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wellness, writing

Author emotions around publishing

So both times I have published a book I’ve had some Pretty Big Feels over it . I’m a big believer in emotional honesty – every time I’ve shared things which make me sound weak, or an ass or are embarrassing I get really good feedback. The more people understand that they’re not alone with feeling weak, like an ass or embarrassed or anxious the better, I think.

So.

Mostly at the point my book goes live, or the night before, I get a wave of anxiety.

Where are these feelings coming from?

A lot of places.

  • I start feeling like I’m not good enough – that despite positive feedback from multiple beta readers and my editor – what if this book sucks and I actually can’t write?
  • What if despite my writing being okay, no one buys it ever? (This is regardless of any preorders )
  • What if people do buy it, and all rate it very low because I have inadvertantly written something super offensive/racist/terrible?
  • I’ve forgotten some vital step of the publishing process, what is it?

Some of this stems from a doubt that I should have good things, or that I should get what I want. I have a lot of trouble believing I should be ‘allowed’ to have what I want, due to various things in my past.

Any big anxiety is bound to bring up other emotions as well. I might start feeling lonely because I haven’t seen X friend for a while, or that people don’t like me and are actively avoiding me. I might start thinking about shitty times in my past and revisit all those old hurts and emotions because y’know, why not?

This all manifests in stress, tension in my body, snappishness, feeling physically ill, heart racing, feeling miserable and a horrible temptation to pull the plug on the project before anyone can read it. (Again, this is regardless of however many beta-readers and ARC-readers I have already given it to).

So what do I do about it?

First, realising what’s going on helps. I don’t always connect the feeling with the cause right away, but if I sit and think about the emotions usually I can get there. Or I talk it through with my wife and she helps me find the connection.

Then it’s self care time. I make sure I’ve had something to drink (milo is good and comforting), something to eat, that my body is warm. Then I take a step back from the laptop and the process. Most likely I have done all the things I absolutely have to do and I’m just fussing. I can put the whole thing down and go off line.

Ideally I’d have a long hot bath, but I’m not currently living in a house with a bath so long hot shower is an okay substitute.

Early to bed. Or, if it’s really too early for bed, go get comfortable on top of bed with something to read. Catch up on comics, or whatever novel I’m reading at the time. Take my head somewhere else.

Going for a walk in the park usually makes me feel better but if I really need to get out of my head, I’ll do it with an audiobook or a walking meditation on headphones. Otherwise my brain might just keep on spiralling.

Reassurance is important as well. It’s hard to ask for – I don’t want to feel like a whiny needy annoyance – but looking back over past reviews or nice comments people have made can help. I even have a couple of pages in my bullet journal for nice things people have said that I want to remember.

My hope is that the more I do this self-publishing lark the easier it will get both in the actual process and emotionally.

Time will tell, but in the mean time, I remind myself that this is a great achievement. Part of me really tries not to believe this, because my Impostor Syndrome will fade if I believe it. I have to reassure myself and remind myself that I have come far.

My child self would be immensely proud to see the paperbacks of my books and hey, even if no one buys it, I got over that impostor syndrome wall and did it all the same.

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Rival Princes is Live!

Holy crap! I published another book! The eBook and paperback on Amazon

My first ever romance is live, and the second one’s on pre-order for the end of July, and the fourth is scheduled for the end of August… phew.

I make ads now!

There are three golden rules for new recruits at Fairyland Theme Park:

1. No breaking character, even if you’re dying of heat exhaustion
2. Always give guests the most magical time
3. No falling in love.

Nate’s only been at work one day, and he’s already broken all three. 

Fast-tracked into a Prince role, Nate’s at odds with Dash, the handsome not-so-charming prince who is supposed to be training him. Nate doesn’t know how he ended up on Dash’s bad side, but the broody prince sure is hot when he gets mad.

Dash has worked long and hard to play Prince Justice at Fairyland. Now, instead of focusing on his own performance, he is forced to train newbie Nate to be the perfect prince. Nate’s annoying ease with the guests coupled with his charm and good looks could dethrone Dash from his number one spot … so why does he secretly want to kiss him? 

Fairyland heats up as sparks fly between the two rival princes. Will they get their fairytale romance before they’re kicked out of Fairyland for good? 

Find out in this standalone MM contemporary romance by Jaxon Knight, set in an amusement park where fairytales can come true.

— 

Buy it now!

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Guest writers series: an interview with Heather MacLee

It’s not Summer any more in my hemisphere, but I understand it is in other one? At any rate, I’ve enjoyed hosting authors here enough that I’m just going to keep doing it. I hope you like being introduced to new writers and their works 🙂 Please welcome Heather…

The name’s Heather MacLee, I was born and raised in Glasgow, and I’ve been living in Cyprus for almost a year now! I write LGTBQIA* sexy romance, and my debut novella Too Good To Be True? just came out.

If you had to describe yourself in terms of a soft drink, which would you be and why?

Soda water and lime, because I’m bubbly with a wee bit of a tang.

Harry Potter world: what house are you? And what animal would be your patronus?

Ravenclaw! And an otter.

Are you a Think Everything Through Before Acting person or a Great Idea Let’s Try It! Person?

The moving to Cyprus was definitely the latter! It very much depends on the situation, but I do tend towards ‘Fuck it, let’s do this!’

What got you into writing?

I must have been about seven or eight years old when my parents were called in by my teacher because I kept interrupting story time by suggesting alternative scenarios. They got me a notebook and made me promise to write down any thoughts that came up instead of suggesting them out loud. I guess the rest is history?

Why do you write now?

It’s a compulsion. I tried to not write for a long time because my ‘wild imagination’ wasn’t appreciated by my secondary school teachers, but it drained me. At university, I finally caved and took a creative writing course. I’ve been writing again ever since. It keeps me sane.

What’s the earliest story you can remember reading and loving?

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

Our local library was in the same street as my parental home, so there have been more books than I can possibly remember. It has to be Harry Potter, though. None of the books grabbed me like that series did.

What are you reading right now?

I’m about to start reading The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. Her I’ll Give You the Sun is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf that you think might surprise people?

The Glasgow Coma Scale by Neil D. A. Stewart. It’s not a genre I usually read, but I read it just after moving to Cyprus, when I felt homesick.

What book would you like everyone to read?

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

Are you a stop reading at the end of the chapter, mid chapter, or just whenever reader?

If the book is good enough, I’ll stop when I collapse. That could be anywhere in the book.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

Books not so much, but the idea for the world I’m building right now comes from The L-Word. In my world, it’s a local bookshop that connects all the characters, whose love lives are central in the different trilogies I’m planning to write, instead of a bar, but that whole ‘everyone is connected’ thing, I definitely got that from the TV series.

How do you organise your personal library?

I gave most of my books away when I moved (I know!) and I’m still organising my living space, so ‘pure chaos’ would be the best description of my current system. I usually go by genre though 😉

Writing: What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

Anywhere on this island works for me, although I love living close to the beach (I can see the sea from my window). Nature always works for me, and coffee shops, where I can shamelessly people watch.

Is there anything you’ve seen passed around as writing advice that you really disagree with?

Too Good to be True cover

Write what you know. Ha, no, it’s called ‘imagination’ for a reason. Sure, I believe stories do reflect the author at least a little bit, but most authors have too boring a life to just write what they know. We spend vast amounts of our time behind our computers!

Do you believe in a divine muse, and if so, what’s yours like?

Of course, I do! Mine is a playful imp who makes sure I don’t take myself too seriously when writing.

What does your physical writing space look like?

One of the first things I did when I found my current abode was organise a writing space on my balcony. It’s partially covered, so no direct sunlight hits me or my screen when I stay in that corner, and there tends to be a lovely breeze.

Open up your skeleton closet: can you tell me about an abandoned project of yours which seemed awesome when you started but you’ll likely never return to?

When I first visited Cyprus, I started a YA novel that had a complicated triangle relationship in it involving a pair of twins, a boy and a girl. I wanted to write something that wouldn’t condemn the bisexual main character, who falls in love with both siblings, but at one point the characters wanted to head in a different direction and I became afraid to perpetuate harmful clichés. I was on the soapbox Stephen King warns against, and the only way down was to give up on the project.

Any advice for anyone looking to start writing?

Just do it, but don’t tell anyone you don’t fully trust. It’s a vulnerable process, the becoming-writer one.

Favourites: Ideal holiday, price and time no concern, where would you go?

Anywhere that has unapologetic nature.  

If you could plan perfect meals for a day, what would each be, and would you snack?

I would have apple pie porridge in the morning, a lunch with freshly made hummus, grilled veggies, and Greek pitta, and cauliflower sabzi for dinner. I would snack fruit and healthy veggies throughout the day. Needless to say, this isn’t even close to what my daily diet is like…

Imagine you won one of those ‘grab a cart and spend five mins in a store’ competitions. Which store would you want to win it for, and what goods would you be shoving in the cart first?

A stationery shop, obviously, and I’d be stuffing my cart with notebooks, fountain pens, different ink colours. If I have time left, I’d go for the funny bookmarks and whatever pens and pencils I can get my hands on. You can never have enough writing material.

Imagine you’ve had your best ever year, what photos would you have from that year?

While they do registered partnerships here in Cyprus for same-sex couples, getting married is still a no-go, so my best year would include not just pictures of my own beach wedding, but also those of our friends’ weddings.

Favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?

From Eden by Hozier

What’s your favourite quote?

‘For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.’ F. Scott Fitzgerald
__

Heather MacLee was born and raised in Glasgow, although she has strong ties to the Highlands. After falling in love with the gorgeous island of Cyprus years ago, she finally took the plunge and moved there in the summer of 2018.

Heather writes LGBTQIA* sexy romance and her debut novella, Too Good to Be True?, is out now. Set in Cyprus, it’s the first novella in her Wild Violet series, a world Heather created around the fictional book shop Wild Violet, or Άγρια Βιολέτα in Greek.

Find Heather online:

Website

Facebook

E-mail

Newsletter sign-up

Get a copy of Too Good to Be True? here

fiction, writing

Writing process? Part one

Advice about writing? What is my process? Well, first it’s just write. Write as much as I can, when I can and make time for it.

The longer answer is a bit more complicated. Let’s see if I can answer over a couple of posts.

Part one: Planning plants?

I used to write pure ‘by the seat of my pants’ aka Pantser, and just let the story tell itself through me. It was all very Romantic Poets – the wind through the lute and me just the instrument to the divine muse.

I got several novels written that way, but when I gave them to publishers or various others to look over, there were big problems with them.

e.g. The plot ambled around. The B plot started half way through the book instead of near the start as a concurrent stream. The characters made choices which were bizarre.

Some of those manuscripts are salvagable with some hard work, but looking at myself and realising I wanted to write fast, get something out there and hopefully make a little money, I knew I there had to be a better way.

So, in August and September last year I changed it up.

I read this article about increasing daily word count to 10,000 words.

Now, I’m generally enthusiastic about my work, and I can sort of find time most of the time, but planning was where I fell down. Like the Romantic poets I mentioned above, I didn’t believe in it. I thought I was above it.

Well, that’s just pretentious nonsense, isn’t it? You can’t sit around and hope a divine muse will pop into your house and dictate a book to you. You have to do the mahi and make it happen. And that meant planning.

There’s a lot of great books out there on planning* and I’m sorry but I haven’t read a single one. I had a fire under my butt and I wanted to get started immediately. So I went to planning articles and beat sheets.

Beat sheets are wonderful. Beat sheets break down the story beats into acts and important turning points, and there’s all these wonderful genre specific ones out there, too!

I’m a big fan of Jami Gold’s worksheets. She has put a ton of work into breaking down different genre and explaining each beat in a succint way.

So, I grab the beat sheet for the kind of book I’m writing and then brainstorm some things about the story.

Who are the characters? (I’ll do a post on my character notes, because I find them hilarious). Name the characters, what are their relationships and what are they most afraid of? Then I start mapping out the novel scene by scene using the beat sheet.

I don’t map the scene out exhaustively, I suppose I’m a little afraid of feeling like it’s done already, and losing the impetus to write it. So I give myself generic description. Something like:

Intro character A = house routine with daughter M – visit Important place – meet character B there. Show A’s need for love, and a way out of his lonely routine

Or

Character A is in the backyard , is startled by figure – heavy on atmosphere and description, then startle awake.

You can see I don’t give myself too much to go on, just enough to get the scene in my head so I can write it fully. Also reminding myself to write atmosphere is important or I’ll rely on dialogue too much. This makes me a planster – a planner who also writes by the seat of my pants.

I’d love to show you a picture example of one of my plot plans but it’s all spoilers for unpublished books… maybe someday.

I write this all longhand and leave lines in between each scene for extra notes. Characters can surprise you, they can move the story forward or change their minds when you didn’t expect it.

I’ve also found that as I write I might see a need for another scene to expand on something, so I give myself room for that as well.

Then, plan done, I just start writing those scenes. It really does save time, and it lets me see the shape of the story in advance. It ensures my B plot is present and interconnecting with the A plot, and it means when I’m focused I can just tear through words.

I don’t believe in divine wind from Heaven any more. I believe in working hard as often as I can, instead and tools like a beat sheet have really helped me with that.

*Romancing the Beat and Save the Cat! seem to be the two most recommended, and I have every intention of reading them… some day…

fiction, writing

Romance, self publishing and pen names

I’m doing something exciting – I’m publishing another book. But I’m doing it under a pen name.

Why am I putting it out under a pen name? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of research online on marketing and self publishing. The accepted knowledge is that you need a different pen name for each genre you publish, a lot of self publishing gurus preach this. This way my Young Adult readers won’t get confused expecting another YA supernatural action thriller, and my romance readers won’t pick up Suburban Book of the Dead expecting it to be a romance.

It’s also security of sorts – if people hate this book and it gets horrible reviews, then it won’t affect my “real” name.

This pen name (Jaxon Knight) will be publishing sweet, queer romances, starting with my themepark romances.

Sweet means no cheating, no dark stuff, no sex scenes and not that much swearing – there’s drama, but it’s not life and death drama. For fanfic readers, the term ‘fluff’ is a good analogue. It’s cute and heart warming. Romances require either a Happy Ever After or a Happily For Now. You have to have the main couple kiss and commit to each other at the end of the book.

Here’s the blurb:

There are three golden rules for new recruits at Fairyland Theme Park:

1. No breaking character, even if you’re dying of heat exhaustion

2. Always give guests the most magical time

3. No falling in love.

Nate’s only been working a day, and he’s already broken all three.

Fast-tracked into a Prince role, Nate’s at odds with Dash, the handsome not-so-charming prince who is supposed to be training him. Nate doesn’t know how he ended up on Dash’s bad side, but the broody prince sure is hot when he gets mad.

Dash has worked long and hard to play Prince Justice at Fairyland. Now, instead of focusing on his own performance, he is forced to train newbie Nate to be the perfect prince. Nate’s annoying ease with the guests coupled with his charm and good looks could dethrone Dash from his number one spot … so why does he secretly want to kiss him?  

Fairyland heats up as sparks fly between the two rival princes. Will they get their fairytale romance before they’re kicked out of Fairyland for good?

Find out in this standalone MM contemporary romance by Jaxon Knight, set in an amusement park where fairytales can come true.

Pre-order now to get it as soon as it’s released! (Paperback coming soon)

If you want to follow Jaxon Knight’s exploits, please check out the Goodreads profile I’ve built for the pen name.

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Patreon free sample

I’m currently publishing a gossip and news magazine set in an alternate universe. I don’t currently have a full time, regular job so I’m advertising for new patrons.

If you join up, you can choose how much to pay each month and the different tiers get you different rewards. If you sign up for $5 a month you get two stories or articles a month, background information and photos of my cat.

Before you sign up, here’s my free sample article so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Near Death Experience Thwarted by Family Vampire

A young local woman diced with death recently when a home invader surprised her one night. Alice, 23, was alone in her West Goldmarsh house, enjoying a cosy night of Netflix and bread rolls shaped like hedgehogs when the invasion happened. 

Alice had planned a peaceful night in. The young school teacher, known to her community as a warm, happy woman, is often to be found at home on weeknights. Police speculate this knowledge was useful to the intruder.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Alice said. “One moment I was chilling with my breadhogs and then next there was this woman there with a knife to my throat. I froze up, this was just like the case my true crime podcast covered the other week, but in that one, the invader had killed the victim. I didn’t want to be a victim!” 

For a tense moment it did look like she’d be the victim. “The intruder was behind me, so it was hard to see who or what it was, but I definitely got the feeling it was an older, white woman,” she said. “You know, the kind of person who would ask for the manager over something like a missing packet of free ketchup.” 

It was then that her terrifying ordeal became something out of a movie. “There was a noise upstairs, and I thought that was strange because I typically live alone, but then Count Vanya came down the stairs and I thought, I’ve never been happier to see my uncle, never been happier that he’s staying with me. He swooped right across the room and bit the intruder in the neck. He also took her outside and I don’t know what he did then, but there was no body,” Alice said.

Count Vanya, Alice’s Uncle, lives with the frightening but ultimately misunderstood condition of vampirism. Vampirism affects roughly one in twenty and manifests as a horrifying transfiguration of the body into one of the undead. It’s also accompanied by a curse which makes the diseased individual crave the living blood and flesh of unaffected people. Some say one of the symptoms of the disease is to make the infected stronger and more resilient, but these claims are not proven by scientific research. Vampirism infected individuals tend to avoid densely populated areas, since the “Vampire hunts” of the late sixties and the following “Undead rights movement” failed to gain much traction. 

Alice’s Uncle Vanya, she reports, lives abroad much of the year, and only attends family gatherings such as births, deaths and marriages. “It was just dumb luck he was there,” Alice said. “He must’ve known my sister was about to give birth. After the incident, we had a really nice baby shower and he gave the new baby a teddy bear. It’s a really high quality one as well, not one of those cheap Kmart stuffed toys.” 

Alice’s sister, Annabeth, was quick to shut down any speculation that it was unsafe to have a vampire near her newborn child. “You should have seen him with the baby, it was very sweet. He was so gentle. He was doing this thing where he waved the teddy bear at the baby and made a little growly noise. The baby loved it, just giggled and gurgled the whole time. Couldn’t take their eyes off him.” 

Although little is known about who the intruder was, or the purpose for the invasion, Alice doesn’t feel afraid in her neighbourhood. “Uncle Vanya has agreed to stay with me for a while,” she says. Smiling, she continues. “It was a terrifying ordeal, but ultimately, it brought my family closer together.” 

Alice is bravely returning to watching Netflix tonight, after taking what she calls “a couple of days off”. 

Uncle Vanya was unavailable for comment. 

Check page 43 for Alice’s hedgehog shaped bread roll recipe! You’ll literally die from cuteness. 

  • Peachy Buncheeks reporting 

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The All About YA Podcast

I’m lucky enough to have been invited to sponsor the All About YA Podcast episode two. In this podcast the brilliant authors Mariëlle and Ashley, talk about writing for the Young Adult market and reading YA books too.

They’re just starting out, but they really know their stuff. This episode is largely about the definition of Young Adult fic – is it a genre? is it a category? what are the common threads?

I really enjoyed the listen and I recommend you give them a listen 🙂

Watch on youtube

Check them out on facebook