Spring is pupping

So spring has kept me busy, as usual, with horses to ride and dogs to pet-sit. Plus I’ve been working on edits for HARD TRUTHS, an M/M contemporary that’s 75% sweet, cute nerds (one of whom is a tattooed biker) and 25% feelings. That’s nearly done, and I hope to be able to share more soon.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit of writer’s block. Every time I finish a project, it seems harder to get started on the next. In January I finished writing The Miracle Man and between edits, I managed to start and stop a few pieces, and eventually took two months to write (and submit) a 17K short story for an anthology. It didn’t get picked up for the anthology (which has limited space) but is going to be published as a standalone. Then I had a month where I barely wrote 1K. I was a bit of an emotional wreck, so I’m giving myself leeway there!

Then, after some discussion with my writers’ group, I decided to write a short story, which was what I spent May doing. That’s done and with the group for review. It’s only 6K, and it’s not the normal stuff I write (it’s the closest I’ve ever been to literary fiction), so if it gets published, it likely will be under a different name.

Then it was June and I was head off to pet-sit these trouble-makers. The mini-dachshund is Guiseppe and the corgi is Lillibet.

Meanwhile I struggled to come up with my next story, told myself I didn’t need to write immediately, but I wanted to! And so I just started writing a story (involving a dog, I can’t imagine why) and am letting it take the wheel. I’ve also been starting some brainstorming for revising (and adding a fair chunk) to a story I previously finished involving shifters (surprise, surprise). It’s part of a series (maybe), and I’d like to beef up the first in the series before continuing on.

So hopefully you’ll see some more of that as the year progresses. I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through!

Let’s Talk About Expectations

There are many, many things to have expectations for/about in life, but this post is focusing on self-expectations, specifically in regards to goals/resolutions, because these are the expectations we have the most control over.

I set some goals for myself at the beginning of the year and by the second week of February I knew I’d built a pretty high mountain to climb. January went well. Book read, edits done, writing mark hit! Of course I also finished a book, so starting a new one was hard–immediately my word count plummeted. I finished edits, got beta reads, submitted the book…and immediately got developmental edits to do. While I was brainstorming how to fix February’s editing case. So my “edit a book a month” plummeted. Reading one book should be easy, right? But after reading all day, editing various books, and struggling to write, the last thing I wanted was another person’s words in my head. I read one page of a book and switched to another. Read a page of that and put it aside.

What I realized around the middle of the month, was that I might have burnt myself out by being too productive too fast. I need to reassess and adjust accordingly.

Revising: One book a month is kind of crazy, especially depending on how much work needs done. Especially since I edit for a living (duh, Alex). I think if  get 6 books revised this year, I’ll call it a win. It’s still going to be about 5 more books than I did last year!

Writing: Same basic 10K a month, but I think it’ll be a year-end goal of 120,000 instead, which will average out to 10K a month, which is pretty much how I looked back a 2017, so I think it’ll work.

Reading: I might need to “cheat” and read another volume of manga, but I do want to at least hit some of my titles on my to-read list. However, I also want to watch a bunch of anime shows (many of which are subtitles), so I’m giving myself flex here. Kind of a “we’ll see how it goes”. I know it sounds like I’m giving up, but it’s more a matter of “how much can I fit into my free time without feeling like it’s not fun anymore?”

The important thing, for me, is not thinking of the above changes as failing. Goals and resolutions should be flexible, especially in the beginning, so you can improve while also not killing yourself. Because once you start to fail, you give up. But if you lower the bar, then you might end up jumping just as high as you’d first planned, once the stress of failing is removed.

January round-up!

The new year means resolutions, cold weather, and the daylight hours slowly getting longer. I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself for being on-task for my resolutions so far. But first…

Magic Runs Deep is up on Riptide’s site, available for preorder!! It’s coming in April (SO FAR AWAY)!

For the last five years, Veier has been chained to a king’s throne in his bear form. When a neighboring kingdom overthrows the crown, Veier’s imprisonment ends, but true freedom is not so easily earned. With blood on his hands, he needs someone with patience, strength, and trust to help him become the person he was before and prove to the invaders that he isn’t the monstrous king’s loyal pet.

Elrid, the invading king’s brother and a powerful mage, is everything Veier despises. He’s also the only thing between Veier and execution, because he thinks he can help Veier change from an aggressive bear shifter into a reasonable man. While the pair have a rough start, with long talks and mutual leaps of faith, they begin to care for each other.
However, the closer Veier gets to his freedom, the closer he is to losing Elrid. He must find balance in his heart and his life if he wishes to truly claim the freedom he’s been given—and the man he loves.
I’m really grateful to the artist who made this lovely cover after I gave…less than stellar feedback on what I was looking for.
January has also witnessed me get my first 10k written for 2018, which also matched up with me finishing my current WIP The Miracle Man. This book’s idea started several years ago, as a jotted opening in a notebook that sat unused in my bedside table for several years. Then during a writing slump, I said Well, why not write this, it’s utter bollox, and then everything started flowing. And now it’s done! Er, well, the firs step is. 
I’ve also spent January revising my one manuscript, and I have about 30 pages to go. It’s a contemporary (maybe even a rom-com) with a sexy tattooed biker and his not-as-straitlaced-as-his-parents-think boyfriend. It has playful banter during sex and puns. And a shower scene…
Anyway. I’ve also been reading! (You know…that 1 book a month goal.) I’m on-goal to finish What-the-Dickens by the end of January. It’s not captivating me, but it’s cute. 

A Progress Report: April

A progress report! (And an aside to say I had a couple post ideas to do this month and somehow failed to do any of them.)

WIP: In the month of April, I wrote 13K on my hot motorcycle boyfriend with tattoos story (…which needs a title) and finished it off on the first morning of my vacation (before my devices all decided to NOT recognize the hotel internet). It comes in at 62K and I hope readers will find it as sweet, funny and sometimes emotional as I did writing it. (WARNING: PUNS)

Also, check out the sweet setup I do most of my quick morning writing on (using Google Docs): iPad with a keyboard case. Works best with tiny hands, but is better than booting my laptop in the morning before a busy day.

Revision: I still have ONE scene to write to finish out the revisions on my trans cowboy story (totally not writing this post to delay doing that, I swear….). I’m definitely going to need another beta read, because it went from 26K to 40K. Which the story definitely needed, and hopefully it satisfied all the issues the beta found (and a shout-out to my beta for this, who was awesome and pointed out some weak points).

Knitting: I’ve also sorta started knitting for profit, but it’s not really a venture, so much as when I can’t decided on my next project I’ll start knitting a pride scarf and make them available for purchase. I started with asexual pride, because I’m biased (and aces don’t get nearly enough merch love!). I have three for sale (one with vertical stripes like pictured, two with varying thickness of horizontal stripes). But the pictured one has a “defect” that might not be noticeable but makes me feel guilty. I’ll either keep it or sell it for less than the others.

Publishing: Nothing at the moment. One story I’m still brewing on publisher comments (and is with another reader for some more thoughts). One is still in a pub’s submission pile (no word back yet). Have a few stories that might be ready soon to go out, but will probably be making a call for beta readers too.

Elsewhere: I also went to a small anime convention in Lancaster, PA, this past weekend (see the above comment about trying to sell scarves), which was a good time with friends, although exhausting as always. I was smart and took Monday off though, which is rocking.

Now I just wrapped up a WIP, will be wrapping up a revision WIP, and finished a knitting WIP. So I’m a little lost right now! (And I have plenty of new projects/currently projects I need to get back to, so no worries there….but I’m floating at the moment.)

Finally, if you want to see more random pictures from my life, be sure to follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alextherate/. Mostly pictures of food and horses, with some proof of me writing/revising, and a game of Where’s Alex Now.

A Guide to Publishing

I had a thought one day and then it became this. 
Note: These are just guidelines/things to think about in your life/publishing adventures. They are meant to be both serious and a little silly (the advice is serious but presented in an Alex way).
1. You will disagree with your editor/an edit at least once. Likely more.
That’s fine–as long as you and the editor can discuss it like civil human beings. If an edit/comment makes you upset, then just pass by it at first. Take some time to consider it, then re-evaluate. It keeps tempers calm when the trigger could just be a misunderstanding. The editor just wants to make this book the best it can be, but the editor is also human. It could be a misunderstanding, the editor could be seeing a different vision than you meant, the editor could have just misread something and just needs that pointed out. The editor could be stating it in a way that pushes your buttons, while the editor is completely unaware of how you’re reading it. 
But, also, this is your book. Stand up for what you want to keep, whether it’s for voice or flow or preference. However, keep in mind that editors have some experience, so listen to what they say and then decide. Don’t, for instance, decide that the serial comma needs to die in a fire and be unwilling to change no matter what.
2. No matter how many eyes see it, the book will be published with at least one error/typo.
I’m pretty sure this is a law of reality or something. The longer the work, the increased the likelihood one (or more) will show up. Don’t be angry. Just come to terms with this reality. Most readers will skip over it without even noticing it. If your publishers is amenable, feel free to let them know about the typo.
3. Writing is hard.
Not always, but sometimes. You probably already knew this.
4. Editing is hard.
You usually send to a publisher with a vague idea that this book is really good and finished and ready. Then they send back notes, whether in rejection or during revisions, and you realize your precious baby wasn’t perfect. And you get several rounds of this, to the point where it’s just wounds on top of wounds. (See back to point 1.)
This doesn’t happen every time of course, but if you go in with the mindset that it’s OK if your words are going to get poked at–sometimes hard–then it’ll make it an easier journey.
5. Publishing is hard.
In some ways that feels like it should be the end. But then there’s marketing and PR and unless you hire a publicity person for yourself, you have to take care of it. Even if the publisher has a marketing department, they aren’t your personal slaves and you have to be out there and working it. The great thing about social media is you get to be out there! The bad thing about social media is you have to be out there! Obviously you can choose not to, but you’ll be doing yourself (and your book) a disservice. 
6. Read your contract.
Every time you have to sign a new one, read it. Every publisher will be different and even the same publisher will make changes over time. Know what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes–the publisher can always say no, and it won’t result in them pulling the contract. You then just have to decide if you still want to sign. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re confused about something. If you don’t trust the publisher to tell you what it means (which should be a warning sign…), then google, ask friends, ask Twitter. It’s important, don’t feel (too) rushed.
There are lots of other points I haven’t covered here, and I didn’t cover any of them in depth, but this is just to get you thinking about your place in the process.

Edits and Pictures

This weekend I’m expecting to be busy. I have fanciful visions of writing, plus visiting friends and family, catching up on all the things I’ve slacked on (mostly reading comics I like and watching anime I like…my life is hard), and going through edits. I’m always nervous when I get edits from a new publishers. I have no idea what to expect.

I’m pretty much always overreact though. Like HOW DARE YOU INSULT MY PRECIOUS BABY BY SUGGESTING IT COULD BE BETTER. And then a second later YES YOU MADE IT BETTER BUT STILL. I do a lot of shouting at my screen and accepting changes. It’s probably a good thing I live alone.

Since I plan on spending a fair amount of time with edits this weekend, I’m going to spam you with images.

MY WEEK IN PICTURES
(it’s been an all-caps sort of week)

 Flowers are (oddly enough) blooming at the barn right now. First screenshot is from The Morose Mononokean and second his from Cheer Boys. They give me all the good feelings.

Excuses and Priorities: Finding the Time

While having a conversation with a fellow fledgling writer, he mentioned he “didn’t have time” to work on his current project. I mentioned that you make time for what’s important in your life, so if you’re not “making time” then it’s not as important as other things.

This is, of course, true within reason. If you’re exhausted after a long day of work, then even if you have time to write, it might not be a good idea to write–the words will probably feel as tired as you. There’s also times when you’re just not in the headspace to write–whether because the scene is dark and you’re too happy or the scene is happy and you’re too sad. But generally, if you make time to write, then you’re going to write more than if you didn’t make time. (Um, duh, right?)

He sheepishly agreed with me and said he deserved to hear that, since he applies that to so much else in his life/preaching. It’s a good thing to apply to life. Obviously having kids (which he does) complicates things, since their priorities might not match with your own, but the logic still applies (just slightly tweaked).

I think of myself as fairly busy. I work full-time, ride horses at least twice a week, write and edit my own stuff, am (sorta) active in a writers’ group, am a leader of a 4-H club, see my friends at least once a week, visit family (although not often enough), run my single-person household, and get 6-8 hours of sleep a night (which is mandatory for the happiness of the world). I’ve had people ask how I do it. Well, I follow some rules.

1. Schedule things. I joke with my mom, but I require most events to be scheduled at least a month in advance if you want my attendance. Anything less than that and I don’t feel bad for saying “Sorry, busy!” Scheduling let’s me know when I am going to have a busy weekend and need to reorganize other items. Say my Saturday is booked. Since my weekend mornings are prime writing time, then I need to either plan to write more on Sunday or else try to squeeze in more time during the week. Scheduling allows for optimal use of all of your time.

That said, don’t overschedule to the point where you don’t have any downtime built in. I tend to expect everything to take longer than it does, so I never feel rushed to do the next thing. I used to not be as good at that, and you burn out quick.

2. Prioritize. This gets back to what I was saying earlier. I used to (okay, we all know I still do) complain that I don’t have time to write. And then I realized I couldn’t write in the evenings after work because my head wasn’t in the right spaces. But writing more was something I wanted to do. So I started setting aside time in some mornings to get up and write. Does it mean I sometimes roll out of bed when I’d rather be curled up browsing tumblr? Yes. But for me it’s worth it.

Some mornings I may only write 200 words, but it’s 200 more words than I had the night before. And just doing it feels like an accomplishment. And starting the morning with an accomplishment is a good way to do it!

Obviously this can apply to anything. But if you ever find yourself saying “I don’t have time for X,” but you spend your whole night watching reality TV shows, then you need to ask yourself, “Is reality TV more important than X to me?” If you keep spending your time that way, then yes, it is.

I’m lucky enough to have a fairly flexible schedule, and kids throw a wrench (or a whole toolbox) into working schedules, but if you really want to do the thing, then you have to make time to DO THE THING. If you come to the time to do the thing and you don’t feel like it at that moment, then you can always do something else. But if you don’t make the time to do the thing, then you’ll never have time to do the thing.

3. Do the above to everything in your life. Now, I don’t mean rank “friend time” vs “family time.” But if you’ve seen your fiends a lot that week and you need some alone time, don’t be afraid to say no if they invite you to a movie you’re lukewarm on and you’d really rather be writing. Even if you can do thing X during when you’d usually slump on the couch watching TV, you might be able to do something else during that time, which would then open up a different slot for doing thing X.

And that’s…pretty much it. I realize not everyone can/wants to have a life as structured as I do, but I think the core ideas can help everyone. No, you might not have a Google Calendar for every week sketching out when you have writing time, but having the idea of “I’ll wake up twenty minutes earlier on Wednesdays to [do X] before I head to my job” is sometimes all we need.

Also, if you do all the above and find out you still “don’t have time,” then it just means that the thing you “want to do” isn’t actually that important to you. And that’s okay too. It might help to rephrase the thinking though: “I’d love to do X, but I have too many other awesome thing I’m busy doing.” There’s no shame in realizing that while something might be really cool and you’d like to do it, it just isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. As long as you’re happy with the things you are making time for, then that’s all that matters.