Everything Leads…

…to something else.

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Unfortunately, sometimes that interferes with getting stuff done.

Last weekend, I started out with great intentions. I was going to get some blog posts done, remove a few things from one of my other websites, do some shopping for the household, and, of course, write.

But then I got sidetracked by trying to find images for blog posts. And then I realized it’s going to be 2018 in a few months, and I needed a new calendar. (I don’t buy wall calendars; I print out calendar pages from a free calendar website. I have Google calendar as well, but sometimes it helps me to have something I can just glance at quickly instead of needing to open a new browser window or pick up my phone.) Then I forgot I was doing that because I checked my email while I waited for calendar pages to download.

The emails led to the realization that I hadn’t cleaned out my inboxes recently. So I did that, and read a few emails I hadn’t gotten to yet, which contained links I wanted to check out. Which led to me bookmarking the pages to which the links sent me, which led to me needing to delete some bookmarks. Meanwhile, I remembered I was downloading calendar pages, and realized I had too many things in my downloads folder, so I started clearing things out of that or moving them to my Dropbox files.

And so on, and so on…

And meanwhile I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing blog posts. Some of the things I *was* doing were useful and beneficial, and I counted them as productive, but some, like reorganizing Dropbox files, were just busy work that didn’t really *need* to be done.

Being a writer, or working for yourself in any way, takes a lot of self-discipline. And a lot of avoidance of “ooh, shiny!” I think I need to work harder on those…

Some Thoughts About Dreams

In this world, there are those who create, inspire, and live their dreams unafraid. We all need to be unafraid to live our dreams. All of us can at least try. You might not reach your goal, but if you never even try, you’ll never have the chance. Let go of the “can’t” and “shouldn’t” and fear. Start now. Dare to shake the world.

Sometimes we might feel like we’re nothing special. We haven’t done anything noteworthy, nothing that hundreds or millions of other people haven’t also done. We feel like we’re just one of a number, nobody that others would notice in a crowd or miss when we’re gone. But here’s the thing. Everything you’ve done is unique, because *you* are unique. Even if billions of others do it, no one does anything exactly the way anyone else does it, because no one is anyone else. Just as an example, no one phrases things confusingly in the same way I do.

Almost everyone has dreams and hopes for their life. When was the last time you made a list of your dreams? Have you done so recently, or did you decide the time has passed to accomplish them? For many things, there’s no such thing as “too late.” You might have to adjust your hopes and expectations, but you don’t have to give it up completely.

When we’re kids, we have dreams. We know what we want to be when we grow up, and that’s really cool. But sometimes those dreams are talked out of us. Our parents tell us we’re being unrealistic, or other kids make fun of us. It’s important to let kids hold onto their dreams. Even if it doesn’t seem probable, that doesn’t make it impossible.

Believe you know the things you know. Personally, I sometimes hold back from writing something because even though I know plenty about it, I’m afraid I’ll be wrong. Or that others won’t believe I know what I’m talking about. That makes it awfully hard to get things done. It doesn’t matter if they believe in me. It matters if *I* do.

Too many times, I’ve talked myself out of doing things I wanted because other people have told me I can’t. I’ve changed that in the past few years. There’s still a way to go, but I’m not holding back anymore.

Writing About Trauma

(Given the title, the content warning might be obvious…)

I really have to wonder about my choices of things to write about. Even when I try to write something happy, bad things end up happening to my characters.

It’s been that way for a lot of the time that I’ve been writing. Early on in my romance author career, which happened under a different pen name, a publisher told me to stop writing about abuse survivors, because they were present in every one of my books. I did try, but the books I wrote with “healthy” characters were flat and uninteresting, and they didn’t sell so well. I couldn’t connect to the characters.

I have unfortunate experience with abuse and trauma. I can relate to characters who have gone through it. I ended up going back to writing the type of character I was comfortable with, and those books, at least some of them, sold pretty well and got decent reviews.

That doesn’t mean I enjoy writing about those characters. Or at least, I don’t enjoy writing about the horrible things they’ve gone through. Sometimes it’s just painful. Other times, it’s triggering.

But I keep writing the stories because those are the characters who come to me asking that their stories be told. Which might sound weird if you aren’t a writer, but believe me, to writers their characters sometimes seem to have lives of their own.

Work in Progress

CONTENT WARNING: DATING ABUSE

Recently, I started a new project. It isn’t the easiest thing to write, but I think it’s important. My publisher suggested I stick with contemporary fiction, so that’s what this is, but in the real, contemporary world, sometimes things are not easy to deal with. And those are the kind of thing I seem to end up writing about much of the time.

This book is about a boy who is in a relationship with another boy. Doesn’t sound so unpleasant so far, right? Relationships can be good things.

But this one isn’t so good. The main character thought at first that his new boyfriend was just a little nervous about being in a relationship. Then he thought his boyfriend was insecure about his other friends. After all, there’s nothing unusual about being a little bit jealous when you’re in a relationship with someone, right?

It might not be unusual, but sometimes it becomes poisonous. When the “little bit” of jealousy becomes the boyfriend taking away his phone to read his texts, and listening in on phone calls, and following him around to make sure he isn’t cheating, it isn’t so good.

And when none of that reassures his boyfriend that their relationship is solid, and the jealousy becomes physical abuse…

That’s the part that’s tough to write about. I know too many people who have experienced that. And I’ve seen too many teens on social media saying things like “He doesn’t love you if he isn’t jealous,” and even implying or flat out saying there’s nothing wrong with physical abuse in a relationship. There IS something wrong with it. It’s never okay.

That’s why I’m writing about it, even though it isn’t easy. I want to make sure people know it isn’t okay. I want people to know they can find help getting out of that kind of relationship.

But first, I have to finish the book.

The Waiting Game

Another book has been submitted. And now the waiting begins again.

Waiting is a necessary part of the whole “being a writer” thing. You have to wait for the book to be finished before you can revise and edit it. Of course, in that case, you aren’t just waiting. You’re writing. At least I hope you are, because if not, the book isn’t ever going to be finished.

You have to wait until you have the revisions and edits finished before you can submit the book. Once it’s submitted, you have to wait to find out if it’s been accepted. If it’s been accepted, you have to wait for edits. And cover art. And other things the publisher will send you. You have to wait what might seem like a really long time for the book to see the light of day.

If the book is rejected, you have to wait to find another publisher or agent to send it to. Or wait until you decide not to try it again. Or wait until you do another bunch of revisions and edits to try to address whatever made the first publisher or agent reject it.

When it’s published, you have to wait for reviews and royalty statements and checks.

A lot of things in life are all about waiting. Writing isn’t any different. Every good thing takes time, and having a book out there in the world with your name on the cover is definitely a good thing!

One Publisher Basket…

Currently, I’m only working with one publisher. They’re a great publisher, but sometimes I get a little worried about having all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. On the romance side of the publishing business, I’ve been watching a number of publishers, including two that were at the forefront of digital romance publishing, go out of business, and take authors’ dreams, money, and books along with them.

I haven’t seen that as much on the YA side of things, other than YA imprints of the aforementioned romance publishers. And I know my current publisher is solid. But I was burned by three of the publisher closings I mentioned above, and two of those were ones I thought were solid. So I’m a little more cautious than when I first started out.

I definitely plan on writing and submitting things to my current publisher as long as they let me. But I’m thinking it might be a good idea to try getting in with another publisher as well, maybe with the book that was recently rejected. (I can fix things…)  That way, I wouldn’t have everything in one place.

Then again, with so many small presses and digital publishers falling apart lately, I don’t know whether I would be able to find another publisher that I could count on.

It’s something to think about, especially because I really like the book that was recently rejected and I’d like to keep trying to find it a home. But I’m not going to make a snap decision about anything.

What I’m Working On

I’m currently working on revising another of my out-of-print novels to send to another publisher. This one is interesting to work on. It’s different from most of my books.

For one thing, there’s sexual content in this one. Not explicit, but it is there on the page, rather than just being mentioned or not happening at all. And it happens between a 15-year-old and someone who claims to be in his early 20s. (It’s portrayed as being predatory and unhealthy; that’s part of the point of the book.)

For another, this is a direct tie-in with one of my adult romance series (which is also now out of print). I had a series about the world’s only gay vegan werewolf and his mate, the pack Alpha. Something in the Alpha’s backstory struck me as good YA fiction fodder, so with the publisher’s agreement I wrote the book and they published it under their children’s/YA imprint. The official story was that “Jo Ramsey” was a fan of “Karenna Colcroft” and got Karenna’s permission to write the book.

(Some people still don’t realize that I’m both of those authors…)

The book has its disturbing bits. I remember how badly I triggered myself writing the scene where the main character, Tobias, realizes that the older guy he’s crushing on actually intends to harm him. But it also has what, in my opinion, is some pretty good writing.

I don’t know what the future holds for the book. I will be submitting it to a new publisher, but there’s no guarantee they’ll accept it. It remains to be seen. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the revising.

Writer’s Block

Sometimes I just plain can’t think of anything to write. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working on a novel, or a nonfiction article, or a blog post; I just can’t think of anything.

This is one of those times. I was planning to do a blog post about writing. But I did one that’s at least sort of about writing last week, and now I’ve temporarily gotten stuck for ideas.

It happens. Occasionally, my mind just goes blank. I doubt I’m the only one. Most of the people I know sometimes have trouble thinking of ideas, whether it’s for writing or something to do on a Saturday afternoon or whatever.

Most of the other authors I know go through time periods when the idea well runs dry, and they don’t have anything to write. There’s a lot of advice about what to do at those times to get the writing flowing again, but sometimes it’s okay to just say “I’m not going to write anything today.” Or this week, or even this month.

So I’m not going to write a blog post about writing this week. Instead, I’m writing one about not being able to think of one to write about writing. And sometimes, it’s okay to do that.

Self-Publishing vs. Vanity Publishing

I’ve recently had to explain the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. This is not the first time I’ve had that kind of discussion.

Both forms of publishing might involve paying someone else. But in self-publishing, *you* are the publishing company. Any expense you go to might be for things like professional editing, or cover art, or printing if you choose to have a print run done rather than print-on-demand. (Print run means you have a certain number of copies printed and try to sell them; print-on-demand is things like CreateSpace, where no book is actually physically printed until someone orders it.) But at the end of the process, *you* have published the book. You just paid for services you weren’t able to do yourself.

Vanity publishing, on the other hand, means you send your manuscript and a bunch of money to a company, and they take it from there—to an extent. They might handle the printing and cover art, but there is probably no editing done. You’re still responsible for marketing the book and making sales, just as you would be if you self-publishing. But the publisher of the book isn’t you, it’s Vanity Press Inc. (or whatever the name of the company happens to be.)

In self-publishing, it is entirely possible to do the whole process without spending a cent. Go with a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace; it’s free. Make your own cover if you’re good with digital graphics, or have a friend do it if you know someone who can. Or barter for it; offer to trade proofreading for cover art, for example. I wouldn’t recommend editing the book entirely by yourself, because it is easy to miss things, but you could also barter for editing, or have someone you trust read the manuscript carefully and call things to your attention. Not the ideal, but it is free.

In vanity publishing, you don’t have a choice. You pay, they do a book, and you have to run with it from there. You might not sell enough to recoup the cost. You might, as a friend of mine did, find yourself having paid $5000 for a box full of books you can’t do anything with.

However you choose to publish is your choice, but it’s important to know what you’re choosing. I’ve encountered a number of people who think that paying a company to publish your book is the *only* way to get published. I’ve also encountered a number who think paying a company to publish your book is the same as self-publishing. Make sure you know what choice you’re actually making.

Teaser Thursday- When a Door Opens

“Blake was born because of that deal.” Dominic’s tone was grim. “He’s Morgan’s and my son. No question about that. The kid looks so much like me it’s scary. But they created him. I don’t know why yet, but they made him for something. And since I’m back here now, I’d bet we’re going to find out why pretty soon.”

That’s enough, Clyde said. You can’t hear any more right now. Seriously, get into your room and close the door.

I opened my mouth to argue. If Blake was part of some deal his father had made, he deserved to know about it. If I found out what was going on, I would be able to tell him.

But I shouldn’t have been listening in the first place, let alone trying to find out about something it wasn’t my right to know. Maybe Blake did deserve to know, but it wasn’t my place to tell him anything. That was up to his parents.

I obeyed Clyde, but I wasn’t happy about it. I had too many puzzle pieces, and I wanted to know how they fit together. Obviously Dominic had been around when Alison and Phil had encountered the dark thing before. He must have had something to do with it; at least, that was how it sounded.

Alison had mentioned forces of light making a deal with Dominic. And Dominic thought Blake existed because of that deal.

Matthew, please stop, Clyde said. I should have stopped you before you heard that much.

Why didn’t you, then? I sat on the bed.

There’s a reason for everything, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you. You’ll find out more when you need to know. For now, promise me you won’t tell Blake any of what you heard. It isn’t time for him to know yet, and finding out too soon would hurt him.

That was probably the only reason I would have agreed to make the promise. Clyde apparently knew me pretty well. I promise.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

He didn’t say anything else, and even though a conversation might have been nice, I didn’t feel like thinking of anything to talk about. So I turned onto my side and closed my eyes.

I didn’t sleep. I lay there wondering about Blake. And myself, and why all of this was happening so suddenly when only a week earlier, my life had been totally normal.

That was a question I would probably never know the answer to.