On New Series – and Stalking the Muse

Last week, I started this Monday column – for lack of a better word – for a reader update on the state of the empire, so to speak, and some musings on a creative life. Last week, I wrote about the last six and a half years of being indie, and making the transition from traditional publishing. I wrote about bats, too. 🙂 This week, we’ll look ahead at the work in progress and books coming soon, then talk a bit about sewing.

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeWhat can you expect in book releases from me in the next year? Well, there’s a tiny bit of finishing up to do yet. Under the Mistletoe is the fourth and final book in the Secret Heart Ink series of contemporary romances and it will be available in September. Some Like it Hot is the seventh and final book in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances and it will be available in February. I know that all of the partners have their happily-ever-after, but I wanted to take one last peek in at the club, and leave them with a new means of recruiting models for their Times Square billboard. It’s true that there are characters who still need their stories told – Hunter, Sonja, Rachel, Nate – but the current plan is for Some Like it Hot to end the series.

It’s entirely possible that there could be a spin-off series, or that these characters could find their HEA’s in another series (which is a much more interesting proposition to me.)

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionOver on the historical side, my Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances is still in progress. I think this will be scheduled at a book a year or so, at least for the time being, with some shorter works or republished works in between. One Knight’s Desire is the next Rogues & Angels book, and I’m hoping to publish it in the spring. I’m enjoying researching and writing this series and want to savor the process a little. 🙂

Unicorn Bride is the next republished work for Claire and will be published later this month. I’m not sure what the next one will be. I have covers done for the Rose trilogy, but they need some work to be a more closely-knit series.

The shorter stories in between will be Kinfairlie Tales. I have covers done for three of them and will tell you more about each one when it’s available for pre-order.

Dragon's Kiss, book two of the DragonFate novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeThen there’s entirely new work. The most obvious example of that is the DragonFate series of paranormal romances, which is a new series featuring my dragon shapeshifter heroes, the Pyr. The prequel, Maeve’s Book of Beasts, was published earlier this summer, and the first full-length romance in this series, Dragon’s Kiss, will be published in October.

This series is proving to be a lot of fun to write, because there are lots of other paranormal creatures in the Dragonfire world and now they all have to band together to defeat Maeve. You know that vampires aren’t going to get along with anyone, that dragon shifters are going to lose their tempers and get fiery, and that the dark fae will be tricksy. Throw in a slow-burn romance between a librarian and the hot vampire she knows is no good for her, and a firestorm between a dragon shifter and a Valkyrie, and New York night life will become very interesting.

There are a few more things in the works, but that’s plenty to talk about today.

The thing about writing for me is that I can’t write all the time. I generate new content for maybe four hours a day. In the past, when I was traditionally published, I would spend the rest of the day doing other stuff and letting my ideas for the next day’s writing percolate. Sometimes there was promotional stuff to do; sometimes there were publishing jobs (like reviewing proofs) to finish. At least half of the time, though, I would do other things, activities that had nothing directly to do with writing and publishing. I would sew. I would garden. I would knit. I would walk or ride my bike. I would go to an art gallery or a museum, or go shopping. I would cook or try out a new recipe. All of these activities – and more – cut my imagination loose to figure out what came next in my book, and by the time I sat down at the computer the next morning, I knew what to write. They also gave me a more balanced schedule and a healthier lifestyle.

Going indie changed that schedule. I still write for three or four hours each morning, but for the past few years, I had publishing tasks to do, each and every day. My ToDo lists were so long (and remain that long) that I never finished them. So, I spent more time at my desk and my imagination had less time to play. Writing became a little harder each day. I gained some weight and my stress levels rose.

On Writing by Stephen KingSo, taking a step back from the business of publishing my books is an excellent personal decision in many, many ways. I’m glad that the rate of change in the digital marketplace has slowed to the point that I feel comfortable doing that. About a year ago, I realized that my ToDo list was never going to be done and made my peace with some things just not happening. (This was tough and I still struggle with the imperfection of it.) I switched my office – which was in a large bedroom in our house – with our TV room, which is a smaller room. This felt like assigning the writing to its proper role in my life. Stephen King talks about making a similar change in his book On Writing, which is an excellent work that I think every author should read. I also divided this new office, putting my sewing table in there as well as my desk. I started to walk more last year which made me feel a lot better.

One stressful element of spending so much time at the desk, battling the endless ToDo list, is that the muse, the source of ideas and creativity, becomes more elusive. I knew I needed her back.

I revisited a favorite resource of mine, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This series of books features readings and exercises to help creatives restore and feed their souls, and I highly recommend it. It’s invaluable when trying to balance commerce and creativity. There actually are a number of books in this series – this is the first one, but I’ve worked through three of them.

I need to create other things in order to create stories. I need to play with colour and texture in order to tempt my muse to visit regularly. Sewing is one of the ways I create but I had packed it all away. I was still buying fabric, but just packing it away! Two years ago, I first tried Japanese sewing patterns, which tend to be of simple, classic shapes. This year, I have a collection of Japanese pattern books and am working on some more new garments from them. I have an astonishing stash and have begun to cut into it. This year, I also started to sew with knits for the first time and told you about that when I made some Mirri dresses.  This summer, I learned more about fitting garments, which is a fascinating business. I also pieced a new quilt top this year, the Escher quilt.

I also am making good progress on weeding and mulching my gardens this year. Weeds are similar to ToDo lists, in that they’re never all eradicated, but it’s very satisfying to clear them out all the same.

And what happens in the middle of all this? The muse appears in my peripheral vision and if I don’t spook her, she stays. Then ideas happen. Questions arise. Possibilities abound and I get very excited about new work.

We’ll talk more about that next week.

Another Month of Walking

It’s been four weeks since I told you about my new walking plan. Last time, I did my 4.5km daily walk 20 times in 28 days. This time, I did it 24 times, which means I missed 6 days.

On one of those days, we went to Ikea and parked at the far end of the lot. Between that and walking around the store, I was only 1km short for the day, which is funny. So, I’m counting 25 days of walking.

I also went to a conference last week (more about that in tomorrow’s post), and ended up with two travel days. On both of them, I managed to fit in my walk before going to the airport. Both of those days, I doubled my walking distance for the day, which tells you all you need to know about Pearson International Airport in Toronto. While at the conference, I walked on the beach each day, which was a lovely change of scene. Those days also had more distance – the walk down the beach was 6 km, then there was all the running around the conference hotel. In the end, I’m probably not short 5 full days if I add up the distance, but we’ll call it 25 days of walking and aim for improvement.

Autumn has arrived here in Canada, and I enjoyed seeing the changes on my daily walk over the past month. The leaves on the trees are changing colour, of course, and are just beautiful. They haven’t fallen yet, but I’m looking forward to walking through them. (The urge to kick them never seems to fade.)

I’ve also been noticing how the wildlife is migrating. The cormorants arrived on the lake a few weeks ago. They’ll stay until the water gets colder or freezes over, since they need to catch fresh fish every day. The Canada geese started to fly their practice flights: they fly shorter circuits, probably working up their strength. At first you can watch them fly the entire circle and they’re airborne for only ten minutes or so. Within days, they’re flying huge loops and disappear from view before returning. They tend to hang around until the first hard frost, but are becoming more numerous as more northern flocks arrive and take a break here. The blue jays are back in larger numbers again—although they’re often noisy birds, in flock, they’re quiet. It’s common at this time of year to glance out the window and discover two or three dozen blue jays looking for food, silently, before they all take flight again.

Have you been walking this month? Are you seeing the change in the seasons where you live?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a bit more about attending the Novelists’ Ink conference this year.

20 Days of Walking

Since 2011, I’ve been spending a lot more time at my desk, getting this indie publishing thing squared away. It’s been a lot of work, plus details kept changing so the work had to be updated and done again. (And again and again and again. Gah!) I’ve also been writing new stories at the same time and publishing them myself. Right now, there are over 80 books on my dashboard at any given portal. That’s a lot of content and a lot or work. Moving to indie meant not just long days at my desk but every single day at my desk, which meant I was feeling a lot less healthy.

I tried a number of different things over the past year, none of which seemed to stick. But on August 6, I decided to walk. I’ve always liked walking and I’ve always – at least until 2011 – walked a lot. I used to walk with my dog, but she’s getting older and doesn’t always want to walk a second time each day. (She goes for a run with Mr. Math every day.) Also, she tends to dawdle on her second walk, so I decided to walk by myself. I picked a route and walked it. My phone says it’s 4.5 km, or about 5600 steps. My phone also says that it takes me between 42 and 44 minutes. That’s not even an hour. I figure I can invest an hour a day in my own well-being.

Beginning August 6, I walked that route every single day, rain or shine, for two weeks. (It was actually quite nice in the rain.) I changed the time around a bit, experimenting with what worked best for me. The next two weeks were very hot and sticky, so I only walked it six times in those 14 days. I also had my annual canning to complete during those two weeks, plus I did a lot of weeding and mulching in the garden. I was still active, just not walking every day. So, I walked my route 20 times in 28 days, which isn’t bad for a new habit. I’ll try to improve on that in the next 30 days, and do my walk every single day.

And what’s the result? I have lost a couple of pounds over the past month, which isn’t epic but is better than gaining a few. 🙂 I haven’t changed my eating habits, so didn’t expect otherwise. (I might be eating a bit more – ha! – because walking makes me hungry.) The more important thing is that I feel better. I’m sleeping better. I feel less stressed and more organized.

And the most exciting thing is that walking for 45 minutes daily is a marvelous way to unravel plot tangles. I feel joyous about writing again, and I feel creative. This next year is going to be very exciting for new stories – and maybe I’ll even lose a few more pounds.

Have you started any new habits lately and stuck with them?

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

What a crazy year this has been. 2017 seems to have gone by at warp speed. I had all these plans…some of them happened, but some didn’t. And here is – the eve of the weekend of Christmas. I still have some pictures to take for the next Fiber Friday, so we’ll do that next week. 🙂

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your friends and family, and lots of good cheer. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a great weekend.

I’ll be back next week on Boxing Day as there are new releases coming out next week – and I have a 99 cent sale next week, too.

So, stay warm, be happy, enjoy the blessings of your life, and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday.

Building a Book Tree

Deborah Cooke's Book TreeA couple of years ago, I built a book tree for Christmas in our dining room and decorated it for the holidays. There were some questions about how to do it, so this year, I took pictures of the tree in progress.

You can read that old post right here.

That’s the tree from two years ago on the right. I built the new one in the same spot.

Book Tree Base, built by Deborah Cooke 2017

I started with eight books in a circle on the floor. Because book trees tend to be a little tippy near the top, you want the base to be as stable as possible. (A book tree might not be a good plan if you have acrobatic cats.) Choose books of similar or even the same thickness, and start with big books at the bottom.

I apologize for the picture quality. I started to build the book tree at night and the lighting in the dining room was…atmospheric.

We have a lot of coffee table books, and they found their way into the tree this year. These two cookbooks are exactly the same format as well as large, heavy books. The circle is about three and a half feet wide at the outside edges and I built it on a piece of carpeting. (The rug we used last year is now at a window where the New Girl keeps an eye on the world.) The red books are Sir Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders, which is a good foundation for many things. 🙂

The book tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017Then you start building. Angle the next layer over the gaps, so each book on round two rests halfway on one book in the first level and halfway on the adjacent one. Again, keep an eye on the book thickness and use hard covers for best results.

Here’s the tree after about four rounds. Inevitably, books end up being of differing thicknesses and sizes, so it all starts to get less mathematical. Angle the books over the gaps, stack books to make up the thickness of their neighbors—and when you do stack books, twist them at slightly different angles.

After four or five layers, it’s good to check that things are lining up. Get down on the floor so the base of the tree is at eye level. Check that things are lining up vertically. You don’t want to be drifting to one side or the other!

Book Tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017In this shot, you can see that the tree is rising vertically on each side and just starting to cant inward a little bit. This is a good point to start making the diameter of the tree smaller. You can also see where I’ve stacked three books to make up the height of a big fat one, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. I also checked this from the other side to make sure those sides were rising vertically. If you don’t build yours against a wall like mine, walk around it. When I get about this far, and have books stacked all over the dining room table to sort them, Mr. Math usually shows up and starts reading. 🙂

Completed book tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017From this point, there’s just a lot of stacking to be done. Gradually, change to smaller books because that will make it easier to taper the tree to a point. I always top my tree with some small leatherbound editions of classics (Dickens is there) and a leatherbound copy of Grimms Fairy Tales at the summit. On top is the little tree my SIL made for my husband’s apartment many years ago.

Here’s my finished book tree for this year. Just a little picture because it’s not as sharp as would be ideal—plus you really want to see it tarted up. I think it’s about a foot taller than last year’s version.

To decorate it, I used two strands of Ikea LED snowflake lights again. The lights are easy to add: you just push the wire between two books to hold it in place. Round and round, from bottom to top. It works out perfectly each time.

Once the lights were in place, I added lot of ribbons, berries and flowers in red and gold. (My book tree has a palette. Ha.) Maybe you’re like me and have a box of shiny trinkets from Christmas packages or floral arrangements that are shiny and festive so you save them, but you aren’t quite sure what to do with them. (I even have three glittery pomegranates, although I’m not sure why.) The book tree is a great destination. Tuck those ribbons and berries into the gaps between the books. There’s some gold bead garland in my box of tricks, too, and it goes on this tree.

Here’s this year’s finished book tree:
Book Tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017It looks even more sparkly and festive in real life. I’m pleased with it. 🙂

Have you built a book tree yet? Are you going to?

Home with Lists

The exciting thing about attending a conference like Novelists’ Ink is that I always end up with so many action items. Novelists’ Ink is also unusual among the conferences I attend because it’s only for published authors, most of whom write genre fiction. (A high percentage of members write either romance or mystery.) So, there are no reader events like booksignings during the conference (although Jodi Vaughn and I made an exception and met with some readers for lunch on Saturday. It was such fun – Jodi is lovely and it turned out that her fans were also some of mine!) So, NINC is about the business of publishing. In this still-changing market, there are not only new options available, but better ways evolving to get things done. I always end up making lists on the flight home. You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes.

You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes. For example, I need to review my notes from Erica Ridley’s wonderful session on newsletters, and decide what to improve first with my monthly newsletter. (There are LOTS of things to be improved there!)

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’ll also be changing the numbering of the Dragons of Incendium series. Amazon doesn’t allow incremental numbers on series pages and I’ve been stubborn about changing my idea of the book numbers to fit theirs. 🙂 In talking to other authors, though, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits to having all of the books on the same product page. I’ll make them the same at all portals once they’re reformatted. The short stories will be given whole numbers in this arrangement, so the book order will become:

  1. Wyvern’s Mate
  2. Nero’s Dream
  3. Wyvern’s Prince
  4. Arista’s Legacy
  5. Wyvern’s Warrior
  6. Kraw’s Secret
  7. Wyvern’s Outlaw

Love Potion #9, a paranormal romance and romantic comedy by Claire DelacroixI’m going to commission new covers for my time travel romances, and probably move Love Potion #9 over to the Deborah Cooke side of things. It is a contemporary paranormal romance, after all. I do love the cover image, but it doesn’t communicate the subgenre clearly enough to do its job well – if you love this cover and want a print copy, grab it soon!

There are dozens of other tweaks and changes to be made. I attending workshops with tips on productivity and on strategies for publishing. I learned about conferences that I haven’t attended before and revisited the idea of attending some others again. I’ll let you know when any of these items impact what you see on your end of the publishing biz.

The second exciting result of going to conference is meeting new authors. I always meet some authors I haven’t met before and learn a bit about them during the conference, then come home with a huge shopping list so I can become acquainted with their books. No matter how avidly I read, there are always new voices and new fictional worlds to be discovered – that I’ve sat with the author in a workshop or had lunch with him or her is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve already added a dozen books to my reader and am looking forward to digging in. When I find some I particularly love, I’ll share them with you here.

The third and maybe the biggest benefit is creative. Walking the beach is certainly a contributing factor, plus I went offline for the week. I came home from NINC recharged, with my imagination full of new stories. I did a lot of plotting, which surprised me but that’s all good. I also have more ideas to connect my existing stories with each other. I have started to do this (as some of you have seen in A Duke By Any Other Name) but the possibilities multipled for me when I gave them the opportunity.

Whisper Kiss, #5 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIn the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeFor example, I need a tattoo artist based in New York for the Flatiron Five series and realized that Rox’s tattoo shop, Imagination Ink, which we encountered first in Whisper Kiss, is in NYC. Rox has a partner and friend named Chynna (as well as one named Neo). I decided that Chynna would be perfect. She’ll turn up at F5 in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour and become a continuing character in that series. Flatiron Five doesn’t have any paranormal elements, but Chynna isn’t paranormal. Even Rox isn’t paranormal herself—she’s just partners with Niall, a dragon shifter. This kind of cross-pollination between series is particularly fun—I went back and read what I’ve said so far about Chynna and got excited about the possibilities. I remembered writing a scene with Chynna that didn’t make it into the final book and had to hunt it down. I posted it as an out-take right here so you can meet Chynna. (She doesn’t actually appear in Whisper Kiss.)

There are wonderful plans in the works already, and I’ll share them with you as soon as I can!

Since we’re talking about conferences and reader events, tell me whether you attend any reader events. If you don’t go to reader conferences or events, is there a reason why? (Some readers like to save their money for books, which is good, too.) If you do go, where are the events located? Do you attend for workshops or signings or both? What’s your favorite part?

 

Shell Seeking

As I mentioned yesterday, I was at the Novelists’ Ink conference in St. Pete’s Beach last week. It’s been at the same location since 2013 and this is the third time I’ve attended at this location. I love to walk the beach whenever I’m close to one. I also love to pick up seashells.

The first year that I attended the NINC conference in St. Pete’s, I brought home two or three shells. There are lots of conchs with their residents still inside, but those get left on the beach. Here’s one that a crab has chosen for its new home. There are more pix of the beach from that trip, right here.

©Deborah A. Cooke

The second year I attended, I had a bit more luck, and even found three fighting conchs.

Deborah Cooke's shells from St. Pete's Beach

This year, the shells were amazing, especially on Sunday morning after the king tide on Saturday night. Here’s what I picked up this year.
Cockle shells:
2017 NINC shell collection
Fighting Conchs:
2017 NINC shell collection

I love how these look inside:
2017 NINC shell collection

And my big score, my very first Sunray Venus, the two halves still attached. It’s about four inches long.
2017 NINC shell collection

These have a lovely tangerine glow on the interior:
2017 NINC shell collection

Do you pick up seashells when you’re at the beach? What do you do with them once you get home?

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada—we celebrate a little earlier than our neighbours to the south, where it’s Columbus Day. It seems to me that Americans are very firm about which day they should celebrate Thanksgiving (i.e. on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving Day) while most Canadians I know are pretty flexible about the date. Usually, we do the turkey on the Saturday or the Sunday of this weekend, not the Monday. This year, because I’ve been at the Novelists’ Ink conference and got home late last night, we’re going to have our Thanksgiving dinner next weekend.

I am, however, feeling quite grateful today. At the conference, I saw a lot of friends, made some new ones, learned a great deal and had a wonderful time. I had lunch with some readers from the area, too, which was wonderful – and made me grateful for all of you who read my books. I stayed offline for the week that I was away, and that had exactly the result I’d hoped for—I have a lot of new ideas and stories to be told. I picked up a LOT of seashells and walked at least once a day on St. Pete’s beach (which is beautiful).

I understand a little bit better why those who live in hurricane areas are pretty relaxed about hurricanes—Nate sailed up the Gulf of Mexico, not all that far from us, and we had a little wind, some clouds, and the tide came in higher. I learned that it was called a “king tide”  because there was a full moon and a tropical storm within proximity, pushing more water into the shore. I thought there would be no shells on Sunday morning, because the surf had been crashing so hard, but I was very wrong. I had an awesome shelling morning and brought home far more than usual. (Mr. Math said “of course, you did.” :-)) I’ll sort them out and share a few pix later in the week.

And of course, coming home made me feel grateful, too. (There’s nothing like coming home, is there?) I have a big list of things to do, am both relaxed and inspired, and ready to dive in. If you’re expecting a reply from me on something (anything) I’ll be going through all my correspondence this week and will get to your message. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible?

So, tell me today. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible? What are you grateful for in your life?