2015 By The Numbers

Wow! What a year! Everyone seems to be doing year-end posts, and I’ve been really enjoying reading them so I thought I’d do one too. On January 1, 2015 I had stories in three anthologies, two of which were about to be discontinued, and no single titles of my own. On January 1, 2016 I will have had eight single-title releases and one anthology, making for a total of nine stories released in 2015. WINNING BRACKET, RESILIENT HEART, SERVED HOT, BAKED FRESH, DELIVERED FAST, TREBLE MAKER, WAITING FOR CLARK, HOW WE BEGAN, and STATUS UPDATE all released in 2015, and man did I ever learn a lot about publishing in the process.

  • Traditional publishing takes anywhere from two years to seven months from a finished draft to publication.  Most of what was published in 2015 was written in 2013 and 2014. This means that I have to get used to having multiple novels in various stages of production while drafting something else entirely–I had to learn new juggling skills to go from proofs on one novel to developmental edits on another to drafting a third, all in the span of a couple of days.
  • In contrast, in self-publishing, the process is much condensed. WAITING FOR CLARK and my story in HOW WE BEGAN were the only two things that I drafted this year that also came out this year. However, I learned that no matter whether a novel goes through the traditional process or self-publishing, it still has to go through all the stages of production–drafting, editing, critique, developmental edits, line edits, proofs, and formatting, and certain things simply can’t be rushed, namely edits. I think more than anything in 2015, I learned the value of good editing at multiple stages and came to absolutely embrace its importance on the finished product.
  • Most of what I drafted in 2015 will come out in 2016, and I learned it’s both awesome and frustrating to have readers wanting the books NOW NOW NOW. It’s hard when I finish a couple that I totally love, knowing it’s going to be months before readers get the same experience.
  • Don’t get caught up in negativity! One of my biggest lessons of 2015 with so many releases was learning to let go of my books. Once they are out in the world, they belong to the readers, not me. I love getting tagged on positive reviews and there have been so many amazing moments this year with reviews and reader interactions that made me tear up in a good way, but I’ve learned to not go hunting bad reviews down.  A bad review can bring me down for days and that sort of heartache makes the rest of production difficult–learning to let go is the best thing I did for myself this year.
  • Treasure my writer and reader friends–so much of this business is lonely and there’s so much waiting involved. Screenshot 2015-10-05 09.10.53Having a good crew of friends makes the journey much more bearable.
  • Celebrate the small victories! One of my best moments in 2015 was the short moment that WAITING FOR CLARK was the #1 Free gay romance on Amazon. Victory dance time! Each release day gets celebrated too and all the little victories along the way–getting a draft, finishing edits, getting a cover, releasing into the wild. Enjoy the ride!

 

In addition to these lessons, 2015 was the first year that I kept careful track of my process. This is what my year overview looks like:

Screenshot 2015-12-30 15.58.50

Holy cow! I touched 18 separate projects this year! That’s ridiculous! The number one this I learned from keeping track of my progress like this is that it takes me two months to draft a book. I simply can’t promise a book longer than 30k any sooner than that. If you look at the spreadsheet, there are very predictable stairsteps of writing months. Knowing this will be very helpful to me going forward. Also, months where a ton of edits arrived tend to be lower word count months, so I have to make sure to account for the time those parts of the process take.

You can see the edits/word count correlation more clearly here:

Screenshot 2015-12-30 15.56.48

While I averaged almost 30,000 words a month this year, May, August, and November were far under that because of some tricky edits. Having enough time to deal with the edits is a key part of my planning going into 2016. My biggest word count month was December with 46,176. I don’t think that’s something I can count on each year though, as it was really challenging with family stuff and the holidays. Building in more time for breaks is key this coming year. I finished the year with 355,860 words and 7,849 pages edited (all those multiples passes per book add up fast!), and it feels like this is probably around my top speed. It would be kind of cool to hit 365,000 words next year, but the simple fact of the matter is that I’m not the fastest writer, not the fastest per hour writer for sure, and I need to just make my peace with that and celebrate what I did accomplish. Finishing six books and two short stories is a fabulous accomplishment that I feel super proud about.

What’s coming in 2016? All the books I wrote in 2015! They’ll all be released into the wild! YAY!!!!

  • LOVE ME TENOR in Feb
  • KNIT TIGHT in April
  • BETA TEST in May
  • ALL NOTE LONG in August
  • CONNECTION ERROR in October

Then in December comes Portland Heat #5, and I’ll start that book in January.  So far this year, I know that I’ll be drafting Portland Heat #5 and #6 and doing a freebie Reader’s Choice Novella with Wendy Qualls. (Reader’s choice = my facebook group will be voting on the characters, the setting, and other fun stuff! Join us at Annabeth’s Angels!)

I’ve got other goals for my reader group and my newsletter:

2016 plans

I can’t wait to see what else I get to write this year! Yay books! Yay words yet to be written and worlds I haven’t dreamed of yet! Remember too that I love hearing from my readers–if you want stories for secondary characters or ficlets for a favorite couple, feel free to let me know! No promises, but I love when you guys are as excited as me for more from a particular universe!

In addition to all those words, 2016 is going to be the year of balance for me. More family time. More long conversations with friends. More walks. Healthier eating. More yoga. I’m not making huge word count increasing goals because what I most want is to hold steady at this production level while also bringing more balance back to my life. And that is my wish for all of you for 2016–More books, more worlds to explore, and balance in your lives to enjoy it all.

 

 

SERVED HOT is up on Netgalley!

ZOMG! Squee!! Quick update to let reviewers know that SERVED HOT, my coffee-themed M/M romance is up on Netgalley for request right now. Click here to request! 

Served Hot.ebook

COVER REVEAL: Resilient Heart

Xander and Mackey are coming back January 27th! With this hot new cover & a brand new short-story/epilogue featuring a visit from Xander’s family. If you’d like to request a review ARC, you can do so here. 

resilient-heart-web

How I Became a Scrivener & Plotting Convert

(NOTE: There’s a list of resources on plotting and Scrivener at the end of my lengthy tale :))

A long time ago, in galaxy far, far away (Oregon, circa 2005) there was this girl who boldly proclaimed that she would NEVER be a plotter. She had just finished her first book (it took her two years to write it, but she was all brimming with false confidence after typing those magic words “The End”). After all, she told stories to herself all the time–what use did she have for something like structure? All she needed was TIME for her characters to tell her their stories to completion.

[Insert evil laughing here]

And I know it works like that for some people. They sit down at the computer and the story unspools, and they are productive, bestselling authors with a process that works for THEM. They write a first draft, and maybe it’s golden. Or they have a process where the first draft comes relatively quickly and then they spend a long time on edits, and edits are where they do most of their structure, and it works well for them. Whatever works for the individual author is all that really matters.

But the thing is, pantsing was NOT working for me. I wrote five books in nine years and I had quite a collection of unfinished three chapter starts. All five of those books never sold, and all had serious structural flaws that require the sort of gut level rehab that has landed them permanently under my bed.

just a little emotional

Then in 2012, I decided that a book a year (or longer) was not going to get me sold and that I was tired of crying my eyes out over huge plotting issues discovered in the critique process. So I took several online classes on plotting, trying to find a structure that would work for me. The “W Plot” with Karen Docter changed my writing life forever, and I wrote 4 books in 2012, 3 of which sold.

happy dance new girl

In 2013, I worked on the book-which-would-not end and somewhere around draft number five, I read “Save The Cat” and used a “Beat Sheet Calculator” to attack the structural issues that were plaguing my earlier drafts. That final massive overhaul landed me my editor and agent and gave me  a new plotting tool.

From late 2013 to present, I’ve written five books using screen writing tools, most notably beat sheets and Alexandra Sokoloff’s Writing Love book. My process evolved from post-it notes on a large “W” diagram to using digital notecards with Trello and detailed outlines with Workflowy. I usually spend 3-4 solid work days plotting before I start drafting.

Enter Scrivener for my latest WIP. I was skeptical. I tried an early version of it years ago and it just didn’t make sense for how my brain worked. But my process had changed, so I went in with an open mind. I watched the tutorials, which are awesome and I really recommend them, but  I thought it might help some newbies if I talked specifically about how I got started & did my plotting prior to drafting.

First, I started with a blank scrivener “novel” project, but I immediately did away with the sample “chapter” and “scene.” I only think in terms of scenes when I plot-Chapters happen during drafting, chapter breaks often moving around a lot over the course of a draft. So I went in to “Corkboard mode” with a single scene in mind–my opening image. I gave it a title. Then I added cards for my midpoint scene & black moment & final image because I had ideas for those turning points. Again, at this stage, I just gave the cards titles. Then I went between my existing cards and added scenes as I plotted–Act I break/First Turning point/Descent to Black Moment/Grovel/resolution etc.

As I plotted, I started adding more to the synopsis portion of cards as I learned more about where my story would be heading. As I plotted and did research, I stuck that information in the research section. I usually stop a certain point of plotting and do some serious character work. Scrivener has character interview templates which are handy, but I have my own checklist I prefer using the questions in “Writing Love” so I looked at past plotting notes and made my own character note sheets.

Once I had the character notes, I used “split screen” to have the corkboard and character notes open at the same time, and fleshed out my synopses and scenes more, adding more scenes based on what I had discovered about my characters and their GMC and their arc.

I ended up with around 21 scene cards. I know that I’ll actually end up with far more scenes in the final draft, but this was a great point for me to start drafting, and I simply add more notecards as the draft evolves. And as the draft evolves, I’m adding “folder” cards for chapters, but only started doing that once  I had around 6k and could see where the first two breaks might occur. Don’t worry about chapters at all if you don’t want!

I am mainly drafting in “scrivenings mode” which lets me see the whole document at once, jumping onto the next section as I finish a scene. (I finish a scene, click the next notecard to refresh myself about where I wanted to head, then go back into scrivenings mode). As I draft, I’m using the “outliner mode” from time to time to see the overall direction I  want to head, and to do things like add labels for POV and labels for status (to-do versus first draft) and to see how many words are in a given scene, but I really didn’t worry about those features until I really needed them, if that makes sense. I.e. I changed label colors to reflect POV characters once I decided that would be helpful to me as  I went forward, but I didn’t need it to plot–I don’t always know which POV will get a given scene until later in the plotting stages.

So there you have it.  That’s how I became more of a plotter and how I transitioned to Scrivener for this current draft. Here are some resources for you:

Release day review! Sweetwater by Lisa Henry

SweetwaterSweetwater by Lisa Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book. I’ve read other titles by Henry, and her prose here is simply amazing. She doesn’t just tell the story, she *inhabits* it. The mood, the tone, the pacing–all of it is spot on. But this is not an easy book to read–Elijah both makes some terrible decisions and has some pretty terrible stuff done to him. It’s a five star read for me because the beautiful prose made this like watching a Deadwood episode–uncomfortable but in a really, really splendid way. However, some readers may not like the Grady/Harlan triangle competing for Elijah and easily triggered readers may have difficulty with some of things Elijah suffers. They might prefer trying one of Henry’s great, lighter titles. For the rest of us, the Deadwood and Breaking Bad and Shameless fans and lovers of dark, unpredictable heroes, this book is simply a gem.

View all my reviews

Happy Birthday to My Writing

20140727_104412We just had my son’s fourth birthday. When he was born, I hadn’t made forward progress with my writing in a LONG time. I had a hard drive full of first three chapters of a half-dozen or more books, but I hadn’t finished a book since the birth of my daughter three years before he was born.

Summer in my life has always been linked to my writing–the summer of 2005 is when I finished my first book. The summer of 2007 is when I finished my third book. My daughter was born late that summer, and when my son came n 2010, I realized that it was time to let RWA & my dreams lapse. I hadn’t finished a book in three years. I had two kids. I needed to just move on. I decided I would dedicate myself to book review writing when I could to stay active in the writing world, but that I’d hang up my pencil.

A funny thing happened in early summer 2011 though–I missed writing. Desperately. Passionately. I *wanted* to try again, but I didn’t want to suffer through another three years of false starts. So I made a commitment to myself that I would start writing again, but that I would never go a day without opening my document–even if all I wrote was 5 words, I would keep making progress.

Shortly after my son turned one, I finished that “trial” book using my one-day-at-a-time method. Three months! That book joined the three other unsold books, and then later that year book five joined the under-the-bed crowd.

But then in the summer of 2012 my son turned two and, I finally sold a book–books 6 and 7 sold that summer, with book 8 following suit that fall.

Through it all, I kept on my one-word-at-a-time plan. My kids were getting bigger and my writing hours kept shifting, but I kept just opening that document up each day. I racked up a lot of 50 word days.

In 2012, my son turned three and I finished book 9. Soon I’ll get to tell you all about Book 9,10, 11, and 12 and their new home, but this summer, the ninth summer of writing, the fourth summer of my no-excuses plan, has been full of good things. Book 13 is my Campus Cravings story, while last week, as my little guy finished up year three, I finished up lucky #14.

Four years ago, I had one child, three unsold books, and a lot of deferred dreams. Today, my heart holds more than I ever thought possible.

Happy Birthday to my little man–thank you for the renewed focus you brought to my life.

 

COVER REVEAL! Campus Cravings!

I’m so thrilled to announce that I’m going to be in the Campus Cravings bundle coming on August 25th! Want to see our gorgeous cover? I’ll be posting more about my contribution soon!

CampusCravings_HigherLearningMMBoxedSet_eBookCover400x600

Welcome to Cathia University, where school is in session! Nine of today’s hottest gay romance authors have crafted brand-new interrelated novellas celebrating everything wonderful about college, with over 200,000 words featuring sophisticated professors, sexy teaching assistants, ambitious grad students, and spirited undergraduates, all looking for the same thing: an A+ in true love.

Annabeth Albert: Winning Bracket

Cassandra Carr: The Eloquent Jock

Dalton Diaz: Lesson Learned

Mia Downing: Switching Leads

Whitley Gray: Artistic Endeavor

Bianca Sommerland: Solid Education

KyAnn Waters: Private Lessons

LA Witt: Did Somebody Order a Pizza?

Sara York: The Dust Of Everyday Life

The Campus Cravings male/male bundle will release on August 25th with a special “back to school” price of $2.99 for a limited time!

Add Campus Cravings to your Goodreads to-be-read-list here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22738703-campus-cravings

Why I Will Watch the Olympics

I’ve watched every Olympics since 1984–when I was 6. Summer. Winter. I’m a fan of the whole thing. I wrote an Olympic short story. I heart the Olympics. This is the first year that my decision to watch feels like a political thing and is something I’ve wrestled with for months now. Russia is doing a terrible job as host, has deplorable human (and animal!) rights issues, and the IOC and USOC have both failed to push them hard enough on the LGBT issues. But can a viewer boycott help?

That’s the question I’ve struggled with. I’ve come down on the side of our athletes who have worked for 4 years to prepare, most of whom wish it were anywhere but Russia. I won’t watch the opening or closing ceremonies–I don’t need to see Russia celebrate itself or pretend that it is a bastion of peace and love. But I will watch the individual events. I will cheer on our athletes because I feel they deserve the support and you’ll see me posting tweets about the events. But know that I do so with a heavy, conflicted heart.

But the more I think about it the more I feel that supporting our athletes is the right thing to do. Disagreeing with Russia’s policies and their handling of the games and their human rights record and, indeed, their being picked in the first place, doesn’t mean taking it out on our athletes. I worry about our athletes, about their safety, about the heavy burden on those in the closet and out. It is a brave group that has traveled to Sochi and I think they deserve our cheers, even if the IOC as a whole does not. How the international community puts pressure on Russia after the Olympics–that is the real place where change will occur.

Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream

It’s June in the Northwest which is like the best month EVER. The monsoon season is behind us, the sun is out, flowers are everywhere, farmer’s markets start to fill, and u-pick farms open their gates. We’re huge u-pick fans, and over the years, we’ve developed a lot of tricks. We love picking peaches because they are so easy–reach, pick, and not a lot of prep to freeze. Blueberries are idiot-proof: Pick, rinse, freeze. We also do a lot of cherries.

But there’s something about the first crop of the season: strawberries. They are hard to pick. Messy. Dirty. Back bent, knees in rocks. But there’s also something transcendental about re-communing with the earth this way, getting one’s hands dirty for the first time in months, children with red streaked faces, and the sublime pleasure of perfectly ripe fruit.

Tonight I made something new & ridiculously easy for anyone with access to a strawberry patch or a couple of cheap cartons on sale & with an ice cream freezer. We did it old school in a ice-packed one that we picked up from a yard sale. If you’re using an electric one that takes the bucket from the freezer, you might want to do a smaller batch.

Ingredients:

Roughly 8 cups of strawberries or 1 heaping quart basket. Less would work fine too.

1 can Coconut Cream (Trader Joe’s or other unsweetened brand)

2 cups coconut milk

4 egg yolks

3 tablespoons of Stevia (I use Sweet Leaf)or other sweetener to taste.

Pinch of sea salt

Set aside in the fridge 2 cups of sliced strawberries, sweeten if desired–ours were ridiculously sweeten so I just wafted the stevia bottle over.

In a blender, combine remaining strawberries (should fill blender about 2/3 full) & can of coconut cream, salt, and stevia.  Set aside.

On the stove, bring two cups of coconut milk just until it first bubbles–it doesn’t have to boil. Very, very, very slowly drip this into 4 beaten egg yolks. I used my stand mixer for this, but if you don’t care about raw eggs, you could totally skip the heating step. Dump in the blender mix. Mix well. Taste. Add more sweetener as desired.

Cool well in the fridge, then freeze according your manufacturer’s directions. We used the old-fashioned machine which is more forgiving–if you are using a newer model, you’ll want to chill the mixture at least several hours until really cold. I called it good after about an hour b/c I knew we had plenty of ice 🙂

When the ice cream is done, swirl in the reserved strawberries then set in the freezer to “ripen” for an hour or so, depending on how firm you like your ice cream.

My dream book boyfriend

So, the lovely Marie Sexton tagged my awesome critique partner, Daisy Harris, who tagged me for a fun game. The deal is, you describe your fantasy book boyfriend, and then name other authors and invite them to do the same. I don’t have a “type” precisely–I’m an equal opportunity man appreciator of everything from nerds to cowboys and beta heroes to alpha doms. But if I get to order one up . . .

Here are the questions:

Hair color and style: Right now, I have a blonde hero, a dark haired hero, and a bald-by-choice hero waiting in the wings. Clearly, I’m not too picky, but as I get older, bald-by-choice and closely cropped hair is really growing on me.

Eye color and facial features: I like a hard face. Manly jaw. Scars are awesome. Stubble is nice but so is fresh-from-the razor. The ability to grow scruff though? Necessary. On the right guy, I can totally dig an eyebrow ring or facial piercing, but most of the time I’m just looking for the right combination of rugged and sensitive. I like unusual eye colors like green and grey.

Height and body type: I’ve written heroes of a variety of heights and builds, but as a matter of personal taste I like tall men. Not like NBA player tall, but a nice 6’3″ & built man? Awesome. But I’ve also got a thing for average height men with solid bodies. I don’t need a lives-in-the-gym dude, but I do like a guy with some heft. And fuzz. I like men with a little body hair on them.

Visible age: I’m currently writing two heroes in their early 20s, so you know I like younger eye candy too, but as a matter of personal taste, I like older guys. I’m married to a guy 7 years older than me, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the May-Dec. dynamic. Bruce Willis & Hugh Laurie? Yes, please. 

Bangability? Kinky? Bi? Etc?: Adventurousness appreciated 😉 I like a dude who looks like he loves to get dirty, but who also looks like he’d make you breakfast the next day too. Ed Norton, step right this way. I love to write virgin heroes, but I’m thinking my dream book boyfriend has some experience to back up his enthusiasm.

Interests: Must read. I don’t care what–fiction, non-fiction, news, magazines, online zines, old-fashioned journals–but he’s got to be literate. If I can’t forward him random articles, he’s useless to me 🙂 Kindness, honesty, and a sense of humor are priceless. I give high bonus points for handyman abilities, but geeky skills are also great.

Human or Alien or Shifter?: Human. I’ll read others, but my book boyfriend is definitely human.

Paranormal skills: Ability to disappear during Downton? Ability to change baby diapers at the snap of a finger? Freakishly agile large hands?

Natural habitat: I like men with hands-on jobs. Carpentry shops, forests, firehouses, fixer-upper houses, military bases and hospitals are all prime gathering spots for my kind of men. But I’ll always have a soft spot for my computer geeks too.

Special skills: I tend to like my guys more human than superhero, but ability to fix things that break is great. Nothing sexier than a man who can strip . . . wallpaper. Or a guy with the endurance to chase toddlers AND keep you up all night.

And the obligatory Man Candy is John Quinlan, who I discovered via Cassandra Carr, and he has a lot of free stock images. And he pretty much fits my entire list, including reading:

Next up?

I hate tagging people! Daisy already got Brien Michaels and Cassandra Carr. I’ll tag Emma Lai, Erin Satie, and Edie Danford. And anyone else who wants to play! Please share!