new year, new me — Publishing Aunt and treadmill desk

Hey all! So we’re halfway through Jan already and I thought I should update again!

I’ve been pretty busy this year already — I finished edits on The Hated, approved final covers for my Sleeping with Monsters series (you can check ‘em out if you scroll over here, I’m rather proud of them since I picked the images out myself), I did the crit that I auctioned off for charity on Worldbuilders and have realio-trulio started my reboot of Electricity :D.

About a week ago I was having fun doing that crit, and then I helped a friend out on a query letter, and then someone on Goodreads used that function to ask me about the economics of continuing a defunct series self-pub, and I had this realization — I reallllly enjoy talking insider baseball, on how to write and the writing-life.

So to better express that side of myself in a venue where more eyes might hopefully see it, I started a tumblr: Publishing Aunt. I have a ton of experience with all the sides publishing has to offer — success, failure, writing 9 books before the 10th one sold, querying 52 agents — I’ve been there. I know how stressful being a new writer is and the desperate longing to get published. I think so much of the process is so opaque that I’ll be doing a real service answering a question 2-3 times a week over there. So if you ever wanted publishing advice or someone to hold your hand on that road — shoot me an email via the tumblr’s form, I’d love to help you.

In other exciting news, I am currently writing this from, *drumroll* — my new treadmill desk!!!

IMG_20150115_150450 IMG_20150115_150501

This build was my husband’s Christmas present to me. As you can see in the 2nd photo, we’ve got quite a lot of room in this room — we moved into our house from a studio, remember? So we don’t have that much furniture to begin with — and our friend who was staying here long term just moved out for realsies this time honest swear, SO the room is mine! ;) I’m really pleased. I assumed going from nightshift to dayshift work I’d be losing weight, but no — my writing productivity has gone up, along with my sedentary-osity. This treadmill desk is hopefully a fun way to overcome that. I’m typing this at 2 miles an hour right now!

(I wish I knew how many steps I was doing, though :P. We had fitbit forces, which were fine even though they were recalled for allergy reasons — then they released the one fitbits that have heart rate monitors. I sent ours back for the recall and ordered new ones the day before the standing desk arrived — and the color of the one I want won’t be in for 6-8 weeks. Ah well!)

We followed the instructions from here: Treadmill Desk Diary and he’s even got youtube videos demonstrating the ‘taking the arms off the treadmill’ part. And then this is the standing desk I got, which is very solid. It has a monitor stand which I might wind up needing — I’m still looking down at the monitor here — but dang, I’m on floor level, in front of windows hat show the whole backyard, it’s so lovely. And we’re starting a veggie garden soon, so being on this level of the house more to remind me to water things will shortly be important ;).

Anyhow, that’s me! More news in the future, when I have it, or once I get the intro to Electricity solidly down :D


The Year in Review

2014 has beeeeeeen interesting :D. Can’t say it’s been my favorite year, but I really like where I am now in it, so I shouldn’t complain.

Life stuff — had some serious ups and downs relationshipwise with my husband and certain friends. But, all in all, things have pulled through and I feel more positive and more connected now than I have at any time in the year prior. I think all the shakiness knocked things down to their foundations, and what’s been rebuilt has been made to last.

Health stuff — Oh, my silly heart. It hasn’t had any runs of SVT since the fall, but I went through all the testing and no one knows why any of that ever happened. I hope it behaves from here on out, but there are no guarantees. On a positive note though, my Christmas gift from my husband is a treadmill desk, all the components are being shipped to us as I type, so soon I’ll be typing and writing at the same dang time, I can’t wait ;). AND — I finally found a yoga studio I liked! It only took me six tries at assorted studios :P. (Luckily, there’s a ton of yoga out here, and new student specials.) I hadn’t realized what a special place my studio in Santa Cruz was until I started trying to find its like in Oakland. I’ve been going to one place exclusively though this past month and feel really good about continuing my practice there this upcoming year — my back needs yoga so badly to feel good.

Work stuff! Work’s been grand. Switching to dayshift has meant a much shittier commute, but only having to work ten days a month (although I do work more!) is awesome, and keeping normal daylight hours — OMG, it’s so lovely. I had no idea how nice this was when I was doing my six years of night shift time. I don’t know everything there is to know yet nursing-wise, but I know enough to feel pretty confident on a day to day basis at work. I’m a good nurse, and I do a good job. I love it, honestly.

Writing stuff! (I could include ‘mental health stuff!’ in here too, since my writing basically is my mental health ;)). That’s where 2014 gets a little tricky. I think this past year has been me processing my series not getting picked back up by SMP. It’s really hard to work your whole life towards one goal and accomplish it only to then kind-of-sort-of fail. (The awkward sort of failing that looks like success to anyone else who hasn’t succeed-failed yet, heh.) (I was so mystified-bewildered-upset by the entire thing that I sent a letter in to Dude In Publishing who was kind enough to answer it with an essay that made me cry.)

I didn’t know what to do with myself, really. Spent some time being depressed, and then realized that my series cancellation didn’t change things. I got existential rock-bottom and realized, all I really know is writing — and that I’m a writer. I don’t have any other hobbies or interests or anything. Writing is all I enjoy doing. I like being a writing machine. I like thinking writing-thoughts, I like plowing down words, I like editing things until they shine, I love talking shop with other writers — writing is pretty much all there is to me. If you told me I couldn’t write tomorrow…I honestly have no idea what it is I’d do. What do normal people do with their free time? I’d be lost.

Because of all of that, I couldn’t stop writing, you know? So my way of coping with my cancellation was to pour my energy into some low-ego projects — my Sleeping with Monsters erotica books, The Haunted, The Hunted, and The Hated (coming up.) I got the chance to roughhouse in some awesome genre playgrounds (ghost stories! werewolves! vampires!) and pretend that none of it matters because of all the explicit sex, heh.

But I’m actually really proud of the work I did and the original ideas inside those books — The Hated in particular, since it’s SF. And I wound up writing at least 180k on them this year (probably close to 220k for the year, if I add in Electricity) which is cool. I’m going to recover them and do an omnibus and see how that goes — and I’ve got ideas for a few more books in the series if they happen to take off ;).

I wound up selling three short stories this year too, under other names, which also felt really really good.

What’s coming up in 2015?

Well, now that The Hated’s gonna be turned in on Thurs — it’s back to the YA mines for me. I think I’m ready to take on this extreme rewrite on Electricity, finally. (I thought it was extreme before, no, this is from the ground up. All the way from the bones. Half the bones. Maybe one fragment of the skull.) Talking to Daniel about it, about what part of that story really mattered to me, has given me laser focus. I’m just hoping that I can do a good enough job to pull it off the way it deserves to be.

After that? I’m not sure. I’ve got 3-4 book ideas bumping around in my head, a middle grade series, a novella set in WWII, my erotica + PKD book that I want to write as a straight literary novel that just happens to be really weird, and I’m tempted to release an older unpublished book of mine on Wattpad just to see what, if anything, would happen to it. I loved that book, I don’t care if it doesn’t make any money, I’d just like it to get it some readers.

This whole year writing-wise — especially writing the eroticas so quickly — has made me realize what a good writer I am. I know my stuff. I can rely on my intuition. I’m talented. I can trust in me.

So now I suppose the best word for how I feel is liminal. It’s not an entirely comfortable feeling, but instead of being scared by that, the in-betweeness of my career and where I thought I’d be instead — I don’t know — I just can’t help but feel full of potential and opportunity. I’m back to where I was before Edie. I’m good at what I do and I can write anything I damn well please ;).

So yeah — that’s been 2014. And as for 2015? It’s time to get back to work. ;)

a quick update…

…which ought to be a long one, but hey, it is what it is.

So, shortly after my last cryptic blog post (the reasons for which I still have to be oblique) I found out that my grandmother had died. She was an excellent grandma — I only wish I’d been a better granddaughter for her.

One of our longest conversations at the end was about Nightshifted — she was a nurse back in the time before antibiotics, so we had a conversation about pre-penicillin treatments for syphilis, since I’ve got a syphilitic were-dragon in that book.

My husband and I flew out to Kansas for the funeral, and it was a surprisingly good time — I got to see all of my relatives on that side of the family, and really spend some quality time. I also got one of her nursing hats :D — and a small sewing box I’d made her when I was in elementary school.

Since then, this week’s been short-long, heh. I’ve gone to a lot of meetings and classes at work — I’m on my hospital’s ebola team, and so I went to three out of five donning and doffing classes, to get used to properly putting on gear and taking it back off again. The whole experience feels super Andromeda Strain every time — and walking around with the air-flow hoses hooked up makes you feel a little bit like you’re on Mars. While I doubt ebola will be a concern at my hospital in the future, I feel very confident in our ability to deal with whatever the next disease de jour is, and am proud that if needbe, I’m ready to go.

Last, but not least — I finished The Hated today. The Hated is the third book in my Sleeping with Monsters series, all of which I’ve written this year, since March. Even though these books are all in the 50-60k range, that’s still quite an accomplishment — if you add in my first draft material that didn’t make it into the final cut, I’ve averaged 800 words a day for the past nine months, easily. It’s a huge proof of concept for me going to dayshift and becoming way more productive.

The Hated is also my 19th lifetime book. Which means in two more years, my writing career can drink legally ;).

I still have a lot of projects on deck to look forward to — a quick one-off short story, mega-rewrite of Electricity, and the next book in the Sleeping with Monsters series which I actually might want to be a legit trad pub book, we’ll see :D. Onwards for now — this draft ain’t gonna decomma itself! ;).

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mysterious post…

…is mysterious.

Here’s a selection of things that I’m listening to right now for Mysterious Reasons and/or Personal Enjoyment ;).

Because this song is always what I listen to when I want something really bad. Muse is amazing, and Matthew Bellamy always gets it right.

The banana dance from Mitchell and Webb, because neither of them can ever do anything wrong. (Watch all of Peep Show or That Mitchell and Webb look, they’re so funny it hurts.)

And to continue the dancing British men in costumes theme….

The show this is from, This is Jinsy, is the best surreal British comic show out right now. It’s like a Douglas Adams book come to life. I adore it. (My husband says “Don’t show this to anyone, they won’t get it, they’ll think you’re weird…” I don’t care. If a grown man dancing in a carrot suit doesn’t make you laugh at least a little, your heart is dead.)

Last but not least!

Leggy Blonde — from the Flight of the Conchords.

My husband played this song for me every morning that I got up for the six months of my new nurse orientation program. I’m an awful getter-upper but it’s hard to be cranky when you’re singing along to Leggy Blonde on your way out the door.

Okay! Now on to tackle the work I need to get to today without getting too distracted :D


a three key week

I’m sitting at a breakfast diner writing again, which is lovely. I haven’t done this since we moved from Santa Cruz, and I can’t tell you how much I miss it. I do go out to coffee shops, but there’s something very indulgent about writing while eating delicious breakfast foods. It makes everything feel more nourishing and wholesome (even if you are writing erotica, heh! ;))

This past week has been good. I took a class at work on Mon and Tues, not in my specialty. I’d taken it before and it seemed like a good way to get CEs (as a nurse I have to get 30 every two years, this class is half of those) and you get them even if you don’t pass the test. Which is good because on Monday night I went home to Santa Cruz (let’s call it what it is now, it is my home – when people ask me where I’m from I don’t say Texas anymore, I say SC) and spent the night at a friend’s.

The first thing we did when I got there? Run to Home Depot and make a copy of the key for their new screen door. So that I would have the full set of house-keys for their place still. I love knowing I always have a place to stay in Santa Cruz, multiple places even :D.

Anyhow, instead of studying to pass my CE test, I decided to blow it off and hang out with her – we went off to a fancy dinner since her husband was out of town and had a girl’s night. We hadn’t done that in so long, it was awesome.

On Tues I went to class, and failed the test (but aced the practical, which is actually more nursing-skills-y ;)) but that night I went out to dinner with Daniel.

Daniel’s my alpha reader who gets how my books work and how I write and is the most well-read book-structure-thoughtful person I know. I love just hearing him talk about books, he’s amazing. Every author should be so lucky as to have a Daniel in their life.

So while I asked him to dinner with the intention of it being just-a-dinner, we totally restructured all of Electricity. (He could tell how unprepared I was, since I started writing notes on a business card, and bummed Hello Kitty paper from our waitress.) I’m going to have to rewrite it from scratch (and toss the 15k of my already-from-scratch rewrite) and then edit it again after that – but damn, if I can manage to write the book we talked about, it’ll be effing amazing – it’ll be the book I wanted to write in my head, and not the book I’ve got in this draft now. It’s all right now…but this is my great-American-novel-novel. I need it to fucking sing.

Anyhow, this past summer I house-sat for Daniel and I’ve still got his key on my keyring. And I thought as I was walking away from his house last night about mentioning that and giving his key back – and then I thought, no, I want to keep it. I’m part of his life, and he’s part of mine, and I like having a little bit of him in my pocket all the time.

The third key was from today. A friend needed some help with a thing, and I was very pleased to be the person she called, even if the circumstances were unfortunate. I know how to break-in to her house if I need too, heh.

And now that I’m done with this, I’m done with breakfast.  Time to head home and put some real words in :D.

reached 40k! :D

Pretty much hit it yesterday, up to 39,300 (did an amazing 5400 word sprint!) and then brushed up to 40k in The Hated today.

I should have written more and gotten further but a few things happened — someone side-swiped my car this AM *grump*, and then I hit a little bit of a brain wall. Since I’d been pushing it hard for over a week and coming up with some amazing wordcounts I figured it was better to take it easy on myself today and nap and catch up with Sleepy Hollow.

But then on my way back out to pick up my husband — I figured out how to climb the wall and What Happens Next And Then Next! through the end of the book. While I’m working the next four days (boooooo) I have some days off next week and I really think this draft’ll be done by the end of the month! :D Then it’ll be back to Electricity! :D

Also, I bit the bullet and commissioned a cohesive series cover theme for all three books in the series, so when book 3 comes out, all of them will look like they match. I’m really pleased about that :D.

Less so about getting up at 5:30 am tomorrow, however, which is prolly how early I oughta get up to make it to work on time with this first rain :(. Ugh. But oh well. 2 shitty commute days, and then a weekend of less crappy commute and then Thanksgiving week should be lighter all over, I hope :D

a great week and a half :D

So all this past week my friend Rachel Swirsky was in town for an at-my-house writing retreat :D. It was pretty much the culmination of all my house-owning hopes and dreams! Having a guest room at a great place worth visiting and getting to Nerd It Up for a week straight! :D On Friday we had a writing salon/party and then it was like life got even better because I had 12 writers over in my living room to write with and talk to. So much fun! (If hanging out with other writers is your thing ;)).

Then on Sunday I went back home to Santa Cruz for a girlfriend’s baby shower (which was mustache themed — the temporary mustache tattoos on the backs of my hands just washed off ;)) and on Monday my folks came down and my in-laws came over and I did a not-a-thanksgiving-Thanksgiving, so now my fridge is full of yummy leftovers.

I got up to 33k that I like in The Hated now (my Sleeping with Monsters book 3) and I have the rest of today and tomorrow to hopefully hit 40-45k. Since I only expect this book to be 50-55k or so, I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far (most of which was made during this past week). Then I can turn it in and have a huge window to work on Electricity in.

After that, I only have the plot for one more Sleeping with Monsters book burning my brain (although I have ideas for several others!) and I’ll have to figure out which direction I want to go :D. I’m tempted to go back to Dark Ink, too, and do a serial. We’ll see! :D

Worldbuilders Critique Auction!

I’m auctioning off another thorough crit of the first 15,000 words of someone’s book, PLUS query, PLUS synopsis!

Check it out HERE!

Last year’s winner said he got a lot out of it, and I loved it too. Last year was my first year offering a crit, but I’ve done tons of other ones before at conventions (and I went through Clarion West & Viable Paradise, which are crit-based workshops.) When I’m the pro at workshops at conventions, I’m always limited by time, and trying to do things as a group. I found last year’s Worldbuilder’s crit deeply satisfying. To get into someone’s work, one on one, take my time, and tell them everything that I can that’ll make their work better — it felt so good.

Since I’ve been writing for (oh god!) 17 years, am working on my nineteenth book — I bring a lot to the table, and I have that teacher gene that really gets off on finally getting to share it with other likeminded people ;). (Here’s a throw-back post about getting an agent. See? I’m teachy ;))

And Worldbuilders is a great charity. All of their proceeds go to Heifer International.

So click through! And click on the other items! There’s a ton of great ones! Help support a good cause, and maybe get a writing leg-up! :D

bullies and stifling multiculturalism

Ah, here we go, another late Friday night confessional post, which likely no one will see.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, in 2002, there was a Worldcon in San Jose, prior to which I had made a terrible enemy.

A person I thought was a friend, because they acted like one, and I tend to take those sorts of things at face value, decided to unfriend me. As this was in the time before facebook, she couldn’t just unfollow or block me, heh —  so rather than telling me or just ignoring me thoroughly, she and a cadre of people went around telling everyone they knew that I was crazy and a bad writer. Did I mention she was low-level famous? Because yeah, she was, she was a famous TV writer’s assistant and everyone, I mean everyone, groveled to her. She was a big important fish in our very shallow pond.

The whole experience was shattering. I didn’t understand why she’d decided to stop being my friend, muchless why she’d decided to spread spurious lies about me to all sorts of writers I knew and didn’t know. Her friends went out of their way to approach editors to ‘warn’ them about me, and tried very hard to poison SFF’s rather inbred social well.

Luckily for me, I’d been around for awhile by then — I’d been attending cons regularly since 98, and was active on, then the hip-SF nerd place to be. And because I knew people in person, and they knew me in person and online, most of the gossip was quickly stopped, because people would hear it and say, “Cassie? Really? Nahhhhh, that doesn’t sound like her.”

(In addition, at the time I was a shitty writer still — so it’s not like I had mss for consideration on many people’s desks, heh.)

But the whole con was like a strange test on a cruel reality show. You — contestant #1! — Try to spend four days among your peers acting with impeccable grace and manners as other people flounce away when you join group conversations! Try to ignore when people haul other people you’ve just met aside to ‘warn’ them about you before you’ve even said a word! Pretend you are made out of ice when people make a show of skipping your elevator because you are in it!

It was lovely, let me tell you.

I realized all I could do was concentrate on what I could manage — my attitude, and how I reacted to the frequent snubbing, and how often I could nervously put lip gloss on in an attempt to look professional at all times, heh. (God bless you, MAC lipglass. Never change.) And by the end of it, I managed to have a good time with my friends who knew better and who mattered — many of whom still matter in my life today.

Now, I already had an unnatural affinity for the underdog in things prior to that — but that experience pretty much sealed it, and turned me into the person I attempt to be today.

Forgive me this digression, but it ties into this: Laura Mixon’s Report on Damage Done By One Individual Under Several Names.

I’ve been aware of Requires Hate and her bullying reviews for some time. She’s taken apart friends of mine, and whatever valid points she might have made were completely lost inside her vitriol. I have met acid attack survivors. You do not get to threaten acid attacks on anyone, in any context, ever. There is no, ‘Oh, I was just joking’ with acid attacks. It is a hard line in the sand.

And I personally know what bullying in the writing community is — but what she did to other people was a step far, far beyond. Goading people into overdoses? Stalking them with a cadre of cronies and sock-puppets, always ready to attack? I cannot even begin to imagine how bad that kind of bullying would be. At least I was insulated by a prior reputation and friends. How many people did she attack that didn’t have any protection? Reading the comments at the end of that post — it turns my stomach to think on how many people she hurt, who all thought they were alone — which was precisely what Requires Hate wanted.

Apparently I was never on her radar because I was white (if you read the report you’ll understand) but she was definitely on mine. I was worried about her and people like her would come at me with pitchforks if they ever read my books — namely, Shapeshifted.

If you’ve read my books, you know I’ve gone way-way out of my way to create a universe that is multicultural — because I want it to reflect the world in which I live in and the places that I work. In addition to being tired of the normal skinny half-this, half-that PI littering urban fantasy, I was tired of the books I read being entirely full of white people — so I wrote against that as well, from Nightshifted on out.

Shapeshifted in particular though — I knew it would be a dangerous book. It’s set in a Latino community and while I may work with that patient population, and I was raised in Texas — I knew I didn’t know enough. So I spent three months of the six months I had to write it studying up on culture, Santa Muerte, girl gangs, curanderos, etc, in a desperate attempt to Get Things Right. Not only because I wanted to get them right for rightness’s sake — but because I didn’t want to be swarmed by an angry mob if I got anything wrong.

And there’s a little something wrong with that.

I knew that if I did screw up something worth mentioning, someone would tell me, and I would have to accept that I was wrong, no matter what I did. I definitely did not become a culture master in my three months of cramming. I would have to be gracious and considerate and try to do better next time out. I was totally prepared for that boom to drop — and grateful when it never did.

But it would have been way, way, way easier for me to not even to try to write another culture in the first place. Lord knows thousands of writers do it. Hundreds of thousands, more like.

I have to say it’s frustrating to make a good faith effort to try to do something right and know that even with the best of intentions it might explode on you (especially at the time when RH was at her most active) like a fumbled hand-grenade.

And there’s something sorrowful in that. Because the more examples of multiculturalism you get out there, done right, even by white people, the better things are going to be in the world. The more opportunities we’ll have to understand each other, to see one another working together for the betterment of all. I’m not saying that people who screw things up shouldn’t be told that — they should, and I would hope they’d be gracious and be given time to reflect — but that’s clearly not going to happen when they’re being threatened with acid burns simultaneously.

In writing Shapeshifted, I took a chance. Most people don’t know what it’s like to sit down and really write a book — with the power in them to actually finish one, one under contract that will see the light of day — and know that every choice they make in it could be held up for scrutiny later. It’s like trying to do a perfect run on a video game on the hardest setting.

I know I’m not a demon for trying to do something out of my comfort-zone — and neither were the multitudinous other writers that Requires Hate hunted down to mock and belittle mercilessly.

If we don’t try to change, and change better, change will never come. But I guarantee you no positive change has ever come from cruelty, bullying, intimidation, stalking, or threats of acid.