Inspiration, Upended Plans, & Third Thoughts: Confessions of an Anxious Writer

White feather on blue inkwell and old book

Hi all,

Here at the middle of 2017, I thought I’d give you an update on my publishing plans through the balance of the year, and a sketch of my plans beyond that. In order to do so, I have to tell you a little story, one that’s pretty embarrassing in some respects. I hope you’ll bear with me for a few minutes.

The story starts back in the spring of 2016. It was a typical California spring day, by which I mean postcard pretty—cloudless blue sky, light breeze, the works. I was driving to work, the windows open in my car and a Pandora station playing on the stereo. Lovely. A song came on I’d never heard before; the tune caught my attention, and so did the words. About two stanzas in, my muse (that would be Lola, if you didn’t know) hit me on the back of the head with the inspiration stick. I suddenly had this image in my head, full color and Dolby sound: a young woman behind the wheel, her arm resting on the door through the open window, her hair blowing in the breeze. She was driving away from her life, no looking back.

Just that, like a flash, and not such an unusual image in itself. But it hit me hard. So hard that it knocked the song that had inspired it straight out of my head—I have no recollection whatsoever of the title, the singer, the tune, or any of the words.

I couldn’t get that single image out of my head for the whole day. That night, I dreamt about the young woman. I saw why she was leaving her life, and it became an idea for a story. I got up and opened a new file, meaning only to take a few notes and get it out of my head, because I had other writing plans on deck, and this idea didn’t fit my plans. I was just finishing the first draft of Miracle at the time, and I intended to start the third Northwomen book next (I hadn’t had the idea for the Brazen Bulls series yet).

But those “notes” became a first chapter. And then I couldn’t stop. I wrote the whole book in a flurry of inspiration more intense than I’d felt since Signal Bend. More than 100,000 words in less than four weeks. I write fast, but I’d never written that fast, especially not during the semester.

Then I had this story, and I liked it a lot. I shared it with my betas, and they all liked it, too. But they also agreed that it wasn’t much like anything else I’d written.

It was, for one thing, a lot less violent than most of my work, and it didn’t have the potential for violence that all my other work contains. There are some pretty dark events—I mean, come on, it’s still me—but that stuff is more backgroundy than usual for me, and the focus is very much on the couple.

I’m not good at picking labels, but it is possibly my only traditional contemporary romance.

By the time I was done, other characters had “popped,” catching my interest, and I thought that it could be a series—in fact, I already knew the couple of the second book—and for the first time I felt like I could guarantee an ironclad HEA for every couple throughout a series—a guarantee I never make. The world of this out-of-the-blue book is just safer than my bikers, or my Vikings, or even the Paganos, with their Mafia connections.

Also, it’s a western, which is not my usual bag—although, honestly, that “western” angle isn’t all that different from Signal Bend. It’s a small-town story in which the small town pops as a character itself, and the townspeople are vivid secondary characters. But it is a sweeter, safer story, and a calmer, safer world, than is my tendency.

I didn’t know what to do with it. Would my readers like this kind of story from me? I had no idea.

So I stuck it in a folder and put it aside. I picked up my plans where I’d dropped them, and wrote the books I’d had in the queue. But my little town in Idaho kept waving at me, wondering when I was coming back.

Finally, I decided I would put it out under a pen name. Hey, I thought, this will be a good time to try to do things “right.” I still didn’t do the hiring of PR thing, but within the bounds of DIY, I at least did things in the right order this time.

I picked a name from my own family history, several generations back—a colorful great-great aunt who is family legend—and opened all the right social media accounts in that name. I started posting in them. Under that name, I sent out some queries to bloggers asking if they’d like an ARC (something I never do).

I published it last September.

And promptly and wholeheartedly freaked the fuck out. Guess what? Somebody like me, who struggles so much with social anxiety that she agonizes for fifteen minutes about whether to use a fucking exclamation point on an FB post, DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT try to manage two different author personas.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I had a breakdown over the whole enterprise—before the book had even gotten noticed. I can’t imagine what my poor brain would have done if that book had had a Move the Sun-type release. After about two weeks, I unpublished the book, deleted all the social media accounts, deleted my private Pinterest inspiration board for that world (*sobs*), and vowed to forget the whole sorry experience.

Which I did, more or less. The memory poked at me occasionally, and I was sad about the swift demise of a book I’d loved writing and liked as a story, but I was all NOPE NOPE NOPE about jumping back into that mental morass.

Then, a couple of months ago, Lola began whispering in my ear about that second book idea, and she hasn’t stopped. The more I want to write that second book, the more my meltdown with the first torments me.

I feel deeply sheepish about this. I know lots of writers have multiple pen names and lots of those writers keep them unconnected from each other. It’s not putting a book out under a pseudonym that’s got me blushing. It’s my little private drama and spectacular wimping out that’s driving me up a wall.

But clearly, I’m not going to be able to maintain a pseudonym.

So okay. I’m going to put it out again this fall, this time in my own name. To limit confusion for the people who bought it the first time, I’m not planning to change the title or cover or anything except my name, and I’ll add an author’s note of explanation. That will be my October release. I won’t do a preorder for it; I’ll just drop it on the first Saturday of October.

I don’t know whether you’ll like it, but I do. In fact, I just did a fresh edit (I didn’t change much, except to cut way back on the use of a pet name that sort of got away from me the first time), and I was reminded how much I really do love this world and the family that anchors it—and I was strongly motivated to get up over myself and put it back out in the world.

This post is me jumping off the point of no return for that plan. And really hoping there aren’t jagged rocks down below.

The book is called Somewhere. The family name I used for a pseudonym is Jenny Gavin. The town I built is Jasper Ridge, Idaho, nestled in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains. The Cahill family is its heart. It’s a contemporary, western, small-town romance. If a series does develop, it will be the Sawtooth Mountains Stories.

And the female lead is a young woman who drives away from a life that has died.

So.

With that in mind, an update about my firm publishing plans for the balance of the year, and my tentative plans beyond that:

2017 releases (firm):

  • 5 August: Slam, the Brazen Bulls MC #3
  • (Early September: All four books of The Northwomen Sagas will no longer be exclusive to Amazon and will be available on multiple platforms.)
  • 7 October: Somewhere, A Sawtooth Mountains Story
  • 2 December: The Brazen Bulls MC #4 (I’ll announce the title and all that jazz later)

2018 plans (sketches):

First, re: the Bulls—Book 5 is my current work in progress, and I’m about 50K words in now. At this point, I’m planning to keep to the schedule I’ve got going, where I release a new Bulls book every 4 months. So Book 5 would come out next April, with Books 6 and 7 following later in the year. Based on the sketches of ideas I’ve got so far, I think this series will be 8 books long, with a 9th book on the tail end (a prequel story about Delaney and Mo, set during Vietnam). That all depends on countless factors, predictable and otherwise, but that’s the plan at this time.

As for other books and series, I love patterns and structure, and I like the pattern of a “different” book releasing between each Bulls book. Like the Northwomen, and Somewhere—books that go in different directions. I’ve got a whole pile of ideas outside the Bulls. I’ve got a post-apocalyptic story written now that isn’t a romance (there’s a love story, because I ship EVERYTHING, but it’s not the focus, and there’s no sex), and I have a range of ideas for romance stories and series, including a Pagano Brothers series (which would be a true mafia romance series), an MMA series, hopefully more Sawtooth stories, and several ideas that will be standalones. Like a Victorian romance with an English suffragette as the female lead. Really want to write that!

Anyway, the Brazen Bulls series is the spine of my plans for the next couple of years, and around that, I will chase whatever ideas catch my fancy.

Like when Lola hits me upside the head and upends all my plans.

Cheers,
s—

Soul’s Fire: Preorder Now Available

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Soul’s Fire, the third installment of The Northwomen Sagas, is available on Amazon for preorder, in anticipation of a 4 February release.

You can find the prologue here. If you haven’t yet read about my Viking women and the men who love them, you can find the first installment, God’s Eye, and the second, Heart’s Ease, on Amazon. The digital editions of this series are currently exclusive to Amazon and available on KU. Paperbacks are also available.

Later this year, after the series is complete (there will be a fourth and final book), I’ll take the whole series off KU and offer it for sale on other platforms.

I hope you enjoy Astrid’s story!

xoxo
s–

Standing at the Threshold…

Buh-bye, 2016. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass, you abusive jerk.

Oh hi, 2017. You can come in, but wipe your feet. And please be kind.

image-happy-new-year-2017

On this first day of 2017, I thought I’d post a little bit about my plans for the year—at least as I know them at this point, barring any personal calamities or global apocalypses.

Last year, I set out with a resolution to work on getting better doing the stuff in this author gig that I’m really not good at—specifically, promotion and use of social media. I set a goal for myself of one “author” post per week, with varied content and a focus on promoting my books.

carlijnq-poster-a3-hahahano

That resolution didn’t even make it to the end of January. I suck at that stuff for a reason—I’m not comfortable asking readers to do anything that they wouldn’t do without my prompting, so I rarely even mention reviews, and I’m too introverted and have too much anxiety to post a lot of chatty updates. I have a very hard time posting unless I have actual news to share. Trying to push myself on this point wasn’t great for my mental health.

Ask me a question, and I’ll come up with a voluble, opinionated, detailed answer (as the FANetties have experienced), possibly with footnotes and charts. But to just randomly throw myself out into the vast aether… I get crushed under the weight of my own insignificance before I can click “post.”

Besides, “chatty” is probably not an adjective people who know me would use to describe me—and this includes my family.

introverts

BUT: I like making pretty pictures, and I’m getting better at Photoshop, so this past year I started doing more promo/teaser posts. I’m gonna call that a win and scrape Resolution 2016 off the bottom of the fail barrel.

bottom-of-the-barrel

This year’s resolution, if you want to call it that, is to stop worrying about what I’m not doing or what I’m doing “wrong” and just keep writing what I want to write because it keeps me sane to write it, publishing my work for the small and mighty band of readers who’ve found me on their own and like what I do, and using my author social media to let them (you) know what’s coming up.

…So basically I’ve resolved to do all the stuff I like and none of the stuff I don’t. I might have gotten the spirit of this whole “resolution” thing wrong, lol. Or maybe I got it really right. Maybe I should also make a resolution to eat cake every morning for breakfast! That’ll perk up the year!

cake

Anyway…on to the reason for this post. Here’s what coming up in 2017.

Overall:

At the moment, I have three manuscripts that are completed and in varying stages of revision/editing, and I’m making progress on my current project, so I feel confident about sharing some light specifics about those.

I’m going to finish out The Northwomen Sagas in 2017. That’s two more books: Soul’s Fire, coming out in about a month, and Father’s Sun, which I’m planning to release in June. I know most of you are here for my bikers, but I love writing these Vikings, and I’ll be sad to end the series.

shieldmaiden

(Little trivia snack for ya: You know how Isaac and a lot of the people of Signal Bend have Scandinavian heritage, and the Horde keep Viking customs as part of their club rituals? There’s a direct ancestral line from the Horde back to my Vikings.)

Don’t worry, though. There are more bikers to come. The Brazen Bulls MC series is just beginning, so there’s a lot more story to tell in Tulsa. I’m not sure how many books that series will ultimately be, but I do know that it’ll be at least four, since I’ve finished the first draft of the third and know who will lead the fourth. This being an MC series and all, there are plenty of characters who might drive the story forward for a while—but that’s no guarantee that all the Bulls will get books of their own, of course. Like Signal Bend and SoCal, the Bulls books aren’t standalones. The series has a story arc of its own, and when that arc ends, so too will the series.

(It’ll probably be more than four books, because I don’t see how I’d wrap up the series arc by the end of Book 4. That arc is just starting to become a strong feature of the books. My estimate for the series is seven-ish books.)

At any rate, especially now that I’m releasing books every two months instead of every six weeks, I expect the Bulls to be ongoing through 2017 and probably into 2018.

So…the schedule for 2017 (releases and events), so far:

  • 4 February: Soul’s Fire, The Northwomen Sagas Book 3 (Astrid’s story)—this one is edited and formatted and ready to go, so that’s a firm date. Find the cover and prologue here.
  • 1 April: Twist, The Brazen Bulls MC # 2 (Gunner’s story)—this one is done, too, just ripening for a final edit, so also a solid date. (No foolin’!)
  • 3 June: Father’s Sun, The Northwomen Saga Book 4 (Solveig’s story)—I’m currently writing this one, the series conclusion, so this is a planned but tentative date.
  • 5 August: Brazen Bulls # 3 (I’ll tell you the title and whose story this is after Gun’s book comes out)—I don’t usually write out of order with my publishing plans, but Lola got her teeth in this one, so it jumped the line. I recently finished the first draft. It’s possible that BB3 might come out in June instead of Father’s Sun, if I hit any snags writing FS.
  • 29-30 September: My first signing! Penned Con 2017 in St. Louis, MO. STL is my hometown, so I’m super excited about this. 🙂
  • October: Brazen Bulls # 4 (not started yet, so this is very tentative)
  • December: Brazen Bulls # 5 (not started, so very tentative)

There’s some other stuff on the fire, too, but nothing that’s cooked enough for me to share at this point.

Okay, so there’s a look forward at my 2017. I hope your year is peaceful, safe, and happy.

xo
s—