Real Talk: Is it time to go back to the real world?

I’ve been struggling with this thought for the past few weeks (yes, before I published The Queen).  And let’s go ahead and say, I’m WELL aware of the privilege in this post.  We are a household that can comfortably exist on one income — I understand this is not the case for everyone and that I am super fortunate to have even had the chance to my little experiment.

In case you weren’t aware, intentionally, I’ve been out of the traditional job force for the past year and a half.  In that time I’ve managed some successes — published a book, finished a trilogy, traveled, volunteered with K9 Friends, kept the house mainly in order, and did fairly well with food writing stuff.  Honestly, that’s about the sum total of my efforts.  For the above, as you might well imagine, I’ve been paid roughly less than a pittance.  Sure, a few bucks for some articles and not having to pay for meals while in Dubai has been great, but those things don’t actually contribute to the overall earnings of a household.  This is magnified by knowing others who I deeply respect and are in similar positions to mine and have managed to, you know, actually get paid.  And just so we’re clear, this is entirely my opinion — I have felt zero pressure from my wonderful husband for any of this, throughout the past 18 months.  He’s never once asked, “So, when are you going to start making money?”

As much as I dislike being around people (thank you, misophonia), I do enjoy making money (and, of course, spending it, especially in this political climate).  Essentially, I think the practical and rational side of myself is telling me, “You had a good try, but when can you admit that you’re not going to earn a living from writing?”  Man, that was a tough sentence to write.  The flip side of this coin is that I am actually good at work.  I leave organizations better than I found them.  I have a better than average work ethic, work longer hours than I’m ever paid for, and have put up with my fair share of shit over the years.  Spoiler alert, that’s everyone, I know.  Still, I have stellar recommendations.

So, I decided that the end of this year was my cut off before I started looking for work (although, knowing me, it will be sooner).

I am never going to give up writing, however, even as I get compliments on my work, these kind thoughts aren’t going to pay the bills.  I am part of numerous author groups and see the successes — goals that seem forever out of reach for me.  Maybe if the Amazon clusterfuck hadn’t happened, I might be in a different situation.  Maybe if I had planned a better release calendar for The Queen, or kept after Joe, I might have a bigger audience.  Maybe if I published more novels in a year (and yes, I have those books to publish).  Maybe if I hustled more.  Or maybe, my audience is never going to be large enough to support me.  Maybe I don’t write books for the masses.  Maybe I’ll just have this little side vanity project for my whole life and that will have to be enough.

It’s tough because anyone who knows me understands how much I hate to waste time.  Thus, what has this time ‘off’ been?  I was always going to write the books, so, it’s not as if they only came into existence because I wasn’t tied to a desk.  I suppose learning that you’re not meant to do the thing you thought your whole life was intended to be isn’t a waste of time, but it certainly doesn’t feel all that great.  Or maybe 18 months isn’t long enough to determine that fact.

Let’s see what the universe holds next for me.  As always, maybe ‘author’ is just one of the things that define me.  While I wanted it to be one of the main things, perhaps there is something else.

Research for the Queen of England: Coronation, A Reading List

Although this list is fairly documented on Goodreads (I’d love to have you follow me!), I thought a selection was worth sharing here.  And let’s just forget that there are still a TON of books in this category I have on my ‘to be read’ list (and will be referenced for the second and third installments in my series).  The below books were chosen for a number of reasons — the time period, the world building, a strong female protagonist, or straight up history.  Perhaps I liked how the pacing or supporting characters, or maybe I studied how my story might be different.  Anyway, if you like my Queen, I would definitely encourage you to read any of the following.

Parasol Protectorate (series by Gail Carriger)

Finishing School (series by Gail Carriger)

Rebel Mechanics (series by Shanna Swendon)

Stoker & Holmes (series by Colleen Gleason)

The Infernal Devices (series by Cassandra Clare)

Steel and Fire (series by Jordan Rivet)

Queen of the Tearling (series by Erika Johansen)

Steampunk Chronicles (series by Kady Cross)

Almost everything by Sarah Maas

My Lady Jane

Karen Memory

Six of Crows (both books)

The Iron Duke (and other works by Meljen)

A lot of Victoria biographies

My research was not only in books, I also included graphic novels, movies, and television:

The Crown

Victoria

Lady Mechanika

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

Belle

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The Young Victoria

The good and bad of The Queen of England: Coronation.

First of all, the book is finished!  Like, really and truly done.  I’ve sent it off to be formatted, which means publishing is imminent (I’m thinking August 1st, as I’ll be away at the end of next week and believe that it’s rude to my book to press ‘publish’ and then dash off to Amsterdam to ignore it for 5 days).

As I read through the Queen, I realize I wanted to complete a bit of mindfulness/reflection.  Throughout the process, I don’t think I’ve been as fair as I could’ve been to myself (or my book).  So, I’ve been writing novels since roughly 2004 or so.  And, let’s face it, my first efforts were a bit basic.  When I started the Queen, I specifically wanted to take on certain specific challenges.  Was I successful?  I guess only time will tell.

So, as someone who literally just finished reading this manuscript, what’s good?  What’s not-so-good?

  • Diversity!  When I started a book set in Victorian England, I knew this topic was going to be an uphill battle, however, I tried my best.  I’ve included a bi-racial prince, a young man with a disability (not that it slows him down in the slightest), a gay character, and a female love interest for my female protagonist.  Now, I realize I do not deserve any awards for adding these elements, but it was important for me to a least try and include something more obvious than a bunch of straight white people running around.  Future books will see other important characters of different backgrounds.
  • All the ladies!  While probably not entirely in line with historical accuracy, I wanted women to have positions of power (besides the obvious Queen of England).  Women of all ages drive much of the trilogy, and that was something I consciously decided on.  Don’t worry, the lads have their time, but women are mainly driving the (omni)bus.
  • It moves.  If there is a hallmark of my novels, it’s that they read ‘fast.’  I started reading my book on Wednesday (sent to my Kindle), and at close to 80,000 words (yes, a few too many for traditional YA, but that’s the beauty of self-publishing), I’m already 45% through (and this is having to stop every few pages for the most minor of changes).  While I’m sure there’s a subplot of two I could’ve tightened up, I think it would be easy to read this book in a day or two.
  • Growth.  I’d like to believe there is some development in a few of the characters (most especially the protagonist).  At a minimum, Queen Juliette is not the same person she is at the start of the book.
  • It’s engaging.  I think the book pulls an audience in.  Hopefully, it maintains their interest.
  • There are a few funny and memorable lines.  As an author, it’s always fun to stumble over a sentence and be all, “I wrote this?”

Now, certainly no book is perfect, and here’s what I think still needs work (even though I am totes going to get this thing published because enough already).

  • I wish more of my scenes passed the Bechdel test.  Even as hyper-aware as I am of it, and as much as I’ve tried to include women (of all ages and backgrounds), there are a number of scenes which don’t pass… At least in this book.  In Books 2 and 3 I do much better.  My defense — if I have any — lies in the fact that the Queen is mainly surrounded by men, such that when she is around other young women she has to get a few things off her chest.  I really can’t blame her.
  • I still love adverbs.  My undying love of many words that end in -ly can be seen as weak writing, but I can accept this fate.  Let’s just call it ‘my style.’
  • I will forever need work on my physical descriptions of characters.  Forever and ever.  It’s tough because I can picture them so well, but I guess readers can’t really see into my brain.  #authorproblems
  • More steampunk elements.  Having read a great deal of steampunk literature in the past two years, I know it can be done very well and that it can be quite distracting.  While my novel actually qualifies more as gaslamp fantasy, steampunk is a much more broadly known and accepted term.  I already fear the Goodreads reviews of ‘THIS ISN’T STEAMPUNK.’  While I do love the world building of some authors, for me, I feel the novel has a good balance of some alternate history, steampunk-ish details, and the supernatural.

Phew.  Okay, I’ll take today off and get cracking on editing Book #2 tomorrow!

‘Cooking’ a book.

I do love Chuck Wendig’s insights.  When I stumbled across on this (semi) recent post, it rang completely true with me.  For example, I currently have two novels which are ‘cooking’ — one, The Queen of England: Ascension (still not sure about this title, but I’m getting there) and two, A.U., an unwritten adult contemporary novel I would publish as Ann Benjamin.  These two projects are in very different stages of the writing process.  Book 3 of my trilogy is a finished rough draft (completed in May 2017).  I haven’t thought that much about it since the end of May.  I don’t plan on thinking about it again until maybe August, or even later.  I could look at it now, but I would rather push forward for the second draft of Book 2 (it just makes sense to go chronologically).  Does it mean I love Book 3 any less?  It does not.  Am I procrastinating a bit?  Sure, but I’ve got plenty on my plate at the moment and am happy to let the book more or less exist in my outer consciousness for awhile.

A.U. (working title) is an idea I came up with last year.  Like two other books, it’s really just floating around in my head.  I’ve verbalized the plot to a few people (who showed interest), but that’s as far as the process has moved.  I’ve managed to start pulling a few titles I need to read as research, and have thought of what the first chapter might sound like, but not too much more.  Although, funnily enough, I can already picture exactly what the cover of the book is going to be.  When will I start this one?  I do think I’ll get going at some point in 2017.  Perhaps, even, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

Mr. Wendig reveals that he’s had a project simmering for 3 years, which seems entirely fair.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  Sometimes characters get in the way.  Or, as Elizabeth Gilbert explained once, sometimes ideas/creative energy are meant for other authors.  As entertained/successful as I want to keep my muse, I have to respect that ideas I have and have done nothing with might go back into the ether (including, but certainly not limited to the Count of Monte Cristo project, an adaptation I’ve had since roughly 2002).

Stephen King, in ‘On Writing’ uses the ‘put it in a drawer’ analogy for this theory.  Although I see other authors pushing out books with frightening speed, for me, I need books to go in the imaginary drawer (be it Google Drives or somewhere in my brain) for a certain amount of time.  I usually know when it’s time to come out.

(I totes look like this when I’m cooking (or writing)).

How long do you ‘cook’ creative projects for?  Do have one longer than 15 years?  Please make me feel better.

On being precious, or, a bad case of fear and the ‘what ifs?’

Ugh. Please, not this.

 

As you are probably aware, I have a completed book ready to publish (actually, I have four that are finished and awaiting further editing, but I digress).  While I thought The Queen of England: Coronation was done previously, now I think it’s ready.  While I’m not 100% enamored with the cover, I do believe that it’s good enough to get the job done.  The real problem?  This is what I’ve been working on since I left the ‘real world’ last year.  This is THE thing I said I was going to do.  This is more than my other books, all of which were written, edited, and published while I was working full time.  In my mind, there has always been so much more pressure on the Queen trilogy.

It’s not a big secret that I’ve always wanted to support myself through my writing.  Not wildly successful, but enough that would justify this break I’m having with traditional employment.  I want to be proud of myself when I log into my Amazon author page and see there are plenty of pages read and books bought.  I want to see reviews (good or bad).  I would love to see fan art or fan fiction (yes, really).  I want to see people add my book on Goodreads.  I don’t care about awards, but I do want Juliette to find an audience with someone (I think she deserves that much).  I’ve read plenty of YA to know where I fit into the pack, but I also know I am not the worst (nor am I the best).  I am someone who, on paper, should have some success.  But…

What if I don’t?

What if it fails?

What if it fails epically?

What if no one buys it?

What if people hate it?

What if I’ve been wasting my time?

Do I deserve to call myself an author if no one reads my stuff?

What if the money I’ve put towards editors, etc. have been for nothing?

Yes, of course, I was always going to write this book, but what if writing (for me) will never amount to more than an (expensive) hobby?  What then?  Will that be enough for me?

At what point do I say, ‘no one wants to read what you’re writing, so just stop it already?’ (Probably my biggest fear).

The worst part is, of course, there are no answers to any of these questions.  I won’t know until I publish, but until I publish, then they are not possible.  I have Schrodinger’s manuscript at the moment (if you will).

I still can’t pick a specific day to publish, but I think it will be this month.  I’m not sure if I will feel relief or disappointment or (what I’m really hoping for) motivation to continue on and be excited about publishing the remainder of the series.

Out of jail.

The year is over, as is the wait.

I am out of Amazon jail and hope to remain that way (at least I can get the Queen published).

I don’t have super high hopes for what my inclusion back into KDP Select means or how it’s going to completely impact my sales, but I am glad that more readers will now have access to my books.

And on that note, I feel the correct celebration is one for my most recent protagonist, Liz, and the opening of the Museum of Ice Cream — a location she definitely would’ve visited in Los Angeles (well, when she wasn’t so comfortable tucked away at the Winchester).tumblr_oh35m8gto21u9ooogo1_540