve ever written. No contest.

Anyway, point being that I have some work left (that I made more of for myself…), but the actual release date is close at hand! Maybe as soon as this weekend, if I stay motivated and don’t get weighed down by the insanity of living in a small three bedroom house with five other adults and two (soon to be three) kids 6 and under. Fun stuff.

I will update as soon as it goes live. I’m so excited!! Wheeeee! (Apparently Summer Brain hasn’t gone back into hibernation yet… 😀 )

December 2015 Update

I keep making a plan to update my website more frequently…or at the very least, more regularly. Somehow, it never quite comes together. Maybe in 2016…

Right now, I’m thrilled to be coming out of my first NaNoWriMo win. The first time I tried was about ten years ago, and I’ve signed up almost every year since then with the same outcome: Somewhere in week 2, I forgot I was doing it. This is my problem with many, many things in life, as I’m guessing it is for a lot of people. After all, they say it takes upwards of three weeks to make something a habit. Getting to three weeks, then, has to be pretty tough or there wouldn’t be a zillion books and blogs and professionals out there designed to help us build strong habits.

For me, November was the third month in a row of appreciably increasing my monthly word count, so 50k was bound to happen eventually. Still, it felt like tripping over a threshold. Yes, I’ve hit 50k in a month previously. Last December when I was writing the first half of Eternally Born, I know I hit it even though I didn’t keep track. But last month, I was keeping track. And for some reason that feels like it made all the difference. It feels like I’m going to do something with it this time.

It’s now been a year since I started publishing The Eternals, too, and two since I published my first novella, One For All. I have yet to make either of those go where I’d planned – my serial is only half done, still waiting for the first arc to be completed, and 13 Colonies is patiently awaiting the next novella in the series. Part of me…okay, all of me…really wishes I could have done more with that time. But I also realize that life happens, plans fall apart, and what matters is that I’m still writing, still planning, still moving forward. It’s not the most successful career yet, but dang if I don’t get a gold star for perseverance!

I gave myself three months to focus solely on writing. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I’m going to close out the year with over 200,000 words. That’s its own milestone – there may have been a year I wrote 150k when I was first trying to get published, but that was a long time ago. So I’m pretty excited about that, too! If I’d been working on other projects or focusing on completing them, that would be two full novels, more or less. As it is, it’s half a serial and three-quarters of two novels. Oops.

Now that I’ve had those three months, though, I have other things that need my attention. As we turn over into 2016, I’m trying to do better than I did those last two years. Rather than trying to work harder, I’m working smarter. The last two years proved to me that January and February are bad months for my creativity. They’re usually bad months for me in general, full of bad mojo, illness, and anxiety. They tend to be the worst months of the year, in fact. So much so that I have an ironclad prohibition against making major decisions between Christmas and the second week of March. This year, instead of trying to power through it, I’m going to back off and let myself coast. I’ll be hitting the gym to build up some nice, anxiety-busting endorphins. Still writing, but on a smaller scale with simpler goals.

So, that said, I’m trying hard to finish at least one of my current projects before the year is out. I was really hoping to get my serial finished this month, too, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. 😦

The one that makes me happiest is first on the docket, a contemporary fantasy filled with awkwardness and laughter. I’ve never made myself laugh so much while writing. In fact, I might even go so far as to call this book funny, which heretofore I never believed I could do. It’s a creativity-stretcher for that reason, but it’s also a lot of fun. Tentatively, I’m calling it “Wand For Hire.” It’s the story of a thirty-something who, completely out of luck, takes a temp job that lands her in the middle of a corporate war in the magic world…and finds that she’s signed herself into becoming a fairy godmother. It’s full of sexual innuendo, thanks to her gutter-brained sidekick, and I’ve never done silly like this. It’s fun!

The other is the first in a series that was supposed to walk the line between romantica and solid fantasy. It was supposed to be romantic, each book about a woman who falls in love with a dragon, and together they will all go save the world. Straight-forward, simple. Except those two concepts are not generally synonymous with the way I write. 😛 I knew somewhere around the second sentence out of my fingers that it was going to be something different. The writing was lyrical epic fantasy, the kind of book I loved so very much as a teenager. You know, back before grimdark turned everything all twisted and despairing. And the more I wrote, the more I discovered that the relationships that mattered most were not the women and their dragons – though those are definitely important – but the women and their sisters, their mothers, their families. It took me a good 70,000 words before I realized I was writing a lovely blend of women’s fiction and epic fantasy (and that I had inadvertently written two books into one, and lost 20k from my first book word count to book 2. I have a real problem with that…). It got hard to keep writing after that. One, because I suddenly needed to find the book’s plot without the subplot that was actually the central plot of book 2. And two, because it suddenly carried weight it hadn’t as a simple romance. It meant something. I needed to come at it from a different perspective, and that…well, it wasn’t difficult to do as much as it was to accept. Sometimes, I’m awfully stubborn…

So, those are my current projects. I’m hoping to finish both of them by the end of January, but all my plans fall apart in January so I don’t expect to get anything done until March. Ideally, I would like to release a new 13 Colonies novella for Valentine’s Day, too, and then release every two or three months until I have the room in my schedule to write the novels. Perseverance, baby. It’s all about perseverance. 🙂

To Fun or Not to Fun

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of indie authors touting the notion that writing should be fun…and if it’s not, get out, because you’re in the wrong business.

Every time I hear it, it’s like a fairy falling lifeless to the ground when someone doesn’t believe. Before I go any further, let me say this:

If you want to be a writer, never let anyone tell you to stop.

I majored in Anthropology in college with the intent of becoming an archaeologist. I had my whole life mapped out around that core career. And then junior year, I had a professor advise us all to get out and find something new to do because technology was going to make us obsolete within ten years. I trusted his experience, relied on his authority in the field, and took his advice. It’s been eleven years, and archaeologists still exist. They still dig, still study, still catalogue. The field didn’t fail because of technology, it diversified. Had I gotten into it back then, I’d have been ahead of the curve. As it was, I left school for a while to figure out what else to do with my life and didn’t get my degree for another six years. I gave up my chance to do what I loved because I listened to someone who was supposed to know what he was talking about, and I kick myself every time I see a new archaeological discovery in the news. Because there are things I can’t do at 35 nearly as well as I could have done them at 25, not least because I have a family to care for.

If you want something for yourself, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Don’t doubt that you can do it, that you have the right personality or interest base. Make it work for you. Find what you bring to it and diversify. Because what they’re really saying is, “You can’t do what I think you want to do/what I do.” But chances are pretty good that you don’t want to do whatever it is they see ahead of you; you probably want to do what YOU see, and that’s almost never the same thing. That goes doubly for creative pursuits.

Okay. Important message out of the way.

This particular bit of bad advice has been driving me crazy for months, largely because I’m not the kind of author who always has fun when she’s writing. ‘Cause you know what? I don’t write a lot of “fun” stories. The first novel I started with the intent to finish, back in high school, was about a half-elf who lost his family and became reliant upon a strong mentor figure who was secretly using him for his own dark ends. The first novel I actually finished was about a teenager whose siblings essentially sold her to a sadist to finance a revolution. Heck, the book I’m working on right now is amazingly fun to write, full of awkward moments and sexual innuendo, but it still has painful elements that have made writing it an emotionally unfun experience.

Writing doesn’t have to be fun. Even fun books don’t have to be fun all the time.

At least once during every book I’ve ever written, I get so angry at it that I want to tear it into tiny bits with my bare hands, chuck it in a fire to watch it sizzle and burn, and then gather up the ashes to craft something else I can destroy. It’s part of my writing process. I used to follow a traditionally published author who said whenever she hit that moment, her family would respond with, “So you’re on the right track, then!” Because it was also part of her process, and she only ever hit it when the book was coming together well.

Personally, the best fun I have with a story is if it’s challenging. If it makes me work, makes me question how I’m writing it or why I’m writing it; if it makes me realize something about myself or the ideas I want to convey; if it’s hard, that’s when I love it most. I think a lot of writers equate “fun” with “easy,” like it can only be fun if you’re blowing through scenes like Bonnie and Clyde blew through banks and emerging from most sessions with an adrenaline high. Frankly, if that’s the only part of writing you experience, I think you’re missing out. But that’s just me; I’m in it because it’s who I am, not just what I do. YMMV (and should).

Basically, it all boils down to this: All writers are different. All books are different. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Find your niche, find your passion, find your process, and then cheer on everyone else.

And if you’re the one giving advice, don’t be the reason someone looks back ten years from now and regrets the choices they made. Uplift each other. Change up your perspective.

Diversify!

Poll Time!

I’m currently in the process of plotting my next otherworld fantasy series (woohoo!), but I need your help!

The series has to do with gradually worsening natural disasters. I’m a big disaster movie buff, so I have my favorites…but I have too many favorites. Help me choose what to include!

Unfortunately for you (and excitingly for me – sorry), the project is going to remain top secret until it’s published. So you can ask all the questions you’d like, but there probably won’t be any answers forth-coming.

Thanks in advance for your input! It’s super helpful. 🙂

The Art of Writing a Serial (Or: A Lesson in Surviving Hurdles)

Before embarking on the long adventure known as the serial story, I made sure to do my homework. I read everything I could from people who’d already done it. I scoured blogs and how-to ebooks and kboards (Amazon’s kindle boards, where you can find all kinds of awesome people living the dream…and ten times more trying to get there). I had my plan ready to go – I knew the size of each installment (15-20k), the frequency of release (every 2 weeks), and my intended pricing scheme. I knew I wanted to write it as I went, rather than writing it all up front, and was prepared to keep to the schedule. I created my pen name, had the basics of my brand, and launched my platform on my chosen social media outlets. My prep work was good.

I released the first book on a wave of self-accomplishment. I did it! I crowed to myself (and to my husband, though he wasn’t quite as excited). A new pen name, new world, new experiment, all begun and set to do great things. Best yet, I’d only spent $15 to do it. And I was flexing my very rusty Photoshop skills to create decent covers. (Admittedly, they’re not fantastic. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call them good; but for 15 bucks, I’m happy with them!) I swore to myself I wouldn’t tell anyone I was writing them until after Christmas (the first one went live just before Thanksgiving). Which became “nobody but my sister and my brother, who are now my beta readers.” And then I was so chuffed about my cover, I showed it off to the rest of the family over Christmas.

That was mistake #1. (Okay, noticeable mistake #1. I probably made plenty of others I don’t have enough experience to see yet.) There are gobs of professionals (and memes; so many memes!) who will tell you to keep your dreams to yourself. You know what? They’re totally right. Eventually, people will find out. But you really want something you can be proud of out in the world already before you invite the criticism of those you know (and love). My dad was bummed – “A pen name? Already?” he asked, clearly lamenting that I had cast off the family name. “What about my sci-fi?!” my cousin demanded. Even though I stood strong and didn’t really feel the need to defend my choice, there entered the seed of doubt. By the time I reached my “after Christmas” date, the damage was already done. I “went public” to everyone, and the pressure set in.

Pressure, apparently, makes writing a lot harder. Who knew? 😛

Mistake #2 came a few short weeks later when, instead of having a week all to myself when my husband and son were out of town, I came down with the flu. The horrible, awful, kill-me-now sort of flu. I was sick the entire week. One setback, though, wasn’t going to stop me. I have perseverance! I cried (inwardly, in a properly introverted fashion). Except then my yoga ball, which I used as my desk chair, exploded while I was sitting on it (thinking back still makes me giggle hysterically – if you can’t save your pride, you might as well laugh, right?), which also broke my desk. No matter how I tried to cobble together a better situation, I couldn’t get comfy enough to write. But no problem – I still had my laptop. Right? Wrong. My 8-year-old MacBook finally gave up the ghost the same week. I managed to save my covers, which weren’t in Dropbox, and called it a blessed bit of luck. (Mistake #2 was not writing long-hand and continuing the habit. I wouldn’t have written as quickly and I’d have used a ton of paper, but I’d have gotten it done sooner, and not lost momentum.)

So I had to wait. And wait. And wait…until our tax return came in. Because we’re broke. Like, beyond broke. So broke, in fact, that we moved in with my in-laws in May because we couldn’t support ourselves with the skyrocketing rental prices in Denver. Our pediatric office just broke up with us because we couldn’t pay our bills. I bought a new laptop, one of the new HP Streams that’s designed to function mostly online. So pretty! So perfect (and perfectly in my price range). I finished up the rough draft of Issue #5 and shifted gears to the publishing side of things. And that’s when I realized: I no longer have access to Photoshop. I had to actually pay for it. Which meant I couldn’t create a cover for a bundle of the first five issues like I had planned.

That was Mistake #3 – I let my disappointment (and, honestly, financially-rooted depression) get the better of me. I didn’t research Photoshop options or alternatives. I just sat and stewed. Which, given that we were down to the wire in deciding what to do with our lives by that point, I don’t really begrudge myself. I had more important things requiring my time. But if I had done a little idle research, I’d have discovered the 30-day free trial of Photoshop CC and gotten to de-stress playing with covers.

The fifth issue of Eternally Born was five months late. I’ve accepted my failures and determined to do better in future. Namely, I will focus on the habit instead of the output, have backups to my backups (not just files but also writing situations and implements), and maybe bring in a couple new cheerleaders to keep my spirits up when stuff falls apart. Because I don’t have a lot of experience in indie publishing yet, but what little I do has shown me how easily things do fall apart. To misquote Jurassic Park, “We have all the problems of a traditional publishing house and a moody creative professional, and the money’s not even coming in yet.”

Yes, a serial is quite difficult as an entry into self-publishing – it’s an insanely slow build, and there’s not really a good way to market it until you’re quite a ways in. (Despite being in KU with everything but #1, I’ve only ever had 3 borrows. I’ve given away several hundred copies of #1, but only had maybe the same number of sell-throughs.) With 4 issues on the market, I haven’t yet broken even on that initial $15. It’s a long, hard haul and something of a slog. Choosing to write one at a time means I have to be okay working on the same thing every month (month after month after month). That can be tough when my creativity wants to try something new, or doesn’t want to break from the other project I’m working on to come back to the serial. And I have a sneaking suspicion the majority of people who might be interesting in reading the serial are waiting for me to finish the whole thing before they read. Which is fair and completely understandable…but it’s not a big boost to the old ego, either. Nor is knowing ahead of time that I’m not going to sell any of the new issues when they’re released.

All of that said, however, I don’t regret choosing to write one issue at a time. I don’t regret any of my actual publishing choices.This is the way this story needed to be told. It’s the way I needed to work on it. It reinforces the process, keeps me in the short-term (I have a real problem with that), and keeps me writing. Doing the covers myself keeps me excited, because even if nobody reads the words inside, they will see the cover. It keeps me learning, keeps me trying new things, and uses my brain in ways that novels don’t (especially because it’s non-linear, but that’s a different topic). By the time I’m done with this arc, I will have a lot of basic experience under my belt. I’ll have 10 issues on the market with 3 bundles. I’ve been keeping an eye on my category the whole time, and how sales and borrows affect my ranks. And, more than that, it’s set my expectations low. They already were – I didn’t start this up expecting to sell any – but once I’m done, I’ll know that I can stick with my choices no matter what happens; that I can finish what I start even when there is pretty much zero positive reinforcement or enticement to continue.

Essentially, this is the part where I stamp down the dirt until it’s hard-packed and capable of supporting bigger goals for the long-term. I may feel like a giant failure because all I have is dirt, but I will have the confidence to know failure won’t kill me. And that’s nothing to sneeze at!