Category Archives: author life

Glancing Back, but Moving Forward

2019 year pop art comic book text speech bubbleLike a lot of you, I’m ready to see the back of 2018. Sure, I had some great moments—buying a house, releasing a new novella and my first M/F story, taking some great trips, visiting with awesome friends—but overall, 2018 was one dumpster fire after another. I’m already side-eyeing 2019: you better behave yourself.

I had a list of things I wanted to do in 2018, but as it turned out, life had ideas of its own. I did get some things marked off the list. I bought a house and moved me and my parents into it. I upped the percentage of income I’m putting toward retirement. I paid off some debt. I attended three romance conferences (Spring Fling, RT, and RWA) and presented panels at two of them. I oversaw the Daily Dragon for Dragon Con. I submitted a partial and got a full request.

But some other things had to fall by the wayside. I didn’t finish the novel I wanted to finish (though I’m closing in on THE END). I cancelled two trips because I ran out of time. We still aren’t unpacked. So some things are definitely carrying over to the new year.

I’m not writing out a long list of resolutions or whatever this year. I just have a few goals:

  • Finish the novel that’s nearly done and submit the final.
  • Finish unpacking and getting settled into the new house.
  • Go to NECRWA and RWA.
  • Do the Dragon Con thing again.
  • Get into better writing habits in general.
  • Move more. I spent wayyyyy too much time sitting in front of a computer.

There we go: short and sweet. Looking forward to a better year in 2019 for everyone!

 

Keep Track of Me in 2016 (and Beyond)

First up: In case you hadn’t noticed, I have a shiny new header and a shiny new tagline: Romance for Every Heart. The tagline reflects my belief that love is for everyone, and my intent to show that with the stories I write. Even though some of those stories might fall outside your usual reading boundaries, I hope you’ll give them a try. Don’t worry—I have no plans to leave M/M romance behind. 🙂

I’ll also be working on a redesign of the website, and along with the new look, I’ll be launching a newsletter probably later this month. Sign-ups are available right here. I don’t expect to publish more than once a month, and likely less often than that. Expect to find updates on upcoming titles, sneak peeks at cover art, snippets of works in progress, and a giveaway now and then.

So, what kinds of things will I be telling you about? I’m glad you asked!

I have only one firm submission deadline this year. In the fall, I’ll be submitting my (first?) title for the Dreamspun Desires line, Dating the Dad Next Door, with tentative publication slated for late 2017 or early 2018. In the meantime, though, I’ll be working on three primary projects: Help Wanted, an M/F category romance; Out of Bounds, the first in a college-set, sports-centered, crossover series (with M/M, M/F, and F/F titles); and Rhythm & Blues, a set of three thematically related M/M novellas. I might also try to squeeze in a Christmas story. I’ve been jonesing to write one for a while now.

I don’t currently have any firm publication dates during 2016, but after successfully getting In From the Cold published to Amazon in December, I’m working on self-publishing some more second editions. I have a novella and a short story that will revert to me this year and another short story that I already have back. Expect the novella in March, one short story in June, and the other short story in August (dates subject to change). And I plan to have those be available more widely than just Amazon this time!

(I’ll be doing cover art for those too, which is a whole different kind of fun. The novella cover is already done and will debut in the newsletter. :D)

On another note, I’ve decided not to publish guest posts regularly like I have been the past couple of years. I hate to do it, but it’s time I can’t really spare right now. I will still post occasional guest blogs as part of special events (like charity blog hops), so if you have one of those coming up and would like me to host, feel free to shoot me an email. 🙂

 

Updates and A Look Ahead

1. Nobody’s Son, book 3 in the Sons series, is complete and in beta. After revisions, I plan to have the final version to Dreamspinner by mid-June. Release date will be late in the year (probably November). There’ll also be a short “coda” to the series coming, a freebie slated for New Year’s Eve. It’s my primary writing project right now.

2. My next story for Dreamspinner will likely be what I call “football boys,” about high school seniors and best friends who become boyfriends and then have to weather an on the field injury. It’s about half written, and I want to finish it this year.

3. I’ll also be working on a “crossover” series, one that includes more than just m/m pairings. If I finish all five stories that are on the list, it’ll include m/f and f/f. I don’t know yet if these will be novels or novellas; they’re still in development. And I don’t know yet where I’ll look to publish them.

4. I’ll have another short story coming later this year for the next butt-thology, Butt Villains on Vacation. I probably won’t tackle that until after my sister’s wedding in October, though.

5. I have several other projects on the back burner: a shifter story (OMG worldbuilding!); two possible sequels to the football book; a puppy play novella; a standalone m/f “category”-type romance (aka “a book my mother will read”); a holiday-themed package of previously published stories with two other authors; a set of Christmas stories for next year. One thing that is never a problem for me is having enough ideas. 🙂

6. My tentative travel plans for 2016 include attending both the RT and RWA conventions, so if you’ll be in Las Vegas in April or San Diego in July, I’d love to see you. 😀

Coninsanity

I’ve spent the last almost-three weeks in my own personal “con season.” It’s been an amazing time, albeit exhausting. The bulk of the insanity was a 12-day, cross-country excursion to Tampa and Portland. I left home on April 16 and didn’t return until April 27—and then Outlantacon was 5 days after that!

I started my trip in Tampa for RainbowCon, which was pretty awesome. We had some great panel sessions—I sat on panels about author etiquette and stereotypes in fiction—and the vendor room stayed pretty busy. I left with just one book left from the ones I brought, though of course I had a stack of new ones I purchased from others! I shared a table with the fabulous Nicole Dennis, and we were set up right next to Grace R. Duncan, so we had a great time. It was so great to see so many friends again and to meet some new people. Best surprise: Brandon Shire stopping by! (He’s freaking adorable, too. LOL)

Once RainbowCon ended, I went home with cousins who live nearby for a couple of days off. I mostly did as little as possible: soaked in the hot tub, sat by the pool, ate some great food, and slept a lot. I did write a blog post and worked on plotting my next books, but I focused on resting up because I knew I’d need it!

On Wednesday, April 23, after a quick trip to St. Pete beach, I hopped a plane to Portland by way of Detroit, getting to the hotel at 10:30 local time. Naturally, my body felt like it was 1:30 a.m., so after unpacking the absolute bare minimum and drinking a little chocolate milk, I crashed hard. Thursday, I took care of two Portland touristy essentials: lunch from a food truck (a really good gyro) and doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. When I got back, I started meeting up with people, and if I tried to list them all, I’d leave people out. But I got to see many of my favorite people and meet a bunch more, and that is always awesome.

The workshop itself was fun and interesting. Lots of information about sales and marketing, suggestions for writing specifics, and plenty of laughter. I had a good talk with Elizabeth North, pinning myself down to a three-book series commitment in the process (eep!), and several other Dreamspinner staffers, in addition to a bunch of authors. Nothing like feeling like you’ve found your people. 🙂

I did manage to squeeze in dinner with a local friend, though plans with another fell through just because I was too tired to think by then. I did hit up a couple more food trucks and wander through the Powell’s location at the airport. Portland is a lovely city, and I’d love to go back at some point.

I flew home last Sunday, along with Nessa Warin and Paul Richmond, which led to quite a bit of insanity, some of which might actually make it into a book (pokes Nessa). Of course, by the time I got home, I was dead on my feet and pretty much only had time to collapse into a bed. I did have to work the next day. 🙂

I survived last week, barely, and picked up J.P. Barnaby and Kage Alan from the airport on Thursday to kick things off. I went to the Eagle with J.P. and William Cooper for the Outlantacon kickoff party, had to work briefly Friday morning, and then spent the weekend doing the panels I listed on Friday and the rest of the time in the dealer room, selling books. We had a big pile of print copies of Butt Ninjas from Hell and sold quite a few. And of course we’re already planning for the next anthology or two. 😉

I’m finishing this up Sunday night, and I’m so tired it’s taking me twice as long to parse things as I go. I should probably stop writing and go get some sleep. Back to the EDJ in the morning!

On Goals and “Failing” to Reach Them

I’m at the Dreamspinner author workshop in Portland today. The previous two workshops have been packed with great information and a lot of fun, and I’m sure this one will be the same. One of the best discussions last year, led by Andrew Grey, was about setting goals for our writing.

Now, it’s worth saying here that Andrew is probably not the best example for most of us. Last year, he reported that in the previous year, he had written 1.1 million words. He was still working a full-time office job then, and he’d write a thousand words on his lunch hour every day. The man is a thousand times more dedicated than I will ever be!

One of Andrew’s biggest points is that goals should be things over which authors have complete control. Writing a novel is a good goal; signing a contract with a publisher for that novel isn’t. (But self-publishing that novel would be.) It’s fine to have wish lists (signing with an agent, getting a contract for that series, hitting a bestseller list), but those should be separate from goal setting.

As part of Andrew’s presentation, each of us set down a goal or two for our writing for the coming year. When my turn came, I went for something I considered midrange: 250,000 words, and two novels. I’ve written more words than that in a single year before, and I had two novels fairly well laid out and partially written, so it didn’t seem too much of a stretch.

Shows what I know.

I don’t want to make it sound like I flopped entirely. I did finish one novel, which is huge because that’s only my second one. I also completed a novella and three short stories. So it wasn’t like I sat around doing nothing. Technically, though, I fell far short of my goals. Counting all the stories I finished between last year’s DSP workshop and this year’s, I wrote approximately 114,000 words.

But the exercise was a good one because it taught me a big lesson: I needed to stop tracking word counts on a daily basis. When I do that, I pay more attention to counts than to story. I abandoned that practice early this year, and since then, I’ve written one complete short story (in less than a week) and wrote something over 40,000 words to finish a novel that’s been languishing for nearly two years. I’d call that a success.

What I’m doing now is counting words only in a general sense of accomplishment (“I’m over 55k on my novel!” “Got in 3,500 words today, wow!”) until I have a complete draft of the story. That 114,000 word count includes the three stories I’ve published in the past year, the one that’s on submission now, and the novel I just finished. I worked on several other projects, so my total word count is higher, but I don’t know how much higher, because I’m not tracking it.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what my goals for the coming year should be. Finishing another novel, definitely. But I might skip listing a word count goal and focus on story count instead. I wrote five stories this year; for next year, I might go for five again, but try to make at least two of them novels.

At any rate, the last thing I’m going to do is kick myself for not hitting my goals. Setting those goals taught me lessons that will help me as a writer, and that’s the most important goal of all.

What’s in a Name?

namegameHere’s a question I keep seeing crop up with some regularity: when should authors look into switching to a different penname?

Some things seem clear. If you’re writing adult fiction with graphic sex scenes, then you’re probably going to want to use a different name if you write something that’s for YA (or younger) audience. Or, say, if you’re hit by a plotbunny for an inspirational. If you write romance and cross over into an entirely different area—maybe crime fiction, or even nonfiction—a name change might be in order.

But what if you’re just switching subgenres within romance? If you write gay romance as A.B. Cee, do you need to switch to C.B. Ayy for “mainstream” (M/F) romance? Do you need an erotica penname separate from your romance handle? How about if you usually write light, fluffy romance but your new book is dark and disturbing? Is it worth the additional time, effort, and expense to promote two (or more) identities? What’s more dangerous: dividing your potential audience and possibly confusing readers, or taking a risk that readers will buy something they don’t want to read (and complain loudly about it)?

I’m not about to say that there’s a single answer here. Some authors have done well with two (or more) pennames, even within the romance genre. Adult versus YA seems to be a fairly clear-cut decision, as does romance/erotica versus non-romance genres. But some authors have dividing lines between M/F and M/M, between erotica and romance, between contemporary and paranormal/suspense/historical, and so on.

Two fellow authors who’ve posted about this very question recently are Marie Sexton and Sarah Madison. Marie has a new story in the works that’s a huge shift in tone from the usual for her, so she’s chosen to use a slightly different penname. She talked about her reasons here. And Sarah has been struggling with the penname decision, mainly for M/F vs. M/M stories, and she’s decided to take a survey to see what readers think. The survey is here if you’d like to share your thoughts. It’ll be open through Saturday. 🙂

Personally, I already have enough trouble juggling two identities, real-life and penname—and mine are fairly similar, so even that’s not a huge issue. I would definitely use a penname if I were to write for the under-18 crowd, simply because of the content of my published adult work, and I most likely would if I branched out beyond romance. But for romance, without some concrete numbers proving that it makes a substantial difference, I’m likely to stick with this name no matter what type I write. And even with that proof, I might stick with it anyway.

Why? Well, for multiple reasons, but in part it’s because I feel pretty strongly that one of the best ways to help move LGBT+ romance into the mainstream is to treat it as if it’s already there.

I completely understand why others have made, or will make, a different choice. In particular, for those who’ve been writing in both M/F and LGBT+ for a while, setting up different names was probably necessary when they started publishing, and it makes no sense to change that. For others, publishers or agents may have suggested (or insisted on) a different name, or authors might have needed to separate things for personal reasons. Some feel that readers won’t pick up an M/F book written by someone who also writes M/M, and that could have a big effect on sales. There are many valid reasons to use more than one penname for different types of romantic pairings.

Thing is, none of those reasons really apply to me. I use a penname because I have extended family who might cause drama over what I write, but my main purpose there was to shield my grandmother, and she’s been gone for almost year. I’m not reliant on my writing to pay the bills, and I don’t expect to move in that direction, so sales aren’t as much of a concern for me. And because I write part-time, I don’t have the time (or energy) to maintain an additional persona if it’s not truly necessary.

At the moment, the next few projects on my writing slate are gay romance, but coming up after that is at least one M/F pairing. More may well follow, but I have no plans to leave gay romance behind. I’ll write whatever kind of romance tickles my fancy. And as of right now, I plan to stick with Shae Connor for all of those stories. I hope people who like my writing will come straddle the fence with me. 🙂

Image courtesy of naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net