Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Curse - Cover Reveal and First Teaser for Book Four!

Well friends and lovely readers, though my editing is still slogging along at an agonizing pace, I have finally bitten the bullet and decided to share a bit more about the fourth book in The Crow Series with you. Personally, I'm hoping by being public with it, it'll help motivate me to get the damn thing finished. It's a good book, and an important one for the series, but for some reason my brain just doesn't want to get involved. I think it's "getting towards the end" syndrome, seeing the final book on the horizon and desperately avoiding the culmination and ending of something I have grown to love and enjoy over the past few years.

My mind keeps drifting off to other stories I have in the works, books I'll be focusing on once The Crow Series is finished. I'm excited to get back to work on Firechild, which I've returned to writing lately - as well as editing Songbird of Souls, which is probably the next book I will release after Curse and before the fifth Crow book, Redeem (Yes, I did just tell you the title of the final book. Can't recall if I've mentioned it before and I'm too tired to go read through previous posts to see if this is new knowledge or not.)

I haven't officially set the release date yet for Curse, mostly because I don't want to set a date I might not be able to keep, but right now I'm shooting for the last week in August, provided I can get my ass moving and get the editing wrapped up satisfactorily by then.

I've actually had the front cover done for over a month now. I'm still making little tweaks here and there, but for the most part this is it:

Usually, this is where I'd post the blurb but I'm not quite happy with the current one I'm using, so I've decided instead to give you a sneak peek at Chapter One. (Please remember, this is not the final version and is subject to change during the final round of edits.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

PART III? aka The New Everyn never shuts up.

Okay, so this isn't actually a Part III to my ranting posts from last week; more like a follow up on the changes I've been working on and some of my ideas for the future.

First, let me say that the shift in my perception and handling of this whole creating / writing / art thing has left me feeling relieved in a way that I've needed badly. I've been able to put things back into perspective and look at them from a distance instead of the red-eyed stressful haze of hurry, hurry panic I've been in ever since I started taking my writing career into my own hands. To be taken seriously as a professional I needed to be serious. I constantly felt like I was behind and needed to catch up in order to succeed. Needed to write more, better, faster. I'd get all worked up, produce a lot of inspired work very quickly, and then burn out to a frazzled mess unable to even look at my work without feeling like my brain was going to melt into a puddle at my feet.

Right now I'm at ease.
I found that once I slowed down, stepped back and stopped worrying, the authentic ideas started pouring out so fast I could hardly keep up. I'm calling them "authentic" ideas because I can't think of anything better to call them at the moment. Authentic to me as a person, not necessarily authentic in the grand scheme of things. I'm sure someone has done something similar at some point in history.

I wasn't inspired by them. These stories and projects genuinely reflect the way I approach and think about things. They're not plans for how to make more money. Not how to publish faster to keep up with other prolific writers who have found their success. Not how to reach more readers via advertising schemes, giveaways and other marketing blah blah. Yes, I'll still try things out from time to time. You can't create in a vacuum and you certainly can't run a business in one. But I'm not going to get wrapped up in it and I'm going to try to keep my focus on the creative work, because that's what really drives me and keeps me going.

For example:
I've started completely re-writing my About the Author section on this blog in a way some people might find a little unorthodox. It's not quite finished or cleaned up the way I like it, so it will probably change a bit when it's finally posted. Since I managed to pick up an extra day at my job this week I probably won't post the full Introducing Everyn Interview until later when I have time. Until then, here's a sneak peek at what I've been up to...


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summertime, and the livin's easy... PART II

Warning: This post ended up going off on several tangents, having multiple conclusions and became way, way too long. I've had to split it into two separate posts. If you missed PART I - click here to read the first half.


 I did not post Part II yesterday as I had intended. Staring at the screen at 10:44 last night after spending hours upon hours pouring over my words and thoughts I'd written, trying to determine if I'd said all I wanted to say, and feeling that creeping guilt growing more and more as I realized that the day was almost over and I still had not lived up to my promise and posted the other half. It was causing me stress, knowing I was pushing past my own deadline. But I just couldn't post it. Something was missing.

I closed my laptop and put Scarlet to sleep, then cleared it from my mind until the morning.
I'm so very glad that I did. I'll explain why by the end.

My procrastination yesterday was two-fold.
First, I kept feeling like I was being too all over the place. Too many tangents. A long path, twisting and turning and not really leading anywhere in particular. Maybe it was the route that was actually important, or maybe I just hadn't reached the destination yet and was simply getting anxious. Imagine me as the embodiment of a toddler in the backseat - screaming, whispering, whimpering, "Are we there yet?"

At the same time, I was seriously tempted to delete all traces of these two posts and pretend they'd never happened. I felt too exposed. I'd been too open, too vulnerable. I'd talked about myself too much. The internet can be a hostile and scary place, except when hardly anyone pays you any mind, in which case you worry that you're screaming into the storm and someone might spit and accidentally hit you because you happened to be loud and in the way.

I was being much louder than I usually allow myself to be and stood waiting for the inevitable spittle to strike my cheek...

When I got up this morning I still hadn't decided what to do about the second half of my post. I'd given myself an extra night to sleep on it and make up my mind.

I opened Scarlet and immediately procrastinated by opening my email instead... then Facebook. I scrolled down the social media mess, my eyes glossing over pictures and catchy comments until I randomly clicked on an article about Neil Gaiman.

I'm sure you probably already know who he is, so I won't bother explaining too much - except to say that I have always admired the brilliant creativity of his work and thought he presented himself like a pretty down to earth kind of person. I respect people like that.

So I clicked the link and read while sipping my second and third cups of coffee, then opened a video of a commencement speech Neil gave which is pretty well known.
The "Make Good Art" speech.
I may have watched it before. I'm sure I probably have, but I don't recall. It doesn't matter, because this time it actually made perfect fucking sense to me. Several things that he said reflected ideas that I had expressed only a day or two before while writing this post.
It changed my mind about hitting the delete key.

So now, before I go off on yet another tangent, let's get back to where I left off in Part I.

I'd realized that by trying to be the best parent and role model I could be for my children, I had sacrificed a large part of what made me who I am.

And I'm not just talking about the way I look, my choice in music, style and superficial stuff on the outside. It's the way these things make me feel - how content I am with myself and my surroundings, how comfortable I am in my own skin - how I express myself in all things. I'd stifled my own creativity to focus on these amazing miniature people who needed me, and had inadvertently made myself into less of a person.

It's the opposite of what I want to teach my children. I want them to embrace their differences, learn from them, make mistakes, be independent individuals and forge their own paths. I want them to make their own choices, be unabashedly themselves and not feel the need to follow the rules and go along with the crowd if it didn't feel genuine to them.

So, this marvel realization left me staring in confusion at my own nose-less face, wondering who the hell did this to me. Who had disfigured my self so thoroughly without me noticing?
I did it to myself, obviously.

After making the unnoticed shift from self to parent, eventually my children were less demanding (but of course, only slightly less). I started trying to redirect some of my attention back to writing. I'd decided some years before to try self-publishing my work. I loved the idea of having complete creative control but kept putting it off, because back then self-publishing was so taboo that people scoffed and said that it would ruin my chances of a career in the future. I was told publishing my own book would doom everything I wrote afterward with the stench of "not good enough to get properly published".

But it seemed like so much fun! I couldn't get the idea out of my head.

This was shortly before the Amazon Kindle opened up a whole new world for indie publishing, when the advice for D.I.Y. writers was mostly to start your own publishing company, invest in buying ISBNs and literally hand sell your work. I'd done the research, formed a plan and had several half finished novels taking up space on my hard-drive that I needed an excuse to finish. Then I found out I was pregnant with Momo and pushed things off again while I adjusted to this whole new unexpected world of motherhood.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before, but I'd never anticipated being a mother or a wife. It was something I'd never even thought about or planned for. It wasn't in my life goals.
So when I plunged into family-life headfirst, the people who knew me longest and best did a bit of that exorcist-style head spinning in surprise. It was a huge detour from where I thought I'd be in my life, but I don't regret it for a millisecond.
My kids are dope-sauce. I can brag about them all day long until my face turns blue.

Doing anything that requires concentration with little kids around is like trying to juggle angry flaming felines while simultaneously trying to stand on one leg, recite the national anthem, and look fabulous while doing it.
Yeah right.
I’m sure it can be done and someone on YouTube will attempt it, but it's really fucking complicated. You might be capable of some degree of coordination and grace, but eventually you’ll end up letting something slide, because dammit that cat just did a back-flip and now your perfectly coiffed mane is singed. The smell of burnt hair assaults your nose, choking your breath and causing you to completely butcher the most moving part of the anthem. Your eyes start to water, you fumble for words, your leg is sore and tired and you just dropped the other cat.
Thank goodness cats usually land on their feet. Now if only you could find a fire extinguisher...
Juggling babies, work and trying to write novels is exhausting. Something is always half-done because there just aren’t enough hours or hands or brain cells to do everything all the fucking time.
But writing is necessary for me. The longer I go without writing the more of an emotionless automaton I become - or at least that’s how I feel. So as soon as I had the chance to focus on writing again I dived in.
But the publishing climate had completely changed. I started looking into it again, re-evaluating my plan from before my daughter was born, only to discover there’d been a self-publishing boom with ebooks. I was elated!
But I didn’t know where to start. I read and researched. I asked questions, read blogs, listened to other writers and self-publishers looking for advice on how to proceed in this new publishing frontier.
I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
So I learned as much as I could and slowly stepped forward into the world of indie publishing. I kept my head down. I kept my interactions overly professional, because I was terrified someone would smell the stench of noob all over me and I would never be taken seriously. I took advice like studying a rule book on how to not suck. I’d never done that before and it made me feel guilty. I started placing boundaries on myself, forcing ideas of what I should and shouldn’t do to avoid fucking it all up. Things got too rigid and I felt trapped. I failed at everything I tried.

I wasn’t being myself. I was trying to be like the other writers who were succeeding ahead of me, because obviously they knew more than I did.

And every time I failed, I blamed my need to do things my own way. Someone once told me my blog is too dark and readers don’t stick around because they don’t like reading light print on black backgrounds. Or I’m just too boring. Either way, it’s all me.
Same with my blurbs, my covers, my social media gibberish. I was doing it right but getting it wrong. I wasn't being genuine or creative. I was not only not being myself, but I was blaming the bits of myself that inevitably peeked through for my failures. It stopped being fun.
The only fun part was the writing itself.

And I'm done feeling like that. I’m bored with it.
I've been trying to keep my personal and public life separate in a way that feels very fake and impersonal. Bits of my personality have seeped through here and there, but I've always tried to reign it in and keep it safe.

I'm tired of being bound by rules that I don't believe in. I’m tired of acting like a mannequin with no personality just so I don't scare away my audience. I'm tired of worrying about how to get more readers, how to reach people, how to turn this into a career so I can pay my bills and don't have to feel like it's always art vs. feeding my kids. None of it changes anything.
I'm still struggling. Still mysteriously unwell half the time. Still broke. Now the creative thing I love the most has become more business and less fun because I’ve been taking it (and myself) too damn seriously.
Fuck that.

Following the rules hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Where the hell did these rules come from, anyway? I'm going back towards the person I used to be - the woman who expressed herself shamelessly and in everything she did. That’s sounds incredibly pretentious but it’s true.
When I was younger, I sought out life experiences - because if you're not living life, what the fuck do you have to write about?

I'm just gonna wing it and go with what feels right from now on. Mistakes will be made. Lessons learned and not tinged by regret. Most of all, I'm done stressing out about it. My only concern is making the best art I can - writing a good story that feels complete and authentic to my intentions with it. I want to make money to continue doing what I'm doing, but I don't want to do it for the money.
I just want to write.

This blog is my personal online void in the universe... and I'm going to treat it like my house from now on. I'm going to paint the walls, etch poetry in black marker on the windows, strut around in high heeled boots with music shaking the room until we all feel like dancing.

I'm going to unleash myself on you in a way I haven't before because I’m tired of being something I’m not. It may get a little weird in here. I'll just warn you now.

To add a few more obnoxious "I" statements to this unending list I've got going on:
I’m going to go back to being me and I'm going to ignore the rest of it.
I’m going to be the kind of person I would want my kids to respect and learn from.
I think I may have finally come to the end.

Damn, that was a long ride. Took me three days to get to the destination.
Be true to yourself and you’ll have nothing to regret.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summertime, and the livin's easy... PART I

Warning: This post ended up going off on several tangents, having multiple conclusions and became way, way too long. I've had to split it into two separate posts. In light of this, the next line is going to seem incredibly ironic by the end.

I haven't posted much this month because I haven't had much to say.
Wait, that's not really true. I've had a non-stop torrent of words filling my brain and tormenting me in a ceaseless loop - but not of the kind I felt like sharing with the world.

My editing goals for June have stagnated and a foul whiff of failure has been hovering like too much cologne whenever I get near Scarlet and sit down in front of her red-lit keyboard. 

In case you haven't met before, let me introduce you to Scarlet. This pic is from back when she was new and shiny, before I filled her with dream-like scenes, surreal worlds of wonder and so many, many countless words. She's sexy and she damn well knows it.

After an intensely inspired and productive month in May, June was swift to kick me in the gut and make sure May hadn't given me any illusions of grand productivity on the horizon.

I've re-written / edited two chapters in 22 days.
I wrote two whole books in 22 days last month.

So, my writing life has hit another lull - mostly because my brain is currently obsessed with other things, ideas and emotions which have little to do with the novel at hand.

My countless doctor visits over the past few months have been one of them. MRIs, throbbing headaches that last for four to five days straight (as in, wake up with it in the morning and go to bed with it at night in cyclical fashion), blood tests and eye tests and tests that zap your limbs with low electrical current for hours to see how your muscle and nerve connections are functioning, because why the hell is your knee and the left side of your face numb unless it's something horrible and serious?

Anxiety has been a new acquaintance in my plethora of feelings lately. I've never been this jittery and feverishly distracted before. I literally CANNOT SIT STILL the day before my neurologist appointments, yet they all end the same - no diagnosis yet.
More tests, more waiting.
I have another test in a few weeks. An EMG. Needles, needles and more needles.
By the way, have I mentioned before how much I hate needles?
And if that doesn't get us an answer, they're pushing me towards a lumbar puncture.

But maybe there's a silver lining to all this bullshit. The inability to focus on my creative needs, the waiting... waiting... waiting (because I just generally suck at waiting), and the need for distraction to keep my anxiety from overwhelming me completely, has created the perfect storm of having nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs and sink into the abyss of my thoughts.

B&W photo I took waaaaay back in High School.
That's a fancy-ass way of saying I've been doing a lot of thinking. 

Soul-searching. Rebooting. Re-evaluating how I've been handling and approaching things lately. I'd say I've had an epiphany, but that's too strong. More like, finally figuring out that something is off after spending an hour staring at a face with no nose.

I don't particularly see a need to lay it all out, but considering the outcome of this realization, I probably should explain a little so I don't WHAM! unexpectedly and freak you all out. It's a personal understanding and one that I'll either embrace and things will change, or I'll forget about and it'll fall to the wayside while I'm swept away by other ideas that will fuel me for awhile.

Photo of a painting I did on a "canvas of skin".
Okay, maybe I'll dig in a little.
I'm a creatively fueled person (yeah I kinda just said that last paragraph, but bare with me) and that burning need to make something from nothing is not always realized through writing. I've done a mess of other things in my short 33 year existence. I've painted practically everything I could get my hands on: murals at school, furniture, people, but strangely never real canvas... Photography was also a big part of my youth. There are actually people in this world who don't know what my hand looks like without a camera in it. I've done sculpture, crochet, costumes, made jewelry, pottery, poetry, philosophy, hair (usually my own, but sometimes others' for fun). I've dabbled in acting on both stage and film (small stuff) but find I'm usually too introverted to really rise to it, though I still enjoyed it immensely. Music has also always been of huge importance in my life. I've played many instruments (drums are still my favorite!), sung in school chorus and written a song or two, but pretty much suck at all of it. Yet, music moves me in ways nothing else can and part of my current shift includes reestablishing my need for it in my daily life.

When I had kids, a lot of my self was left lingering while I focused on the needs of my most momentous creation - a person. Like, holy shit I made a whole, individual person! And this creation is one that never ends. Each day is a new opportunity for life experiences, knowledge gained and love to help them flourish and shape them into the people they will become. But you give so much of yourself to them that sometimes you forget there's a self there in the first place.

I think a lot of parents feel like this.
Children are remarkable - insane, beautiful, frustrating, brilliant, creative beings that bring us awe, exasperation and love all at the same time.
It's easy to get wrapped up in them and forget about you.

The description above is how I feel about my kids and is remarkably similar to the way my husband once described how he perceived me before we got married. We are all remarkable, insane, beautiful, flawed, creative beings that can bring awe and love to those in our lives. We each need to nourish ourselves to remain whole.

It's Throwback Thursday, right? An old pic from college captures my current mood.
I can't neglect myself or my creative needs.
I've abandoned things I was drawn to because they weren't child-appropriate. Music that moved me was silenced because the content was unsuitable for little ears.
Time is never my own, it's shared. So are decisions.
Clothes that make me feel good are left on the shelf, because I don't want my daughter's friends to tease her about her "weird mom" who wears combat boots and suspenders with electric blue jeans and orange hair. I don't want my choices to negatively influence my kids' life experiences.
But all that ends up teaching them is to be fake to fit in.
I just became my own worst fear.

Part II will be posted tomorrow.
I need a breath before I continue.
Thanks for reading!