A Picture of Grief

This is the first time that I’ve written anything publicly since my mother passed away suddenly on March 8th, excluding her obituary and her eulogy. To be honest, it felt like the creativity completely went out of me, and that my relationship with writing left me along with my mother. I cried. I went to therapy. I talked to loved ones and friends about it. But it didn’t feel like I was completely letting it out. Yes, I was grieving, but I was angry too. Angry at what, I don’t really know. At the world for going to hell when all I wanted to do was mourn my mom. Angry that I never got to have that last phone call with her. Angry that it happened at all, and I couldn’t somehow save her.

That anger built up and exploded at one of my own books. Between crying and screaming like a wounded animal, unleashing a sound I have never made before, I ripped apart my most recent book, Wolf Pit. Literally, I tore it into pieces and threw it against the wall and yelled at it, like somehow that would make the grief better.

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And it helped. For a time.

For a brief moment, I could breathe a little easier, and I shocked myself back into reality and kind of realized that my grief made me lash out at my own writing. Wolf Pit was the last book my mom read. And she died before we could even talk about it.

You have to understand, ever since I was a child, my mom was there for me whenever I talked about my writing. She’d stay up late to read over school papers to make sure I hadn’t screwed up my thesis statement, or used the wrong words. She’d listen patiently as I spewed out story ideas and drew diagrams for her of wolf spirits, gods, magic systems, new worlds, etc. She might not have always understood, but she listened. And it was far from where I had started.

I never really liked to read when I was a child. Instead, I wanted her or my dad to read to me. She was strict about it, though. When I started memorizing books from listening to her and reciting them back to her to act like I was reading, she caught me, and she’d make me pick a harder book. But that eventually instilled in me a love for the written word. Books took me away to new worlds, and I was introduced to a hobby that helped me escape anxiety and depression (not that I recognized it at that time).

My favorite book was Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One, by Kate Duke. This book had everything. Adventure. A child and an adult weaving a story together. My first heroine (in mouse form). The heroine saving a prince. Romance. I loved it, and I read it over and over both with her and by myself.

When I started writing my own books, she encouraged me to read them to her, including fanfiction. I remember printing off pages of my Redwall fanfiction that I could read to her late at night while we were visiting my grandparents in Wisconsin. We’d stay up so long, her on the bed, me, curled up on a comfortable cot. I loved it.

There was this one time when I gave her the final chapters of a trilogy I’d written. After she was finished, she didn’t say a word to me. She just went to bed. I thought she hated it, but she told me the next day that the ending (and what I did to a character) made her so sad she just had to go to bed. I felt bad…for a second, but then that devilish author in me did a happy dance that I could illicit such an emotion from her.

Throughout my writing journey, she was always there, either listening to my plots, or reading the books once they were completed. Even when our relationship struggled, we could still share our love of stories and writing together. She was the first person to get me interested in one of my favorite authors, Mercedes Lackey. And when I was helping my dad clean up the house after she died, guess what books I found in a bag next to the tv…ones by Mercedes Lackey. The same ones that had inspired me to read the series.

I know she’s still with me in spirit, but I also know that I’ll never hear her voice again. Never really be able to share my ideas and discuss books with her ever again, and it hurts. It might be small in comparison to everything else right now, but my mother helped fuel my love of reading and writing. So when she died, a little of my writing spirit died with her.

I’ll go back to it eventually, I know that. Mom wouldn’t want me to quit, especially not after how I ended Wolf Pit. And my love and memories of her can live on in my craft, using what she taught me. I just wish to God I could talk to her about what she thought, listen to her advice, and hear her encouragement one last time.

Keep your loved ones close, give them hugs, and remember to tell them you love them.

me and mom

I miss you, Mom.

 

Wolf Pit Launch!

Wolf Pit, the second book in the Purple Door District series, has officially been out for two months now. I didn’t write about the launch in December because I wanted to wait for the second Iowa City launch to happen first. I’ll say this, it was so much easier preparing for it this year than the first, if only because I had two wonderful establishments, M & M Bookstore and Sanctuary Pub, who took care of things!

The downside? I wasn’t even sure if my books would make it back from the printer on time, but fortunately, I was able to show up  with my novels in hand.

The book launched on December 14th, 2019, almost one year to the day of The Purple Door District. I held the event at M & M Bookstore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I can’t sing enough praises about the store. Ursla Lanphear and Terri Leblanc always make me feel at home. They set me up at the front of the story, so I was basically the first thing people saw when they walked in!

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I adore my new table display. The banner looks great, and I love the purple and black colors that flow through the pictures, the covers, and the table itself. I couldn’t believe how well the purple table cloth (*coughshowercurtaincough*) actually went with everything else. Though still surrounded by cool colors, the table somehow feels brighter now (and no, that’s not just because of all the added lights, haha).

The first launch, I had a cake to share with everyone, but I went a little further this time. I actually got the cover printed on the cake, and it went over really well with everyone! The whole white section was devoured before the end of the day, which left the cover part for me to enjoy over the next few days.

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I mean, look at that detail! Yummy!

I had a nice turn out of both devoted and new readers. Some people just happened to stop by for books and met me. And when there weren’t people around, Terri was happy to introduce me to a bunch of new books, which I almost walked out with. You can’t leave that place without a book. I’m so glad we were able to support each other with book sales. And, if you’re still looking for a copy of The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit, you can get autographed copies off of their shelves!

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Between awful Iowa weather that basically shut down the city in January, and myself being burnt out, I waited until later in February to host the second launch, this time at Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City. Sanctuary is a special place as The Writers’ Rooms hosts The Parchment Lounge (the best Room), our all-genre Room, there every Monday. We also do readings on 5th Mondays. JD and Molly were both great about letting me reserve the red room (a private section of the pub) for my launch.

Best of all? My dad got to share the special day with me.

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This was the first time family was able to make it to the book launch. While last year was incredible, I couldn’t deny some sorrow that I couldn’t share it with my loved ones (and no that’s not meant to send guilty vibes towards them). It just made this launch that much more special. My dad was there to help me set up, hear me read…and try to untangle a bundle of necklaces. Whoops. He’s been such a great supporter of the books since the beginning and has even talked to customers about it and helped introduce me to more readers. I’m really lucky.

The turn out was fantastic. Many of my fellow writing friends, and those from The Writers’ Rooms, showed up to support me. I had a family friend visit, and my fellow sister-in-crime came, which just made my night. The reading went well, even if I stumbled over the word “seashells” more than I care to admit. No matter how many times I read this book, I always manage to trip myself up. This is why I need someone else to do my audiobook!

At the end of the reading, I gave away a few gifts, including a journal, a Wolf Pit tumbler, Tess’s necklace, and a sand jar. All-in-all, it was a fantastic night, and I’m beyond thankful for the support everyone offered. I couldn’t have done this without them!

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I think one of the coolest things was having JD shout, “Say, Wolf Pit!” when he took a picture of us. To hear someone say the name of my book like that was awesome. Somehow it made it more real.

I love doing these launches. For one thing, they help me set a deadline of when to get the book printed, so I’m not hemming and hawing over it. Second, it gives me the chance to celebrate with people I care about. Third, it allows me to feel pride in myself for accomplishing something like this. And fourth, it’s nice to actually know I’m going to sell some books. Authors go back and forth on whether they should host a book launch, but I say, why not? If you have an establishment ready and willing to host you, and you have people who will be happy to show up, then why not celebrate?

Writing a book is no easy feat. It takes months (sometimes years) of researching, plotting, writing, and dedication to come out with even a draft. Some authors have asked if there was a point in celebrating when they finished another book (shouldn’t the first one be the biggest celebration?). Of course it’s something worth getting excited for! Writers deal with enough struggle and rejection, they should take every opportunity they can to rejoice over what they accomplish. Don’t belittle yourself because you think it’s “just another book.” Be proud!

Once again, thank you to everyone who attended the launch and who continue to support me on this journey. What’s next to come? Well, book 3 will go into full production hopefully in April. I’m finishing up outlining and some structuring before I really get started. And, I’ll be working on Fates and Furies, the parent series, with my co-author AE Kellar. If there’s any launch I’m looking forward to the most, it’s the one with her when we can celebrate our main series finally being out to the literary community.

Big things are coming!

The Year I Almost Lost

TW: Mention of suicide/suicidal thoughts

It’s difficult to explain depression and anxiety to people who don’t struggle with it. A person might seem perfectly fine on the outside, but inwardly, they could be fighting a constant battle that leaves them teetering on the edge of life and death. The mind, just like the rest of the body, can get very sick and make it seem like there’s no end to the pain. No light at the end of the tunnel. 

My readers know I’m not typically shy when it comes to discussing depression and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts is a harder topic to go over, though. I don’t want to scare people who are close to me who think I might go off the deep end. And for those who look up to me and think I’m strong, I don’t want them to feel, “Well, if she can’t handle it, then how can I?” The mind is such a beautiful, wonderful thing, but that doesn’t stop the darkness from creeping in. And what I want to talk about isn’t so much why I almost ended my life, but rather, why I celebrate that I didn’t. 

On February 2nd, 2019, after drowning under waves and waves of depression, something snapped. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like all the dark thoughts I’d been having suddenly coalesced into this monster that told me to end my life. I came very close, but at the last second, I stopped myself. I met with a friend for tea, and when I explained what had happened, she encouraged me to go into the mental institution to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I fought her on it, claiming I was fine (even though I wasn’t), but eventually I relented and went with her to the hospital. 

And it was the best decision I could have made. 

For the first time in a long while, I felt like I was safe from myself and from the world. I could breathe a little better, and my thoughts didn’t drag me across burning coals as much as they had. I also learned I had a UTI and developed cellulitis, which didn’t help with the whole situation. But the former might have explained a little more why I wasn’t able to fight the suicidal thoughts. Between health/physical problems, Seasonal Depression, lack of sleep, anxiety, and general feelings of unworthiness and loneliness, I could barely fight it. 

The past two weeks, I’ve felt the depression creep into my mind as I reflected on the fact that the one-year anniversary was coming up. But then I thought, why should I greet it with sorrow? Why not celebrate what this past year has given me? True, there were a lot of uphill fights and bad things that happened, mostly health related, but what about all the good? 

For one thing, I’ve been able to spend time with my family. I’ve watched my baby cousins (who call me auntie) blossom and grow into lovely young girls. I visited family I hadn’t seen in months and cherished the time we spent together. It made me even more grateful to have them in my life. 

I’ve watched the lives of my friends change for the better. Marriages, children, new loves, getting into grad school, going on an overseas adventure, getting published, getting promoted, new pets, new journeys…I’ve loved sharing their stories, and I’m thankful I’m around to see them happen. 

In the past year, I’ve been published more than I’ve ever been before. I put out a new book, appeared in several anthologies (some paid), became an ambassador for a writing site, taught at my alma mater, met fans of my series, and became a resident author for another site. I’ve had the opportunity to work with aspiring writers and watch them find their voice in their books. And I’ve traveled for the first time to sell my books and meet other creative people. My world is growing, even when it sometimes feels so small. 

I’ve watched the organizations I’m leading (The Writers’ Rooms), or part of (Iowa Writers’ House), continue to blossom as we bring more people into the literary fold. I’ve had to let some things go and welcome new opportunities into my life, but at least I’m still here to make those decisions. I’ve helped publish anthologies and put on a huge author signing event to support other authors, and it feels really good to have accomplished all that. 

And in the past year, I’ve started to learn the importance of self-care. Working with my sleep specialist (and now my therapist), has helped me go from about 2-4 hours of sleep each night to closer to 7 hours. I’m using therapy lights during the winter when the months are usually rough for me to help stave off the depression. I’m trying to get back to the gym and eat better for both mental and physical health. I’m talking with support groups and forcing myself to shut down at a certain time each night so I get downtime and I don’t work on my computer until 2 or 3 am on a work night. So for those who have seen my work progress slow a little, it’s to help me take care of myself. 

There have also been fun experiences the past year that I never would have had, some small, some bigger. Things like getting to see Star Wars IX and Cats with my Dad and Frozen 2 (along with annoying the crap out of friends while playing the music over and over again). Reliving my childhood years by going to an arcade with my friend. Going clothes shopping or to the movies with people I care about. Snuggling with my birds everyday and being glad I’m still here to do that (even if I get feathers in my nose or get bombed by the occasional morning poop). Finally playing Mario Maker, basically the one thing I enjoy without trying to turn it over into a profit. Oh, and I’m a huge nerd when it comes to Merge Dragons and PokemonGo. Belting out the lyrics to Hamilton in the car even if I ruin most of them (plus finding out that Hamilton is going to become a movie!). 

Politically, I’ve gone to protests and marches. I’ve raised my voice against injustice and stood by my friends as we’ve fought to make this world a better place. And I did that again last night by caucusing. In a world divided, I saw people come together and support their candidates as well as each other. 

And, of course, I’ve had the opportunity to share my stories with all of you through my blog. 

This past weekend, I celebrated life by getting a much-needed massage, purchasing a new couch (finally), spending time with my friends either gushing over musicals or watching Maleficent and baking brownies. And I slept. 

365 days. 525,600 minutes. Imagine just how many experiences you can have in that time, and I almost let that go. 

I’m glad I didn’t.

I still battle the depression and anxiety, but I’ve gained tools to help work through the feelings. And, there’s a saying that I found that really holds true: Whenever you think you can’t make it through the day, just remember, your success rate is 100%. 

Be kind to yourselves, my friends. Cherish each day. Enjoy the little things, and know that you matter. 

My Writing Process: Help! My Outline Exploded!

I love learning about people’s writing styles. I’m used to the typical question, are you a plotter, pantser, or plantser? Basically, do you plot your story,  write by the seat of your pants, or do a little of both?

I personally identify as a plantser. It doesn’t matter how detailed my outline is, my characters like to derail the story and drag me screaming down another path…usually through brambles, rocks, and sharp pointy things.

They’re jerks.

But there’s so much more behind my process than what I generally talk about. Some plantsers edit at the end of their writing. Some edit while they write. Some skip around chapters, while others write linearly. So I’m going to talk a bit about what I personally do to write, and edit, my manuscripts.

Writing: The ‘What the Hell Am I Doing’ Journey

The Outline: 

It starts with an outline. I sit down and create a rough draft idea of what I want the story to be from beginning to end. I create character lists and add in tiny descriptions if I have them locked in my mind. Sometimes I leave the skeleton of the outline alone and start writing. More often than not, though, I blow the bullet points up into paragraph summaries of each chapter. It helps me flesh out the idea, see where characters are going to go, make sure I don’t have plot holes, etc. Though, I also have the “I have no idea what happens here” bullet points because, let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t know what happens in the middle.

Once that’s complete, I start writing. I’m the type of person who has to write linearly (I hate jumping to different chapters). I’m afraid I’ll miss something or mess up the plot. I usually stick to the outline closely in the beginning. I jot down character descriptions or important little notes and go about my merry little life, feeling productive and like I know exactly what I’m doing.

Enter The Character. 

For the sake of the rest of the blog, we’ll just call her Djinn…because sometimes when you’re hoping for a plot, you have to be careful what you wish for.

The Pantsing: 

So the story is going along swimmingly and then something like this happens.

Djinn: Hey…how ya doing? I see you’ve got a little novel there. That’s nice. That’s nice…Got a second?

Me: What? I’m trying to write

Djinn: Yeahhh, about that. You know your bad guy? Yeah, he’s secretly a good guy.

Me: Wait, what?

Djinn: And the protagonist? She’s in love with her best friend’s brother.

Me: Hang on now.

Djinn: And you know that character who’s a toss away and you don’t even have a name for? Yeah, that’s me. And I need my own story line. You see, I’m actually the main character’s best friend, and I help fuel this section of the story and-

Me: What? NO!

Djinn: Come on! Give me a story line! I’m begging you. If you don’t, I’m just going to keep popping up every other scene and ask ‘Is it my turn yet? Is it my turn yet? Is it my turn yet? Is it my turn yet?’

Me: Stop it

Djinn: Is it my turn yet?

Me: Oh my god, FINE! I’ll write you in. Can you go away now?

Djinn: Of course…of course.

Me: ….

Djinn: (insert character name) dies at the end of the book. BYE!

Me: AHHHH!!!

Kinda like that. Only, repeat it about seven different times during the book. I’m not kidding. I had a 23 chapter outline with each chapter designed and the characters solidified. Three years later, I ended up with a trilogy. Part of that is thanks to Djinn. You jerk.

At this point, I’m scrambling to redo my notes, add in the extra outlines, getting dragged somewhere else and watching my characters poof and reappear with different histories. It’s no wonder I can’t keep eye color or hair color straight. Things change halfway through! And that’s just the writing process.

Editing: Why do I do this to myself? 

Editing comes next, and you would think that’s pretty straight forward. Later on it is, but in the beginning, I find parts of the story that need tweaking, scenes that need rewriting…and additional characters who need more on-page time.

Djinn, for example.

I read through the entire book to check for continuity/plot errors first. There’s no sense in polishing the text if I’m going to have to change scenes anyway or cut chapters (though I understand other authors feel differently).

After fixing the plot, then comes the check for details: did I spell names correctly, are character appearances the same throughout the book, have I overused words (part 1), did I use the right words?

Once all of that is cleared up, and I realize I wrote “sequins” instead of “synchronize” (yay NaNoisms), I start destroying words (part 2). My editor, or co-creator, point out words I overuse (pariah, information, and was being three of them). I put them into search, and I try to destroy them as much as possible. It helps with the “show don’t tell” aspect as well, especially when I focus on using a word other than “was.” It may mean restructuring sentences or whole paragraphs, but if it makes the text sound better in the end, I’m fine with that.

After that, I do a few more readings of the book, but I use a different medium each time. Stage 1: 12 pt Font, Times Roman Numeral, Single Spaced. Stage 2: 12 pt Font, Times Roman Numeral, Double Spaced. Stage 3: Blow up screen to 150% to go over each paragraph carefully. Stage 4: Read the chapters out of order so I edit the language more than the plot. Etc. Some books take more rounds than others. I use different mediums, though, because it helps me catch things since it’s like I’m looking at the book for the first time.

I have an editor also fixing my book and sensitivity readers or beta readers reviewing it at the same time.

The final edit is reading through the book one last time and only checking for egregious errors.

Books are never really done. I can open The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit now and still change things. Heck, 10 years from now I’ll want to change them. But at some point, you have to let your baby go, take wing, and fly into the hands of other readers.

That was a bit longer than I anticipated, but that’s essentially my process. No writing process is perfect, and no one can tell you how you should write. You have to make it personal to yourself and adjust it as you find things that work better.

What about you? What’s your style?

2020 Goals

How is it January 7th already? 2019 felt like it was never going to end, and then, bam, we’re seven days into the new year. Like many people, I like creating goals for myself at the beginning of each year. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t, but at least it puts me on a path to, hopefully, complete a few things. Last year one of my main goals was to publish Wolf Pit, and I managed to do that, albeit at the last second.

This year, I want to talk about both writing and personal health goals for myself. I’m hoping by posting them here, it’ll help keep me accountable. Not only that, you’ll have a little preview of what to expect from me this year!

Writing Goals: 

  • PDD Book 3: I plan to write and edit Purple Door District book 3. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to publish it in 2020 due to circumstances that happened in 2019. Let’s just say I didn’t give the book as much love and care as I would have liked, and I want to make sure I do book 3 justice. I don’t want to rush it.
  • Dragon Steal: I put my YA LGBT dragon book on hold to finish up Wolf Pit. Well, after much consideration, I’m planning to heavily edit Dragon Steal, rewrite the pitches, and submit the book both to agents and to #pitmad on Twitter. I’m really excited to work on the book again because I love and miss the characters. It’ll be a nice break from the world of The Purple Door District as well. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the series. However, I struggled with a lot of depression while writing and editing it, so I think it’s good I’m taking a slight break.
  • Anthologies: I intend to write more short stories and poetry to submit to local anthologies. I already have plans to create pieces (hopefully) for Fiction-Atlas Press LLC. Ideally, I want to submit to anthologies that provide royalties or pay to help with publication costs, but just having my story in print is awesome too!
  • Writing Grants: I’m going to apply for some writing grants to help fund my writing career while I’m still getting on my feet. As I’ve talked about in a few posts, self-publishing is not cheap, and it takes until book 2 or 3 to start seeing a little income. I’m still not quite at that point, so if I get grants that can help me produce these books, I’ll be ecstatic.
  • Fates and Furies: Alongside The Purple Door District, I’d like to get back into working on the Fates and Furies series with my co-author AE Kellar. Oh my gosh, we have so many stories to tell you!
  • Blog: Yes, my dears, I plan to resume blogging once a week. If you have particular topics you want me to discuss, please let me know. Part of the reason I stopped near the end of last year was because I ran out of ideas! That and Wolf Pit was trying to eat my soul.
  • Author Interviews: Author Interviews will start up again this Friday. I’ll post them on social media and host them on my site two times a month. I think that’ll give me a little more breathing room. If you’re a published author looking for a place to be interviewed, fill out the form here.
  • Patreon/Wattpad: Yes, I do still intend to post to Patreon once a month, likely starting in February. I need a break to get more writing prepared. Likewise, I want to post to Wattpad as well. If you haven’t read The Purple Door District, you can find it on there under my account. The first chapter of Wolf Pit will be up shortly as well.

Health Goals: 

  • Sleep: I’ve talked about struggling with sleep before and how it’s affected my health and creativity. I’m working with a sleep specialist who is helping me get more rest at night. Basically I was only getting about 2-4 hrs of solid sleep every night this time last year. I’m almost to 6 1/2 hrs now, which has made a world of difference. I want to get up to 7 1/2 hours.
  • Gym: I plan to start working out again. I know it improves my mood, my sleep, and my health. Unfortunately, due to injuries and bad experiences at the gym, I’m struggling to walk back through those doors. I’m trying exposure therapy, meaning, I’m taking it one step at a time. Today I went into the gym for the first time in months. I almost had a panic attack, but I managed to make it there. Little by little, I’ll work out and add time to my routines. I have to do this for myself.
  • Mental Health: I continue to use my therapy lights, see my therapists, and go to support groups both for my depression/anxiety, and weight. I broke mentally in February 2019, and I do not want that to happen again. So I’m working to be kinder to myself and more understanding. It may lead to me stepping back from things so I can take care of myself, but I’ll do what’s necessary. I’d like to be here for a long time.

So, I might be biting off more than I can chew, but when it comes down to it, I need to make my mental health my priority, even if it puts things on the back burner.

What about you? What goals do you have for 2020?

Writing Update October 2019

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a writing update post, and with NaNo on the horizon, I thought now would be a good time.

To begin, let’s talk about Wolf Pit.

Comingsoon

The edits are coming along steadily. My editor was really pleased with the changes I made and said that it has helped with the flow of the story as well as with character development. I should be getting the edits back by tomorrow, and then I’ll go through another round of reviewing the book. Ideally, we’ll edit it a couple more times, then I’ll have a proofreader go through and catch any final errors. While she’s doing that, I’ll print a rough copy just so I can make sure it’s going to come out okay. The deadline might be tight, but I think we’ll make it for the December 14th publication date!

I have a launch party planned at M and M Bookstore on the day of release, so if you’re in the Cedar Rapids area, come visit me and check out the store! I’m still looking for a location in Iowa City to host an evening launch.

If you haven’t read The Purple Door District, and you’re a Wattpad user, I’m currently posting the chapters to the book here. All chapters will be posted before Wolf Pit drops. Or, if you become a patron on patreon, you can read the arc for as low as $1.

The Purple Door District is also a quarterfinalist for the Epic Fantasy Fanatics Reader’s Choice Awards. We’re heading into the final round, and I’m both excited and nervous.

EFF

Anthologies 

I mentioned over the summer/fall that I had pieces chosen for anthologies. Well, one came out yesterday, and the other is coming out at the end of this year. The first is Unknown Realms: A Fiction-Atlas Press Anthology. 

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The anthology includes many incredible authors who tell tales about visiting different realms. My story, “Fae Protection Services” finally found a place to call home.

Blurb: Cadenza Wilde is no stranger to rescuing children from cruel guardians, especially when magic is involved. A fae with magical earth powers, she uses her talents both in her world of Apsaras and in the human realm. When word reaches Cade that children are suddenly going missing, the Pied Piper is her first suspect. And he has his eyes on her charge, Elena. It’s a race against time for Cade to save Elena before the Piper can whisk the child away into his dark realm forever.

You can purchase the kindle version here. Paperback will be coming out soon.

The second anthology I’m proud to announce is Twisted Ever After Anthology by The Otherworld. The anthology focuses on retelling fairy tales in a new and intricate way.

twisted ever after

My story, “Red Moon,” may be one that my patrons remember. It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a wolf shifter, a ghostly Huntsman, and a witchy grandmother. This book should be coming out around December in kindle form.

I’ve had a lot of success with short stories this year, and I’m hoping to start writing a mix of them again for contests in 2020. Ideally I’ll focus mostly on urban fantasy, but I have to say that I enjoyed writing a horror story and retelling a fairy tale.

ICON44

ICON44 is Cedar Rapids’ biggest fantasy/sci-fi convention. This year I’ll both be a speaker and a dealer. I’ll be sitting on several panels talking about topics like character development, Game of Thrones, Steven Universe, and more. Throughout the days, I’ll also sell my books and swag in the dealer room. Leading up to the event, I’m going to be signing at Barnes & Noble from 6-8pm with several other authors on Thursday, October 31st (yes, Halloween). ICON lasts from Friday, November 1st, to Sunday, November 3rd. On Friday, November 1st, I’ll also be doing a reading at Half Price Books in Cedar Rapids, so feel free to stop by and say hi! It’s going to be a crazy weekend.

NaNoWriMo

In about two days, NaNoWriMo 2019 kicks off. For those of you who don’t know, during the month of November, writers try to write 50,000 words. I’ve done it about 10 times and won 9 times. This year I plan to work on The Purple Door District Book 3 (currently unnamed). I’m also finishing up Wolf Pit at the same time. Do I think I’ll win? Maybe. All I know is I’m not going to sacrifice Wolf Pit’s quality to meet a word count. At the very least, I’ll get started on book 3 and hopefully figure out the middle of the story. As usual, I know the beginning and the end and that’s it, hah.

Are you participating in NaNo? If so, feel free to add me as a buddy. My username is SilverRose Brighteye.

Happy writing!

 

Let’s Go, Indiegogo!

Last year I set up an Indiegogo campaign to help launch The Purple Door District. Thanks to all of the amazing donations, I was able to print 100 books for publication and use the rest of the money to take care of some marketing elements. This year, I’m back at it again with my second campaign, set to last 60 days (instead of 30) with a goal of reaching $2,500 to print Wolf Pit.

I’ve had several people ask me what Indiegogo is. Well, Indiegogo is a website that allows creators to set up campaigns to help raise money towards a particular goal, usually for a product. People who back the campaign receive rewards/perks depending on the tier they pick. For example, $1 in my campaign will get you a shout out on social media, whereas $25 will get you the e-book versions of both The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit once the second book is released. The higher the tier, the more perks you receive!

Indiegogo is very much like Kickstarter except Indiegogo seems to be more author-friendly. Also, while Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” campaign, meaning you either hit your goal and get everything, or you don’t and get nothing, Indiegogo also provides a flexible campaign in which the creator receives whatever donations are made, even if the goal isn’t met. I personally prefer the flexible goal, just in case I can’t meet the deadline. Some say it’s better to do all or nothing because it pushes people to donate, but I don’t want to risk it. I know how hard it is to have money problems, and I’d rather people feel more comfortable donating a smaller amount, if anything at all. As I always say, every dollar helps!

With that being said, here’s information regarding my campaign. At the very least, hopefully it will help other writers get ideas for setting up their own campaigns! I actually used the template that Indiegogo suggested. Don’t forget to check out the actual campaign and see the book trailer/welcome video.

Overview
“Wolf Pit” is the sequel to the urban fantasy book, “The Purple Door District.” Werewolves are going missing, and the District must come together to solve the mystery of their disappearance. In the same vein, I’ve relied on the community to help me build this book. Editors, artists, marketing specialists, and other authors have been vital to its production. I want to raise the money both to print this book, and to also support other creators. Will you help the District?

Who Am I and Who’s the Community?

My name is Erin Casey, and I’m an urban fantasy and YA fantasy writer, as well as the Director of a writing organization called The Writers’ Rooms. TWR is a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free and safe environment to all writers no matter their gender, skill set, background, income, etc. I focus on bringing communities of writers together to help them learn from one another. This is what drove me to want to write about the diverse community in The Purple Door District series.

The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit started out as part of a canon that AE Kellar and I are writing together and hoping to publish in the future. PDD was a smaller component of it, but I fell in love with the concept and asked if I could write a series based on it to help support our main canon. She has been vital in helping me make sure I keep my facts straight! We jokingly say that she’s the brain and I’m the heart of our series. I couldn’t have done this without her.

So what is Wolf Pit about? Here’s the blurb:

My dream is to become an author and help inspire other people. Community plays a big part in my life now, because it was something I grew up without as a child. Last year I ran a campaign and it enabled me to print The Purple Door District. Now I’m looking for help to print Wolf Pit and also support the creative minds who are helping me.

Your generous contributions will allow me to publish the books and support additional creators:

  • Author and Editor Leona Bushman who edited the book and is an author herself.
  • Author and Proofreader, Shakyra Dunn who proofread and sensitivity read my book. See her book down below.
  • Author, Leslie Kung, who has agreed to sensitivity read my book. Check out her work on Patreon!
  • Jewelry maker Amanda Bouma who will help create jewelry for the book.
  • Artist Oni Algarra who is creating character portraits. (Tess from PDD and Wolf Pit is featured below)

Not only would this ensure the production of this book, it would open up the possibility to a series that would continue to bring more work to you and invest in these members of the literary community.

What I Need

My goal is to be open and honest with everyone, so here are what the funds will go towards:

  • Editing through Leona Bushman $500+
  • Business Cards $40
  • Book printing through Ingramspark ($6.74 per book) x 100   $850 (shipping included)
  • Ingramspark Print and Ebook Set up  $50
  • Art Marketing  $150 (for Oni)
  • Promotional Publishing/swag  $300
  • Cover $50 (for artist on Fiverr)
  • Copyright $25
  • Additional Costs (additional marketing/publicity, donation books, office supplies, ec). 

What You Get

  • Character art! Just look at that awesome picture by Oni!
  • Book swag!
  • First look at items to be sold alongside Wolf Pit and the first chance to receive them!
  • Jewelry and items that I and Amanda Bouma create for The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit. 
  • E-books
  • Printed copies
  • A one-on-one writing talk with me
  • and much more!

The Impact

I can’t even express how important your support is. Self-publishing is becoming a more respected form of publishing, and I can’t do it without your help. In a time when our country feels so divided, I think it’s valuable to bring a book with a diverse cast to the community. You get to read through the eyes of characters who are Latino/a, Native American, black, Caucasian, Indian, Chinese, LGBT, etc, and with those who have different beliefs to survive. Even if the different parahumans have prejudices against one another, they’re able to put it aside to make their community safer for themselves and for their children. I hope that people who read this will see themselves in these characters. As I get deeper in to the series, I want to bring in more people of different nationalities, beliefs, and abilities so they can feel represented as well.

Here are just a few of the reviews from The Purple Door District about the world:

  • This book has a great group of characters that are diverse in many ways, and the author will have you falling in love with each one of them. The PDD is a safe haven for all parahumans and it is interesting how all of the different species co-exist together. –Amazon Review
  • THE PURPLE DOOR DISTRICT has everything I want from an urban fantasy series–a big, diverse community of characters who have the same general goals but are at odds with each other as far as how to achieve them, a great blend of high stakes action scenes and poignant emotional moments, and the looming threat of a group of Hunters determined to track down and eliminate magical beings. –Amazon Review
  • It has been a very long time since a book has made me cry, in sadness and joy. The emotion in these characters is so moving, you can’t help but feel you are there with every character through a ride of a story. The people of the Purple Door District are multi-dimensional and it was so great to see such diversity among the characters in a modern fantasy book.  —Amazon Review

You have the opportunity to see a group of creative minds come together to create this book and its future series. We can do this together, and in December, I hope you’ll feel proud holding this book in your hands.

Other Ways You Can Help

I completely understand that you may not be able to donate, and that’s okay! There are other ways you can help!

  • Share this campaign on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
  • Share this campaign word-of-mouth! Get your friends involved. Show them how they can help a creative community.
  • Let me know what you would like to see promoted. More jewelry? More art? What representation do you want to see in future books?
  • Want to make a smaller but still powerful contribution? Consider becoming a patron on Patreon and receive chapters of the book before everyone else!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I can’t do this without you!

Cheers!

Erin Casey

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wolf-pit-urban-fantasy-novel

www.erincasey.org

Sleep and Creativity

I’m going to get a little personal this week, though I think it’ll focus on something a lot of writers can relate to; sleep and creativity. For the past year, I’ve had trouble sleeping at night. No matter when I go to bed, I always seem to wake up two or more times a night and stay awake anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. Having that happen once or twice is one thing, but dealing with it every single night tends to wear a person down. When my doctor checked the stats on my CPAP machine, it registered I was getting maybe about 4-6 hours of sleep a night with all the waking up.

You can probably imagine what the lack of sleep has done to me:

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Depression
  • Worse Anxiety
  • Memory issues

And so on and so forth. Not exactly fun things to deal with when you’re trying to write/publish a book.

I’ve worked with some people to get my sleep under control, but it wasn’t until I met a cognitive behavior specialist that I started to actually notice some changes. For the first two weeks I met with her, she asked me to track my sleep. I was shocked when I realized it looked like a checkerboard. I might get a couple hours of sleep before waking up, but for the most part, my night was “asleep, awake, asleep, awake, asleep.” Worse, when I would wake up in the middle of the night, I usually went to food for the comfort, which just doesn’t help with weight loss and staying healthy.

My sleep doctor describes it as maintenance insomnia. I can usually fall asleep within about 5 minutes. Heck, I’ve fallen asleep standing up before! But staying asleep, yeah, that doesn’t happen much for me. All the sleep I had started to get by using a CPAP machine just went out the window and left me a miserable mess. Frankly, I think the lack of sleep is what led to my emotional episodes in February of this year.

After tracking my sleep, my doctor told me that my circadian rhythm is off kilter. Her solution? Condensed sleep. Okay, so what does that mean? Basically, her idea was to focus on forcing me to get quality sleep over quantity. She wanted to retrain my brain to understand what it was to be “sleepy” and to be so tired that I would just sleep through the night. She had a few other stipulations as well:

  • No caffeine after 2pm
  • Sleep for 6 hours from 1:30am-7:30am
  • No naps
  • No resting in your bed
  • No phone in your bedroom before sleep

Our plan was to do it for two weeks before I saw her again, mostly because she said I would hate her by the second week. I thought she was kidding.

She wasn’t.

It’s officially been two weeks, and except for two nights when I accidentally fell asleep a little early on the couch, I’ve followed the rules closely. Each night I’ve gone to sleep and stayed in bed. Anxiety remained quiet. My hunger ebbed. All I wanted, all I craved was sleep! And by the second week, oh yeah, I hated her. I still might throw a shoe at her when I see her on Wednesday. I never thought fighting to stay awake until 1:30 am would be so hard. It has some benefits. I get more downtime for myself. I caught up on shows and finally watched Good Omens. 

But the costs more than outweigh the benefits. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m grumpy, depressed, stressed, and a complete bundle of emotions. And for those of you who know me well, I don’t like not having control of my emotions. I’ve actually started to cry because I was so tired and so angry that I couldn’t just nap. Even now as I type this, I can feel my eyes getting heavy and my body just begging me to go to sleep.

I will say this, the practice has really made me appreciate sleep a lot more. Our plan on Wednesday, I believe, is to add time onto my sleep schedule so I’m getting closer to 7 hours. I personally think I function best on about 7 1/2 – 8 hours, but even that hasn’t been enough when I’m trying to recover from many sleepless nights.

By now you’re probably asking, but Erin, what does this have to do with creativity?

Everything.

For some people, staying up late or lack of sleep can create a drive to write. For me, my muses have basically shut themselves off and my characters are giving me the cold shoulder. I have this extra time at night, but the idea of putting a single word on paper is almost unbearable. Thinking hurts. Trying to be creative is too exhausting. It takes all my energy just to stay awake. How I managed to edit and publish a book last year is beyond me.

Though it would probably explain the emotional roller coaster ride I felt during the process.

I want my creativity back. I want to be able to curl up at night when I’m sleepy and know that I can rest through the night and rise with enough energy to create my worlds. Sleep is so important. Like, I didn’t realize how important until I went through the past two weeks. And I know, 6 hours may not sound bad, but for me, I need more sleep. Technically, you can function on 5 hours of sleep a night for an extended period, but that doesn’t mean that your creativity will work. Take care of your mind and bodies. Give them the rest they both so desperately need and crave. I’m hoping once I add on the hours, my passion for writing will resume. and I’ll get out of the very tired writer’s block clouding my mind.

Valley West Mall Book Signing!

Wow, what an incredible weekend! I spent June 29th and 30th over at Valley West Mall in Des Moines, IA for a two-day book signing event presented by Indie Author Book Expo. Organized by Jenn Thompson, this event brought around 40 authors/creators together to sell books, make connections, and meet the good people of Des Moines. Despite an art festival, and the abysmal heat rolling through Iowa, the expo still brought 1,100 shoppers. Between author tables, live music, interviews, and a poetry reading, people definitely had a lot to see.

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This was my first time selling at a two-day event, and I was beyond nervous before I went. Author Alexandra Penn and I made the trip together, which sadly will be our last big show for sometime as she’s getting ready to move to school in Scotland. We made the most of it though, including hilarious road-trip conversations, dancing to the YMCA and other fun songs at the mall, and just sharing time being authors and friends rather than Directors. It was a nice reprieve.

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One of the best parts of the event was getting to catch up with both familiar and new faces. Brian K Morris and I haven’t seen one another since I.O.W.A. last year, and I can’t tell you how great it was to get a big hug from him. He’s been a mentor to me practically since we met, and I’ve embodied his ideology of “rising tide” when it comes to working with other authors. If we all work together, we rise together. Frankly, I’m shocked and disappointed in myself that we didn’t get a picture together!

He brought with him Teresa Dunn who is building her writing career even as we speak! I have to say, the expo is a great place to learn the ins and outs of selling books and to meet amazing authors who can offer tips about anything from how to get published to how to set up your signing table. Ashley Lovell and I spent plenty of time discussing ideas for table displays and brainstorming what would catch someone’s eye. I can’t wait to see what her table looks like when her next book comes out! Cassandra DenHartog (come see her at I.O.W.A 2019!) decided to add a little friend to my table who is now fondly named #Skelebird. He and #Yorick the skull will be making appearances and shenanigans at future signings, I’m sure.

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Other familiar faces included the incredible Kristine Plum, a fellow urban/paranormal fantasy writer (Alex and I weren’t the only ones bopping along to music).  Satish Jayaraj went around teaching authors how to create origami dragons, which are featured in his book. He’s actually hosting a book launch event on July 20th in Cedar Rapids, IA, so you should check him out and show your support! Tabetha Waite stopped by for a picture. She’s a great historical romance author I’ve featured in my website interviews.

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As always, I made a lot of great connections with the authors, but I also met some incredible readers. Most of the people who stopped by my table were very generous and interested in The Purple Door District. My favorite experience, though, was meeting two lovely young women who just couldn’t hold back their love for reading. They not only got the book, they proudly displayed PDD art and Bianca’s necklace. Seeing their excitement is what encourages me to keep writing, because I see myself in them when I was younger, eagerly searching for my next favorite book. I truly hope they enjoy it and they use it to fuel their own creativity.

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All-in-all, it was a great event, and I can’t thank Jenn Thompson enough for all the hard work she put into IABE. As someone who is currently trying to plan an author signing, I know just how much goes into preparing something like this. It’s no easy job, and it takes a very caring and hard-working soul to do what she does. Check out her blog to see more fun pictures from the event!

With that, this very tired writer will bid you ado. Keep your eye out for more pictures from future events, as well as what trouble Skelebird gets himself into.

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As a reminder, The Purple Door District is in the running for a reader’s choice award. I still need 50 nominations by 7/13 to move on to the next round, so if you have a moment, please submit your vote here.

Happy reading!

Wolf Pit Draft Complete!

I did it.

After 6 grueling months, several weeks of depression, and enough overtime at work to last me a lifetime, I finally finished the first draft of The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit. Book 1 clocked in at about 76,000 words. Wolf Pit? As of now, she’s a whopping 99,000 words. Granted, she still has to go through editing, but I’m headed in the right direction.

So what does this mean for the final piece?

Ideally, I would like to publish Wolf Pit by December 2019. I’m not officially making this the date, as it’s going to depend on a couple of things.

1. I’m attempting to get accepted to #writementor with my YA fantasy book Dragon Steal. If I’m selected, I’m going to spend the summer working with a published mentor to get my book in shape for an agent showcase. That means PDD might have to get pushed back a bit.

2. Editing. Editing takes a lot of time and the book is longer than the first one. I need to do my revisions, I have to send it to my co-world-creator, AE Kellar, to pass her inspection, I need a few sensitivity readers to look it over, not to mention my main editor Leona Bushman will have to rip it apart so I can rebuild it. And after that, I have proofreaders who need to review it. That all takes time, and I don’t want to rush it. So, if I don’t make the December deadline, I imagine it’ll be ready by early 2020.

I’m sure I’m going to get the stink eye from some of my readers and a scolding from fellow authors. Why is it taking me so long to put out a book? Well, there are a few factors. I work a 40+-hour job each week, volunteer for The Iowa Writers’ House, and I’m a Director of The Writers’ Rooms. On top of that, I spend time marketing my main book, querying Dragon Steal, blogging, interviewing authors, etc. It all takes time, and when writer’s block or depression hits, that means it’s going to take even longer. I honestly don’t take many breaks from the computer. I’m usually always doing something when it comes to writing, even if it’s not for PDD specifically.

Believe me, it’s not that I don’t consider PDD a priority, I just have to make sure I pay the bills and put food on the table. And at the same time, I have to take care of my mental and physical health, which have both been up in the air over the past year. I wish I could write as a full-time author and produce more, but at this point in my life, that’s not a possibility. So while I hate to delay the books, it’s something I just have to do. That’s why I try to keep my patreon updated so that people have short stories about the characters they can read while the book is in production.

Now, that all being said, what’s Wolf Pit about? (Spoilers: If you haven’t read PDD 1, I suggest you not read the book promo).

Tess Montgomery isn’t your typical member of the Chicago wolf pack. In fact, she’s not a wolf at all. She’s an adopted fire magus of the pack and thus doesn’t always “play by the rules.” When her father and her best friend Nick are kidnapped in what the parahumans assume is a Hunter operation, Tess’s pack is thrown into turmoil. With Alpha Paytah unable to step outside the bounds of his new position as Violet Marshall of Chicago’s Purple Door District, Tess takes the reins to plan a rescue attempt.

Meanwhile, Nick and his fellow wolves find themselves in a world of battle and bloodshed. The Hunters have set up an illegal fighting pit where the strongest survive and the weakest are traded or killed. It’s all Nick can do to keep up the spirits of his packmates and help them escape. Or survive long enough until they’re rescued.

Unfortunately, Tess’ rescue mission fails spectacularly, leading to her capture. She finds herself the unwilling guest of a local Hunter named Arjun. Handsome, charming, and deadly, Arjun tries to convince Tess that not all Hunters are the enemy.  He even offers to help her find her packmates. But is he true to his word, or does he have his own wicked plans in mind?

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this book and many POV switches so you can experience what’s happening both in Tess’s world and Nick’s. It was a challenge to provide equal time to both, but I’m hoping it works out.

I’m really excited to share the cover and the story with all of you. The cover I’m planning to release on May 1st, 2019 in its full glory. Those of you who are patrons, however, get to see it early 😉 That’s my gift to you since my story this month is going to be a bit late due to finishing up PDD.

I want to thank you for following me on this crazy journey/adventure, and I hope you’re excited for Wolf Pit.