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.

On Fresh Starts – and Bats

I used to blog more regularly than I have in recent years. A big reason for that has been a lack of time, but suddenly this year, I feel as if I can take a breath. This was such a novelty that I was suspicious of the impression and waited to see if it lasted. It did. 🙂 So, now I want to find my rhythm again or maybe figure out a new one. Writing a post five days a week is still out of the question. I’m going to try for a new blog post every Monday and see how that works out. It’s almost exactly the midpoint of the year – there are 22 more Mondays after this one in 2019 – so my plan is to write a blog post for each of these 23 Mondays.

We’ll start with work stuff first each Monday then something more personal. Today, that’s a fresh start and bats. 🙂

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionWhy does it feel like a good time for a fresh start? Since I went indie in 2012, I’ve been doing several things simultaneously, each of which would be a job in itself. I’ve been pursuing rights reversions, then repackaging and republishing my previously published works in new editions. I sold 45 works to New York publishers between 1992 and 2012, and all of them have reverted to me (with the exception of English Commonwealth rights on two YA books but we’ll ignore that for now). I’ve re-edited, repackaged and republished 38 of them – although one was closer to a complete rewrite. (Writing a completely new story might actually have been faster.) #39 (Unicorn Bride) will be republished in August. That’s 39 books in 6.5 years, or six books per year, which is a good publication schedule in and of itself.

Abyss, #4 of the Prometheus Project of urban fantasy romances by Deborah CookeAt the same time, I’ve finished series that were abandoned by publishers, adding Abyss to the Prometheus Project, three novellas and two books to the Dragonfire Novels, as well as the True Love Brides and the Brides of Inverfyre to the Ravensmuir and Kinfairlie cycle. That’s four novellas, a short novel, six regular length novels and one double-length novel, all new work in existing worlds. Call it 8.5 books in 6.5 years – that’s another 1.3 books per year.

I’ve also been writing and publishing completely new works. The Champions of St. Euphemia is a medieval romance series with a structure I wanted to explore for a long time. I participated in a group project of Regency romances, which was a lot of fun – the Brides of North Barrows are the result of that collaboration. I began a different paranormal romance series featuring dragon shifter princesses from space – the Dragons of Incendium – and, of course, I wrote the Flatiron Five and the spin-off Secret Heart Ink series of contemporary romances. That’s ten full-length novels, eight short ones, two novellas and five short stories. Call it 15 more books – another 2.3 books a year.

Some Like It Hot, book #7 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeThe interesting thing about this summary is that when I was traditionally published, I published two to four books a year and those were all new work. Since going indie, I’ve averaged 3.6 new books per year, plus the republication of another 6.5 per year. I’ve been publisher as well as writer, too, so was responsible for more of the publication process. (All of it!) I haven’t even talked about audiobooks, of which we produced 13 in 2014, or foreign translations, several of which are currently in the works.

In addition, the ebook market was rapidly changing in those first few years, which meant that things had to be done over and over (and over) to accommodate changes, mostly in the format of ebook interiors. Now, the industry and its protocols seem to have settled, my backlist is available, and the various series I wanted to finish are completed. Even the new series I began in indie are coming to their completion.

This is an excellent moment for a fresh start. Where do I go from here? I’ve been thinking about that a lot this year, and have made some decisions, and will talk more about that each Monday with you.

Romancing the Capital 2019This week, I’m off to Romancing the Capital, Eve Langlais’ reader conference in Ottawa, and looking forward to that. I’ve packed all the books and swag etc. and stacked it all in the living room so Mr. Math has a few days to figure out how to get it all into the car. The advantage of driving to a conference is that I can take more; the disadvantage is that it’s easy to take too much. I’m teaching a workshop as well as participating in panel discussions, and there’s a big booksigning on Saturday to wrap up the event. The booksigning is open to the public if you’re in or around Kanata, Ontario. It sounds as if this will be the last RTC – it’s such a lot of work that I’m amazed Eve has done it four times, but I will miss this event, and seeing the readers who regularly attend it.

It is almost August, and the bats are back. (I’ve blogged about this a few times before: Guests in 2009 and If it’s August in 2012. Notice that they’re both August posts.) Actually, this is huge news this year – bats have been in short supply and I haven’t seen any for a few years. There was an epidemic that killed many of them (white nose syndrome) and they’ve been very scarce since 2015 or so. This year, they seem to be making a comeback – or maybe a fresh start of their own. I saw two bats Saturday night when I was watching the fireflies. I was happy to see them flying figure-8’s over the garden. The bats are back! Last night, driving home from my mom’s, we spotted ten – and we were driving – before getting home to find one doing laps over our garden again. Although I don’t want to get up close and personal with bats, they’re good to have around to keep the mosquito population under control. Plus they’re kind of mesmerizing to watch.

Mr. Math always says “Eat up” when he sees the bats, because the mosquitoes adore him. Back when there were more bats, if we went for a walk in the evening, they’d follow him, because there was always a buffet for them in his vicinity. Of course, if he goes out to sit and watch the bats, he’ll see a lot – they swoop around him for the same reason.

I’m happy the bats are back (but they can stay outside). It’s a week for fresh starts. Have you made a fresh start lately?