I usually have this out sooner, but I’ve been struggling with my most recent project, called its time of death earlier this month, and started another project to cleanse my writing palate, so I kept postponing.
This is an interesting collection of songs from all kinds of genres, but with a few singer staples that I use in this series as well. It’s the shortest novel, but there’s a lot going on, both with the plot and the characters, especially as the emotional side of the story becomes increasingly complicated.
Fun Fact: The name of the book was originally called SWAN SONG when I had different plans for it, but after the first edit, it was changed to BLUEBIRDS, which felt like it reflected the theme of the story better. It was partially inspired by the bird songs below, including both of the ones called ‘Bluebird.’
The rules: No more than two songs by each artist, and no song specially written or covered for a movie (as far as I know).
Bring elements three to me, bluebirds, My sweet blue witch and rose, And I shall set them free, As the story always goes.
With everything that’s happened to her over the last year, Olivia is taking a well-deserved break from all things fairy tale. If she goes a whole day without thinking about rats, princesses, and hearts being ripped out of chests, she counts that as a success.
Then someone kidnaps Caspar and Tobin and enlists Adelaide and Olivia to rescue them in exchange for collecting a few magical items with no help from the Hunter Brotherhood.
A rhyming ransom note is bad enough, but Olivia hadn’t exactly planned on any quests, and a scavenger hunt for a manticore tail, faerie fruit, and burned wood from a lost city promises to be as simple as it sounds.
What a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
Sure, my dayjob discovered we all could, in fact, work from home because a vast majority of my job is digital anyway, and our industry is a 24/7 industry, so I wasn’t furloughed. Both of these are good things. I had a steady stream of income when other people still don’t know when they’re going to have one of those again. Also, I know I’m not the only one who has benefited from a tiny extra bit of sleep and no commute.
But something we thought would only affect us for a few months ballooned into something that might not end at all because of incompetence, ignorance, and belligerence as well as deliberate misinformation. I have a job, but it’s hard to believe that our landscape will ever look different or that my world will expand beyond my backyard.
That’s another way in which I recognize that I am fortunate. I was already living with my parents, so I’m not completely alone, and it’s a house in which all three of us have our own spaces. We have a large backyard, so our small world is still spacious. I also recognize that my extreme introversion works in my favor as well, although even introverts require some social interaction. My friend and I meet in our backyard to safely watch horror movies on our television out there. Yet another luxury.
I’ve had moments of claustrophobia, usually followed by agoraphobia that I’m not sure will subside when we’re told to go back to work in an office, so like most people, I’m uncertain what the future is going to look like. Hopefully that oft-mocked interview question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ goes the way of the dodo. Things haven’t gone so badly for me personally, but God, the amount of pain going on outside of my world… I feel, I mourn, I cry, I fear. Even if my surface is calm, the kids are not all right.
As with most creatives, I’ve had some issues with productivity, although I’ve pushed myself through the anxiety-, depression-, and fear-induced slumps, because I’ve had years to learn this kind of discipline, to write without motivation, going all the way back to 2012. I had a few unmentioned writing projects, and in addition, I strove to achieve the goals set out during last year’s recap.
It was my hope to publish DEEP DOWN, DRIFT, and BLUEBIRDS (T3). I managed to accomplish two out of three. BLUEBIRDS (T3) publication has been pushed out to next month, because I haven’t even gotten to the professional and beta edits. It’s disappointing, but I had a few things interrupt my big writing block from September to now, so that pushed me into this month. I’m still prolific, just not as fast as my internal book clock wants me to be. I’m not even kidding about that. After about a month of my writing pace, I’m ready to be done, which doesn’t really work for the longer novels. DEEP DOWN and DRIFT were so satisfying because I completed both in roughly three weeks each, but that was 2019, so alas.
Too bad I didn’t have a short book on the docket in 2020. From mid-September to mid-January (which I’m counting as part of 2020, because it makes things less complicated for my goals), I wrote CROOKED HOUSE (T5), finished it halfway through NaNoWriMo, started UNDEAD ANONYMOUS, and finished that last Sunday.
CROOKED HOUSE (T5) (fairy tale remix): 158,634 words UNDEAD ANONYMOUS (horror standalone): 151,749 words Total: 310,383 words
For the Thorns series, CROOKED HOUSE is actually short, to contrast with PUPPETEER in 2019, which was obscenely long at over 220K words. But hey, I’m a big believer in stories being as long as they need to be, and refuse to break up a novel into two parts for length rather than story reasons unless someone else requires it, and in self-publishing, I make my own rules. As long as it’s over 120K words after edits, it should be fine on a shelf.
UNDEAD ANONYMOUS’s length is a bit unfortunate, because I’d hoped that I could use it to try to break into traditional publishing. Even after extensive edits, I think it’ll be too long for a debut novel, especially in horror. However, I’ll still give it a try once I do my edits, and if it doesn’t go anywhere, I’ll just move on to the next appropriate trunk novel.
I didn’t meet my song-writing goal of an average of a song per month, but that’s all right. The few I wrote hit all the relevant points and expressed my feelings about this year of not a lot happening where I am but a hell of a lot happening elsewhere. I also didn’t meet my horror movie review goal. Like 2019, my schedule was just too tight.
I lost a significant amount of weight again, although it was harder this time, so I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to lose without making some significant sacrifices on everyday food, which is the hard part for me because it’s also the least sustainable change. But unlike last year, it finally made a dent in my wardrobe, which was FUCKING AMAZING, although my body isn’t the same as it was the last time I was this weight. In addition, all my blood test numbers were also FUCKING AMAZING, which means my doctor recommended that we try halving some of my medication, which was the primary goal, so GOAL MET.
Yes, I’m yelling, but I’ve devoted a giant chunk of my time when I’m not writing to aerobic exercising for my heart health, so seeing some objective success in my results warrants excitement on my part. I’m hoping that the halving of my prescriptions proves to be justified in my next set of blood tests and that maybe I can get rid of some of them altogether. I’m hoping to lose another chunk of weight as well, but like I said, that might be more difficult this year, and the percentage of weight loss I’ve had is already higher than average for sustainable loss, so believe it or not, that doesn’t bode well. The science of body weight is a far more complicated thing than we’d like to believe, which is why I try to be careful with weight goals. Sometimes, no matter what you want, you have to be realistic. Which bleeds into my next point.
I pushed all the way through 2020, burning myself out multiple times along the way, with the promise that I would be easier on myself in 2021. Which is where we are now.
I haven’t set up a 2021 writing schedule. Other than fulfilling last year’s goal of putting out BLUEBIRDS, I’m not planning on self-publishing anything unless I find myself craving a good round of edits instead of another writing project and the edits go better than planned and I can get something in to my editors. I haven’t blocked out my writing and editing like I did for the last two years. I’m not holding myself accountable for anything.
2021 is going to be the year when I let myself rest. That doesn’t mean I won’t work, but I’m going to allow myself more substantial breaks between work. I work because I like to do it, because I need the mental stimulation of creativity. Starting on a project and not letting up until I’m finished is just part of the process, but if I need to take a month off afterward, that’s what I’m going to do. If I want to take a few weeks off to reacquaint myself with the piano or teach myself calligraphy or return to sketching or jewelry-making, then I’ll do it. I don’t like being bored, and I love creating. But sometimes a girl also just needs to binge-watch something that’s more than a limited series during the three days she can’t exercise because she’s sloughing, and I’m super behind on my watch list.
Among the more concrete plans I do have for 2021, there’s a DRACULA retelling, because I’ve wanted to do one since I first read the illustrated and highly abridged version in fourth grade. I devoured versions of the story ever since, and inspiration finally hit for a concept I think will be tremendous fun. I also have a rewrite of YA near-future dystopia WAR HOUSE, which I wrote for NaNoWriMo back in…gosh, years ago, but that needs some serious alterations to work. I also have a list of assorted short stories and novellas (primarily horror) to choose from that I hope will be less stressful on me than my usual long-form writing. Even if they end up novel-length, they should still stay relatively short. That might give me some additional fodder for breaking into traditional publishing–or more fodder for my self-publishing backlist. I’m aiming to be a hybrid author, because after this year, I’m quite comfortable with self-publishing, but it’s expensive as hell, and my accountant keeps giving me side-eye.
For all five of you following the Thorns series, PUPPETEER (T4) and CROOKED HOUSE (T5) are written, but I’ll probably only give them one intensive edit each this year instead of my preparatory double edit, and I won’t publish PUPPETEER until next year. I also intend to take a break from writing the Thorns series by postponing OTHERWORLD (T6) until next year as well so I can get some more standalones under my belt. To be honest, I have pieces of that story in my head but no real plot. That isn’t unusual. I’m hoping to have a eureka moment at some point.
I’ll admit, I didn’t have much hope for this year, and everything that’s happened since has done nothing to change that hopelessness. I fear everything is going to blow up. I fear my brain is a fragile thing that’s going to shatter at any moment, and that I’ve teetered on the edge a few times and almost want myself to break to give myself permission to just fucking SLEEP for a month.
Writing is one of the few things I can control and one of the few things I’m actually good at, so I cling to what I can. I make the worlds in which I can escape. That’s no mean feat.
Also, I mentioned that I’m always behind on things. I finally jumped on a few social media trains–which are already square, but I’m enjoying them anyway. You can find me now on Instagram, and third time’s the charm on Twitter, where I finally feel I’m connecting with a community.
On a personal level, not much happened to me in 2019. I gained a lot more responsibility at my job with changes at the company. And the biggest life event was the death of our sixteen-year-old cat, Sasha, whom I loved very much and continue to miss. Her death wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
We are now a catless household, and our lives are poorer for it, but we have an unpredictable dog, so I’m not sure whether cats are in the foreseeable future. You’d think that would be enough for me to move into an apartment, but I’m prohibitively resistant to change.
Sharing what you’ve accomplished during the year is less fun when you haven’t met a lot of the goals that you set for yourself. It’s okay that I didn’t, because writing takes up most of my time, and what isn’t taken up by that, I added regular cardio workouts, which take good chunks out of most of my week. Any hope I had to do much more creatively than writing died with my attempts to improve my blood test numbers. And I did. Some with the help of medication, but my triglycerides went way down on the last blood test, which was all me. So go me on that. So I need to adjust my expectations, as long as I continue to prioritize writing and my health. Good priorities to have, generally.
I did lose a significant amount of weight from the addition of exercise, but despite that, it didn’t make a significant change in my wardrobe, which kind of sucks, so it’s a good thing I’m doing it for my heart health and not my reflection – although it would be nice if my reflection could improve. I’m hoping that if I can’t improve my reflection in the coming year, at least I can lessen or eliminate one of my prescription medications.
I was supposed to reboot my jewelry-making, but that’s simply not going to happen until 2021 at the earliest, because this year’s writing schedule is really tight. And unfortunately, horror movie reviewing didn’t go very far at all, because last year’s writing schedule was so tight. I’m going to try again to do a dozen reviews in 2020. I’ve written several in my head. Just haven’t had a good moment to sit down and get them out.
I wrote ten original song lyrics, which is two short of my goal, but I also wrote three for one of my novels, so that balances it out and then some.
“House of Windows”
“How to Love”
“The Smiling Man”
“What Are You Wearing to the End of the World?”
“The Long Walk”
“Storm the Castle”
As far as my writing goes, I’m behind on my schedule by about a half a month to a month, and I didn’t get to rewrite WAR HOUSE, but I did finish three novels of quite varying lengths.
DEEP DOWN (pure horror): 60,480 words in about a month
DRIFT (modern gothic folk tale): 88,918 words in a little over a month
PUPPETEER (fairy tale remix, Thorns Series 4): a staggering 222,215 words in a little more than two and a half months (I started mid-September, but there was a two-week break in October when I had to proofread and prepare ROSE RED). I wrote 102,119 words in November for NaNoWriMo. It’s my longest first draft ever, and I’m going to have to cut at least 50K of it over the course of the next five rounds of edits, but I finished it before Christmas, so at least I got it done.
All of that for a total of 371,613 words this year. Technically, about 10K of DEEP DOWN was written in 2018, but I didn’t count it last year, and those handwritten words were transcribed this year, so let’s just go with it.
In addition, I went through all the motions to publish the second book in the Thorns series, ROSE RED. I’m not sure whether anyone but a handful of people I know actually read my books, which brings up the question of whether the sheer time and expense of publishing is worth it. But since I can’t stop writing, I might as well continue the vanity publishing and support the indie publishing industry while I’m at it, especially since I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to justify it.
Definitely going to be supporting the industry this coming year, since I hope to self-publish DEEP DOWN, DRIFT, and BLUEBIRDS (Thorns 3), which is…ambitious with the intensive process I’ve given myself. I finished the last personal edit for DEEP DOWN last night, so, pending my beta reader’s suggestions, it’s ready to send to my editors. I was also really pleased with the first draft of DRIFT, so I don’t anticipate tremendous changes during the double-edit.
Unfortunately, my last read of BLUEBIRDS felt…off. I think it’s a pacing and conviction issue. So I’ll need to give it another intensive edit before attempting the last double-edit and sending it to my editors. I’m also really not sure about PUPPETEER. It’s one of those things where it’s either quite good or quite terrible, and I just can’t tell. I’d send it to my alpha reader (she reads my stuff before I edit to make sure I edit in the right direction), but I don’t want to hand her such a bloated manuscript.
In addition to all the edits needed to publish – and the time required to accomplish them, especially for BLUEBIRDS – I’ve scheduled the re-write of WAR HOUSE, a few short stories, and two additional novels, including CROOKED HOUSE (Thorns 5). I’m guessing that if I don’t have the time, the short stories and WAR HOUSE might be pushed into 2021. My priorities are the publications, CROOKED HOUSE (T5), and the zombie novel I have planned for next NaNoWriMo. 2020 is going to be plenty busy, but it’s worth noting that 2021 isn’t going to be nearly as full, so I can afford to push WAR HOUSE off another year if I have to.
So that’s it – 2019 in the rearview, 2020 through the windshield. Here’s hoping that this year can be just as personally productive, even if I don’t accomplish much else.
One of my personal little joys is moving music I love into playlists for the books I’m working on. It helps me focus my themes and feel all the feels that music can make a person feel more effortlessly than words on their own. My experience of books, mine and other people’s, is very cinematic, and soundtracks help supplement that experience for me, and I love sharing that playlist with anyone else, if they want to feel the feels with me.
There’s more metal in this than the pop/singer-songwriter vibe of the THORNS playlist (although we still have some of that), because things get darker and much more dramatic, hence the white-gothic aesthetic of the cover, which is my jam.
The rules: No more than two songs by each artist, and no song specially written or covered for a movie.
I don’t think I’ll ever like a blurb as much as I like the one for Thorns. I initially didn’t like the one I’d put together for Rose Red, but after some back-and-forth with my alpha reader, I sat on it for a while, then turned it into something that works.
Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as the first few versions of Nocturne‘s blurb. I fixed that one seriously last minute. Rose Red‘s is last minute, too, but at least most of it was already in place. Just had to rework the first main paragraph.
Hair as black as night, skin as white as bone, lips as red as blood…
Just because the princess wakes up doesn’t mean she’s saved.
After Sylvaine and the Sleeping Kingdom awaken from their enchantments, the Hunter Brotherhood struggles to help the cursed population adjust to life in the modern world.
But when Sylvaine turns up in New York City with no explanation, then goes missing, the search leads Olivia, Griffin, and companions old and new deeper into even darker stories, grim tales with more endings that haven’t gone as planned.
From giant rats to stolen hearts, it turns out saving princesses isn’t as simple as a kiss.
I know it’s been a while since I last updated. I had computer troubles and needed to send it out for repairs. It took a lot longer than I thought it was going to, because I just told myself I’d wait until I got it back before doing any blogging. Joke’s on me, I guess.
So we can start with the soft reveal of ROSE RED. I think it’ll be a bit late coming out–mid to late November instead of end of October. I’m just starting on the proofreading, and then it’s got to be formatted and I need to get a proof sent to me before I publish.
Until then, whet your appetite on the gorgeous, white-gothic cover of ROSE RED, the second book in the Thorns series, a custom by Covers by Combs. The fairy/folk tale inspirations for this one are Beauty and the Beast (of course), Snow White (but oddly enough, not Snow White and Rose Red, which is a Bearskin tale–just borrowed the name), and the Nutcracker.
One of the things that I need when writing is the perfect background music. I actually end up using a cultivated playlist more during edits and to psych myself up for those edits between projects. I’m an all-five-senses kind of girl. Music inspires feelings and memories; I associate feelings and character thoughts and scenes with different songs, be it from lyrics, the singers, or whole package songs.
I shared my NOCTURNE playlist two Halloweens ago. I definitely have a gothic and metal side to my music collection, but THORNS lends itself more to pop sounds, so I hope it’s a bit of an eclectic collection. If you want to know what kind of sounds introduce the Thorns series to the world and make me experience all the THORNS feels, check out the playlist below.
The rules: No more than two songs by each artist, and no song specially written or covered for a movie. My personal playlist has these things, of course, but that’s for my own edification.
Looking back on 2018, I managed to reach several, if not all creative goals. I didn’t get to write my short horror novels. I made that resolution when work had a lot more downtime, but around May, that downtime disappeared, so they didn’t happen. I also didn’t manage to reboot my jewelry-making. When I had breaks at home, I generally wanted to rest rather than work.
But I did write an average of one horror review a month. Got the last one in just under the wire:
1. “The Lazarus Effect”
2. “Would You Rather”
5. “The Awakening”
7. “Starry Eyes”
8. “As Above, So Below”
9. “Slender Man”
10. “The ReZort”
11. “Silent Hill”
12. “The Wolfman”
And I did write an average of one song a month. Almost an average of two:
2. “Anything but a Diamond”
3. “Standing Water”
5. “The Valley of the Shadow”
6. “City on the Hill”
7. “Plenty of Fish”
8. “Devil in the Details”
10. “Without You”
12. “My Captain”
13. “Sleepwalker (Anthony’s Song)”
14. “Music Box”
15. “Rest of Your Life”
17. “The Rose Less Traveled”
19. “What Happened”
20. “For the Last Time”
23. “Would You Rather”
Most importantly, I managed to publish THORNS, the first book in the series of the same name. I’d done edits in previous years and made a number of changes then, but this required an intensive double edit (with the help of my beta readers), then doing the two indie pro edits in tandem, then proofreading. It basically took all year, piece by piece. But I’m really happy with the end product, and I hope you are as well.
I plan for the same marathon in 2019 with ROSE RED, the second book in the Thorns series, to be published around the same time. Hopefully in October, because doing anything other than NaNoWriMo in November is hellish. I’ll also do a single pass through BLUEBIRDS, the third book, though it’ll go through the more intensive phase of preparation in 2020.
I don’t really do resolutions. I have goals, and most of them are ambitious but doable, and I don’t hate myself for not accomplishing them. I focus on the creative, because that’s the meaning of life to me. My writing schedule for 2019 is all set up, and while I foresee some changes, it would be awesome if I could keep to it. 2020 will have a lot more room for writing new things, but I want to get a good set done this year, too.
In addition to ROSE RED, I’m putting those two short novels back on the docket, and I hope to do a rewrite of WAR HOUSE, because it’s also a fairly short (for me) novel, but odds are that these will be the first to be sacrificed if time becomes an issue.
What’s not optional is the fourth Thorns book, PUPPETEER. I haven’t written a new Thorns novel since 2015, and I really want to get the next three tackled. But considering their lengths, that can sometimes be like climbing Everest. I enjoy it, but it’s a lot of time required. I predict three months, but it may end up being three and a half or four. Yikes.
I really would like to reboot my jewelry making. I have pendant components ready to be put together, but I just need to commit to the time to create and take pictures (because I have an actual camera, not a smartphone, it’s a longer process.
This year I’m not going to be as focused on writing songs, but I’d still like to write an average of one a month. I may or may not try to write the music to one.
I’m also continuing my goal of an average of one full horror review a month. It’s a good amount to commit to.
I’d also like to engage in one new creative thing. I keep going from calligraphy to sketching to painting. I’ve done all at one time, calligraphy least of all, but they all intimidate me.
On the non-creative side of life, a few things changed in 2018. I took on more responsibility at work, which filled up that time I used to have too much of. Of course, the business itself had major changes as well that challenged my writing schedule mightily, but I don’t like talking about dayjob work.
Our house underwent drastic renovation, and I basically got rid of my old bedroom and replaced it with furniture fully of my choosing and funding. It was the first time I really got to do that. My old furniture was perfectly respectable and not young-looking or anything (antiques and a sweet daybed), but it was the same furniture I’d had all my life, and it wasn’t stuff I chose. I’m really happy with the furniture I chose, built around a completely awesome drawer unit. And I and the cat love my new bed (I think she’s convinced it’s the best cat bed in the world). I’m still in the process of making my room my own, and for all the clutter I cleared out, there’s more left to get rid of.
I also started improving my diet, although I still have an unhealthy attachment to bottled Frappuccinos and tortillas. I’ve lost some weight and hope to lose some more, but I don’t expect too much.
The real accomplishments are in the realm of my writing. That’s the life I chose, and I’m mostly happy with that. It’s my favorite thing to do, spending time with all these amazing people and having adventures with them. Looking forward to doing so much more of that in 2019, even if the rest of the world seems to be falling apart. This much I can do.