I’m back! Well, sort of…

WOW. I honestly hadn’t realized1342209310629_8360995 I’d neglected to post since last March. But y’know, shit happens. In my case, it’s happened for about two years!

Actually, more like three – if we’re getting technical, five. First, the cumulative emotional upheaval of two separate professional partnerships that didn’t work out, then realizing I’m not physically able to keep up with most able-bodied people anymore…

It wears you down, all the depression and stress. In fact, it reached a breaking point this past winter.

When I made it through Christmas, the anniversary of Don’s death and my *mumblety-mumble* birthday without a major depressive episode, I thought I was home free…

But that was just tempting fate. One morning around the middle of February, I woke up and burst into tears. That was the beginning of a major depressive episode that lasted until…

Well, I’m still trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve started working on my latest manuscript again. Progress on it carried on slow as molasses while I spent twelve weeks sleeping twelve hours a day, and the rest so weepy and depressed, I couldn’t get out of bed anyway.

But I’m feeling better now, thanks to medical marijuana and my goofy old tuxedo cat. My sweet boy Timothy just loves to keep me entertained.

Quick update: As of now, it looks like I won’t be attending RainbowCon in Tampa this July. My roommate’s cancelled, plus airfares are prohibitively expensive. Last year I spent $300-400, but this year it’s looking more like $600-700.

However, barring complications, I plan to attend GRL in San Diego this October. Can’t miss the first GayRomLit in my home state!

Hello, I must be going…

sinus-meds-breathe-easier-funny-ecard-MvlI haven’t posted anything lately, because… well, there’s not much to say. I’ve blasted my way through the first precarious 10K of the new Courtland book, and when I figure out the best way to start Bannon’s Gym #4, I’ll get going on that one, too.

For the next few weeks (months?) I probably won’t be around much. I need to be alone to sort through some stuff. I’ve got a lot of baggage I want to leave behind. So, I think I’ll just be a hermit for a while. An opera-loving, cat-petting, tea-quaffing, book-writing hermit.

In other news… I’m signed up for GRL in San Diego this fall. Finally, they’re having it on my side of the country! The weather should still be nice, so I won’t be freezing my butt off like I did in Chicago.

I’ll also be at Rainbow Con in Tampa this summer. :)

And so it goes…

MjAxNC05OTM1MjJkMGJjMGVmYmU0Getting back on a regular sleep schedule’s been tricky. I do okay for a few days, then, like last week, I’ll go to sleep on, say, Wednesday night and wake up Friday morning.

No, I’m not kidding. I spent half of a week from last Friday thinking it was Thursday, and not realizing it until I saw my DVR had already recorded my Thursday night shows.

But that’s not the whole problem.

My energy level’s been in the toilet for a while now. Most days I sit on the couch in my pajamas trying to write – accent on “trying.” My brain’s become as sluggish as the rest of me. I sit there staring at the page, looking for the right words which, more often than not, refuse to materialize.

And on those rare days like yesterday, when I actually feel like getting dressed and going out to a lunch and a movie, I spend the next day exhausted.

I’m starting to wonder if I have chronic fatigue syndrome, or something even worse. I’d go to the doctor, but honestly, I’m afraid to find out.

 

“I’m fifty shades of f**ked up.” – a review by Cat Grant

50-shades-of-grey-is-only-romantic-because-the-guy-is-rich-if-he-was-living-in-a-trailer-itd-be-an-episode-of-criminal-minds-or-svu-8d8fe Tonight I watched the dreaded 50 Shades movie – I cannot tell a lie: I downloaded it off a torrent site. It fluctuated between being nowhere near as bad as I expected to being five times worse than I expected.

I’d never seen Dakota Johnson in anything before. I found her performance to be the best thing about the movie. She does some real acting here, which couldn’t have been easy – rumor has it that she and her co-star didn’t get along. I spent the first few minutes going, “How can I watch this? I used to lust after her dad back in the ’80’s.” But somewhere during the interview scene, she enchanted me.

Sadly, that cannot be said of her co-star – and I actually like Jamie Dornan. He’s done a great job on The Fall, but here he was a very pretty hunk of wood. His expression never changed – for two whole hours, he wore this smarmy little smirk that fluctuated between cute and sarcastic. I wish they’d let him keep his beard – that baby face of his makes me want to put him over my knee.

*ahem*

I don’t know whether to blame the script, or if this role was simply beyond Dornan’s meager acting skills, but this could’ve been so much better! I’m sure the scriptwriter realized extracting a coherent story out of EL James’ glorified fanfic was a tall order. Still, I applaud her for giving us a few snarky comments from Ana so we could all laugh at appropriate moments too.

OTOH, it’s the first BDSM-themed movie I’ve ever seen – that wasn’t a documentary – that addresses safewords, limits, etc. So, that’s a step in the right direction. I especially liked the way Ana’s journey took her from shrinking violet to assertive, empowered woman. Dakota Johnson did a really good job showing us that, and for giving Ana a brain and a sense of humor.

Okay, I haven’t read the books – nor do I intend to – so can you all enlighten me as to what happened to Christian that “made [him] this way.” I know we had that Big Confession scene with Christian telling Ana that his birth mom was a druggie hooker, and what he saw in their household scarred him for life, but… is that it?

What I mean is – is he traumatized from the whole experience (well, duh – but bear with me), or was there one particular incident that imprinted on his psyche before he even had a psyche? IDK, it kinda feels like they’re going for the pat answer instead of the real one. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments!

All in all, I give it 3 1/2 Kitties!

And believe it or not, I’m actually looking forward to the sequel! Will Ana return? (*snort* Three guesses…) Will Dornan get a clue and play Christian as a human being with a problem, instead of an uptight control freak who won’t even let his girlfriend touch him. (Oh, and get yourself a dialogue coach, dude – your accent keeps slipping!)

*sings* How can you mend a broken heart / How can a loser ever wiiiiiiiiiin! / Please help me mend my broken heart / And let me liiiiiiiive again!!

*ahem*

It’s 5:09 am, so I should probably go to sleep.

Laters, baby. :)

Links to some great reads! Plus, a rant and a… confession? #kindle #selfpub #indie

friday-congratulations-wasting-life-on-the-internet-zYBWhen the words don’t want to flow, I try to kick-start my brain by reading. In the last week or so, I’ve stumbled across a bunch of eye-opening articles and blog posts…

Dying To Be Free is a long, enlightening read. I had no idea there was an actual medical treatment for heroin addiction. However, I’m not surprised at the pushback from the DEA and for-profit twelve-step programs, who for the most part have kept this drug far away from the people who desperately need it.

*****WARNING***WARNING***UNPOPULAR***OPINION***AHEAD!*****

Here’s how I propose ending this pus-encrusted mess called the War on Drugs…

Legalize everything for adults over the age of 21–booze, drugs, prostitution, all of it. And in one fell swoop, we’ll have put every drug dealer in this country out of business, not to mention cutting overdose fatalities by a wide margin. (And don’t tell me it’ll never work. You ever been to Amsterdam?)

Decriminalize addiction, too. Twelve-step programs don’t work for opioid addicts, because 1) Using heroin, morphine, etc., brings about a physical change in the addict’s brain. Trying to stay sober by sheer will power is admirable, but by itself it’s no match for the addiction, plus 2) Most twelve-step programs don’t allow the use of maintenance drugs (like methadone from the 60’s-70’s, or Suboxone, the new medical treatment for addicts referenced above) and treat addiction–and relapses–as a moral failing.

And most people in this country have been brainwashed to believe that addicts are all criminals. Not the case, I’m afraid. Believe it or not, most of the addicts I talked to (research of my own, y’know) were regular folks–the mom helping her kids into the car, Mr. Nelson across the way over there, and that poor kid down the street who has convulsions. Most of them got hooked after an injury that, even post-recovery, still required heavy painkillers. None of them set out to become an addict, but when your choice is between lying on the floor in agony, or getting a few hours’ relief from that agony… Well, I would’ve done the same.

Of course, some addicts are criminals, over and above their drug-related activities. But the ones who aren’t–the ones no one would’ve guessed were addicts in a million years–the ones who want to be free from their addiction, can now seek out medical treatment without risking arrest.

Treating addicts like patients, not felons… What a concept!

But seriously, doesn’t that sound like a far more compassionate world than the one we currently occupy?

Thanks for indulging my impromptu rant, everyone. And now, back to more articles you should be reading…

Writing-related:

I’m Not a Celebrity, So How Do I Sell My Books? 6 Steps to Becoming a Successful Indie Publisher

The Art of Self-Sabotage: The Top 5 Reasons Why Writers Avoid Writing

I saw myself in both of these short pieces. Starting a new book is always a challenge for me, with that tiny, shrill voice in my head constantly yelling: Not good enough! Do it again!

I’m my own worst critic, always worried about not measuring up. Not getting any favorable reviews. Or the really big worry: Not selling any books.

I’ve been reading a lot of self-promotion books lately. Most of ‘em are “Follow These Six Easy Steps to Kindle Best-sellerdom!” spiels with ten or more pages of back matter plugging the author’s other books, as well as his “consulting” business. (And guess what? He’s a PR guy who specializes in working with indie authors. Imagine that!)

The tome I found both the most useful – and the most demoralizing – was Discoverability by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Unlike those other self-promo books, this one doesn’t pretend to give you all the answers, but what wisdom there is here she’s gleaned from thirty-plus years in the publishing biz. So, y’know, I figured I’d better listen.

Self-promo’s a long game built on persistence, hard work and networking. It encompasses everything from your website to how you interact with readers and other authors on social media.

And I’ve done very little of that lately, which may be part of the reason for the sudden drop-off in my sales. I was busy publishing up a storm last year, so, consequently, I backed off from social media. Only so many hours in a day, right? I was never a social media star, before or now. Truth? No matter what kind of crowd I’m mingling in, I always feel like the stupidest person in the room. So I’ve tried to keep socializing, online and off, to a minimum. But now I need to make connections with readers again – or, for most of you, the first time.”

For those of you who really are reading me for the first time – WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? - Rest assured, I don’t go off on medical cannabis-induced rants like this every day. I’m normally a wham-bam kind of blogger – log on, paste in my pre-written post, hit Publish, and I’m done.

As for my long-suffering, long-neglected blog here… Well, she deserves to be treated like a lady. All those one or two minute in-and-outs have got the poor, faithful girl all out of sorts.

Me: Don’t worry, baby. *pets blog* I’m gonna take good care of you. I’m gonna make up for my neglect by spending a lot of time with you very, very soon. How’s that sound?

Blog: *goes ‘wah-wah-wah-wha-wha’ like all the unseen adult characters in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

Me: I knew you’d understand. *lays a big wet one on blog’s, um… then slaps blog’s ass* Now get in there and make me a sammich!

Okay, I’m sure some of you found that offensive, and the ones who didn’t – WHAT THE FUCK’S WRONG WITH YOU? DON’T I EVER GET A SHARE OF ALL THAT FAKE OUTRAGE? WHY CAN’T THE NEXT KERFUFFLE BE ABOUT ME FOR A CHANGE?

[This is me, being completely serious. The last few paragraphs were a joke, okay? A really bad joke that I’m going to post anyway, because… Fuck it, it’s after two in the morning and I want to go to bed.]

PLEASE FOLKS, DO NOT START A KERFUFFLE!

It feels like the height of presumption to even type those words, but better to have it on record, right?

One last thing…

I’ve been trying to think of something special to offer my readers – something they can’t find anywhere else…

How many of you remember that movie from a few years ago – Julie & Julia, with Meryl and Amy Adams? Adams’ character decides to cook every single recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – and more importantly, she blogged about it.

So I was thinking… Maybe I’ll write my next opus – Courtlands, coming right up! – here on my blog. You all can be my cheering section, and in return, I’ll be posting snippets, scenes…maybe even a chapter of the work in progress. Who knows – you might be able to charm a secret or two out of me.

Okay, just to be clear, I won’t be actually drafting the book in this space – this ain’t GoogleDocs. (And before anyone asks, I fucking hate GoogleDocs, so no, we’re not doing this over there.)

What I mean is, I’ll drop by and post my daily word count at the end of the day. (End of Day = Whenever the Fuck I Decide to Go to Bed.) You all get exclusive sneak peaks – a look under the hood, if you will – of a work in progress. You guys can help me stay on schedule, keep me producing new wordage every day. You all up for it?

Let’s get to work tomorrow night, okay? I would say tonight, but I just spent three hours on this essay, it’s 2:30 in the AM and my comfortably numb, sleepy bod needs to hit the hay.)

[Thanks for sticking it out, folks! I didn’t mean to veer off into tl;dr-land, but the muse is with me tonight, and I wasn’t about to disobey! :)]

39 Questions with Cat Grant! #kindle #books #author #meme

172iT7spring-weather-bed-weekend-confession-seasonal-ecards-someecardsStumbled across this silly but fun meme this evening. (Yup, still looking for reasons to avoid writing…)

1. How old will you be in 3 birthdays?
58.

2. Do you think you’ll be married by then?
God, I hope not!

3. What do you look forward to most in the next 2 months?
Starting the next book in the Courtland series and the next book of Bannon’s Gym. I wasn’t planning on writing another BG book, but everybody wants Aaron to get his HEA, so, okay, twist my arm…

4. Do you prefer shoes, socks, or bare feet?
My husband didn’t like me wearing socks to bed, but my tootsies get SO COLD at night, even in the summer.

5. When was the last time you cried?
What do you mean, ‘last time’? I never stop!

6. What was the last thing you drank?
Green tea.

7. Favorite ice cream?
Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream from Ben & Jerry’s. But I don’t dare eat it very often.

8. What is your favorite number?
Whatever age I can get away with claiming…

9. What’s your favorite color?
Blue or green. Depends on the shade.

10. What Jelly do you put on your PB&J?
Apricot-pineapple.

11. What location(s) is/are on your bucket travel list?
I’d love to take a summer off and go on the opera/symphony tour version of a pub-crawl all through Europe. Italy, France, the UK, Germany… Hell, I’d never come back!

12. How many glasses of water a day do you drink on average?
I usually drink about a liter of water per day.

13. What do you drink in the morning?
Green tea or fruit juice.

14. Would you rather kiss someone with or without tongue?
Depends whether I like him/her or not.

15. Do you sleep on a certain side of the bed?
I got in the habit of sleeping on the left-hand side of the bed when my husband was alive. Even though I have a bed big enough to stretch out in now, I still climb in from the left-hand side.

16. Do you know how to play poker?
I prefer blackjack.

17. What’s so good about Fridays?
Bill Maher’s on Fridays. So is Banshee.

18. Any plans for this weekend?
Other than sitting around worrying about my next project and berating myself for not starting it yet? Not a thing!

19. Do you eat out or at home more often?
Home, mostly. I haven’t run out of canned food yet…

20. How big is your TV?
It’s a 42 inch plasma screen. I probably should dust it – the guys on Black Sails looked a little fuzzy tonight.

21. Ever stolen a street sign?
No, but if you dare me…

22. Do you keep a piggy bank?
Not since I was ten.

23. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?
Yes…

24. Have you ever been in an ambulance?
NO! *knocks wood*

25. Do you prefer an ocean or a pool?
Pool. I haven’t waded into the ocean since I saw Jaws.

26. Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat?
Aisle seat, please. So I don’t have to make everyone in my row get up whenever I need to pee.

27. Do you know how to drive a stick shift?
Nope.

28. What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
DVD’s and books.

29. Do you wear any jewelry 24/7?
No. I don’t even wear a watch anymore.

30. Do you speak any other language?
I studied French in high school and college, but hell if I can remember any of it now.

31. Can you roll your tongue?
No.

32. Last person you lay in bed with?
My kitty-cat, Timothy. (He is SO a person!)

33. Do you sleep with stuffed animals?
Nope. Timothy wouldn’t like the competition.

34. Do you still have clothes from when you were little?
No.

35. What is the color of your bedroom wall?
White, or cream-colored. I can’t really tell.

36. Do you shut off the water when you brush your teeth?
No.

37. Do you currently hate someone?

Hate’s a strong word. I used to be consumed by it, until I realized it was poisoning my life. So… no, I don’t hate anyone, even though I can think of one person out there who never wants to hear from me again. And that’s fine. We haven’t spoken since our parents died, and frankly, it’s a relief. My life hasn’t been the least bit diminished for not having my sister in it. If she wants to go on believing I’m some kind of monster, let her. Her insults stopped having any effect on me years ago.

38. Do you currently have a crush on someone?

Nope.

39. What are you listening to?
A live recording of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, with Anna Netrebko. I’m seeing it on The Met Live in HD broadcast in a couple of weeks.

 

The Only One Who Cares, coming next week! #kindle #mm #military

OnlyOne_500Hopefully I pressed all the right buttons – KDP gave me the little blue spinning ball tonight when I tried to upload my slightly expanded version of The Only One Who Cares. Now, I’ve uploaded some pretty big files before – the Unconditional Surrender bundle was a doozy – but this is the first time I’ve ever gotten the little blue spinning ball on KDP.

Ah, technology… *sighs*

But The Only One Who Cares is right on schedule for next week – Monday, February 2nd! (Which also happens to be my birthday. No, I’m not telling you how old. :P) If you’re a Cat Grant completist or you just like the new cover, you can pre-order it at all the old familiar places…

AmazonNookiTunesKoboAll Romance ebooks – Scribd – Tolino

Only $0.99 until 2/9/15!

Committed couple David Flint and Josh Walker are long past the injuries, separation, and chain-of-command issues that plagued their early years together as Navy SEALs. Now, with David embarking on a new career as a therapist, the future looms bright and promising…

Until Josh, now recovered from the PTSD that kept him sidelined for two years, returns to active duty. David dreads the lonely, worry-filled weeks of sleepless nights and radio silence ahead—and wonders if Josh is really as recovered as he claims to be.

Counseling other traumatized vets fills David’s days and gives him new purpose, but it’s his act of kindness to a homeless teenager that could end up changing everything, for him and for Josh.

As you can tell from the photo – or if you’ve read the novella in its earlier incarnation – David and Josh experience a blessed event in this story. And to think way back when I first got published, I swore to myself that I’d never write a book with a baby in it. First off, I don’t have kids of my own. All I know about babies is that they cry and shit themselves a lot. In fact, the reason I stopped reading romances back in the mid-90’s was because of the sudden glut of baby-centric plots in my favorite Harlequin/Silhouette category lines. Practically every book sported a cover featuring mom, dad and spawn in a wholesome, Rockwellian-Saturday Evening Post-style pose. Just what every woman wants the moment she falls in love – to get immediately knocked up!

Anyway… I just didn’t like my romance mixed in with a squalling infant. Go ahead, sue me!

I held fast to my “no kids!” edict, until I was creeping up on the end of drafting Triad back in 2009. ICYMI, I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, I quickly realized I’d set myself up to break my vow in a really big way.

Unless you’re writing an historical about the upper classes (who, with their nannies and housemaids, never had to see their children unless they absolutely had to), it’s pretty hard to keep child characters waiting in the wings indefinitely. After a while, you can’t get away with, “Oh, I just put the baby down for her nap,” or “I had to drop Lizzie off at school.”

Remember that old soap opera trick where they’d make a big deal out a new baby for about a month, then everyone forgets about him/her (unless there’s a medical emergency that requires a blood transfusion, where our hero discovers he’s not the baby’s father after all)? Then six months later, the kid shows up again, all grown up and ready to start fathering little bastards of his own?

That’s cliche, and just plain sloppy writing. If I’m going to bring these children back into the story as adults later on – somehow I must’ve known this little plot twist was in the cards, even back when I was finishing Triad – then I need to know where they came from. What was their relationship with their parents like when they were young? Happy? Contentious? Everything was perfect, ’til Mom and Dad (or Dad and Dad) split up?

Writers need to know a hell of a lot more about their characters than will ever show up on the page. Building a new character – or set of characters – is my favorite part of the writing process. For me, the story always starts with the characters. And well, you know my nickname – Realism Girl! So, if I’m going to “Keep It 100″ (with apologies to Larry Wilmore), I can’t just shuffle the kids on and offstage like furniture. Especially if they’re set to play an integral part of the story once they’re old enough fall in love/get arrested/get pregnant.

More books, more babies. I’ve almost reached the point where I don’t mind writing kids anymore. I do my research, but I’m still constantly afraid I’ll get something wrong, and all the veteran moms following me on Facebook and Twitter will hang me out to dry.

Nah! You wouldn’t do that… Would you? :-)

Self-publishing: Yea or Nay? #selfpub #kindle

way-too-sick-get-well-ecard-someecardsThe other day I looked at the calendar and realized I’ve been self-publishing for just over two years. Time flies, huh? Other authors have asked me if I’ve ever regretted turning my back on publishers and going it alone. My answer is…

Yes, and no.

My only regret lies in not taking the plunge sooner, when self-publishing was in its first major upswing. The pendulum seems to have swung in the other direction lately, but I’m confident it’ll rebound. Sales usually slump a bit during the winter months.

Even so, I don’t regret going it alone for one second. I don’t regret taking my books back from that pus-encrusted hell hole called Ellora’s Cave. I don’t regret keeping the rights to my newer work and publishing it myself. While I’ve been incredibly lucky in my other publishers – I’ve never had a problem getting a clear and accurate accounting of my royalties from Riptide, Amber Quill or Samhain – the EC debacle has left a sour taste in my mouth.

Too many other e-publishers (Noble and Silver come immediately to mind) have fallen off the face of the earth, owing their authors thousands. This writing gig is my livelihood. I can’t afford to take a chance on some shiny new start-up that may or may not still be in business next year. As for my other publishers… I didn’t sell worth crap at Amber Quill. I’ve thought about submitting to Riptide and Samhain again, but their release schedules are so far out, anything I send them this year probably wouldn’t get published until 2016.

Self-publishing gives me the freedom to write what I want, publish when I want, and keep the bulk of the proceeds.

The worst part was getting past the fear that I was taking a wrong turn, or that I wouldn’t be able to handle everything on my own. Actually, it was pretty easy. I found a good editor who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg, I’ve got several great cover artists on speed dial (or its email equivalent), and my formatter is aces.

All told, it usually costs me between $300-500 to publish a new book. This year I plan to learn how to do my own formatting, which will save me about $100 off each new title. Createspace makes it easy to publish paperbacks as well, but this year I may cut back on print. Normally, I only sell paperbacks at conferences, or use them for giveaways.

The part I find most difficult is figuring out how to market my work. Self-publishing guru Tina Folsom came to speak at my local RWA chapter about a year and a half ago, but all the tips and tricks she gave us on maneuvering our way through Kindle Direct Publishing – tags, keywords, etc. – are completely useless now.

I’ve read a gazillion books on e-book marketing. Some of their advice works, but most of it doesn’t. Sometimes it works for a while, until Amazon changes their algorithms again. Whenever we authors find a way to give ourselves a boost, Zon the Great Behemoth takes it away from us. It’s a never-ending game of trying to stay ahead of the damn eight-ball.

It’s frustrating, even demoralizing at times, but I’d much rather do it all than leave myself at the mercy of a publisher who might stick me with awful cover art or lousy distribution…

Or soak me for two grand when I ask for my rights back.

That’s enough for now. C’mon back in a day or so, and I’ll show you how I got started.

Cover reveal! #kindle #NavySEALs #baby

OnlyOne_500 Well, looky here! The amazing Lou Harper’s come up with another kick-ass cover for the standalone release of my novella, The Only One Who Cares. I’m aiming for a February 2nd release!

In other news… I’m working on a couple of new projects right now – the next Courtland book, and by popular demand, the next Bannon’s Gym book. Practically every review of Tap Out mentioned something about Aaron getting his own HEA. I wasn’t planning on taking the series further than three books, but – well, why not? If people are clamoring for more, I’d best listen.

And in still more news… I’m giving away signed paperbacks of A Year in the Life on Goodreads! Enter before January 31st for a chance to win!

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